As most comic readers know, Superman announced in last week's Action Comics #900 that he plans to renounce his U.S. citizenship.
The story shows Superman taking the side of demonstrators in Iran. When his actions make trouble for the U.S., the hero responds by saying he'll make it clear to the United Nations that he will no longer be an American citizen.
Many in the political media — and some fans — have decried the end of the clear-cut "good vs. evil" idea behind the "American way" that Superman once represented.
Superman's global approach could be said to reflect society, but with the announcement of Osama Bin Laden's death, Americans this morning seem to have a sense of moral clarity about the U.S. being "good" in the face of "evil" from elsewhere.
For this edition of "The Q," where we ask several comic book creators to answer the same question, we asked:
- What is your general reaction to the announcement by Superman that he wants to renounce his U.S. citizenship -- and do you think today's news about Osama Bin Laden's death affects whether or not it fits the current culture?
Peter David: I think that Superman felt so badly about the negative response to the announcement about his citizenship that he hunted down bin Laden and put a bullet in his head personally. No gun. He just shoved the bullet right in there by hand.
B. Clay Moore: I've always thought it was a little silly that Superman would adhere to "the American way" in a modern context, so his status as a citizen of the world makes perfect sense. That's not a knock on the United States, I just think it's just a more logical, inclusive perspective.
And I'm not sure I understand the implication in the second part of the question. Does the killing of bin Laden somehow make the United States superior to the rest of the world? I would hope bin Laden's death doesn't translate into new waves of jingoism and xenophobia. Job well done, yes. But there's a global perspective at play here, too.
I think the correlation is strange, personally, and I don't think it would have much long-term resonance in relationship to anything Superman does.
Chuck Dixon: The expression of personal politics has no place in mainstream superhero comic books.
Cary Bates: To my way of thinking, Clark Kent is the U.S. citizen, not Superman. In recent times I think Superman has been more widely portrayed as a "citizen of the world" anyway, with less emphasis on being a symbol for America. This trend has been going on for a while. I remember some critics taking issue with 2006's Superman Returns, because the signature slogan "truth, justice and the American way" was truncated when Perry White asked if Superman still stood for truth, justice and "all that stuff...". With respect to Osama Bin Laden, he was an enemy to the entire free world, not just the U.S, though it's only fitting that it was our Navy Seals who took him out. I'd like to think Superman would have approved.
Ron Marz: Osama bin Laden's death is a serious event with real-world consequences. Superman's citizenship is much ado about a make-believe person. Honestly, even mentioning them in the same breath is ludicrous. The people using the Superman story to further their own political agendas -- Breitbart, Huckabee and all the rest -- should've been ashamed of themselves last week, and should be even more ashamed of themselves today. I'd prefer to praise the real-life heroes who carried out the bin Laden mission, rather than waste time debating the citizenship of an imaginary hero.
Jamal Igle: Well, having actually drawn a small portion of Action #900, I actually read the story on Monday. I've said this a few times before: Superman not being an American citizen makes sense to me. The symbol that is Superman needs to be beyond borders and nationality. I've always seen Superman as a symbol of the world. Superman represents the best of us. Superman has always, to me, been the standard bearer of good. Truth and Justice aren't purely an American concept, and the term "The American Way" has been a nebulous concept for a very long time. no one seems to have a common opinion of what the "American Way" is supposed to be. The American Way was slapped in Superman years after his creation. Superman has and always should be about the everyday man, helping those who can't help themselves.
Marc Guggenheim: I consider it something of a tempest in a teapot, but I'm always happy when a comic book character gets such heavy mainstream media coverage. I don't really think Bin Laden's death has any relevance on the story. Though you've got to wonder why Superman wasn't just scanning Afghanistan and Pakistan with his X-ray vision looking for the guy.
Ethan Van Sciver: Well, I think my country falls into the category of "good" whether we have a fantastic day like yesterday or not. Even with all of our failings. I'm not thrilled with the short story in Action #900 in which Superman renounces his American citizenship, because I think it makes Superman a character that reacts violently to what, in his term of reference, would be a tiny irritation that could have been solved by a bit of diplomacy and charisma, rather than a show of nerves. He is Superman, after all. But it got fans talking, and I love that. I also love that fans in other countries seemed grateful that Superman's decision made them feel as though he belonged to them as well. He always did, though.I think my instinctive, sad feeling about the story grew from the idea that Superman always represented the best of American values, and those have always been about helping the entire world. And since he's always been a "global citizen" in that way, if Superman "renounces" us, no matter what his reasons, who has failed whom? It's a very gloomy event, certainly darker than anything Doomsday managed. America is a great country. We deserve to be proud of Superman. We'll share him. Don't worry. In the meantime, hopefully some fascinating stories will come of this.
Kurt Busiek: I haven't read the story, so I haven't seen the announcement, just other people describing (and usually fulminating) about it.
As such, I don't have any reaction. I do find it amusing that the people who are most up in arms about this seem to be the people who most want to keep illegal immigrants out of the US. Apparently, when they come by rocket, it's OK?
When I was a kid, though, Superman was a citizen of all nations, and I never had any problem with that. He's not just an immigrant to the U.S., he's an immigrant to Earth. That works for me.
Beau Smith: In recent years, I personally feel that editorially, managerially and even from a creative standpoint, we have neglected the true goal of creating good comic books, characterization, and writing compelling stories.
In my opinion, I feel that we have confused compelling with “for the moment attention” and have substituted stories that will stand the test of time for ones that will get attention for a 24/7 news cycle. We have quit reaching for the goal line and seem to be happy for the moment’s first down.
Stories that are “ripped from today’s headlines” quickly find themselves dated; this stunts the growth of comics as a creative whole. The Amazing Spider-Man #31 through #33 still stands as a prime example of a story for the ages on character, story and inspiration for any generation 45 years later.
Action Comics #900 may be a goal for the sheer amount of issues that have been printed and the longevity that the title has amassed, but the story itself will more than likely be nothing but a very small blip on the memory wheel of the character and the readers.
I’m sure that within the New York offices of DC Comics and its parent company in L.A., the quick newspaper clipping and media attention for this story will be sufficient for in-office pats on the back and job security for another month, but to the silent majority and bulk of comic book readers, this will soon be forgotten and filed under, “When will the real Superman return?”
The death of Bin Laden is a monumental victory for America and the free world seeking to escape and defeat terror. Is it the end? No, it’s the motivation to continue to fight what is truly wrong and evil. Only by defeating this kind of core evil, can we as human beings, detour, slow down and in the end, defeat evil. We may not all be soldiers in uniform, but as creators, we can do our part in fighting evil through the characters we write, draw and create for comic books.
Superhero comic books have always been a source of heroism and admiration for not only the young, but all ages. We need to regain that admiration for what’s right and heroism in fact, in fiction and our day-to-day lives.
As comic book creators and readers we have to remember, it’s not the event that makes the story, it’s the characters and how they act in that event. If you don’t care about the heart of the character then you don’t care about the event.Brian Reed: I admit I haven't yet read the story, but I don't see how Superman ever had an American citizenship anyway. Secret identity, public acknowledgement he's from another planet -- did he take the citizenship test and I missed it? I'm not huge on my DC continuity. Now, Clark Kent, sure, but unless Supes is outing himself, it all seems pretty much beside the point which country he considers himself a member of. Unless he's looking to get hit for back taxes. Actually, now that I think about that, I need to get Tom Peyer on the phone. I've got a Superman script he should write.