This week within the pages of Action Comics #987, Superman did what he’s always done: He defended the helpless and saved people from harm. But for a certain section of the political right, Superman’s routine was cause for outrage, due to the fact that in the comic, Superman saves a group of undocumented, Spanish-speaking immigrants from an angry white nationalist.
The release of Action Comics #987 written by Dan Jurgens was supposed to be a big deal. After over a year of teasing going back to DC Comics: Rebirth #1 from last year, fans would finally learn the identity of the mysterious “Mr. Oz.” Is he Ozymandias from Watchmen? Is it Brainiac? Is it a pre-crisis Lex Luthor? The answer was revealed on the last page of the comic, but the internet got fired up over something else entirely: in which Superman, attending to a number of disturbances, defends a group of undocumented immigrants.
In the comic, Superman is forced to take care of several disturbances all at once. There’s illegal wildlife hunting, child slavery, an oil spill, a prison break, and so on in different parts of the world. But among the noise, a disgruntled white nationalist, while wearing an American flag bandana, aims his assault rifle at a large group of undocumented workers.
“You work cheap — don’t speak English so you don’t even talk back or ask for a penny more,” he says. “You cost me my job! My livelihood! For that, you pay!”
In the nick of time, Superman swoops in and deflects his bullets. When Superman grabs him by the collar, he pleads: “They stole from me! Ruined me!” Superman then tells him: “The only person responsible for the blackness smothering your soul — is you.”
In a huff, Superman leaves him in the custody of police, while telling them to make sure the “people are safe and cared for.”
This is a pretty… average day in the life of a superhero. But with the obvious social commentary clearly alluding to the Trump administration’s (confusing) prejudice against immigrants, such as in its threats to repeal DACA, even Superman’s modus operandi can fire up controversy.
What It Means
It means that there’s a lot of folks who don’t understand comic books. Superhero comics have been political since the beginning. While binge-reading Marvel or DC won’t qualify anyone for a political science degree, the artistic expression of social and political values is as inherent to comics as it is to books, movies, and music. But for whatever reason, when a comic gets more overt about politics today, it’s cause for outcry.
Most often, the anger comes from the right who can’t stand the generally left-leaning views made in comics. Action Comics #987 is no different, with a few expressing disbelief on Twitter. And they all seem to forget Superman is/was an undocumented refugee who would qualify for DACA. (And when they do acknowledge, their mental gymnastics is more amazing than Dick Grayson.)
Superman will continue to be an icon for immigrants and good citizens who care about their neighbors, as well as true fans who know exactly what Superman’s story is all about. Meanwhile, the mystery of Mr. Oz will be a doozy, and will unravel when Action Comics #988 hits shelves on September 27.