As Arab Spring Grows, Superman Renounces US Citizenship

Its never really been clear to me why comic book storylines have such an ability to rile up political factions, but after the bizarre row over the French Muslim ally of Batman it should have come as no surprise when Action Comics #900 included a story about Superman, of all people, renouncing his American citizenship, that a huge furor erupted. Incredibly, Superman’s American citizenship survived Lex Luthor’s term as President, but not the Arab Spring.

The story is a short one, and just one of several in the issue. The (fictional) US National Security Adviser dresses down Superman for his attendance at a major public protest in Tehran, complaining that since Superman is a US citizen it was causing a diplomatic incident. Superman tells the story of what happened at the protest – 1,000,000 attendees at Azadi Square and no shots fired.

Superman then makes his announcement, declaring “I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy. Truth, Justice and the American Way — It’s not enough anymore.”

Of course within the context of the DC Universe, Superman often WAS being used as an instrument of US policy. He’s worked for the US State Department regularly in the modern era, and that’s not counting his military role in WW2.

It seems odd that the administration would care if Superman attended a protest in Iran, of all places, but the National Security Advisor is clearly angry, and even makes a show of having snipers prepared to assassinate him with Kryptonite bullets during the meeting if things go poorly. Because apparently the administration didn’t realize that Superman is notoriously difficult to kill.

In his comments, however, Superman makes reference to “civil disobedience” and “nonviolent resistance,” which shows a level of nuance that the usually jingoistic Man of Steel has seldom exhibited. This story is far afield from the Superman who, following a terrorist attack on Metropolis, single-handedly invaded the fictional nation of Qurac and destroyed virtually their entire military.

Which brings up what seems the most awkward aspect of the story to me: the use of Iran as the site of the protests when the nation isn’t having major protests at the moment. Printed comics have some lead time, surely, but the message would’ve made a lot more sense if Superman was in Yemen or Bahrain. The identical story could have been told with a conceivable reason for the administration being so mad at Superman’s interference (which was more attendance than interference).

DC Comics has tended to use real locations sparingly when overseas since the Cold War, and fictional nation-states like Qurac (which played the role of surrogate Iraq in the early 1990s) and Modora have usually been used instead of real “enemy” nations.

Interestingly, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is mentioned by name by Superman, who refers to the government as “Ahmadinejad’s regime” (suggesting Clark Kent is no more aware of internal Iranian politics than most reporters). Nothing really happens at the protest however, and it ends on a hopeful note, with a protester handing a single rose to a Revolutionary Guard soldier.

Which is in stark contrast to the last time Iran came up in the DC Universe. In that case (December 1988), Ayatollah Khomeini makes a brief (and odd) appearance, appointing the Joker as the Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations as a reward for the Joker’s help in arming an unnamed Arab militant faction in Lebanon (presumably Hezbollah) to attack Israel. The move granted the Joker diplomatic immunity (which he needed because he’d just beaten Robin to death with a crowbar), but was short-lived because he attempted to kill the entire UN General Assembly during his first speech with Joker toxin. After being foiled the Joker went underground (and presumably gave up the position, which was never mentioned again).

21 thoughts on “As Arab Spring Grows, Superman Renounces US Citizenship”

  1. Superman "renounces" his US citizenship. Oh mommy, Jerry Seinfeld will have a complete come-apart.
    It's a freaking COMIC book. Who cares? There's not a single strand of reality connected to any of this. Sort of like Trump playing "I wanna be president."
    However, it is beyond curious that DC would even broach a touchy subject like Superman "renouncing" his citizenship. Curiously curious. What does it all mean? Stay tuned and be sure to purchase episode number 57.359 and what the hell is the price of a DC comic book these days?

    1. Afraid my comment is not getting published as I have used the "J" word in referring to the createros of Superman being "J". Wow!

        1. Perhpas if the comment had not been censored, you would understand. You need to understand the history of "superman" and why it was created to understand why it is being used as a foreign policy tool now.

    1. The writer, David Goyer, is also writing the screenplay for the next live-action Superman movie, so I'm sure he'll be facing plenty of interviews surrounding it.

  2. Maybe this is the new superman, the corporate superman since we are now citizens of corporations rather than nations. Superman is now fighting for truth, justice, and the corporate way.

  3. This story is clearly out of continuity. From the readily available kryptonite to the terrorist leanings of Iraq (Qurac is the DC Universe terror nation), it has so many errors that it'll be difficult to work it into current DCU continuity. It's also a backup story by two people that are not the current Superman writing team.

    1. Though Superman identifies it as such, we don't know for sure that it was real Kryptonite. It's been established for awhile that a few people have managed to create synthetic Kryptonite-like substances. Since one of them was former US President Lex Luthor it seems likely he would've ensured the military or CIA had some around just in case he needed to add Superman to the same targeted assassination list as Anwar al-Awlaki.

  4. Superman: "I was born on February 29, 1982, on Krypton, in a Kryptonopolis decanting center. And now I — we — have better things to do…"

    Rather than declaring that "The American Way" is no longer "enough," Superman needs to speak truth to power, about what the "American Way" is, or ideally ought to be. The past couple of generations of "leadership" in DC seem to have veered further and further off the path, until now we may very well be going backward.

    I will have to read this comic directly. The description reminds me of the long-ago Green Lantern/Green arrow comic, in which GA gives GL a dressing down and takes him out into "the world" to see what's happening with "the people," kicking off the Silver Age "revelvance" phase. Let's see where Superman goes from here.

  5. Ma and Pa Kent were US citizens, and Superman would've fit under the adoption clause, since he was clearly under 18 when he crashed.

  6. I think the underlying message (based on news reports) regarding Superman renouncing his US citizenship is this: If you want to intervene in the world you'll have to go global because Pax Americana is ending. Superman can continue to speak softly and carry a big stick to influence people but the world can see America isn't strong like Superman. America is like a terminally ill Superman. Who would find a weak and feeble Superman imposing? They would know that they will surely outlast him.

    Another argument is that citizenship is a hindrance of the strong and the government doesn't follow the law which is making the whole concept useless. If Superman broke a law then he deserves a trial and not an assassination. It basically means that the government can collect rent from you because they own you.

    The last argument is: Think of the profits to be made by going global with the Superman brand! The American consumer has shopped until the creditors came a calling, hurting Superman's bottom line. I suppose they think that people in rising nations with dispensable cash need a white man in his underwear to identify with.

  7. You would think a guy dissatisfied with the way America is would be attending American protests instead of protests in Iran?

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