Diary of a Comic Book Goddess: Superman and the Citizenship Debacle

In Action Comics #900, Superman, realizing that the United States of America is no longer the centre of the universe and that we are very much living in a global society, says that he intends to renounce his U.S. citizenship because he’s kind of annoyed that people are assuming that he’s just a puppet of U.S. policy. As he says,

“Truth, justice and the American way” — it’s not enough anymore. The world’s too small, too connected.

The David Goyer penned story has drawn some criticisms from the right-wing conservative factions for being “un-American” and “un-patriotic.”

Not to be picky, but I think the words you’re looking for is “un-nationalistic.” Nationalism is the belief that one’s nation is superior to all others, assimilationist, being fiercely protective from outsiders, usually militaristic, and tends to blindly follow its nation’s leaders (unless, of course, you think that the nation’s leader wasn’t actually born in said nation, then it’s totally okay to take on a stance, despite all evidence to the contrary). Patriotism, on the other hand, is identifying and being loyal to one’s nation, while not demanding assimilation, and is open to people actively questioning its leaders’ decisions. It’s almost like nationalism except without the xenophobia and blind devotion.

The scary part is some of the comments and commenters, who equate Superman’s questioning of American supremacy as proof that he’s homosexual (WHAT?) as well as spurring on a stunning number of racist diatribes.* As with the Thor-debacle, they’re accusing left-wing writers of using sacred symbols to push their evil agendas (while simultaneously slamming American values and the American identity).

I’m with Daren_Grey who, in the comments of the Wired blog post, remarked “This thread is an idiot parade.”

Idiots who are completely missing the point.

The narrative centers on Superman going to Tehran to attend a pro-democracy protest so he can show the demonstrators that they’re not alone. Knowing that he’s probably going to be seen as the harbinger of American intervention to free Iranians from tyranny (from an election that turned out to be not so democratic) Superman stands silently in support of democracy and freedom from tyranny.

In the end, he’s there to support the protesters – despite being accused by the Iranian government that he is there to intimidate – to show them that they have support as they fight for freedom. Superman understands that this is their war to fight and that outside action is not the answer.

Oh, and for his trouble, he, upon his return to the U.S., gets harangued by a national security advisor for causing an international incident.

Maybe what Superman is saying about the “American way” is that militaristic action isn’t the answer. Having the U.S. invade Iran to overthrow the government to “free” the Iranian people is just swapping one tyranny for another. That the “American way” has become so distorted that helping a people fight for their own independence, their own freedom, and to establish a democracy is to support them in their fight rather than do it for them. And, that to live in such a small, interconnected world ultimately means that, if the human race is to survive, it is through co-operation rather than blind nationalism and xenophobia.

So, to all the haters, how, exactly, does standing up for the very values that became the ideological basis of the Revolutionary War (those distinct values that America was founded on and for which it stands), “a U.N. loving anti-American“?


Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and a business woman who is very much looking forward to the weekend. “This thread is an idiot parade” is her new favourite saying.

Shelley Smarz
Shelley Smarz
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