The latest sign of the end of the "American Era" or just a comic book publisher's publicity stunt?
In a new story line, Superman renounces his U.S. citizenship because he is "tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy."
The Kansas farm boy turned superhero, long considered a pop-culture embodiment of small-town patriotic values, makes the announcement in this week's issue of Action Comics, telling the president's national security adviser that "truth, justice and the American way" is not enough anymore.
"I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship," a frustrated Man of Steel tells the American official.
DC Comics on Thursday released a statement that seemed designed to quell the growing furor over the story, saying Superman "remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville."
But the shocking development left fans and many in the comics industry scratching their heads.
Rich Johnston, a British columnist and blogger who covers the comic book industry at BleedingCool.com, said Thursday that DC Comics may have underestimated the impact of Superman's comments about citizenship, which take place in a short story that appears in the back of Action Comics No. 900, a special anniversary edition.
"As soon as I saw it, I knew this was going to be big," he said. "But I don't think there's any hint of a conspiracy here. There's really no sense that this is part of a marketing scheme or a publicity stunt by DC."
He said it's not even clear whether the story, written by screenwriter David Goyer, who penned both of the recent blockbuster "Batman" movies, is part of the ongoing continuity of the character or just a one-shot take by a big-shot Hollywood writer.
"It's possible that it's just an interesting story that David Goyer wanted to tell," he said.
In the story, Superman flies to Tehran and positions himself as a silent peacemaker between armed security forces and pro-democracy demonstrators. Though he takes no action against police, the Iranian government turns the superhero's symbolic intervention into an international incident, claims American interference and calls Superman's presence an act of war.
Steve Anderson, owner of Annapolis' Third Eye Comics, said modern comics often feature political subtexts, but he points out that even the 1930s origins of the Superman character are inextricably intertwined with the immigrant experiences of his Jewish-American creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
"Superman's story is the ultimate immigrant story," he said.
The superhero's decision to distance himself from his adopted homeland, however, is fueling a fierce debate online, with many international fans cheering the move.
One French fan of BleedingCool wrote: "As a non-American, I agree with the decision of Superman. He is more than an American. He is a symbol of peace, justice and humanity. He is no more the puppet toy of one country."
But the Man of Steel's cold feet left some Americans furious: "He was never a natural born citizen anyway. ... Go back to Krypton," one disappointed fan wrote Wednesday on Fox News' website after the story broke.
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