I just read Mark Millar/Frank Quietly’s Jupiter’s Legacy #2 and it got me thinking about politics in comic books, specifically representations of capitalism and socialism in mainstream superhero comics. Say what you will about Millar’s writing (IMO blunt, expository, and generally quite frustratingly bad as of recent years), but he’s still a pretty decent “idea man.” And while it’s far from perfect and while Millar is probably the last person I want spouting ideology of any kind, I like Jupiter’s Legacy so far, especially for its direct op-ed take on the modern global economic climate and for its spot-on Superman analogue, The Utopian.

Who is the Utopian? He’s everything that Superman represents to a tee. In the DCU, Superman/Clark Kent/Kal El has always been the “All American superhero,” fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way. This has generally been represented via Clark’s undying passion for the American system, and through that, his blind faith in the tenets of capitalism. The Utopian shares this belief so much so that he refuses to intervene in government economic policy-making (i.e. he refuses to help usher in an alternative structure of governing despite the following: Rising unemployment rates, rising inflation rates on valueless fiat currency, a crooked world banking system, environmental destruction on a global scale, enormous disparity of wealth, and massive debts piling-up). And the Utopian refuses to help despite the fact that everything on this list is blatantly and intrinsically linked to the socioeconomic capitalistic/mega-corporate hegenomy of the USA. The Utopian is just a bearded version of the Superman of the DCU, and despite their powerful influence and kind hearts, neither of these Übermensch gods think they should “get involved” in this regard—possibly the only regard in which they might actually make a lasting impact for positive change.

Jupiter's Legacy 002 (2013) (c2c-1920px) (DarkAngel-Empire) 018

This gets me thinking about the Holy Trinity—how apropos to give them a domineering and manipulating religious title; it’s more fitting than ever! Are the DCU’s main heroes’ political beliefs in line with a previous generations’ beliefs and, at the same time, completely out of touch with the current generations’ beliefs? We’ve already talked about Superman. He’s the All American, hail-to-the-chief, never rule-bending, ultimate line-toeing macho man of the Western World. For whitebread Supes, the capitalism of the West is not to be messed with, meaning, despite its flaws, it must be allowed to function without metahuman intervention. The status quo must remain, even if it means stepping back and letting crooked Washington/Big Business/World Banks continue to ruin the entire planet. We see the Utopian literally say this in Jupiter’s Legacy #2. Talking so candidly about blind faith and “staying the course” despite capitalism’s obvious failures is not something DC would ever have Superman do out loud (or in a thought bubble for that matter), but the Man of Steel’s silence and inaction speaks volumes.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Superman, tool of the system.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Superman, tool of the system.

Jupiter's Legacy 002 (2013) (c2c-1920px) (DarkAngel-Empire) 019

There’s no room for any kind of alternative political or economic thought when it comes to Wonder Woman either. If Superman represents American capitalism then Wonder Woman must represent some sort of old school monarchy, being a princess of a Greco-Roman mythological race. Don’t get me started about the genocide of the Amazonian men (as told to us by Brian Azzarello), but Wonder Woman, in recent years, has been less a force for feminism, LGBT, and true Leftist thinking, and instead has simply been, well, more of a princess. I’m not saying that her politics, nor Superman’s or Batman’s are Right Wing or conservative in the least, but I am saying that they don’t represent anything truly progressive in terms of today’s political climate.

Batman/Bruce Wayne is the ultimate DC character that, in his current state, can unfortunately never ever represent any kind of alternative political belief, let alone anything outside of capitalism. We have one of the richest men in the world, the complete representation of “the 1%.” However, Bruce’s politics have always been portrayed as quite liberal, but still firmly placed on the American political spectrum, meaning Democratic (i.e. neoliberal) to the core. It is highly interesting how the Batman Incorporated organization has been the über corporate capitalist statement—Bruce funds a multi-billion dollar private army (which is nearly fascist in nature) and deploys it all over the globe, violating international and Constitutional laws to do so. Others have commented on how Grant Morrison has oddly made Batman Inc’s rivals, Leviathan, into an extremely radical version of the Occupy movement. Who is in this group? It’s everyday people, 99%ers, poor working stiffs—and it’s comprised mostly of MINORITIES. Think back to Batman’s comical snuffing out of the Average Joes from Pennsylvania. Put that in the context of this discussion and it makes quite a statement!

