"What are we outraged about today?": bisexual Superman who has a slightly different slogan edition
Fox News's tiresome outrage machine pushes onward.
A few months back, I wrote about the predictable right-wing outrage over a story that said Captain America lost faith in the American dream. In my piece, I went through some history of conservative anger as it pertains to pop culture figures, which would often hinge on willful misinterpretations and exaggerations. For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply recommend that people check out that piece for the general background on right-wing rage:
That brings me to today’s phony anger, which centers around two things: Superman being bisexual *gasp* and tweaking his slogan *double gasp*
On the bisexual announcement:
Now, first things first: No, Clark Kent is not bisexual. Superman: Son of Kal-El is a book that takes place in the aftermath of DC’s Future State event, which saw Kal-El (Clark Kent) pass the mantle of Superman onto his son, Jon Kent, while Clark left the earth (as he sometimes does). Jon Kent is the bisexual Superman. Still, this made people in right-wing media very angry.
Now, a personal disclaimer: I love comics, but I’m nowhere near as well-versed on DC as I am on Marvel’s works, nor is Superman one of my favorite characters. I apologize in advance if I get the details of any of this wrong. I’ve always related more to comic heroes whose powers are much more limited in scope (for instance, my favorite: Spider-Man, though, if we’re keeping this in the DC universe, I suppose Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, or Barbara Gordon would be great examples) than the overpowered god-type characters (Marvel: Captain Marvel, Vision, Scarlet Witch; DC: Superman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan, etc.). One reason for that is simple: it’s extremely easy for stories to get stale when the hero can just bust in and save the day without breaking a sweat most of the time. And it’s for this reason that sometimes comic books have to shake things up.
Superman and Lois Lane have existed since 1938. And over that more than eight-decade span, there have been a bunch of spin-offs and variations. Some of these exist in the same universe, and some don’t. There are evil versions of the character, vigilantes, clones, children, and more. See: John Henry Irons (aka Steel), Eradicator, Superboy (aka Kon-El/Conner Kent), Cyborg Superman (aka Henry Henshaw), Supergirl, Superwoman, and many more.
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Jonathan Kent has experienced a lot in his young life. He’s fought evil with Robin (Damian Wayne), traveled across galaxies with his Kryptonian grandfather, and lived in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes, who were intent on training him for the day his father could no longer be Superman. There is a hole in the Legion’s history that prevents Jon from knowing exactly when that will happen, but all signs point to it being very soon. It’s time for the son to wear the cape of his father and continue the never-ending battle as a symbol of hope for his home planet.
Tom Taylor, who writes Son of Kal-El, explained the direction of the character in an interview with IGN:
When I was asked if I wanted to write a new Superman with a new #1 for the DC Universe, I knew replacing Clark with another straight white savior could be a real opportunity missed. I’ve always said everyone needs heroes and everyone deserves to see themselves in their heroes. Today, Superman, the strongest superhero on the planet, is coming out.
Imagine being asked to write a new Superman series and going, “No, I don’t want to change anything at all. Superman is Superman and he will always be a straight white dude who works at a newspaper and is laughably bad at covering up his secret identity.” It wouldn’t make sense, right? Of course Taylor was going to take the character in some new directions if only for the need to differentiate Jon Kent from Clark Kent. It was only a question of what directions those would be.
As I mentioned earlier in this piece, a lot of these things have been done before, even the idea that Superman’s kid would have powers of his own. To mix it up by making the character bisexual is no more or less a betrayal of the character as any of the many variations that have been told before. Some of the criticism among conservatives is that by having the character dating a man, it is somehow “shoving it in our faces,” though it’s no different than the 83 years of Clark and Lois getting together. Maybe someday someone will create an asexual and aromantic version of Superman, but for some reason, I feel like the people who are angry about this will also be angry about that.
(Also… just… Superman is an alien. He’s not human. If anything, it’s pretty weird that he’s getting it on with earthlings at all! Just saying…)
On the new “Truth, justice and a better tomorrow” motto:
First things first: This does have to do with Clark Kent’s Superman. Yes, Clark Kent’s Superman will continue to have new stories told about him in Action Comics, movies, TV shows, video games, and so on. The new slogan replaces “Truth, justice, and the American way,” which didn’t originate with the comics at all. Initially, the slogan was “a never-ending battle for truth and justice.” From there, it became a fight “in the interests of truth, tolerance, and justice.” “Truth, justice, and the American way” actually originated with the Adventures of Superman radio serial that ran from 1940 to 1951.
But on the shift to “Truth, justice, and a better tomorrow,” here’s what DC had to say:
“Superman’s new motto of ‘Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow’ will better reflect the global storylines that we are telling across DC and to honor the character’s incredible legacy of over 80 years of building a better world,” said DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee. “Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people from around the world, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement.”
Naturally, this caused the right-wing media ecosystem to freak out. The same people who dedicated the past week to defending a Netflix stand-up special from any and all criticism (no matter how nuanced or gentle) were now throwing a tantrum about Superman:
But none of this is new. From a 2006 New York Times opinion piece detailing the history of the phrase:
Then, in autumn 1942, fans of the radio show became the first to hear about Superman's battle for "truth, justice and the American way."
At that time the war was not going well. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was sweeping across Africa, and the German Army was driving toward Stalingrad. The Japanese had been turned back at Midway but they were still invading Pacific islands. Americans were all fighting for the American way. Why shouldn't Superman?
As the war turned in our favor, though, the additional phrase didn't seem as necessary. By 1944 it was gone, and for the remainder of the radio show, Superman devoted himself to the fight for tolerance.
It took the paranoia and patriotism of the Cold War era to bring back "the American way" - this time in the "Adventures of Superman" TV series, which ran from 1952 to 1958. Every week, young baby boomers were greeted with the phrase as they sat down to watch the Man of Steel combat crooks and Communist spies.
Now, “Why was that piece written in 2006?” you may ask. After all, from the unhinged right-wing outbursts about the change, you’d have thought that Superman is only now questioning or abandoning the slogan. You’d be mistaken. No, see, back in 2006, the movie Superman Returns hit theaters around the world. One of the trailers for the film had Daily Planet editor Perry White (played by Frank Langella) asking, “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?” This made people mad.
This is all just yet another example of hypocrisy among the crowd of people who regularly refer to people as snowflakes and whine endlessly about being “canceled.” I’ve written about this over and over and over. It’s their entire playbook at this point.
Until next time!