Race to the Bottom: Superman Versus Captain America

Source: Marvel Comics/Fox News

“I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy.”


Source: Time/DC/AP

So much for truth, justice, and the American way.

Recently, two American cultural icons have turned their back on America to varying degrees.

In January 2010, left-leaning writer Ed Brubaker had Marvel’s Captain America and African-American superhero, the Falcon, stumble across a Tea Party protest gathering in Boise, Idaho. There, protestors held signs that read, “Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag You!” and “Stop the Socialists.” The Falcon remarked that he would not fit in with “a bunch of angry white folks.”

This issue generated a lot of controversy from the right and forced Marvel to change the protest signs in subsequent editions.

Now, it seems Marvel’s competitor DC Comics is trying to one-up Marvel’s anti-American creds by publishing a storyline in which the Man of Steel renounces his American citizenship. According to blogger David Macadam, the comic, written by David S. Goyer, has already sold out.

Commerce or Communism?

Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee considers Superman’s anti-American storyline to be “part of a bigger trend of Americans almost apologizing for being Americans.”

I actually see two different factors at play. On the one hand, the American creative class is dominated by left-leaning elites, who sometimes use their platforms to propagate their leftist political views. I see Captain America’s January 2010 issue as symptomatic of this problem.

On the other hand, both comics are always looking to expand their readership internationally. Since Captain America and Superman are almost synonymous with the American brand, some editors will feel compelled to include storylines that make their heroes more appealing to an international audience. I think the Superman storyline is likely more symptomatic of this influence.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
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19 Responses to Race to the Bottom: Superman Versus Captain America

  1. Vern R. Kaine says:

    The also de-Americanized Superman in the Singer 2006 reboot (“Superman Returns”). He was much more “alien” than American and his mission was altered to be that he was fighting for “Truth, justice, … and all that other stuff”.

    While still possessing many great things that this country deserves credit for, I believe America has lost a number of its “bragging rights” due to the financial meltdown that we as a people have pushed ourselves to. I think we also needed to shed a little of our ignorance and narcissism. Respect and admiration follow power, but they don’t follow arrogance.

    That being said, however, I think the left takes that whole concept way too far. America should not apologize for anything. She bets big, she plays to win, and she is a constant test and testament to the great things people can achieve in the spirit of freedom. No other country does this better (or even at all), and no other country seeks to continuously try and raise the bar like we do for people to do more, or be more. People shouldn’t lose sight of that.

    Back to Superman: he’s ex-patted himself. Fine. When he wants back he can now start at the back of the line like the rest of us and see for himself how messed up our immigration system is, even for those of us with “exceptional skills”. 🙂

    • nickgb says:

      I think the left takes that whole concept way too far. America should not apologize for anything.

      But you just said we had to shed some of our ignorance and narcissism. So….you do think we did some things wrong.

      Of course America will occasionally have to apologize. I love this country and I think it is a tremendous force for good, but we’re not perfect, and we have to admit mistakes and apologize when we do wrong. Apologizing doesn’t mean admitting inferiority, it means you know that you did wrong and you take responsibility for your actions.

      He was much more “alien” than American

      I’m just going to throw this out there…..he’s an alien. Literally. And the point of that storyline was that he went off searching for any piece of his homeland. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole story in that movie kinda sucked, but I think his dual-personality was an interesting approach to being an American immigrant.

      • Vern R. Kaine says:

        So….you do think we did some things wrong.”
        By “wrong” if you mean “less humane”, then yes I do, without a doubt. I think there are definitely situations where we didn’t have to be so exploitative. By saying I think the far left goes “too far”, I’m just saying I fall far short of being in the “let’s apologize to anybody and everybody and pay them all reparations for the rest of our lives” crowd. 🙂

        “he’s an alien. Literally”
        That he is. Note, however, that he was basically raised as an American child of two American parents. In that sense it wasn’t like he was handing back some sort of honorary citizenship, but then again, did Clark Kent renounce his citizenship as well? “American” to me is much more than citizenship, anyways.

        Haha – we’re debating around comic book figures. Good God! 🙂

    • Scott Erb says:

      I pretty much agree with Vern’s comment, though sometimes it’s easy to get too sensitive about criticism. I was teaching a first year seminar called “The Future of America” and the idea of President Obama apologizing came up. We found the list of “apologies” he supposedly gave and not one of them was an apology. If he just acknowledged something like intervening in Guatemala it was labeled an apology. I try to tell my children that being able to admit wrong doing and apologize is a sign of strength — weak insecure people can’t admit they are wrong. As a country if the still dominant if weakened superpower refuses to even openly state things that are in all the foreign policy text books, to me that makes us look insecure.

      In that same class we read Anne Marie Slaughter’s book “The Idea that is America.” She divides the book into what she considers the values that define who we are as a people: democracy, liberty, tolerance, equality, justice, humility and faith. She then goes through each value and gives its history, noting our worst failures and yet how over time we learn and improve. We can only learn and advance when we’re honest about how we fall short. I don’t think we need to apologize much if at all, but we shouldn’t be afraid of criticism (or self-criticism).

  2. nickgb says:

    I’m withholding judgment until I’ve read it, but the little bits I’ve seen basically make it appear that the relationship between Supes and the U.S. govt. has grown uncomfortable for both. I believe he goes off to help pro-democracy rebels somewhere, the U.S. takes flak for what appears to be an American act (because he’s so associated with America). Basically, the government needed him to behave like an agent of the State department and Superman had higher ideals than bureaucracy would allow. I think that the right would really like this storyline (if the above is accurate) if they could stop seeing it as Supes being ashamed of being American, which they would never actually write.

