"Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got somethin to say
But nothin comes out when they move their lips; just a bunch of gibberish
And motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre"
It's time for me to rant again. No cutesy intro paragraphs, no faux-important black and white pictures of me in fedoras. Just you and me, internet, having a one-on-billions talk about something I'm noticing happening. Yes, it pertains to comics, and yes, I'm witing this on an audio diet of Kanye West, Danger Mouse, Lil' Wayne, and Eminem.
You see, I've become confused in the last couple of days, in regards to Superman, and we're going to work through it, piece by piece, until we discover the point that everyone has completely missed. If you're reading this and aren't a fan of comics, let me recap for you: recently, in Action Comics #900, in a backup short story within the comic itself specifically, Superman made vague threats in the vein of renouncing his American citizenship. And yes, we're talking about a fictional character saying that he might be considering the possibility of thinking about maybe looking into wondering about renouncing his alter-ego's American citizenship.
And you know what I'm seeing in the reactions to this news? People are forgetting that the alter-ego of this particular character made the announcement, not the primary personality. From what I've been led to understand about Superman, in all my years of reading, overanalyzing, and rereading the Superman comics I own, it's that Clark Kent is the "real man" so to speak, the primary personality, while Superman is the affectation, the sun god that visits everyday, but is only here fleetingly, helping when and where he's needed regardless of race, creed, or anything else, and then gone. So why are people perturbed that the hero that, for at the very least the last 30 years or so, has been operating on a global scale, suddenly declares that he is going to operate on a global scale?
I mean, really. When was the last time Superman did anything America-centric? World War 2? He's been in the Justice League handling galactic threats, saving the universe and multiverse, and generally doing a bunch of heroics that affect the globe more than just America singularly. In his solo title(s), he's been off Earth entirely, dealing with his resurrected home planet. I mean, yeah, I guess you could say he's been saving the world while using his American-raised ideals as a moral platform, but I would counter that argument with my own; that fighting to protect the meek from bullies is a bit more of a global constant than an American one, and that the Bill of Rights or Constitution don't really have that much of a bearing on whether Superman protects those innocent villagers from the villain du jour. Superman fights on the side of good, not the side of any individual government, and in fact, he states as much in the short story from Action Comics #900.
Taken at face value, I guess what I'm tryin' to say is that this announcement, in terms of the characterization of Superman, makes a lot of sense. It is literally just a vocalization of Superman's actions that is consistent with how he's been written since, like, the 80s, if not well earlier. But up at the top, remember I mentioned Clark Kent? Well, there's a reason I titled this like I did and included the song exceprt as well. And it wasn't just to be cute.
There's no way to break this to you easy, but you've been focusing entirely on the wrong point when it comes to this news announcement. What has happened, people, is that the writers, should they choose to utilize it, have set themselves up for possibly the greatest Clark Kent stories we've ever seen in, well, ever. The thing is, Superman really can't be used to tell post-modern stories of good and evil. Superman is hope, he is an ideal, and he is an absolute. Superman fights evil because it's the right thing to do, and his villains are always bad. There may be twists and moral grays thrown in with modern characterizations, but at the end of the day, nobody feels sad when Parasite or Metallo or Zod are incarcerated in some way. So it's okay when he says he's renouncing his US citizenship, because the problems at home, in the US, are not as cut and dried as helping protesters in Iran or Syria or Libya, or the God of All Evil dying in the multiversal gutters and dragging us down with him. Home is not as easy to deal with as having an alien demigod threaten dictators who enslave people. And even then, Superman cannot spend too much time focusing on the individuals during these crises, should the real world predicaments be written into his adventures.
Yes, Superman absolutely has a personal touch, and a very deep empathy for the common man, as evidenced in All Star Superman 10. But in terms of creating "real world" storylines within the comic itself, it would break the suspension of disbelief in half to have Superman focusing on anything other than the best actions that help the most people the quickest.
But you know who can help the little man the most, all the time, abroad and at home? You know who could be in the thick of things, getting first person recollections of these real world events, and has the gravitas and reputation, in the story, to tell the world the story of the forgotten innocents and victims?
US Citizen and journalist Clark Kent. This little backup story has created a wonderful storytelling situation, and everyone is too caught up in calling Superman or DC traitors to America to realize this move, if it follows through, means just about everything but imaginary treason by a fictional character. Superman has become free to pursue global peace, in these stories, on a scale appropriate of a character of his stature. And Clark Kent is free to publish pieces that challenge Superman's actions, and to pursue justice on a street level as a member of the 4th estate that is impossible for the modern Apollo of Metropolis to properly do.
CLark Kent can cover the shades of gray that don't stick or apply to Superman. He can interact with people that are good, bad, and everything in between. Clark is free to pursue the dirty truths here at home while Superman flies off and continues acting as the heroic ideal. Kent can ask the tough questions of US involvement in foreign countries' domestic policies, he can be the mouthpiece of sanity and hope on a personal level that just doesn't work with Superman on a regular basis.
And I'm absolutely not saying they need to have Kent blaring and trumpeting his US citizenship ad infinitum. The US citizenship of Kent itself serves only to increase his moral gravitas if they use him in the methods I've described. He is specifically beholden to the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They are his tools to justify his fight, since in the eyes of everybody, Kent is a mere man. But he is, in the comics, a good man, a just man, and in terms of his dual identities, Kent is the real man, able to hanlde the real problems, now that Superman has been freed to handle the large comic book threats.
To bring this full circle, I see a lot of people talking, about how angry they are at Superman, or how important this is for Superman. All it does for Superman is free him up to keep doing what he's doing without any pesky real world problems infecting the narrative. But you've all done something to which I needed to bring attention.
Everyone forgot about Kent.
Agree? Disagree? Think this thing was just rambling nonsense? Tell us in the comments below, or catch Sam on twitter @SamHurtZG, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org