More NonSense: World Citizen

The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics
The Smithsonian Collection of
Newspaper Comics
Leading of is the death of pioneering historian and archivist . Tom Spurgeon has links to the best tributes on the web. But for a useful intro to the man's life and career, there's Kristy Valenti's article from a few years back. Blackbeard's death reminds me how much the komiks industry could benefit from even more individuals working to preserve its own cultural heritage. And I'm sure that the same could be said of the comics and cartooning communities of many other countries.

Update: Margalit Fox writes Blackbeard's obituary at the New York Times.

Sean Michael Robinson looks at the creator's rights situation at TOKYOPOP. What a mess.

Jason Thompson writes about the seminal work Akira.

JK Parkin and Rich Johnston round up online reactions to Action Comics #900, where Superman apparently renounced his U.S. citizenship (I haven't read it myself). Huh? I get the allegorical value of the character as the embodiment of "Truth, Justice, and the American Way". But I don't get how he could even be properly identified as an American citizen within the comic book universe. Sure, Clark Kent's documented as an American. But how does any government establish Supes' citizenship when he prefers to operate under a secret identity? Presumably, he doesn't pay taxes or have a registered U.S. mailing address under the name "Superman". He doesn't carry a driver's license. He's already a self-identified Kryptonian, which would make him a prime target for Birther-style attacks if this were real life. Was he naturalized or given honorary citizenship at some point? Heck, given who he is, it wouldn't surprise me if he was already declared an honorary citizen by every democratic government. If true, that would make him more than just a U.S. citizen. And there's an even bigger problem: What government could even legitimately claim responsibility to control or limit his activities? He's Superman! If he wants to join an organized protest, what government's going to prevent him?

But the bottom line is I don't see how Supes can renounce his citizenship without revealing its legal basis in his dual identity. Otherwise, it's just a ruse if he continues to secretly enjoy the rights of a U.S. citizen as Clark. And it seems unlikely for the government to just accept the word of a costumed mystery man that he's American (let alone an agent who would take orders from them), especially one who's already confessed to being an alien.

I realize that within most comic books, the law has a way of either not applying to superheroes, or applying to them in very arbitrary ways. There has to be a suspension of the normal laws to make the genre work. And this looks like another example of that. Illogical as it is, Superman is accepted as American despite the lack of proper documentation. That's how the law in the DC universe works, at least for the purposes of this story. And the purpose could be nothing more than to push reader's buttons, stir up enough controversy to get into prime-time news programs, and get people to buy more comic books.

Update: Rich Johnston reminds us that the Pre-Crisis Superman was an honorary citizen of every UN member nation.

Then there's the UN General Assembly scene from Superman IV (1987) in which Superman announces his intention to save the world from Nuclear annihilation. Action Comics #900 isn't really that original after all.

Nadim Damluji on the Arabic print version of Superman. He's Clark Kent and Nabil Fawzi? The man gets around.

Chris Sims gives some classic Action Comics cover art some love. Great choices.

Michel Martin, Mike Luckovich, and Stephen Hess discuss the racial politics of the Birther Movement "cartoon" on VPR. Here's a portion of the transcript:
Mr. LUCKOVICH: I just want to make one point, that image that that woman, Marilyn, whatever her name is, with Obama as the small monkey, first of all, that's not a cartoon. That was something she Photoshopped. And it was crude and it was racist. And cartoonists are always sensitive. We want to make people think - we even want to tick people off occasionally, but we don't want our symbolism to overwhelm our message.
And so when I'm drawing a cartoon, I will try and get my point across, but I still want people to understand my point and not lose it on the symbolism. I would never show Obama or an African-American as a monkey. That's just racist. And we know the history of that.
MARTIN: Because why?
Mr. LUCKOVICH: Because throughout history that has been a way of dehumanizing African-Americans. Now, the fact that Obama's African-American, I think it has been good for cartoonists in that he sort of has transcended race and we are able to show in ways that we're not so cautious now. And I think that's a good thing for white people and black people, that we're able to look at him as just a human being now. And I think that's been a good thing...
I think she knew it was racist. I mean, you have to be pretty stupid not to know that wasn't racist. I think she was just - I think she's got some racist tendencies and it came out in that - in what she did.
Tom Spurgeon reacts.

Andrew Wheeler spells it out clearly.