Monday, May 2, 2011

Up, Up and Away...Far Away

"Truth, justice and the American way"...the traditional slogan of Superman, who burst on the scene in the 1930's, with America in the grip of the Great Depression. In the darkness, Superman and Shirley Temple did more to lift the human spirit in those dread times than any New Deal. Superman came from Krypton, tempest-tossed upon Earth when his world was destroyed, but one thing everyone knew: Superman was an American...hell, he was  America. Growing up, listening to the radio and later watching television, I learned the phrase "Truth, justice and the American way" so completely it became a part of my DNA. How then to process the following...?
According to Scott Thill at DC Comics: "It’s a sobering moment, as obvious as it is revolutionary. Superman’s conscientious creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who dreamed up Superman for Action Comics'  1938 debut, positioned their deathless hero as an American heartland warrior battling tyranny and evil. But Superman has always been bigger than the United States...In an age rife with immigration paranoia, it’s refreshing to see an alien refugee tell the United States that it’s as important to him as any other country on Earth — which in turn is as important to Superman as any other planet in the multiverse. The genius of Superman is that he belongs to everyone, for the dual purposes of peace and protection. He’s above ephemeral geopolitics and nationalist concerns, a universal agent unlike any other found in pop culture."

Superman may belong to the world, but bigger than the United States? Given his graphic history, I suggest he is the United States of America, that his nature embodies what is best about the most remarkable country ever to have existed on Earth. America may at times stumble, even lose sight of what the Constitution really means, but Superman need not falter, need not second guess whether he is doing the right thing, need not hesitate because he might offend some liberal or conservative sensibility, need not avoid controversy because of some politically correct fear. In short, Superman has one nature, one which he shares with an idealized America, and all he need do is stay true to that nature. But to renounce his American citizenship? That's just humbuggery and foolishness, vapid liberal timidity, and that is not who Superman is.


"Truth, Justice and the American Way"

"He's very American. From the creation of our country, the US has had a healthy tradition of looking to men who embody the nation, people like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. These figures have personified all that's good and patriotic about America. Of course, Superman is fiction, but those men have been fictionalized, too."
--Brad Ricca, lecturer at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio

Superman is, of course, a fictional character, an intellectual property stolen from the two Jewish kids who conjured him from economic despair and an idealized hope for America's promise. However, as Mr Thill wrote, Superman belongs to the world; DC Comics has an obligation to the world to keep him true to his nature, and that nature is American, loyal to unchanging ideals of freedom, democracy, charity, hope and truth -- the American way, regardless of who has been hired for that temp job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

"Truth, justice and the American way"...unchanging, immutable, as constant as the polar star...and that's the view from right here on the left coast...where truth, justice and the American way is sacrosanct.

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