    As for the Cap and Falcon thing, according to Marvel it wasn’t supposed to be a Tea Party protest, though I don’t buy that. Still, look at a tea party protest: it really is a bunch of angry white folks. That’s what they look like. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that part of the depiction. And how is criticism of the Tea Party “turning their back on America”? Even if we assume it was a direct attack on the Tea Party, it’s political discourse. Calling people “unamerican” for criticizing a political party is unacceptable.

    • Nick,

      I think you are likely right about the Superman storyline.

      On Captain America, I have no problem with political discourse. What I do have a problem with is that one would never see such criticism of the left nowadays (during the Cold War, there was, however, plenty of it). Additionally to use an American icon to imply that all Tea Party members is a new low. Both sides have their share of rackets and bigots. After all, didn’t something like 85-95% of African Americans vote for Barack Obama? What if someone suggested this were racism in a Spider-man comic? Would this be construed as fair or appropriate?

      • Scott Erb says:

        Well, there is certainly a lot of criticism of the left all over the political discourse. So I wonder if particular media are more likely to criticize the left or right — political comedy tends left, talk radio is on the right, comics perhaps tending left?

      • nickgb says:

        Well, the comment is actually said by Falcon, who was pointing out that, as a black guy, their plan to go undercover wasn’t going to work…

        After all, didn’t something like 85-95% of African Americans vote for Barack Obama? What if someone suggested this were racism in a Spider-man comic? Would this be construed as fair or appropriate?

        Well, if you can find a way to make a violent anti-government plot out of black voter turnout…. Also, how is that racism? Kerry got 88% of the black vote, Gore got 90%. Black voters are by and large democrats, that’s all.

        • Nick,

          It turns out my estimates were off. 96% of African American voters voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

          “Well, if you can find a way to make a violent anti-government plot out of black voter turnout…. Also, how is that racism?”

          Imagine a plot in which Wolverine cracks jokes that he couldn’t blend into a “violent” NAACP rally in which thousands of angry “black folk” thronged the streets with placards demanding reparations for slavery. There would be boycotts and Jesse Jackson would be at Marvel Comics for his customary shakedown.

          Plus, the Tea Party is not all white (alright, it is 89% white, but not 100%). I don’t know why the media keeps implying this and then by virtue of it, that all Tea Party supporters must all be racist. It wrong for this comic to imply tea party followers are all stupid and violent as well. This is simply not true. According to The New York Times, Tea Party supporters “are more affluent and more educated than most Americans.”

          Quite a far cry from the violent and racist characterization in this Captain America comic. Shame on Marvel for putting this out.

          By the way, I cannot believe we are arguing about comic books. 😉

          This is AWESOME! 😉

        • nickgb says:

          Well, you’re changing your hypo, you started with black support for Obama, but I can’t remember the last time I heard of a “violent NAACP rally”. And did you see signs in that Cap. America crowd that weren’t actually Tea Party signs?

          The Tea Party rallies did have violent undertones. They were angry and made a very big point about that. And as for ignorant, here’s a sample from the official Tea Party Patriots mission statement:
          “Tea Party Patriots, Inc. is a non-partisan grassroots organization of individuals united by our core values derived from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill Of Rights as explained in the Federalist Papers.”

          That’s cool, except that the Federalist Papers were entirely against the Bill of Rights. That was the whole point of the Anti-Federalist Papers. These guys are following the Glenn Beck school of random association. I just pulled the first thing I found. John Stewart and the rest of the “Liberal Elites” have already nailed this point pretty hard for years now all over the place. I don’t care what their “education level” is, they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.

          • Well not all of us spent four years in law school debating Constitutional theory, so i suppose folks can be excused for making the mistake. Heck our President thinks removing tax credits from oil companies will lower gasoline prices. He didn’t spend any time running a business, so perhaps his ignorance can be excused as well (though he does have advisors who should know better).

        • nickgb says:

          Oh, and on the racism angle, there’s a reason we think Tea Party rallies are racist: It’s because they often are: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/04/25/are-tea-partiers-racist.html

          • This kind of stuff is precisely what angers me about the left. If you disagree on no questions asked domestic spending you must be a racist. It is far worse than the right’s ridiculous claim that if you don’t support the war, you aren’t a patriot. The race card claim is getting old.

            Disagree with a black President? You must be a bigot.

            One of the measures of “racism” from this article is if the respondent believes African American should not get any “special rights.” if you don’t, you must be a bigot.


  3. Charles McCormack says:

    This one is easy. Everyone but the elitists know that liberals aren’t real Americans. Afterall, haven’t Rush, Glenn, Sean, Sarah, and Ann have said this many, many times? Liberals hate America, and its guns, its Christianity, its righteousness and its raw red meat. Let’s deport all liberals to Old Europe (France especially, if there’s room, or heck why even worry about that?) and restrict US citizenship to only those who are conservative and profess a true belief in our country*. Isn’t this what Ronald Reagan meant when he said ” let’s have morning in America”?

    * we still may need some illegal Chicano’s to pick our crops, mow our lawns, and clean our houses, but who cares what they believe?

  4. pino says:

    look at a tea party protest: it really is a bunch of angry white folks. That’s what they look like.

    Go back and search for the pictures of the union protests in Wisconsin.

    I think what really gets the Left’s ire up is that for the first time I can remember, the protest movement isn’t a Leftist one. Normally it’s the Left creating Drum Circles for their cause célèbre. When they see normally hard working, passive conservatives mounting protests around the country they don’t know what to think or feel; so they lash out and label it. I dont really think that the Left sees the Tea Party as racist, I think they see it as a movement that has political impact and feel the need to diminish it.

    And how is criticism of the Tea Party “turning their back on America”?

    In the same way that criticism of Barack Obama is “racist”.

    The right dominates talk raido, while the left dominates comedy and other forms of artistic media.

    The Left also dominates more conventional media as well:

    Data here .

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