The never-ending battle continues; now it’s just been better defined. For years, comics writers, artists, and filmmakers have wrestled with Superman fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. It’s not so much that it was controversial. It’s that the phrase “the American Way” has become fragmented in its meaning.
Putting political judgment aside for a moment, we’re in the midst of proving that “the American Way” is a concept that could radically change every four years. As a people, we can’t agree on what it is. So when DC Publisher (and, if there is such a thing, DC Legend) Jim Lee announced yesterday at DC Fandome that Superman now fights for Truth, Justice, and a Better Tomorrow, it feels welcome. Maybe not 100% settled, but welcome, because at least we can all agree that we want a better tomorrow. Heck, I’d like some reassurance that we’ll even have a tomorrow.
What Superman stands for in our culture, or at least should stand for (hi, film execs who don’t know what to do with him), is the better angels of our nature. His upright morality should be as bullet-proof as his chest, but that morality also extends to kindness, empathy, and helping people become better. And if we all do that, it will be a better tomorrow.
I haven’t read or watched political commentary on this yet — mostly a lot of friends predicting that there will be. But today, I’m going to hope for that better tomorrow, and hope that we’ll all get to see how it works out.
UPDATE: Comics creator Erik Larsen points out that they’ve been changing the phrase up for almost 50 years — and our culture didn’t notice. He posted this page from 1976’s Superman vs. Spider-Man – when Superman fought for Truth, Justice, and the TERRAN Way.