Truth, Justice, and the Twenty-First Century Way

It’s said that Superman stands for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But where does he stand today?

As modern comic book readers we are witnessing a pivotal shift in thinking. The medium itself is moving forward more progressively with each passing week, and the characters and stories are finally catching up, as well. This week I’ll be taking a look at the idealized American super hero, Superman, and sharing some of my opinions on what the modern Man of Steel should stand for.

Within the context of comics themselves, Superman is often played up to be a powerful political tool used by governments to reassure and influence mankind. But in his early days, and more so in recent times, Superman has been used by mankind to stand up to and influence it’s governments.

Where do you draw the line between expressing individual freedom and corruption?

Its a political crossroads that expands far beyond the reaches of a monthly comic book, that much is certain.

Superman’s allegiances and stances on key issues can either alienate or unify readership. Grant Morrison’s so-called ‘Socialist Superman’ currently starring in Action Comics has furthered this subtle rift among readers. The Occupy-friendly, anti-corporatocracy Superman is a hero that the younger generation can relate to and identify with, but some see these changes coming with a hefty price.

Some decry the protest movement as Anti-American, and out of character for Kal-El. But is this not just the natural progression of a character that has fought against America’s international opponents? Now that the country has refocused its attention inward, would it not be best to see this reflected in the entertainment industry, comics included?

The Superman of ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now could be a radically different hero, just as Byrne’s Superman of the eighties differs from Morrison’s current Superman. But if Superman is going to stand for Truth, Justice and the American Way, then I for one believe that the character and stories should evolve as fluidly as the concept of ‘The American Way’ itself does.

Embracing these stories as aspects of the modern era should be no more of a challenge than acknowledging that every hero and their sidekick battled it out with Hitler during the World War II years.

The global political landscape is evolving, and monthly comic books have a rare opportunity to be ahead of the curve in reflecting these changes. Morrison’s ‘Socialist Superman’ is simultaneously a bold step forward and a return to the character’s roots. So long as there is an American culture, Superman should exist as an iconic reflection of the times.

Frank Campisano

Truth, Justice, and the Twenty-First Century Way