Brendan McCarthy – writer and artist of the last issue of DC’s Solo recently and all-round art god – popped up on Millarworld yesterday to post an odd little excerpt from a letter about some American icons:
In the recent Superman film, they were unable to bring themselves to say “Truth, justice, and the American
Way…” Instead, it became the throwaway line, “Truth, Justice and… whatever.” The film-makers realised that people in cinemas all around the worId would just laugh at the notion that the “American Way” was something that anyone would aspire to anymore… And I saw that as symptomatic of the continuing debasement of the moral and idealistic heart of America by the souless psychopaths who now wield power here.
That got me thinking that Superman’s time as a hero is probably finished, and that sadly, what he used to stand for may well have passed away. The Superman character has become ‘soft’ both in sales (disappointing comic and movie returns) and in his grip on the imagination of the public… He’s no longer a ‘relevant’ character. I have come to the conclusion that when DC killed the character a decade ago as a sales gimmick, they really did, actually, kill him a sa psychic force. Superman was the “American Christ”, but he met his fate at the hands of some very venal minds.
But I still think that people will respond to a truly inspirational ‘hero’ figure – in fact, I think there is kind of a yearning for some uncorrupted character to rise up and resonate with the higher aspirational desires of humanity, especially here in America.
The writer Mark Millar may have put his finger on the national pulse with his re-invention of Captain America ( historically a very boring, one-dimensional, ‘patriot-living-flag’ hero ), which is creating a lot of energy in the new Marvel series, “Civil War”. Here, the character is being forced to constellate the suppressed, real values of America in a way that Superman used to do. I’m not privy to Mr. Millar’s plans for the series, but I think he may be on to something quite powerful… Something that may help catalyse a renewal of the American spirit. Comics are part of culture, and I think it may well be significant that this is capturing the imagination of the public at the moment.
The ‘meme’ only catches on when its time is right.
The stink of corruption around the Iraq war and the feeling of deep violation and cover-up about 9-11, may be producing a focusing of the desire to ‘cleanse the system’. Much like an addict hitting ‘rock bottom’ and having a moment of truth, the democratic self-correcting aspects of the American system may well be turning a corner…
But does Superman have anything to contribute to these times? He is a superbeing who could, at super-speed, delete every WMD, and round up all dysfunctional world leaders and place them inside a fortified island prison where they would be harmless. He could impose world peace in a day.
But I’m sure a green kryptonite bullet would be perfected very quickly…