Batman Inc Vol. 1 #6: It appears to me that AVERAGE JOES represent, well, AVERAGE JOES.

Batman Inc Vol. 1 #6: It appears to me that AVERAGE JOES represent, well, AVERAGE JOES.

Batman Inc Vol. 1 #6: Who is the villain here?

Batman Inc Vol. 1 #6: Who is the villain here?

Batman Inc Vol. 2 #6: Seriously, who is the villain here?

Batman Inc Vol. 2 #6: Seriously, who is the villain here?

Then you have the actual Occupy movements that have been shown in the New 52 (which undoubtedly would have also been detailed in the Modern Age had it continued). These Leftist protest gatherings have understandably BEEN AGAINST both Wayne Enterprises gentrification AND Batman’s above-the-law fascist superhero-ing tactics. Surely these Occupy groups would have been against Batman Inc as well.

Detective Comics #5: Occupy movement protests Batman's illegal mistreatment of criminals.

Detective Comics #5: Occupy movement protests Batman’s illegal mistreatment of criminals.

Batgirl #5: What is the REAL cost of this gentrification?

Batgirl #5: What is the REAL cost of this gentrification?

Batgirl #5: The Occupy movement protests Bruce Wayne.

Batgirl #5: The Occupy movement protests Bruce Wayne.

This leads me to the next part of this post, in which I surmise that maybe Morrison is subtly inserting a socialist commentary via his Batman run and Batman Inc. After all, in a 2011 Mindless Ones interview entitled “Batman Inc Births Comics’ First Zen Billionaire”, Morrison said, “Most corporations seem pretty demonic. Corporations as entities are strange things. Because no one person is really in charge, we’ve conjured some predatory, ravenous entities. But Batman Inc is an attempt to reimagine what a good corporation can be.” A few people have been buzzing about how Morrison constantly hints and nods to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as being in the canonical future for Modern Age Batman or New Age Batman (or both). But its not just the debut of the Mutant Gang or the news-media’s criticism of the Bat Family when the shit hits the fan or various other things, it’s an apparent socialist commentary that seems to be hinting at that future. If Batman Inc eventually leads to The Dark Knight Returns—where an older Bruce rejects the tenets of capitalism and finally joins the other side to lead the 99% out from the underground in the form the anarchic “Sons of Batman”—I think it will happen because he sees capitalism fail so miserably in the microcosm of his own Batman Inc venture. Through the failure of Batman Inc and the death of his loved one(s) he breaks down and sees the complete error of his ways, and possibly the errors of of his entire career as a costumed adventurer. Capitalism killed his son! And Batman was the face and strong arm of capitalism the whole time, only he didn’t really realize that the system was broken until it was too late. In a sense, Bruce will realize that he’s become the ultimate 21st century villain: A bat-costumed corporate stooge with lots of cash and weaponry and utter disregard for the plight of the common man. (Not only that, look at Batman Inc #12 where Bruce jacks up on Man-Bat Serum, CHRISTIAN hoodoo, and MEGA-CORPORATE TECH to become the literal CAPITALIST MONSTER)! With sheer rage and tons of motivation to right the wrongs of his past (and to avenge Damian), Bruce might indeed become the type of Batman we see in the Dark Knight Returns.

To further extrapolate upon this, we can look at Carrie Kelley as Robin. And when we analyze Carrie, the socialist commentary makes even more sense! In a way, Carrie is the first socialist Robin—the first COLLEGE EDUCATED ROBIN and the first who would undoubtedly be in SERIOUS financial debt! Sure Dick went to college, but he dropped out before even completing a semester. Plus all of the other Robins (sans Stephanie) had Daddy Wayne-bucks footing the bill for any expenditures over the course of their whole lives. Thus, Carrie makes for the perfect Robin to kick-along-side of the anti-capitalist Batman from The Dark Knight Returns. (Twenty-plus years after the release of The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s public sociopolitical stance, undeniably xenophobic and libertarian Right Wing, really began to mark his work. With hindsight, it’s easy to look back and devalue The Dark Knight Returns as a strict libertarian work as well. But I’d argue that, no matter what Miller’s intentions were, even at its time of publication, The Dark Knight Returns has always had more of an anti-authoritarian view/message in a socialist-anarchist vein rather than a libertarian vein.)

