Friday, September 15, 2017

Superman saves everyone, regardless of who they are

I've neglected this space of late for various reasons, mostly working on a bunch of things. But I'm back today to talk about - surprise - Superman.

Specifically, the most recent issue of Action Comics, which I thought was pretty well done, but has apparently generated some controversy.

Long story short, the mysterious Mr. Oz, who has been pestering Superman and other DC heroes for the past few years, decides to unleash all manner of hell and havoc on the world. It's basically a Pandora's Box of the worst of 2017 - oil spills, poaching, racism - Superman steps in to try and do what he does to stop or lessen the impact of each of these things. Mr. Oz's point is that Earth doesn't deserve Superman.

The main point of controversy that, naturally, threw the Internet and the right-wing into a hissy fit was the moment that Superman saves a group of (implied, then confirmed) illegal immigrants from a hail of gunfire. The shooter is a Caucasian man wearing an American Flag bandana, firing a machine gun. The outrage from the right and the Fox News crew was basically "how dare Superman save illegal immigrants!"

The Man of Steel does his thing, crushes the gun, gets in the shooter's face and explains that the only source of the shooter's problems is the shooter himself.

This entire sequence is typical Superman. This is who he is and what he does. He saves people, he aims to inspire hope.

Let's get the obvious fact out of the way: Superman IS an illegal alien. You know, rocketed to Earth from the dying planet Krypton, found by kindly farmers in Smallville, Kansas... and so on.

If you have an issue with Superman's actions in this issue of Action Comics, you have no idea what Superman is, what he stands for or what he represents. One commentator that took issue with Superman's actions is Fox News host Todd Starnes here: Superman defends illegals against angry American.

Normally, I wouldn't give this type of thing the time of day, but anyone who knows me knows how I feel about Superman. Plus, my 3-year-old just discovered a new love for The Man of Steel and has been running around in a Superman cape for the past few days, so I'm in a particular mood in regards to The Last Son of Krypton.

So, Mr. Starnes, let's dissect your piece on Superman.

You come right out of the gate with an intended inflammatory statement: "The Man of Steel has now become a propaganda tool for the defenders of illegal aliens.

Is that really all you took from this? How long have you read Superman? Do you read Superman comics? Do you know the history of the character? Are you just referencing the Hollywood Reporter piece without reading the context? See, that's the problem with the Fox News types, you take things out of context to infuriate your viewers and drum up support based on false pretenses.

Do you prefer Superman let these people get mowed down and then high-five the shooter while chanting "#MAGA!"?

You say "Superman swoops in and blocks the bullets meant for the illegals." How about "Superman stops innocent people from being massacred"? Are you suggesting that white people upset with immigration laws and illegal immigrants should just start opening fire? The shooter is upset because he feels the illegal immigrants have stolen jobs meant for him. This is a valid complaint on some level, but in the real world I don't see these down-on-their-luck folks rushing out to fill positions held by migrants and or even undocumented immigrants. California could use the help:

Now your argument is that Superman should have swooped up the illegal immigrants and deported them. This is problematic for a myriad of reasons. First, Superman is not a tool of the US government. Furthermore, are you suggesting instead of stopping those people from being gunned down he should have just deported them. To where? They may not all be from Mexico. Do you suggest Superman divert his attention for world-ending threats to team up with ICE and do paperwork?

You also seem to take issue with Superman grabbing the shooter - who literally just tried to murder people - and telling him to stop, suggesting that the only hatred that has led him to murder comes from within. This is what Superman does, Mr. Starnes. He saves people, he tries to make evildoers see the error of their ways. It's not his place to deport people, but it's his place to save people from harm and to inspire hope in reflection in those who would do harm.

The suggestion you make of "Remember when Superman stood for truth, justice and the American way" is also problematic. In the moment of saving those people from a gunman, Superman stands for those three virtues. Part of the American way is helping those less fortunate, part of the American way is protecting the helpless and welcoming immigrants from all over the world. That's what America is - a country of immigrants. Yes, we have laws and undocumented immigrants crossing the border, but we have pathways and rules for those who contribute to society and most importantly, our economy. We shouldn't be condoning their murder at the hands of an angry white man. That's the attitude that breeds white supremacy.

The very idea of Superman is the idea of America, that an immigrant not of this country - in this case the world - can step up and be the best of us, always do the right thing and present us with an ideal to strive towards. That it doesn't matter who you are, where you are from or what you look like, if you are in trouble, Superman and America will fight for you because it's the right thing to do.

Finally, you turn your attention to Superman publisher DC Comics. Suggesting it's only a matter of time before they unleash "other superheroes in its corporate quest to defend the alien invaders."

Again, do you or have you ever read DC Comics? Or comics in general? Are you mad they sometimes get political? You do understand that superhero comics as we know them today first emerged in the 1940s with characters fighting crime and Nazis, right?

I would point you in the direction of the classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard-Traveling Heroes" from the 1970s, It's a story that deals with race, income inequality, drugs and other real-life issues that are still relevant today.

You make the snark remark about Flash wisking illegal immigrants back and forth across the border or Wonder Woman rounding up Texas ranchers "defending their property." I suppose The Flash could do that while protecting his mid-west hometown, sure, but aside from the vigilantism, superheroes mostly operate within the confines of the law. And in regards to Wonder Woman, if those Texas ranchers threatened to start killing people the way the Bundys did, then yes she would round them up to keep everyone - including the ranchers - safe. Also, Wonder Woman - contrary to the beliefs of Fox News - is not an American.

In conclusion, your entire argument is rendered moot, ignorant and spiteful by your closing line: "It's unfortunate that DC Comics is turning its stable of iconic heroes into political pawns – hell-bent on indoctrinating our kids."

Comics have ALWAYS been political. Superman is a representation of America, one deeply rooted in FDR-style New Deal ideology - same with Captain America. But please, fire up the old Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons and watch "Japoteurs" if you want to see some real super-hero propaganda of it's time, and then come talk to me about "new" politicization of these characters.

That closing line brings me back to my original point, what would you prefer Superman do? What example would you prefer DC Comics have him so young readers? Saving people, or letting them be murdered? That's the distinction here because that's what a young reader sees, not the complexities of the immigration argument.

I've been a Superman fan and enthusiast all my life. In terms of literature, Superman taught me more about the difference between right and wrong, being a decent person and being an American almost more than anything else. So if my 3-year-old running around with his new Superman cape and action figure becomes indoctrinated to be a good person, a good American and to fight the ideas of oppression and hate, then the world will be a better place.


  1. Good job. Todd Starnes is an ignorant ass-hat.
    -Dave Olbrich

  2. Lovely comic, I wish I could find a copy.