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Superheroes: A fading reflection of who we were
May 26, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
A while back, I was looking through some digital scans of pictures taken from my childhood. They were from the early 1950s and I must have been about 5 or 6. One was me on the sofa, along with my older sister and mother (God be good to her). She was reading us a Woody Woodpecker comic book. I guess that’s where my love of comics started.
Another image was of me and a good friend named Paul. We were both in our Halloween costumes and I was dressed as Superman. It was just one of several years when the two of us would raid our Crestline neighbors for candy.
I was proud to be a fill-in for Superman because he stood for truth, justice and the American way. That’s the way I understood my world as a child.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, we all run across others who are more than willing to kick over our viewpoint simply because they disagree with it. Even now, I can see some person sneering that my view of that time is not how it really was because he or she was there. And besides, I’m a misinformed, conservative buffoon for believing in such a non-PC thing like American exceptionalism. And I’ll politely smile and ignore the snarky remarks.
As I’ve mentioned before, maybe “the good old days” were an idyllic time. But it was a time that millions of us accepted as truth in spirit, if not in fact.
In my line of work, I run into a lot of iconoclasts who take an odd pleasure in kicking over our heroes, claiming they were some part of an idealized past that never existed. But I’d like to think I’m not alone in believing those heroes from our comic past, although only ink on paper, were tangible connections to what is true and good about ourselves, about our nation. They represented values that transcend time – things like faith, family and patriotism.
But those values make a lot of iconoclasts ill, which should be no surprise. That’s what happens when proud, narcissistic people are forced to look at something, or someone, larger than themselves. It comes from living too long in the Kingdom of Self.
British author C.S. Lewis wisely reminded us there is no neutral ground in the universe. Its entirety is occupied by either the truth – or the lie.
It was this America – the one Ronald Reagan would later call “a shining city on a hill,” that gave rise to our comic superheroes.
Superman and other superheroes from the Golden Age of comics (1930s and ‘40s) were created by immigrants who had a love for America. During a time when Nazis were taking over Europe and murdering millions of “undesirables,” these immigrants fled to America, where they could live in freedom from fear. They embraced their new lives and did their best to become part of the great melting pot that is our society.
The characters created by those immigrant comic artists shared in that patriotism. When the scientist Jor-El realized his home planet of Krypton was doomed, he sent his young son, Kal-El, to Earth to live in freedom. The boy didn’t end up in Cuba or North Korea – it was America. His adoptive Kansas farm family gave him the name Clark Kent and raised him in the heartland of our nation. For more than 70 years, the Man of Steel was a proud American. Until recently.
Superman no longer belongs to patriotic immigrant Americans who created him back in the 1930s. He belongs to the corporate giants who thought they could sell more comics around the world by turning him into Globalman. At least in one Superman comic.
In DC’s Action Comics issue 900, Superman officially renounced his American citizenship while meeting with the President’s national security advisor. The reason is that he’s sick of being pigeon-holed as an instrument of U.S. policy. That and “truth, justice and the American way is no longer enough.”
But in DC’s Superman imprint, the Man of Steel has changed his mind. He’s proud to be an American again. In one of the panels, he said: “That’s the idea that America was founded on. But it’s not just for people born here. It’s for everyone.”
It’s not often I see something as boneheaded as this. And maybe it was public blowback that got at least a part of him to again embrace his Americanism.
These are only pen and ink sketches, but they’re icons – expressions of an underlying belief system. Years of indoctrination by Marxist professors have brainwashed generations of our youth into believing that America is a curse and a plague on the world, rather than what it really is.
Just four years ago, another of our beloved superheroes, Captain America, was killed off. He later came back as some character called Nomad, but his costume, which resembled an American flag, was gone forever.
I guess these new comic artists would put Superman and his cohorts in blue UN helmets. Online writer John Hayward said it was “another way of saying our best days are behind us. The American way – it’s not enough anymore.”
Well … it is enough … and always will be. The “American Way” isn’t some act of national chauvinism. It’s not exclusionary. It invites all peoples of the earth to embrace its values. It doesn’t demand submission, as many other nations and creeds. At its core, the American Way celebrates … freedom.
Yes, we continually have leaders in both business and government who corrupt those values for their own gain. But the values themselves are not corrupted. They remain, as our founders called them, “self-evident truths” because they’re rooted in an eternal foundation.
I wonder if the comic book wizards of smart will keep Superman in the traditional costume he’s worn proudly for the better part of a century. After all, it’s those offensive colors of red, white and blue. Instead of carrying the Stars and Stripes, maybe he could wave a white flag of surrender.
As I look back at the small boy in the Superman costume on that Halloween night so long ago, I realize how much our nation has changed. And in many ways, it’s even more tragic than what happened to the Man of Steel.
Still, I remain an optimist. I mean, what other choice do I have? Excellence is an option that’s always renewable. We can return to what we once stood for. If the people perish for lack of a vision, that vision must be restored. It begins with each of us – and becoming our own Superman.
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