Monday, May 2, 2011


Well, there's a back-up story (The Incident) in this week's Action Comics #900 that's caused a stir. In it, Superman states his intention to renounce his U.S. citizenship so that his international actions may not be construed as American policy. He does so after the Iranian government gets angry because he showed up to nonviolently support some protesters in Tehran. Here are some relevant links.

First, from comic book resources' robot 6. This one's a pretty good summation of the internet reaction.

There's comics alliance, which has a huge discussion in the comments.

Here's an example of the outside (outside of comics fandom, that is), reactionary response.

Thus far, I've been unable to find any genuine praise for the element of controversy, aside from the stray comment to news stories or blogs. As a story, regardless of what Superman intends to do, it's really not very good. It's only 9 pages, and lacks a real ending. It's told mostly in flashbacks, and of those 9 pages the entirety of the first is devoted to a guy standing around, checking his watch, and waiting for Superman to arrive. Narrative economy is not on the menu today. It also ends with a pretty lame attempt at demonstrating Superman's inspirational effect on the conflict in Tehran that draws him to Iran in the first place.

As for my feeling on the controversy, Douglas Wolk says it pretty well: 'Plenty of stories, from Paul Dini and Alex Ross's Superman: Peace on Earth to the beginning of "Grounded,"have addressed why Superman doesn't simply solve the world's geniune problems. The real answer is that that's not what Superman stories are about. The point of Superman stories is to wildly distort the world as we know it: to provide a huge, fun perspective on alienation, on leading a double life, on the struggle to understand what truth and justice are before one starts fighting for them. And anyone who purports to be offended at "The Incident" should remember that this happens in the same universe where, in 2000, Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States.'

At heart, this is a controversy inherent to the genre. It's one of the things that made a mess of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Any time you try to insert real world problems into superhero stories, you run the risk of exposing the genre for what it is: fiction. No genre can stand up to the real world.

The most interesting aspect of the whole thing is the frequent equation of Superman and Obama, which arises from the bafflingly persistent "birther" movement that demands further proof of Obama's US citizenship. People are making lots of jokes about needing to see Superman's birth certificate or something of the kind.

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