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.

Continue reading

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.

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

Superman of Tomorrow

Steve Witherspoon is the author of the second (of 4!) Comment of the Day reacting to the query as to whether changing Superman’s motto to seeking “a better tomorrow” without any American reference is unethical, as in irresponsible, or disrespectful, or un-American. Here is his intense reaction to “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”:


“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” George Orwell, 1984

Propaganda, that’s what Orwell was talking about.

Superman’s motto change; “Truth, Justice, and the American way” vs “Truth, Justice, and a better tomorrow.”.

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

In keeping with what I wrote yesterday that “our society and culture has dramatically changed in the 21st century” I’m going to approach this from a changing cultural viewpoint.

Looking at Superman as a idealisticº cultural icon¹ (that’s what the character is) the answer to the question “is there anything wrong with DC making the Superman motto change” has to be no. The fact that they are changing the motto is signature significant, in that this single act is so remarkable that it has predictive and analytical value showing us how much our culture has actually changed and the act should not be dismissed as statistically insignificant. The Superman comic strip and its motto had an underlying theme that was pure propaganda² and that was to promote the American way of life as good, a huge cross section of our culture has moved away from that idealistic view of America and it’s inevitable that as the culture shifts away from American idealism that new propaganda will replace the old. Out with the old, in with the new.

SPECIAL NOTE: I think it’s very significant that we’re this invested in the motto of a comic strip character that was literally the purveyor of idealistic American propaganda.

All that said…

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #1: “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”


Well, once again my assessment of what post will generate the most provocative discussion was dead wrong. There were at least four Comment of the Day-worthy responses on the post regarding D.C. Comics’ decision to remove a dedication to the “American Way” from Kal-El’s creed. I’m going to post them all, and I think I’ll leave my own position until after the last one.

First up is A.M. Golden’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”:


Full disclosure. I love Superman. Since I was a kid, no fictional character has ever supplanted the Man of Steel in my heart. I’ve met several actors from various Superman television shows and films, I’ve been to the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL many times. His goodness, his sense of justice, his love for his adopted home, who wouldn’t cheer Superman?

I haven’t read Superman comics in years, though. I can’t keep up with the post-crisis (1980’s revamp) universe and I wouldn’t be able to wrap my mind around Lois Lane and Clark Kent being married anyway. I watched one episode of the new TV series “Superman and Lois” before quitting in annoyance.

Clearly their motivation is more leftist indoctrination. Climate change and illegal immigration are becoming bulwarks of the left and, if Superman battles on behalf of that type of activism, the way he battled the Klan back in the day, it carries weight. Making John Kent bisexual is pure pandering.

But changing the motto is a kick in the face to American ideals. Superman is an American hero. This is another attempt to downgrade American ideals in the minds of readers. A better tomorrow? What’s that? It’s not a tomorrow (or a world) we can all agree on, that’s for sure. Instead of fighting the Klan, he will fight so-called White Nationalists who protest CRT at school board meetings. A better world in the mind of a woke corporation is not something I want Superman taking a part in creating.

That’s unethical.

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?

Continue reading

Just To Wash The Nasty Residue Of Those Absurd Pilgrim-Syrian Refugee Analogies Out Of Your Brain, Here are Some Useful And Informative Silly Refugee Discourses

Go ahead, tell us how you'd keep THESE refugees out, Donald...

Go ahead, tell us how you’d keep THESE refugees out, Donald…

By the time Thanksgiving arrived, the social media memes pronouncing that for anyone who believes accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S. is less than wise policy it was rank hypocrisy to celebrate the holiday had become too much to bear. Granted, this stupid analogy was marginally less stupid than the “Jesus was a refugee so what kind of Christian are you?” stuff put out by OccupyDemocrats, but it was still pure debate pollution. Did the Native Americans know that the Europeans were refugees? Uh, no. Did they have a refugee policy? Nooooo. Was the territory that became the United States being targeting by terrorists? No. Had there been any previous terrorist attacks on Native Americans in North America? No. If the Indians had known about what the Spanish had already been doing to indigenous people, would they have been so welcoming? I think not. If Native Americans today could go back in time and decide all over again whether to allow the “refugees” to settle here, what would they decide?

