With a squeal of tires, I lurched to a stop in my driveway. My loyal minions had already disconnected the satellite dish, the phone, covered all the windows, propped everything against the doors, including the one I just came in through, and took me to my special Faraday cage, which has a corded ethernet port, power outlet, and plenty of tea and ramen (I built it in my bathroom, so I don't have to leave for nothing). Upon confirmation that the perimeter was secure, I fired up Darwin, my primary computer, and started reading.
So, what in the world has got me running while screaming, "DEFCON RED! This is NOT a drill!" Yesterday was new comic day, when people get their new comics. And the following panel from Action Comics #900 has gone viral --
Please tell me Glenn Beck's show on Faux News is over. It's already going to be a long fuckin' night (I just know my dad is going to call and ask me what the hell is going on), I don't need an increase in agony. By the way, why does Supes look like Lil Abner and Bob's Big Boy had a kid?
A review of To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, summed up the movie as, "Nothing gets attention like carefully timed outrageousness." Comics have tried to dabble in politics, and usually with disastrous results. If Civil War were any more hamhanded, Jews would have been forbidden to pick it up. Anyone remember the missile making hippies in Brother Power, The Geek? I do. That and the Reagan appearance were the funniest things in there. Where's Alan Moore when you really need him? Oh, wait...this is DC. Never mind.
To borrow a phrase I don't remember where I got it from, political commentary is like a broken shopping cart -- it either veers hard to the left or hard to the right. Supes has been a punching bag in this regard for a long time, depicted as a government stooge in The Dark Knight Returns. Writers just don't get what to do with him anymore. When Mike Carlin was editing the Superman line, he not only kept it tight, but used the death of Superman, one of the worst comics ever, to kick off a great (if truncated) story. And it's all because of Superman representing "truth, justice, and the American way."
It's the "American way" part that's making people shit.
And it shouldn't.
Let's swing our view to another character who is in far more danger of descending into jingoism than Supes -- Captain America. After the WWII stories were retired, Cap had to face an Army general who demanded Cap's silence as Cap was a loyal soldier. Cap responded, "I am loyal to nothing...except the American dream."
Calling it "the American dream" is a bit misleading. It's actually a universal dream. Where all are free. Where all have liberty. Justice. To live and do as we choose, and if we are wronged, see whoever did it pay. No one sells that harder or buys in to it more than Americans, hence the association. But it doesn't change the fact that THAT is what Cap is supposed to represent. Like in the movie Delta Farce, "We took an oath to bring freedom to anyone that needs it. And right now, I'd say these people need it."
People react with dread to writing Captain America. The reason is because what the character truly represents is at odds with what people want him to be. One writer said in an interview, "Half the readers wanted me to write him as a satire of American values. The other half wanted me to use him to promote America." Ostensibly, he should be neither. Captain America is a symbol of better things, not a reflection of things as they are.
Now, Cap still gets good writers behind him. Supes? Nope. Here's a character who is frequently depicted as selfish, arrogant, and anxious to humiliate his friends (the Silver Age era, as evidenced by the web site Superdickery. If you're on Winblows, make sure your firewall and AV are up to date before you pop over, you get drive-by'ed like crazy). Recent stories like "New Krypton" made him a flunky of his own people. The day was saved by Valor, Supergirl, and Chris Kent while Supes let his fellow Kryptonians push him around. He promises Lois he'll never leave again, and promptly goes walking across America, refusing to use his powers and looking like even more of a dick.
And now, this. Do they really think this is going to give him a positive view? He's already an afterthought in his own editorial line-up. It's not that Superman is defying what he stands for -- truth, justice, and the American way -- but that such a cheap, shallow character who has studiously avoided anything truly political is suddenly making a Dramatic Political Stance. And a poorly thought out one, at that. Instead of trying to bring these ideals around the world (as loaded as the phrase, "making the world safe for democracy" is, the sentiment is right on), he decides to divorce himself from society. Folks, this is how bad things happen, when people see themselves as separate (and, by extension, better) than the people they are supposed to work with and support and lean on.
Nothing about this rings true, about a defender of liberty suddenly unsure just what he is doing (check out Mark Waid's sadly truncated run on Captain America to see that done right). It's just someone being petulant and saying "fuck you" to the world, not presenting a point of view, but simply an attitude.
Superman has gone punk.
Oh, well. They redo Superman's origin every few years just so they can write new crossover stories. Give it a few years, and this little moment will be retconned away.