Comic books have long been a forum for metaphorically speaking out against racism, political oppression, economic disparity, etc… Stan Lee did it with nearly all of this work in the 60s and 70s. And we’ve seen it in the pages of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern since the 70s as well. But today, why is there seemingly less and less place for it in mainstream comics? Sure there are more LGBT characters than ever before and a few nods to this-or-that here-and-there, but why no real discussion about the collapse of the global economy, predatory bank lending, or the total destruction of the environment? Why no discussion or thinly-veiled character or story-arc about socialism versus capitalism? I’m waiting for a superhero to show up that truly represents alternative political thought. Nearly all superheroes are rooted in capitalism and in the fascist history of putting on a weird outfit and taking the law into one’s own hands. Can there be (and is there room for) a socialist/anarcho/true Left-leaning hero that wears his/her undies on the outside of his/her tights and represents the average 21st century human being? Is this a realistic possibility, especially given that Warner and Disney control the sandbox (or should we say litter-box)? And could Batman Inc really be another type of Jupiter’s Legacy (albeit a less blunt and more nuanced, elegant version)?

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: In the end, there is a way of interpreting/reading the text where Bruce becomes a true post-capitalist fighting in a capitalist world. (And not in the way libertarian Miller probably intended OR the horrid temporary way it went down in the goofy anti-Occupy Chris Nolan "Dark Knight Rises" movie.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: In the end, Bruce becomes a post-capitalist fighting in a capitalist world. (This socialist/social democratic ideal was likely never libertarian Miller’s original intention. More contemporary adaptations of Miller have attempted to offer a hybrid of political beliefs but have failed miserably in delivering a decent socialist message. Most notably, the completely opposite post-capitalist way it goes down in the goofy anti-Occupy Chris Nolan “Dark Knight Rises” movie.)

That’s a lot to chew on, but I thought it would be a neat topic to toss into the mix. Any thoughts?

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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  1. From reading a Keith Scott article, I’ve just discovered Spain Rodriguez’s Trashman, a left-leaning anarchist superhero, AND China Miéville’s rejected Marvel pitch for a Communist hive-mind-driven Iron Man who fights oppression in a post-industrial wasteland of a fictionalized Detroit. Both definitely relevant to this discussion!

  2. Arthur says:

    That is interesting. Well everybody have a point of view. But “dark knight returns” is factually a libertarian comic, Miller said that (you know). So please don´t believe your fanfic about “socialist batman”.

    Miller is a libertarian, and his batman is libertarian as well. You don’t know more than he does about his own work.

    • I never claimed to “know more than [Frank Miller] does about his own work,”—not sure what you even mean by that. Based upon numerous statements he’s made in the past 20 years, Miller is indeed a libertarian. Please don’t mistake this piece as an apologist or revisionist reading of Dark Knight Returns.

      We shouldn’t ignore (nor have I ignored) Miller’s political views in relation to his works. I don’t believe you can separate the art from the artist. To your points, Arthur, I literally address the creator’s views inside the middle of my article (but I guess you only skimmed and missed it, maybe?): “(Twenty-plus years after the release of The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s public sociopolitical stance, undeniably xenophobic and libertarian Right Wing, really began to mark his work. With hindsight, it’s easy to look back and devalue The Dark Knight Returns as a strict libertarian work as well. But I’d argue that, no matter what Miller’s intentions were, even at its time of publication, The Dark Knight Returns has always had more of an anti-authoritarian view/message in a socialist-anarchist vein rather than a libertarian vein.) […] In the end, Bruce becomes a post-capitalist fighting in a capitalist world. (This socialist/social democratic ideal was likely never libertarian Miller’s original intention. More contemporary adaptations of Miller have attempted to offer a hybrid of political beliefs but have failed miserably in delivering a decent socialist message. Most notably, the completely opposite post-capitalist way it goes down in the goofy anti-Occupy Chris Nolan “Dark Knight Rises” movie.)”