You betcha.

Are the beneficiaries of a terrible decision ethically obligated to risk their own destruction by making the same mistake?I guess that’s the theory. Pardon me if I’m not persuaded, but you wouldn’t believe the “likes” this argument got on Facebook in its various forms.

Well, President Obama used this same illicit analogy before Thanksgiving, and the progressives and pundits nodded their heads furiously, like turkeys. Oh, snap, Mr. President! You really stuck it to those xenophobes!

President Obama obviously doesn’t care about his rhetoric any more, or think about it, either. He’s not as flagrant as Donald Trump in spewing irresponsible nonsense, but no ethical President should even spark the comparison.

Well, over at Law and the Multiverse, which is another neat website in the Ethics Alarms links, there is a very informative discussion of the refugee status of Superman, an environmental refugee (a planet exploding qualifies its residents) and Supergirl, another Krypton refugee whose status is a bit more complex. Law and the Multiverse features serious legal discussions of the legal issues that would be raised by the conduct and existence of superheroes in the real world. Here’s a sample, from author Kean Zimmerman’s discussion of Supergirl’s status: Continue reading

Superhero Ethics: The Duty To Rescue

Which is the cold, calculating, utilitarian face?

Which is the cold, calculating, utilitarian face?

In the new Superman film, Supie fails to rescue an important character in distress after the character requests that he allow him to perish.

Lawyer and superhero obsessive James Daily, co-author of “The Law and Superheroes” and the Law and the Multiverse blog, has taken to his keyboard to examine whether the transplanted Kryptonian had a legal duty to rescue the victim anyway.

His conclusion, and the law’s, is no. Daily writes,

“People are sometimes surprised to learn that, by default, there is no obligation under American law to help or rescue other people…Even “Good Samaritan” laws do not create an obligation to act as a Good Samaritan, but instead only encourage such acts of kindness by shielding some would-be rescuers from legal liability if they accidentally end up hurting rather than helping the victim. This “American rule” (not to be confused with the American rule for attorneys’ fees) applies even when a life could be saved with the most minimal of effort. As a result it has been called “morally repugnant” and “revolting to any moral sense,” but it is nonetheless the law in most states….” Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Stetson Kennedy (1916-2011)

And he gave his book to Superman...

Author and folklorist Stetson Kennedy, who died this week,  is another important and courageous American that most of us never heard of. Let’s try to catch up.

After a back injury kept him out of World War II, Kennedy began a lifetime career of crusading against bigotry and what he called “homegrown racial terrorists.” He served as director of fact-finding for the southeastern office of the Anti-Defamation League and as director of the Anti-Nazi League of New York.

In his 1954 book “I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan,” Kennedy wrote that he gained entrance to the Klan by posing as an encyclopedia salesman and using the name of an uncle who was a Klan member. While posing as a member, he learned many Klan secrets that he put to use undermining the organization’s reputation and support. With evidence he snatched from the Grand Dragon’s wastebasket, he gave the Internal Revenue Service what it needed to collect an outstanding $685,000 tax lien from the Klan in 1944, and he helped draft the brief used by the state of Georgia to revoke the Klan’s national corporate charter in 1947. He also testified in other Klan-related cases. Continue reading

Calm Down, Hannity! Superman’s Decision is Super-Ethical.

It's all for the best.

Sean Hannity is outraged at Superman for renouncing his U.S. citizenship in the upcoming issue of Action Comics. Sean, as is often the case, just doesn’t understand.

Superman’s wrenching decision, far from being a rejection of the values of his adopted homeland, is a true sacrifice, and undeniably in the best interests of the United States. His renunciation arises from the diplomatic problems that will inevitably result when a superhero attempts to fight injustices in other nations. How can Superman continue to do what he believes is right on a world stage, when his American citizenship makes his actions appear to be official U.S. policy? Obviously, becoming a superman without a country is the remedy. Continue reading

Astrology Ethics

Considering absurd hypotheticals can still be valuable. Consider this ridiculous question from a site with the tautological title, “Astrology or Superstition?” :

Would it be unethical to use astrology to gain advantage over someone in the work environment?”

Obviously not, because astrology is a crock. But if it were not a crock, what would the answer to this question be? Continue reading