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DC Comics is changing what Superman stands for.
The company released a new mission statement for the 83-year-old icon who famously fought for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”
Now Clark Kent’s Man of Steel is about “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.”
“To better reflect the storylines that we are telling across DC and to honor Superman’s incredible legacy of over 80 years of building a better world, Superman’s motto is evolving,” announced DC chief creative officer and publisher Jim Lee at the company’s DC FanDome fan event on Saturday. “Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement.”
Lee declined to comment further as to why “American Way” was dropped.
The move is sure to rankle some fans of the Kansas-raised superhero who has been a global ambassador for American idealism and the country’s most optimistic values for decades.
Yet this is far from the first time Superman’s patriotic ties have been reexamined.
In 2006, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns movie had Daily Planet editor Perry White ask, “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that other stuff?” The film’s co-screenwriter Dan Harris explained to THR at the time, “He’s an international superhero.”
In 2011, the 900th issue of Action Comics had Superman renounce his U.S. citizenship and declared, “I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy. ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’ — it’s not enough anymore. The world’s too small. Too connected.”
Then, in 2013, Zack Snyder re-embraced the character’s patriotism with Man of Steel. In the film, Superman (Henry Cavill) notes, “I’m from Kansas. It’s about as American as it gets.” But the line wasn’t included without some resistance, with Snyder noting that he had to fight to keep it. “For me, he’s that perfect mix of Americana,” Snyder said at the time. “I really tried to do The Right Stuff meets Norman Rockwell with a strong dose of angst and ‘Who am I and where do I belong?'”
The “American Way” phrase was first credited to the Adventures of Superman radio series, which launched in 1940. Since then, Superman has persevered through some dark periods of America’s past, and fans have pointed out that his patriotism was never intended as a wholesale endorsement of all things U.S.A., but is rather a superhero twist on an immigration story and a reflection of the country’s ability to address its problems and persevere.
“He’s always been the ultimate immigrant story,” comic book writer Mark Waid told USA Today in 2013. “What is the hope of the immigrant than at core a promise that it would be better in America? That no matter what your situation is, it will be better here.” Julian Chambliss, a history professor at Rollins College, added: “The core narrative in Superman has been and continues to be the values and belief about the U.S. experience being strong enough and good enough to address the troubles facing the generation engaged with the character.”
The announcement comes on the heels of another notable updating of Superman’s identity when DC Comics announced Monday that the current Superman of Earth, Jon Kent (Clark’s son), was coming out as bisexual. Jon Kent previously introduced his own motto of “Truth, Justice and a Better World,” but DC’s new mission statement of “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow” applies specifically to O.G. Superman Clark Kent.
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