So why didn’t the originally solicited story appear in this week’s issue of Superman? Over at Comics Alliance, Chris Sims builds a convincing case for it being the result of an overly cautious DC nervous about featuring a Muslim American superhero after the “Superman renounces his US citizenship” fiasco that followed Action Comics #900:
As much as I don’t buy the “it doesn’t work with Grounded” explanation, it’s far easier to believe that after Nightrunner and Action #900, DC didn’t want the hassle of dealing with an anchor leading off the news with “Superman renounced his American citizenship — and you won’t believe his new terrorist sidekick!” Not that Sharif is actually a terrorist, but the accurate description doesn’t spike ratings.
Not so, claims Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston, who has a much, much more surreal take on events:
[T]he story content change in Superman 712 has nothing whatsoever to do with the appearance of Sharif.And everything to do with the story starting with Superman rescuing a kitten out of a tree. Like in the Superman movie.And this caused considerable problems with certain DC executives. They thought it was too sweet, too innocent, too anodyne, and not the kind of Superman stories they wanted to tell. The kitten up a tree image symbolised for them what was wrong with the Superman books. It became totemic in the office, standing for far more than it could possibly symbolise. It had to go.
That the book also has a lead Islamic superhero character, the kind of thing that does get the attention they like, seems to have passed them by.
I have to admit, as much as I normally give the benefit of the doubt to DC on matters like this – Ineptitude and lack of awareness generally seem more likely to me than malicious intent when it comes to complete PR nightmares, I tend to find – there’s something that just doesn’t ring true in the slightest about Rich’s version of events: DC editorial was so hung up on getting rid of Superman saving a kitten from a tree that they (a) somehow missed that the story featured a Muslim character and (b) hated the idea of a kitten being saved so much that they killed an entire issue that was already completed and approved by the book’s editorial team? That doesn’t seem realistic to me, and let’s face it: There’s something far more appealing to DC as a company to be seen as “overly dedicated to being hardcore” as opposed to “so worried about being on Fox News that they’ll pull a story.”
Of course, we’ll never know the truth: No-one involved in the events will ever come forward and reveal all publicly – And nor should they, really; it’s not really any of our business, when it comes down to it – and so this becomes Schrodinger’s Conspiracy: If you choose to believe the “We can’t help it, we want Superman to be so tough that rescuing kittens is out” version, it’s there, and if you want to think that something more worrying is under the surface, there’s the other version. Everyone wins – aside from Chris Roberson and Eddy Barrows, who created the replaced story, and DC Comics, which comes off as reactionary and pretty dumb in either version of events.