Et tu, Superman?

WHEN I BEGAN THIS BLOGGY THING, I never intended to drift into politics. Quite the opposite, really. My fantasy—and it was fantasy—was to transcend politics, leap over or slide under it. Good luck with that, Maureen. The art world itself is so sodden with politics that it becomes impossible to ignore the drift. Even comic books are driven to parade some political stance or other.
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Thanks to Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit, we learn today that, now, even Superman considers himself a citizen of the world and is trading in his American identity. He wants to work for global justice and harmony through that sacred organization of upright, right-minded states, the United Nations. Kumbaya, Clark Kent. Peace be upon him.

Hoft links to Comics Alliance, which has the whole sorry scoop:

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.
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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.

Moral complexity. Got that? The pursuits of truth and justice, as incorporated in the phrase “the American way,” is a simple, even simplistic thing. The achievements of the still historically brief American experiment—moral, civic, economic, and cultural in the largest sense of the that word—were child’s play. The real adult stuff is handled by the grown ups on the UN’s Human Rights Council. All the heavy lifting to achieve racial, religious and gender harmony are carried on by the such forwarding thinking states as Cuba, the Congo, China, Libya, Russian, North Korea, Venezuela.

It is a lovely world. Let’s cheer Superman when he flies down to keep Muslims from using machetes on Christian political opponents. Let’s hear it for our superhero when he smashes the files kept by local bureaucrats on the menstrual cycles of young, fertile Chinese women. Huzzahs galore when he stymies Hamas sympathizers from slitting the throats of Israeli children asleep in their beds. We can look forward to episodes where Superman joins UN peacekeeping troops; his presence will goad them into action to stop rape and pillage across Darfur, the Sudan, the Congo. Lois Lane can wave see-you-later to Clark Kent as he changes costume to save the rule of law in tribal states that know only the rule of power.

Heaven knows, we could use him here at home to prevent honor killings of Islamic girls who go on dates or like to dance. Or put him to work in upstate New York to put the head back on the shoulders of an Islamic wife who wants a divorce.


David S. Goyer, tattooed from his wrists to his shoulders to illustrate his creativity, is the Sixties wannabe behind Supeman’s trendy perfidy. He is the latest useful idiot in our accelerating slouch toward life in Kafka’s castle.

© 2011 Maureen Mullarkey


  1. Maureeen! Whilst I am not hugely fussed about Superman as global citizen, I am more disturbed at what seems to be a major shift in your philosophy towards this blogging venture!

    The decision to stay away from politics is one I also made when I started, and apart from urging humanities types to embrace collaboration, social media and technology, I think I have done a good job to maintain my sanity and stay away from anything political.

    There are plenty of places to hear the beat of the art politics drum, Art Fag City, CultureGrrl, even Tyler Green at ArtInfo can’t make it past a week without throwing in his 2c – usually on the Wojnarowicz fiasco. The nett result of the wave of words spilt? Nothing significant, apart from the growing icky feeling contemplation of politics leaves in one’s stomach!

    Studio Matters had until today, indeed trascended all of these – I’m hoping this was a momentary madness?!!

    Kind Regards

  2. Well, H.Nizazi, you give me pause. Truly, you do. But you are an Australian. Superman’s
    highminded hypocrisy does not cut you to the quick as it does me. I bleed over this.

  3. @H: Let’s not get too exquisite here. The history of art and the history of ideas are joined at the hip. Many of those ideas are political or have political implications. Western art has served the Church and the throne with equal gusto.
    Art is nothing if not a spectacle of power (these days, the power of the market). Superman is going with the flow of his times. Are we not supposed to notice?

  4. Hello Alex. What you say is of course correct. The history of art is intertwined with the sociopolitical forces. But the issue here is its effect on the commentator.

    We can write a piece about the Medici, Borgia or della Roverian effect on Renaissance art, and remain emotionally impartial. There is something that has made Maureen snap here, and cross a line which she had set for herself. As a scientist, I find this tendency for writing in the humanities to be ruled by emotion to be quite remarkable, often more divisive than instructive.

    What Maureen does with her blog is of course up to her, but I thought she was doing an amazing job at being transcendent – and I hope she can go back to it.

    @Maureen – I am indeed an Australian, but was raised in a Turkish community. I daresay I know about the dangers of intertwined emotions and nationalism as much as anyone from the US!

    Kind Regards..and good luck!

  5. Aw, come on. I’m with Studio Matters on this one. When Superman renounces his American identity, pop culture is in the soup. What’s next? Donald Duck on a flotilla in the Strait of Hormuz? Mickey and Minnie dancing with Code Pink outside a Marine recruitment center? Batman testifying before Congress on the evils of high fructose corn syrup? Robin driving ambulances through the bush for Doctors Without Borders? David Goyer ain’t my kinda guy.

  6. A post-American Superman is a perfect emblem for the era of the post-American president.

    Perhaps Clark Kent (wasn’t he a member of JournoList?) is abandoning the Daily Planet for the National Security Council of the Obama White House. Samantha Power has a new convert, it seems.

  7. This is hardly a new phenomenon. I remember watching the 1944 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes flick ‘The Spider Woman’ – which was a melange of several famous Holmes tales. In one particular sequence, the dashing Victorian detective is at a shooting gallery taking pot shots at effigies of Mussolini, Hirohito and Hitler!

    Popular culture is hardly timeless, and ts creators do not live in a vacuum. Hence, if contemporary political references creep in, we needn’t be surprised. It isn’t the first, nor last time it has happenned in comics especially.


  8. Superman really stirs the pot, doesn’t he? Maybe pop culture has more of a grip on public attention than anyone likes to think.

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