      So, yes while undoubtedly libertarian in its perspective, The Dark Knight Returns demonstrates many socialist-anarchist views (even if that was not Miller’s intent, which I make crystal clear in my piece). I would also say the book leans libertarian LEFT more than libertarian RIGHT, which is different from Miller’s later works, say Holy Terror or the Dark Knight Returns sequels for instance.

  3. James Mahoney IV says:

    I know this is a super-old post, and mayhap your position has changed since this, but I just wanted to say that while I found this site due to me looking for a cohesive way to enjoy Batman stories in some chronological order, this is just a glorious, intellectual look at an issue that, while I’m sure isn’t talked about by a lot of people, nonetheless I find extremely fascinating. I have nothing new to add that hasn’t been said, but as a leftist in a country that increasingly has almost every form of media perpetuate capitalism as the only reasonable option, refusing to use even super-heroes in a way to examine other ideas even an iota outside of the mainstream, I find this a refreshing and invigorating look at this issue, so around five year late, but thanks for writing this.

    Oh, and the Anarky piece is also excellent, just saying.

    • Thanks for the kind words! The pieces on “superhero socialism”—this piece and the Anarky piece—are two of my favorite things I’ve written about comics. I have an upcoming article about the history of Professor Pyg, so hopefully you’ll enjoy that one too!

      I can’t believe it’s been five years since this was published. The subject hasn’t become irrelevant and definitely warrants a return visit.

      In REAL LIFE, five years later: Trump is in office; the structure of electoral democracy in America still centers around two large heavily-neoliberal parties, leaving all political discourse on an extremely narrow spectrum; consumer debt is still skyrocketing; homelessness is still on the rise; workers rights are being diminished day-by-day; mainstream media is neoliberalized to the max (with FoxNews pundits literally having the POTUS’ ear inside the White House); the same systemically fucked-up governing institutions, armies, police forces, corporations, and financial entities pushing free and unregulated “market individualism” are still firmly entrenched in power; the hegemony related to welfare, redistribution, education, and healthcare is still woefully backwards and regressive; etc etc etc…

      In THE WORLD OF COMICS, five years later: Red Robin and Anarky both amazingly returned with ostensibly hopeful and progressive political values (which writers didn’t follow through on, of course); even with the aforementioned character returns, there’s still no big-time anti-capitalist/socialist-anarchist hero to speak of—not even a reform liberal, union activist, or anti-Fed libertarian hero (LOL); Trump’s vile pal Ike Perlmutter controls Marvel; Captain America was recently canonically written as a literal Nazi by a literal bigot; Batman is still being protested in comics (see Doomsday Clock and Priest’s JL run); and—while admittedly I haven’t seen it—the major villain (Killmonger) in the latest Disney-Marvel flick is more-or-less a leftist radical (making the hero the opposite, if logic follows).

      Don’t be surprised if I do a very timely “five years later” post one of these days…

  4. I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed

  5. lepusfelix says:

    I’m not sure Superman is a capitalist, after all. Think about it. If he was a capitalist, he probably would have identified an extremely limited resource (super powers), patented it, copyrighted his trading name, Superman, and charged market rates (very extortionate) hiring himself out for profit.

    Instead, he makes his services available to all people at no cost, which is uncompetitive. Other superheroes also exist in the DC universe. However, most, if not all, also provide their services at no cost. Not only are they unable to profit this way, they also hurt the security market by removing a lot of the demand for security and crime fighting, which prevents other companies from profiting. That describes an oligarchy, which is considered extremely unhealthy in a capitalist society. By controlling supply, reducing demand, while hurting profitable industries, without actually charging a penny, this sounds a lot more like a communist direction. However, none of the superheroes work for the government, yet they are very much ‘for the people’, and do not assume to be a particular authority over others by way of class, prestige or wealth. Their authority comes from morals and physical/technological strength and/or prowess.

    This is why I chuckle whenever I hear of Superman talking about truth, justice and the American way. I don’t remember America having communist principles hiding beneath the surface at any point in my life.

