Over the last several days, the mainstream press has latched on to the news that Superman's given up his American citizenship like a pack of feral dogs fighting over the moldy slop left in a rusty can of Hormel.
For those of you unaware of this kerfuffle, Wednesday's issue of Action Comics #900 featured a short story titled " "The Incident," in which Superman swoops by a demonstration in Tehran and stands with protestors to protect them from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's security forces.
The US State Department (who greets the superhero with Kryptonite-loaded sniper rifles) is less than impressed with Superman's dabbling in foreign affairs, so the Big Blue Boy Scout relinquishes his American citizenship:
[...] I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship [...] I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy. "Truth, Justice and the American Way" - it's not enough anymore. The world's too small. Too connected.
The story is a one-off by Batman Begins and Man of Steel (and Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD!) screenwriter David Goyer, who (let's be honest) has more lucrative things to do than pen Superman comics right now.
And despite the fact that DC probably won't follow up on this tale (indeed, Action Comics' A-plot is about fighting Doomsday), internet message board and the punditry have gone apeshit over this tiny scrap of superhero fiction, bandying it as a sign of a sinister internationalist agenda and a slight against America and other epigrams that sound snappy in the 24-hour cable news echo chamber.
My quibble here isn't with Goyer's story, which seems weirdly timed given that the Grounded story arc — in which Superman explicitly walks across America to reconnect with Average Joes and Janes and/or laser-vision crack houses — has yet to finish. And I don't think the sentiments of either story are mutually exclusive either, narrative merits aside (Grounded was too intoxicated with its own navel-gazing, and "Incident" wasn't that interesting, for reasons I'll explain below).
No, my vitriol is reserved for the punditry who've taken this scrap o' comic book ephemera and ran with it, making Superman an effigy to be burnt in yet another pointless culture war.
It's always kind of hilarious whenever mainstream news covers the "events" of the comic book world, which are just blips in these highly marketable characters' histories. Articles on the deaths of Captain America and the Human Torch were comically appended with acknowledgments that everybody in the funny pages comes back from the dead. If The Young and the Restless movie adaptations were tearing up multiplexes, newspapers would cover soap opera plots.
Furthermore, Goyer's story isn't that novel. Sure, Superman's never gone on the record like this renouncing his US citizenship, but he's been at loggerheads with the US government in media with far more reach than Action Comics #900. In the Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited, an entire department of the US government is devoted to stopping Superman in case he decides to take over the world. Smallville covered similar turf with its Vigilante Registration Act. The alternate series Superman: Secret Identity and Superman: Red Son portrayed the hero as the G-Men's number one target and Stalin's successor, respectively. Hell, Lex Luthor was President of the United States once.
None of these stories (aside from Lex) were in proper Superman canon, but what Superman canon are we talking about? Post-Crisis? Pre-Crisis? Post-Infinite Crisis? Superman canon itself is mutable, and a lot of events way dodgier than Superman giving up his citizenship have gone down. Remember the time...
Supergirl's horse fell in love with her?
Superman made his best friend marry a gorilla?
Superman waffled about marrying Lois Lane when she transformed into a black woman?
Superman was totally racist?
...or any story from the (sometimes canonical) Superman/Batman? Why not harp on these, cable gasbags?
Superman has a status quo and barring the basics (Smallville, Ma & Pa Kent, Kryptonite, being polite, etc.), 99% of his mythos (particularly a one-off like "Incident") is ephemeral. Sure, Goyer's writing Man of Steel, but let's not pretend the studio's going to green-light 90 minutes of Superman burning his Smallville yearbook. If you didn't like "Incident," nobody will remember it by the time Peter Parker becomes a photographer for Al Jazeera or whatever. Everybody shut the fuck up and read the Superman stories that make you happy.