Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day #2: ‘Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics’”

I know, I know…enough Superman already. What is this, “Seinfeld”? I was fully intending to have a Superman-free zone this weekend, but Steve-O-in NJ’s deft and historically illuminating comment on the second of the four honored comments on the last ethics quiz could not be ignored.

Here is his Comment of the Day on Steve Witherspoon’s Comment of the Day on “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”

I think it shouldn’t be lost on folks here that Superman first appeared in Action Comics No. 1 in 1938. He came to be during the Depression, when this country was at its lowest and believing in itself the least. He was the creation of two aspiring Jewish writers named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who first conceived of him as a mind-reading, super-strong, and bald (!) villain given his powers by an experimental drug in a 1932 story called “Reign of the Supermen.” It wasn’t until 1935 that Superman became a hero and acquired his now well-known background, cape, and uniform. They had really wanted to get published in the comics pages as a strip, but when they kept getting turned down, eventually they signed away the rights to Jack Liebowitz, who had just formed Detective Comics, which would later become simply “DC” (although Detective Comics would continue to be published as a title and a year later Batman would debut there, but that’s another story). At least they’d finally see Superman published.

The rest, as they say, is history. However, Superman has, at least to some degree, always been an idealized “man of his times.” In the first few issues he was actually a bit of a smart aleck, and at one point anti-industrialist. Among other things, at one point he but two munitions manufacturers out of business, blaming them for war (THAT vanished with the coming of WW2). A real shocker was early on when he confronted a woman who had murdered someone. She drew a gun on him, whereupon he crushed the barrel out of shape, grabbed her hand, and asked her if she would surrender, “or shall I give you a taste of how that gun felt when I applied the pressure?” She of course surrendered, ruefully admitting that she would get the chair for the murder. Superman pitilessly replied, “you should have thought of that before you took a human life.” Obviously this would not fly now. It gets better when the character takes to radio in 1940, with a slightly modified origin story where he ages on the journey to Earth from Krypton and steps fully formed from the spacecraft, including being able to speak English. At one point he goes to confront a villain at his home, but finds only his Filipino houseboy, who of course speaks with a very exaggerated accent. He proceeds to intimidate him physically, and warn him, including a mild ethnic slur, that if he’s lied to him he’ll come back and kill him.

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Comment Of The Day (#3) On “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”

Curmie adds a characteristically restrained and nuanced reaction to testerday’s surprisingly provocative Thics Alarms quiz asking DC Comics changing Superman’s mission statement by substituting “a better tomorrow” for “the American way.” Here is his Comment of the Day, the third of four, to “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics.” (I hate the scansion too, Curmie.)


To the extent that I care at all about Superman, which hasn’t been a lot in over half a century, I’m actually rather ambivalent about this.

Indeed, I rather think we’re about to see a test case of the dictum attributed to P.T. Barnum: that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Taking a step back from jingoistic propaganda is hardly an embrace of totalitarianism. The line apparently was introduced during WWII, and the most famous (to me, at least) iteration is the one linked by Steve-O: the TV show which aired in the Cold War era. We don’t live in those worlds anymore. And certainly the folks who run the franchise have the right to do what they want. (New Coke, anyone?) Similarly, consumers can go elsewhere, and the colorist who resigned in protest is free both to do so and indeed to grandstand about it.

On the other hand, I go back to my debate team days and remember that the presumption always rests with the status quo. Is there a significant reason to make the change? Not that I can see.

More importantly, the literary/dramatic critic in me doesn’t like the new slogan’s scansion.

Is there anything wrong with making the change? Sure. Is there a concomitant upside? Maybe. Would I have done it? Also maybe, but probably not.

Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics


A DC Comics artist announced that recent decisions by the venerable comic book company to wokify its iconic hero were causing him to quit in protest. “I’m finishing out my contract with DC. I’m tired of this shit, I’m tired of them ruining these characters; they don’t have a right to do this,” said colorist Gabe Eltaeb during a recent podcast. “What really pissed me off was [changing Superman’s credo] to “truth, justice, and a better world,” Eltaeb added. “Fuck that! It was Truth, Justice, and the American way! My Grandpa almost died in World War II; we don’t have a right to destroy shit that people died for to give [to] us. It’s a bunch of fucking nonsense!”

What do you really think, Gabe? First, you should know what you’re quitting about: the new slogan is “Fighting for Truth, Justice, and a better world.” And the company obviously has a right to change the big guy’s slogan to whatever they want to. But yes, “the American way” has been sent to the ash heap of history.

Over at Fox News, they were freaking out, as usual. Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo said on a Sunday talking heads show that DC Comics altering Superman’s motto to eliminate fighting for “the American Way” was a “disservice to fans.” “Now you have a multinational corporation, D.C. Comics, that decided it would rather politically grandstand and build foreign markets than respect their character and the audience that built him. You don’t need Kryptonite to kill Superman when you have D.C. Comics doing a great job. This is a huge disservice to fans and I’m waiting for Superman to turn up in a red costume and we will just call him Super Person. Lex Luthor should send DC Comics a thank-you card for sidelining and killing Superman.”

“This is clearly a distortion and a disservice to anyone who loved Superman that read the comic books and watched those movies,” Arroyo told “The Big Sunday Show.” “Remember, this was about an alien from another planet, a dying planet that comes and lands in the heartland of America and embodies the American ideals of freedom, justice. He wears red, white and blue for goodness sake!”

There were two recent developments in the DC Comics universe that provoked all the angst: the longtime publisher of Superman comics, changed Superman’s 80-year-old slogan from fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way” to “truth, justice and a better tomorrow,” and also revealed that the younger version of Superman, the son of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, is bi-sexual, and was drawn kissing a guy.

OK, the last one is obviously blatant pandering, but what about the motto?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is there anything wrong with DC making the Superman motto change?

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