    • Anytime a superpower throws on a cape and starts interpreting right from wrong and taking justice into his own hands, there is an oligarchist, fascist, dictatorial feel to what they do. And yes, oligarchy, fascism, dictatorships, and also good old fashioned communism are supposedly (and arguably) the antitheses of US Capitalism. However, rather than choosing a specifically communist or fascist or oligarch (or socialist or anarchist) model to work from, Superman specifically chooses the law-set and status-quo of the American Capitalist structure as his guiding principles. Sure, he’s not turning what he does into a business with a corporate mentality where profit is the only motive. He’s not evil. No one ever said Superman didn’t mean well. There’s a pretty wide Capitalistic spectrum that runs from “government regulated-fair trade-sustainable-fair wage-mom n pop type” Western economy all the way to “mega conglomerate-corporate-fuck up and destroy everything to make a profit” Western economy. I’m pretty sure Superman leans toward the former. He is a democrat, after all, aint’ he? I guess that’s my point. Superman is a pile of contradictions and hypocrisies. He truly is “for the people” but undoes anything good he does for “the people” by committing blindingly to a system that fucks “the people.” And there is extra burden for someone like him, someone with the power of a god, to be smarter and more well-informed and to be the ultimate activist. An actual revolution to spawn positive change in the age we live in would be an impossible feat, even with a million soldiers. But one Kryptonian Man of Steel. He could make a difference. If only he really saw the forest for the trees.

      In regard to your comments about the security/police/army industry. While Superman may be hurting a profitable security industry (corporations like KBR and Blackwater come to mind), he’s certainly not taking them down like he should be if he really wanted to make a positive impact. The kind of play games a dude like Superman wastes his time on—i.e. fighting super-villains and bank robbers—do nothing for the society at large except maybe continue to fuel the corporate money driven prison-industrial-complex that has wreaked so much devastating havoc in America for the last twenty-five years. Not only that, Superman often works hand-in-hand with the US Armed Forces (with its gross gazillion dollar annual budget) and the US Government’s contracted companies/subsidiaries (which have a history of robbing the US taxpayer blind via overcharging and outright fraud). Superman doesn’t charge a dime, lending his services pro-bono—this much is true. However, the Man of Steel, despite his great power and supposed wisdom, refuses to hold accountable his compatriots in the US Government that have committed atrocious war-crimes ranging from rape and torture to illegal bombings, drone strikes, and lethal suppression of information.

      So, like you, I also chuckle whenever I hear of Superman talking about “truth, justice, and the American Way.” I chuckle because I know Superman isn’t a bad-guy, so that must mean he just really doesn’t have a clue. Either that or he doesn’t have any balls.

      Sorry for the rant! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s nice to have some alternative thoughts thrown into the mix! Feel free to tear me apart with a follow-up.

      • One more thing! If the comics themselves have shown us anything it’s that the existence of superheroes like Superman has only helped the military/security industry expand profit tremendously. The Government will always pump money into defense when new “threats” arise. Look at SHIELD, SHADE, ARGUS, DEO, Checkmate, Task Force X, STAR Labs, Cadmus, LexCorp, WayneTech, Batman Incorporated, and countless other organizations and private contractors that have grown or been born as a direct result of the “rise of the superhero.” These fictional individual government organizations or private companies that work with the government all seem to have more money than the US Defense Budget, Lockheed-Martin, Halliburton, Monsanto, JP Morgan Chase, and a dozen other decidedly horrible “evils of the real world” have combined.

        I think that if Superman existed in the real world, US Defense and Intelligence spending would skyrocket and the money would trickle down into the hands of the private contractors, security industry, mega-corporations, and investment banks, making them even richer than they already are.

