After recently undertaking a journey to walk — not fly — across the United States in the “Grounded” storyline and reconnect with the country and everyday Americans, Superman appears to be taking another step that could have major implications for his national identity: in Action Comics #900…
…Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of “truth, justice, and the American way,” from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the “American way” is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.
I think it’s interesting that comics are trying to be morally and politically relevant again. Maybe this particular case is just a gimmick. Certainly a lot of people felt that way when Steve Rogers was assassinated (I think I felt that way too). There’s something awkward and transparently superficial about confronting contemporary political issues head-on through superheroes making broad-strokes statements about “American values.” The best moral and political commentary in comics has always been much subtler (Watchmen being the most notable). There are exceptions, of course: Captain America was an overtly political statement, an expression of the creators’ belief that war with Nazi Germany was inevitable (Captain America punched Adolf Hitler in the face a full year before the U.S. entered World War II).
When I consider the ways in which comic books or other superhero/science fiction media can be morally and politically relevant, I think of Star Trek. The original series and, especially, The Next Generation dealt with relevant moral and political issues in an engaging way without ham-fistedly diving into contemporary politics. After all, fiction is escape, and it’s somewhat jarring to turn from the newspaper to the latest issue of “Civil War” or “Enterprise” or whatever and see more fulminating about the war in Afghanistan.
Star Trek confronted issues like race (ToS’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”), human rights (“The Measure of a Man”) and, presciently, torture (The Next Generation’s awesome “Chain of Command” episodes, parts one and two). Not once did those episodes mention specific details of contemporary political debates, and they were all the more powerful for it.
[via Comics Alliance]