With the above panel, from Action Comics #900, a media firestorm emerged. The news of Superman's controversial decision hit the mainstream thanks to Fox News, the Washington Times, the New York Post, becoming international news. Superman's words came from David Goyer, a writer best known for scripting the recent Batman films and the next Superman movie. Many fans saw the story as a smack in the face, and DC's co-publishers quickly backpedaled, stating that Superman "embodies the best of the American Way."
Here with a guest editorial is longtime comics fan Jerry Smith -
AN OPEN LETTER TO DC COMICS -
My first comic book was Superman #193. My mom bought it for me before I could read, but I knew who Superman was. I later found out the main story was an “imaginary” tale where Lex Luthor killed Superman and heroes were lined up for miles to pay their last respects to his dead body. That’s how I feel now.
I’ll save you the recounting of my Superman comics, statues, artwork, action figures, etc. Let’s just say I’m a devoted, long-term fan. I love Superman. And of course I am writing about the tragedy of Superman supposedly renouncing his American citizenship in Action Comics #900.
Let me get this out of the way: Superman would never, EVER renounce his American citizenship. Clark Kent was raised in Kansas in by decent, loving parents. By all accounts and Superman’s past actions, this led to a well-adjusted son who loved his (adopted) country. Such a person would grow up loving their country and would not renounce his citizenship under any circumstances.
I’ll be honest, it was hard to read, and harder to type, Superman saying “I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship.” Why would he do this? Because he is “tired of having [his] actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy?” Who thinks that and why would it matter? Superman doesn’t have the right to protest injustice without denouncing America? That’s a major part of what it means to be an American! That is the American Way. And he thinks that is a reason to turn his back on his country?
The language of Superman’s traitorous statement has obviously been carefully considered. Take the word “renounce.” To me, the word “renounce” means “I reject you. I reject all that you are and ever will be. I want nothing to do with you, your policies or what you stand for.” Is that DC Comics’ intention? If so, why? Do you hate America? I really have to ask the question.
This story was negative and ham-handed. Superman wants a more global focus? I thought he already had one. But considering that is true, why did he have to stop being an American? Why did he have to reject and spit on America? There was a great Silver Age story where the United Nations bestows on Superman honorary citizenship of every country in the world, unanimously voted on by those countries. Why didn’t you refer to or recreate that story? No, you had to “stick it” to America, not make Superman a citizen of the world. Why didn’t that even occur to the writer or editor of this story? It implies a real lack of love for the U.S.A. That’s fine if its how you feel, but why force that on Superman?
Like it or not, Superman is an American icon. I love the part in John Byrne’s “Man of Steel” where Superman talks about growing up in America and thinking of himself as an American. What is the problem with being connected with U.S. policy? Does Superman hate freedom and democracy?
Also, there is a concerted effort by DC to disavow the corny old “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” both overall and in this story. I love that saying, and take it for what it is; fighting for the idealized America of our founding fathers, not the imperfect America of reality. DC Comics and the Warner Bros. movie people are so afraid of that line, they’re afraid of people thinking they like their own country. What’s wrong with fighting for those things? Are American ideals of equality and opportunity so bad? Sure, sometimes that’s not reality, but no country is perfect. At least we try.
Like the writers and editors who came before you, you are stewards of the heroes you publish until the next generation comes along. You have failed in that stewardship. You let politics and anti-American prejudice infuse a story about your flagship character, Superman. You let us down.
Here’s what I plan to do about it. I am writing this letter to ask you to undo this story. My over 400 issue in a row Action Comics run comes to an end with #900 (I dropped Superman when JMS came on board, but I have a similar run of that book as well). No more new Superman for me. I was interested in the Flashpoint books with creative teams I liked, but I’ll be skipping the entire crossover now. I’m whittling the Batman books down to the eponymous one. Green Lantern is a bit diluted with all the GL books, I think I’ll drop a few of those too. I can’t say I’ll boycott DC as a company (nor am I urging others to do so), but I will drop things to the absolute bare minimum.
Yes, Superman is a fictional character and who really cares? I do. This story has rocked my world, and not in a good way. You’ve lost another long-time reader with an unnecessary story, using an iconic character as an anti-American political shill. Can you at least ask yourselves why you would do such a thing? And possibly explain it to me?
By the way, the “Evolution of the Man of Tomorrow” illustration by Brian Stelfreeze at the end of Action Comics #900 portrays the modern Superman proudly holding an American flag. Shouldn’t this be digitally removed from future printings?
Action Comics #900 panels - scan taken from the site that broke the story, the indispensable Bleeding Cool.
Funeral picture from Superman #159 - "The Death of Superman" by Jerry Siegel & Curt Swan; reprinted in Superman #193, 'The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told' and 'DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories'.
United Nations panel from Limited Collector's Edition #C-31, according to this message board post.
Superman 'Back to School Poster', 1988
Superman 'Back to School Poster', 1988