  6. Jamison says:

    The Super-dic(tator) wasn’t really a new concept. I think that started with red kryptonite in the 50s and sixties, that changed Superman’s behavior erratically, and at some point he crowned himself emperor of metropolis. Also, the episodes “Brave New World” from Superman the Animated Series, and “A Better World” from the Justice League Animated Series both featured alternate dimension versions of Superman who’ve declared themselves world despots. Although I liked Injustice: Gods Among Us, there was a part that really bothered me. There was a mini game where Teth Adam continuously picked up passing by automobiles (with people inside) and hurled them at the good, original earth Superman. Supes blasted every car with his heat vision, completely incinerating the vehicles and their occupants. Weird choice there… If you liked the film Superman II (1980) by Richard Donner, (Which I absolutely adored), there is a modern age story arc co-written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner which introduces a Terrance Stamp-Inspired General Zod to the DCU proper, and it’s fantastic. The story is called Last Son. I also really liked Greg Rucka’s run on adventures of Superman, and the post-crisis stories collected in the 8 volumes of “Man of Steel” trade paperbacks. Also, if you are a big Lex Luthor fan, the story arcs “President Lex” and “The Black Ring” are highly recommended.

    • Darkmaster006 says:

      Of course it wouldn’t be, almost nothing is new nowadays really and that would be so common haha, thanks for the referencees.
      “Supes blasted every car with his heat vision, completely incinerating the vehicles and their occupants.” Does this happen in Injustice or I understood wrong? Cause I’ve read all Injustice and haven’t seen it.
      And thanks for the recommendations, I’ll definitely check them out, specially the Lex Luthor ones, I really like his character, d’you know other good arcs with him? I’ll be searching anyways. Also the Zod introducing arc seems interesting too. Btw and totally unrealted but well, is “Secret Identity” a good mini-serie to read? I’ve heard good critics.

      • Jamison says:

        The car scene actually happens in the game itself right after the good version of Superman is brought over from the original dimension. Luthor has also made a memorable appearance in the JLA Rock of Ages story arc. Also there is a two issue cross-over with Superman v2 #168 and Detective Comics v1 #756 where Batman and Lois lane team up to infiltrate the White House during Luthor’s time as president. Great stuff. Secret Identity was pretty good, I thought. It isn’t in continuity, though. I tend to favor stories that make the canon richer.

  7. Darkmaster006 says:

    Actually, Superman is not the same as The Utopian, if I don’t remember wrong, Superman was leaving the USA or something like that before the reboot because he was tired of the system, or something like that, but then the reboot happened so we couldn’t see more. That’s what a lot of people complained with The Dark Knight Return’s Superman, that he was too much attached to the politicians. Anyways, I wouldn’t know so much as long as I have read almost none of Superman, just givin’ a hint.

    • “Grounded” (which was the final arc of the Modern Age Superman series) was anything BUT Superman leaving or denouncing America. And while Chris Roberson did technically finish the arc when JM Straczynski dropped out, Straczynski was there guiding him the whole way. While conceptualizing “Grounded,” Straczynski stated that while “Superman’s mandate is to protect the people of the world, he doesn’t take sides, he’s not overtly political.” This statement definitely mirrors the Utopian’s “never-get-involved politically” mentality. “Not getting involved politically” is synonymous with inaction in regard to the horrors of the current socioeconomic system. In the afterword to the prologue of “Grounded” Straczynski wrote that he would “not depict an idealist America that most Superman readers would expect.” Furthermore, Straczynski said, “Powerful as [Superman] is, he cannot defeat poverty, or inequity, or our blind headlong drive toward self-destruction. But alongside those faults we will feature the charity, the decency, the compassion and the stubborn, noble courage of the human race, and rediscover why he has come to represent the best of us while never shrinking from the worst of us.” I fully understand the concept of “Grounded,” and while having Superman step away from being America’s super soldier for a bit and having him dig deep to question “truth, justice, and the American way” may seem to contain socialist or Leftist undertones, “Grounded” barely goes below the surface in addressing these politics. I recall that Right Wing news pundits (who never touched a comic book in their lives) were outraged by this arc, so there must have been something truly Leftist about it. But then again, Right Wing news pundits get outraged by women’s reproductive rights and Black people in general. But back to my point, I don’t agree with Straczynski when he says that Superman cannot defeat poverty, inequity, or the human drive toward self-destruction. I think the only reason Superman can’t is because he will never truly let go of the stifling “American way” no matter how hard he reflects or how many miles he logs on hikes across the country. Now, I said Straczynski was there with Robeson until the end, but we’ll never know what he really had planned for Superman. But I can assure you that it ultimately would have been the reaffirmation of American values (i.e. Capitalist values) that Robeson ended his tale with in Seattle. If Superman, who can do just about anything, admits that he can’t stop the things that are REALLY plaguing humanity, then that is an admission of either defeat or uncaring. So in my eyes, and Mark Millar’s eyes, the Utopian is the perfect analogue for Superman (of any continuity).

