Saturday, May 21, 2011

Behind The Mask

Truth, Justice and the International Way

Throughout the years, comics have incorporated real world events and politics into their hero’s storylines. Despite a new controversy over Superman’s citizenship, the act fits in with the tradition of staying in touch with world events. Back in the 1960’s Captain America battled Nazis during World War II and Bruce Banner and the Hulk dealt with Soviet spies during the Cold War. More recently, Marvel’s Civil War storyline dealt with the fears and paranoia of a post 9/11 atmosphere. The 2006-2007 crossover pitted hero vs hero in a more esoteric battle that posed the question of whether civil liberties or security were more important to uphold. That focus occurred in a world where the general Marvel Universe not only had to deal with the threat of another terrorist attack, but the possibility of more destruction caused by the heroes and villains of Marvel Earth. DC Comics has decided to take things a step further by having Superman renounce his American citizenship.

In the recent issue of Action Comics #900, Superman decides to renounce his citizenship after a visit to Tehran to support a protest going on there. In the comic, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sees Superman’s action as part of United States policy and believes America is declaring war on Iran. Because of his action, Superman decides to give up his national identity, as he states in the issue, “truth, justice and the American way…it’s not enough anymore.”

Ever since he burst onto the comic book scene in 1938, Superman has been called everything from the ultimate boy scout, to the one hero, outside of Captain America, who upheld American values and ideals. Even though he came from an alien planet, Superman was as American as apple pie. So, it comes as no shock that many readers and conservative groups were in a bit of an uproar over DC’s decision to have the Man of Steel renounce his citizenship. These groups felt that the issue belittled America and showed a distinct lack of patriotism.

Unfortunately, these groups also failed to understand Superman’s motives going forward. If anything, Superman (finally) realized that the world is more complex and dangerous than ever. He needed to use all the powers at his disposal to operate on a grander scale, especially if that meant protecting his adopted homeland (the USA). The renunciation of his American citizenship did not mean he had renounced his core values of promoting freedom, helping all those less fortunate, ending war, and trying to make things better – all American values and ideals the last time I checked.

I highly doubt that the current creators of one of the world’s most famous comic book heroes plan to get rid of all the qualities that have made the character great and everlasting with the one revelation about his citizenship. They’ve just done something that should have been done a long time ago. They’ve made the character more relevant for the times that we live in. So rest easy America, as long as Superman upholds the tenets I listed above, the American way is still safe and secure.

Perhaps a better question we should ask ourselves is if the past few administrations have actually upheld these same principles.

- Hamilton Maher

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