Su­per­man con­fronts a new vil­lain: white su­prem­a­cists

Bangkok Post - - LIFE | HAPPENING -

No longer are planet-de­stroy­ing ex­trater­res­tri­als or billionaire evil ge­niuses the vil­lains. Su­per­man, the DC Comics su­per­hero, has a new mis­sion pro­tect­ing hard-work­ing im­mi­grants from white-su­prem­a­cist bul­lies.

In the lat­est edi­tion of the “Ac­tion Comics” se­ries, which has pub­lished Su­per­man’s ad­ven­tures since 1938, the Man of Steel in­ter­venes to stop an un­em­ployed fac­tory worker as he is about to kill some im­mi­grants.

Wear­ing a blue work shirt and red­white-and-blue ban­danna, the mus­ta­chioed car­toon vil­lain em­bod­ies all the clichés of the poor blue-col­lar Amer­i­can.

Gun in hand, he threat­ens veiled women and rails at His­panic work­ers, ac­cus­ing them of steal­ing his job.

“You work cheap, don’t speak English, so you can’t talk back or even ask for a penny more. You cost me my job! My liveli­hood! For that ... you pay!” he says, as he opens fire.

Just then Su­per­man steps in, bul­lets bounc­ing off his chest, to save the day.

“The only per­son re­spon­si­ble for the black­ness smoth­er­ing your soul is you,” Su­per­man tells the white su­prem­a­cist.

The pas­sage echoes the re­cent vi­o­lent protests by Amer­i­can right-wing ex­trem­ists.

In Au­gust, a 32-year-old woman was run over and killed by a Nazi sym­pa­thiser af­ter a vi­o­lent “Unite The Right” rally in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia.

In 2015, Dy­lann Roof, a white su­prem­a­cist, shot and killed nine black wor­ship­pers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Amer­i­can comic books have of­ten taken on so­cial is­sues, find­ing up-to-the-minute ma­te­rial in con­tem­po­rary pub­lic con­flicts and de­bates.

Mar­vel Comics, for in­stance, launched a new ver­sion of Spi­der-Man in 2011, mak­ing him half-black, half-His­panic.

In 2016, DC Comics pub­lished a seven-is­sue minis­eries called Su­per­man: Amer­i­can Alien.

In it, Kal-El (Su­per­man’s real name) strug­gles to rec­on­cile his ex­trater­res­trial ori­gins with his new life on Earth.

Su­per­man is in ef­fect an im­mi­grant, who left his doomed home planet Kryp­ton when he was a baby and was taken in and adopted by an Amer­i­can cou­ple in Kansas, in the ru­ral US heart­land. Su­per­man’s cre­ators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shus­ter, were both Jews of Euro­pean de­scent, and Su­per­man’s story par­al­lels the flight of Euro­pean im­mi­grants in the 1930s seek­ing peace and pros­per­ity in the United States.

“The Man of Steel”, whose caped cos­tume is in­spired by the Stars and Stripes, grows up on a farm and em­bod­ies the Amer­i­can dream.

But Su­per­man’s pa­tri­o­tism, like that of Mar­vel Comics’ Cap­tain Amer­ica, has been in­ter­preted dif­fer­ently by the var­i­ous writ­ers who have scripted his ad­ven­tures.

In the clas­sic 1986 graphic novel Bat­man: The Dark Knight Re­turns, for ex­am­ple, artist and writer Frank Miller presents Su­per­man as US Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s elite fighter, de­ployed to com­bat the Sovi­ets and re­store or­der to the United States, neu­tral­is­ing Bat­man.

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