|What exactly is Superman renouncing?|
In 2006’s Superman Returns, a boring and uninspired sequel to Superman 2, the Man of Steel has been gone for five years on a soul-searching mission back to his home planet hoping to find some sign of Krypton. Upon his return to earth, the editor of The Daily Planet has a meeting with his entire staff and demands each section to devote coverage to Superman, ending his commands with this:
“Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?” he says.
The New York Times pointed out that so-called right-wing blogs went nuts that the film-makers would dare omit “truth, justice, and the American way,” for isn’t Superman the ultimate embodiment of Americana?:
The most recent incarnation to use the 1950’s phrase was the 1978 Christopher Reeve movie, “Superman.” When Lois first interviews the Man of Steel, she asks why he’s here, and he responds straight-faced: “I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way.” It’s the first time Superman himself ever uses the phrase — a bold move considering how cynical the country had become after the Vietnam War and Watergate. That cynicism is reflected in Lois’s response: “You’re going to end up fighting every elected official in this country!
Some people are now objecting to the fact that “Superman Returns” omits the phrase. Perry White asks his reporters to find out more about the Man of Steel after his five-year absence. “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?” he says. Right-wing blogs are already red-faced at the slight.
There’s no reason to be upset. Superman is right back where he began: fighting a never-ending battle for truth and justice. That should be enough to occupy any man. Even a Superman.
Now comes word that Superman has renounced his citizenship in Action Comics #900:
The key scene takes place in “The Incident,” a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President’s national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.
It doesn’t seem that he’s abandoning those values, however, only trying to implement them on a larger scale and divorce himself from the political complexities of nationalism. Superman also says that he believes he has been thinking “too small,” that the world is “too connected” for him to limit himself with a purely national identity. As an alien born on another planet, after all, he “can’t help but see the bigger picture.”
Having long been interpreted as a tool of the United States government (see Frank Miller’s dystopian Dark Knight Returns where a 50-year-old Batman is considered the number one threat of the USA and Ronald Reagan commands Superman to stop him once and for all), with the so-called “racist” comic scribe Mark Millar even penning Red Son, a version of the Superman story where he lands in the USSR instead of the USA and becomes an agent of the communist state, Superman’s repudiation of his citizenship is somehow viewed as troublesome. Salon has a good article here.