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Wednesday, May 04, 2011 

Comics Alliance apologizes more for Superman publicity stunt

Almost a week after the insulting Superman story went to press in Action Comics #900, where the Man of Steel says he wants to give up his US citizenship he doesn't literally have, Comics Alliance, which seemed pretty content with the approach, has now started apologizing some more for the dopey excuse for a story:
The number one misunderstanding that pundits have had about this story is that it represents an insult to or rejection of America and its values, not as a decision to step back from American politics and foreign policy, as Superman more clearly indicates in the comic. Some of you may remember when Captain America stepped back from his patriotic identity in the '70s after becoming disillusioned with the country; that is distinctly not what is happening here. There is no disillusionment, no repudiation of "The American Way" -- a phrase, by the way, that was not initially associated with Superman, and only appeared after America became involved in World War II.
Pardon me, but I don't think there's any misunderstanding here - Superman went to Iran and left without actually destroying the dictatorship's weaponry infrastructure, and worse, they had to publish this story to begin with when it still doesn't make sense in light of reality. And please stop using the American Way phrase's exact time of introduction as an excuse for defending this nonsense. It may not have begun with it, but worked well for the comics when they added it.

And, maybe they don't consider the picture above, but why is Superman apologizing to the national security adviser? Real life aside, the only thing he - or more specifically, the writer - needs to apologize for is that he didn't shut down Iran's dictatorship or even their nuclear research, or that the story was even published to begin with. And he doesn't need to renounce citizenship in order to make clear he's not working for the US government. Certainly not at the UN, where Iran happens to maintain an undeserved presence and isn't likely to change their opinion of him anyway.
It's also worth noting that while Superman may be symbolically renouncing his national identity, Clark Kent is another matter entirely, and there's absolutely no reason to think that the Daily Planet reporter's citizenship will change in any way. One of the most fundamental tropes of superheroes is the concept that they have a civilian identity, and when they step into their superhero role, they conceal aspects of that personal identity in order to protect themselves and the people around them from the repercussions of their superheroic actions. In a sense, this is exactly what Superman is doing: removing his American identity from his "professional" identity because he is unwilling to compromise U.S. foreign policy or jeopardize the safety of the American people.
What? His actions endanger the American nation? And here I thought he was in the superhero business in order to protect America's citizens. Doesn't that kind of argument contradict the whole purpose of why superheroes even exist in their fictional worlds and risk blaming only the good guys? Back in WW2, Americans were told that they too need to contribute if we're to defeat evil empires. If neither Superman nor other heroes can act, all because they're scared of being construed as government tools and other absurdities, then what's the point in having superheroes at all? Or even private security companies? And what's the point of fighting supervillains?

And another point is that in his Superman guise, it's silly to even bring up whether superheroes with secret IDs are US citizens per se.
As a country, America has struggled again and again with whether or not to intercede in international conflicts and crises, and many times that decision hinges largely on the issues of politics and resources. Regardless of whether or not involving ourselves is the "right thing to do," we must worry about how it could jeopardize us in a larger sense, the political or even economic fallout it could create, and the money, resources, and indeed, American lives it could cost.
What about the lives of innocent foreigners? They don't count? Are we supposed to just sit on our butts while defenseless people in tyrannical regimes have their lives ruined and obliterated? Oh my god. If this kind of blabber was allowed to reign during WW1 and WW2, they would never have been won and Europe would be a wasteland. Of course it's bad if American lives are lost, but if the enemies aren't defeated, sooner or later, the menace will reach us on our shores, and the price will be much higher. Consider Iran's nuclear menace, for example.

Also, freedom has a price, but weakness has a much greater one.
As an idealized, nigh-omnipotent superhuman, Superman has none of those limitations, and now, by leaving behind his national affiliation, he has even fewer. It costs him nothing to fly across the world, nothing to throw a hundred tanks into space, and and he cannot be harmed by bullets or Kim Jong-Il shaking his fist in the air. So ultimately the question becomes, why would he do less to help fight injustice across the world, when he could do more?
Gimme a break. Are you saying he cannot do more as an American? As Clark Kent, he's got citizenship, but as Superman, these matters are moot. I suppose Black Canary, who largely dropped her own secret ID years ago, should cast away her own US citizenship too in order to make a difference? No superhero has to do that in order to fight injustice, and neither the American born members of The Outsiders nor the foreign born ones gave up their citizenships during the mid-80s. This is exactly why sometimes, it just doesn't pay to put politics in superhero comics.

Another something to ponder is what would the American public think if they saw Superman renouncing his citizenship at the very political assembly that's supporting countries hostile to the USA? Isn't it possible they could be insulted, and less enthusiastic to have him around? This certainly is the effect the story is having in real life.
This decision is a reflection of the fact that those quintessential American ideals of truth, freedom, and justice -- the core of Superman's character -- are much more important to him than the often ugly and compromising business of politics, and that his defense of those principles does not stop suddenly at man-made borders. Although his values have been fundamentally shaped by his American upbringing, he is not blind to the suffering of those who were not lucky enough to be born within American borders, as he was not.

Ultimately, and quite inspirationally, Superman is saying that his need to defend that sense of morality and justice, and do it in a way that doesn't damage or endanger the country he loves, is more important than whatever people might say about him in the polarized world of politics or the court of public opinion, either in his world or our own.
But there's a problem with this argument - by apologizing over getting involved in solidarity with a people coping with a dictatorship, and then renouncing citizenship at the United Nations, which isn't exactly doing anything to condemn Ahmedinejad's monstrosities, Superman is adhering to the ugly and compromising business of politics, by making it look as though he considers the UN better than the American government, when it's not.

And maybe they don't realize, but they just hinted at the aforementioned question of what the American public would think of Superman if he even remotely implied he was rejecting them? In real life, some would probably say he's being truly ridiculous to base his misgivings on what one administration half the nation may not even agree with is doing (or not). And in real life, it's clear that now, many are disappointed with David Goyer for writing something so stupid. Even outside the USA, it's possible there'll be some coming away unimpressed with this sloppy story, which Comics Alliance has the gall to call "inspirational", hinting at just how biased they are in its favor.

But I guess we can't expect much from a site owned by AOL, which has done some pretty horrid things themselves.

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It took the US a while to enter both World Wars instead of being in the thick of things from the start, remember?

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