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.