In and amongst all the “news” about the British Royal family marrying off another third-cousin, you may’ve missed a far more important headline from the 2-dimensional world of DC Comics: Superman has renounced his US citizenship.
I don’t need to tell you that I love books with pictures. And I especially love Superman.
There’s something about this character that we (i.e. humanity) created and refined over decades, who has assumed such a prominent role in our culture and set such a vital example of how to live one’s life, that sometimes gives me goosebumps when I talk about him. Some might disagree that Superman’s declaration of fighting for “Truth, Justice & The American Way” makes him far less significant outside the Land of the Free, but that argument presupposed that the American political identity is somehow synonymous with the ideals with which that nation was constructed. Whether or not the USA actually lives up to its own hype isn’t the issue here, but The American Way definitely stands for something conceptual, and those are the ideals that Superman works to represent.
At this stage I should point out that, yes, I realize this is a fictional character currently being written by a Brit and a Texan science fiction author, and whose actions are largely governed by a massive faceless corporate entity that produced 22-page magazines about people in capes. Part of partaking in fiction, though, is accepting the conceit that the actions of the character are his or her own to take. Their motivation is their own. Not the will of an editor or writer. It’s a stretch if you prefer your imagination sit in a tray on your desk, but it’s still the way this works 9 times out of 10.
So what are the Man of Steel’s motives here?
The story in question takes place in Action Comics #900, where Superman points out that “The world’s too small. Too connected.” A world that’s growing closer every day requires a champion that doesn’t sit off to one side of an issue, dealing with just one country’s problems. Superman has saved entire races and worlds from destruction, so why on Earth would he not treat his adopted homeworld with that same attitude?
From my perspective, and if the writers and editors involved are willing to stick to their guns on this one, this decision could be a very important turn for Superman. A return, in fact, to the character’s roots in the 1930s, where he was a defender of the oppressed; a ballsy man’s man who gave evil a right hook no matter what form it took. The Superman of the 1930s, mostly lost to readers after World War II, fought for the people instead of an agenda or for himself. If this is where DC’s headed, they most definitely get my vote.
He’s a universal symbol that belongs to the world. I think no one’s been putting it better than comics writer Gail Simone, whose tweeted about the new direction:
And hey, Superman’s decision – the decision taken by the fictional alien I’m writing about here – has already got America’s Right up in arms over him being unAmerican. What’s next, I wonder?