Superman to Visit Small-Town America—And You Can Invite Him to Your Town!
Does your town have a story to tell? Superman could be a part of it.
By John R. Platt
It's all part of a year-long storyline called "Grounded" that starts later this month in Superman No. 700. As part of the celebration for this anniversary issue, DC Comics will send their famous blue-clad superhero "through the streets, roads, highways, homes, farms, suburbs and inner cities of America."
The goal is to tell stories where Superman isn't fighting super-villains but meeting the real heroes and finding out about the real issues facing towns across the country.
Man, I could knock a story like this out of the ballpark. Superman involved in a human drama on the rez. Or a murder mystery. Or a supernatural thriller. Or a standard clash with a super-villain. Too bad they aren't looking for story ideas or guest writers.
So Superman will spend a year walking across the US to discover the nation's heart and soul. No word on whether he'll spend an equal amount of time walking across Africa or Asia--you know, where large numbers of nonwhite people actually need help. Or if he'll have time to fight world hunger, poverty, or disease while catering to America's middle-class angst.
It'll be interesting to see the race and class of the characters featured. I suspect there'll be a lot of heartwarming stories about people who need a job, a heart transplant, or a loan to save the family farm. And not a lot about, say, racial tensions between whites, Latinos, and Indians in Western border towns.
This reminds me of SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, when Superman took his first and last stab at addressing world hunger. He actually dropped in on a Navajo elder in Monument Valley for a couple panels. Alas, Supes gave up the effort after a minor setback or two. He decided teaching a few American kids how to farm was better than alleviating famine in some African country whose name he couldn't pronounce.
Below: "Yes, I'm named for the Nietzschean Superman who decides right and wrong for himself. What's your point?"
What's a superhero to do?
I just read the aforementioned SUPERMAN #700. Superman has been off in space, and when he returns, people complain that he doesn't seem to care about Joe and Jane Average. The central drama occurs when a woman slaps him for not being around to diagnose her husband's illness with his x-ray vision.
Does she have a point? Superman could save a lot of lives if he devoted himself to medicine. But he wouldn't have much time to stop natural disasters, bank robberies, or the occasional mad scientist. What should his priorities be?
In the real world, superheroes would do cost-benefit analyses of how best to use their powers. Stopping cataclysms such as an alien invasion, a meteor strike, or a killer tidal wave probably would come first. After that, you could argue that a powerful superhero should start tackling large-scale projects. Stop the threat of nuclear proliferation. Overthrow tyrannical governments. End civil wars. Find a cure for AIDS. Replant vanishing rainforests. Clean up ocean pollution. Develop alternative energy sources (e.g., build satellites to relay microwaves from the sun). Etc.
Why doesn't Superman do any of these things? Because like most Americans, he lives in a cocoon of white privilege. So do the writers, editors, and publishers who tell his stories. They prefer escapist fantasies where political and social problems don't exist. Where the toughest decision they have to make is whether to spend $100 on comic books, video games, or other luxuries.
The whole genre of superhero comics is kind of a joke. Its divorce from reality is why it appeals mainly to nerds and fanboys and not adults (especially women) who appreciate literature. For every WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT RETURNS there must be a hundred series such as WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, DARKEST NIGHT, SECRET INVASION, BRAND NEW DAY, RED HULK, and so forth and so on.
For more on the subject, see DC's "Green, Pink, and Blue Characters" and The Seminal Moment in GREEN LANTERN #76.
Below: "Sorry, I won't have time to save lives in Africa or Asia for the next year or so. I'll be too busy strolling across America to assuage my feelings of white, middle-class guilt."