By now you’ve seen the news coverage of the story of Superman announcing that he is renouncing his U.S. citizenship. The quote from the story is “Truth, justice, and the American way isn’t enough anymore.” To this I can only say that DC has lost its way, and clearly not read its own comics.
To begin with, Superman is the quintessential story of America. An immigrant (and an illegal immigrant at that) fleeing the destruction of his home finds a place in a country that gives him the opportunity not just to assimilate but to soar above the clouds, an opportunity he would not have had in his home even if it hadn’t been destroyed. This is the story of every person who travelled across the sea to find themselves at Ellis Island. He grew up believing in democracy and the current storyline has Superman protesting against the Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad. What is more American than protesting against unjust leadership?
More than that, DC has clearly not read their own comics. Several years ago, the was a Justice League (Justice League of America I should point out) titled JL?. The story had the main members of the Justice League suffering from amnesia and forgetting about the team. All they could remember was Justice League of A. Not knowing what the A stood for, several teams were formed with different words starting with A. The story saw the temporary formation of the Justice League of Aliens, Atlanteans, Amazons, Anarchy, etc. Until Superman suggests that the A should stand for America. The team pointed out that many of the members (Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman) aren’t American.
It was Superman that explained that the team didn’t represent the country, it represented the American dream. The idea that all men are created equal, that everyone can succeed. The team didn’t represent what America was, it represent what America, and all the citizens of the world could be. Now Superman is turning his back on that.
But that’s not the only reason I ask the question in the headline. Superman has been failing at the movies as well. Superman Returns was essentially a watered down remake of the Superman: The Movie. (Side note: the line American way was removed from Superman Returns as well). Superman: The Man of Steel is being rushed into production to avoid losing the rights to make Superman movies. Furthermore, based on the characters cast so far, it sounds like The Man of Steel will simply be a remake of Superman II. If Superman continues to fail at the box office, is wrapping up its successful run on television, and DC loses the rights to the original character to the estates of Siegel and Schuster, which is looking more and more likely, is DC trying to undermine the value of the character so that the estates can’t compete against them?
Superman would never abandon his principles for a matter of semantics. The audience knows, as I suspect the character itself would, that if young Kal-El landed in the Russia, Colombia, England, China, Italy, Germany or elsewhere, he would have turned out to be a vary different character. Being an American made Superman what he is. If he turns his back on the American way, he turns his back on who he is.