Whatever Happened to the Heroes: What’s wrong with Superman saving a kitten?

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Yesterday I posted a link to an article asking why DC Comics scrapped the original content of Superman #712. The article suggested that having Superman team-up with a Muslim hero would be considered controversial in some eyes; if so it’s a decision of mind-numbing stupidity and moral cowardice.

But wait, a counter-story has emerged, lighter on the cowardice but turning the mind-numbing stupidity right up to 11. Because Bleeding Cool, top comics news/gossip site, is reporting that Superman #712 wasn’t scrapped because it involved a Muslim hero. Oh no. It was scrapped because it featured a kitten.

Yes, I thought it sounded ridiculous as well, but the story goes that saving cats from trees isn’t something Superman should be doing. It’s too corny and old hat, not the sort of thing we want to see the character doing.

(Given some of DC’s Superman-related decisions of recent years, I’m not completely convinced they want to see the character doing anything… But I digress.)

Of course, Superman’s exactly the sort of nice guy boy scout who’d rescue a cat from a tree in a heartbeat. Maybe that’s not cool/kewl nowadays, and I get that a character can’t just be a boy scout, but Superman’s role is that of the noble hero, the guy who saves kittens before facing off against an army of intergalactic death robots. It’s what he does, and frankly if they’re scrapping a whole issue because of a scene with a kitten then it’s either a dumbass waste of money (just redraw the offending pages; didn’t the editor think about all this before the book was done?) or the story is diverting us from another story, and I think I’d rather believe DC were anti-saving-kittens than anti-Muslim.

They also replaced the issue with one about Krypto the super dog, who wears a cape, which to me casts doubt on the whole kitten thing, but…

(I have no problems with Krypto or the anonymous kitten, and I’m sure I remember loving an issue where Green Lantern lost a fight with Powergirl’s cat. Just admitting my bias.)

Thing is, back in April the OECD published Society at a Glance 2011, which included data on ‘pro-social behaviour’ (volunteering, donating to charity, helping others, etc); the US topped the list with 60% of the population doing something pro-social (the UK came fifth with 57%). Helping others isn’t exactly an alien concept, but here’s a key question – should our fictional heroes reflect this altruism, or should they just punch evil monsters in the face?

Now I know what you’re saying – why can’t it be both? I agree with you – superhero comics are action-driven, so sure, have him fight monsters, but it’s worth pointing out that, in the first Christopher Reeve movie, he never throws a punch, saves the world and yes, rescues a cat from a tree, and that’s considered one of the definitive Superman texts.

Okay, now compare that to the previews for the relaunched Superman titles. Is it just me, or do they sound a bit… I dunno, dark? Like the characters are dangerous and not very boy-scouty?

I’m beginning to think that this is all a PR attempt to make Superman and his world more ‘edgy’, less corny. I’m not sure how I feel about this – sure, you can relaunch characters, but don’t lose their heart in the process. Perhaps more than any other superhero Superman is an iconic character that people respond to. It would be a crying shame to lose that in favour of a few short-term PR gains.

Because someone still has to save all those kittens.

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4 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to the Heroes: What’s wrong with Superman saving a kitten?

    1. matthewhyde Post author

      Thank you! I think some of it has been debunked, but the wider point still stands, at least based on the covers and solicits of the relaunched titles…

      Reply
  1. Deborah the Closet Monster

    Part of what made Superman so compelling to me, even from the time I was very young, was that he would stop and save a kitten. Despite being a grade A+++++++++++ bad-ass (hey, if my Chinese teacher could give me grades like that, why not share the plus love?), he stopped to take care of the little things because those, too, were important.

    Most of the comics I read when little were episodic, but I always loved reading Superman. My sister’s husband actually starting ragging on Superman once, which caused her to give him some kind of wordless communication that let him know she’d sooner break up with him rather than deal with his blasphemy. Yes, he’s more of a boy scout than most of the other superheroes I dabbled in when younger, but that was what made him compelling to me. Time and again, he had the choice between darkness and light . . . and he chose light. That’s something to strive for, and that’s what I want to see in Superman.

    My old LiveJournal icon, by the way? Superman. All the way. :)

    Reply

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