      And if critics and fans in the 1980s were upset with the “bent-over-backward-for-Reagan” version of Superman in TDKR (I’m not aware that they were?) then they were blind enough not to realize that Frank Miller’s portrayal of the Man of Steel was exactly the same as every other writer, and this includes Jerry Siegel, Roger Stern, John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Alan Moore, Geoff Johns, and Grant Morrison!

      • Darkmaster006 says:

        Thanks for claryfying it, I really had no idea how was this arc, and I really had no idea how Superman is, the only thing I’ve read of him is the new Action Comics by Morrison and All Star Superman by Morrison, though I’m interested in reading more. Anyways, you should check out Injustice where Superman starts a revolution, he’s a dictator, after Lois dies he kills the Joker and starts a new command. I’m sure it’ll help to see another Superman, off his limits and freaked out.

        • I haven’t read Injustice: Gods Among Us, but from what I gather there are some parallels to Red Son (the story about a Soviet Communist Superman penned by, who else… Mark Millar). There is an web article on Kotaku about Superman in Injustice that is worth checking out (mostly for the debates going on in the comments section).

          Superman is a great character BECAUSE he is all-powerful and virtually perfect. It is this invulnerability and perfection, combined with the fact that he is easily manipulated and stubbornly affixed to the institutions that can most easily manipulate him, that makes the Man of Steel one of the best characters in comics history. Many people will talk about dozens of deconstructions of Superman as being better characters (like Hyperion, Supreme, Majestic, Samaritan, Plutonian, Gladiator, Count Nefaria, Sentry, Ultraman, Saviour, or David Brinkley from Superfolks!), but in the end it is Superman at the core of all of those characters, for without him they wouldn’t even exist.

  8. Here’s more to chew on (if you missed the link above). My post definitely echoes this brilliant piece by the always brilliant Mindless Ones.

    …which leads me to something I should have ended “SUPERHERO SOCIALISM” with. What if Morrison DOESN’T hint us toward a socialist future for Batman when he wraps Inc? What if Morrison, as many have accused him of, is playing the role of corporate stooge himself? After all, we all saw the path that Frank Miller took—going from gritty anti-everything badass to Muslim-hating xenophobic libertarian (dare-I-say bigoted Tea Party flag-waver). Now, I’m sure Morrison will never venture down that path, but damn, it will be a sad and frustrating Inc end if no lessons are learned, eh? And if no lessons are learned, I might have to heave a huge sigh of disappointment in regard to Grant “Mr. DC” Morrison.

    • Jamison says:

      I really don’t think that’s going to happen. It would be such a huge 180 for himself as a person that it would essentially render all of his life experiences up to this point totally moot. Is it possible? Anything’s possible. But we know in the end Batman Incorporated will not exist, therefore it will not have succeeded. Based on the solicits, it doesn’t seem there will be a happily ever after with the capitalist notion of Batman Incorporated having made the world a better place. It’s hard to say how much detail will actually be present concerning Bruce’s reflections on Batman Inc. There may be a lot, there may be next to nothing, but I don’t see Morrison compromising his story for the sake of money, or changing his hitherto-unwavering anti-establishment view point. He’s always been a punk, always will be, in my opinion.

      • Morrison has always written his heroes to represent the best of humanity, tis true. And you are right, I shouldn’t worry since Morrison will always be a punk! STILL, I’m very anxiously interested to see where he goes with the end of Inc. Someone somewhere on the web (sorry don’t recall where) posited that we should always remember that Leviathan is inherently evil even if it represents what ultimately might be a positive global change—the end of an environmentally damaging socioeconomic system—whereas Batman Inc is inherently good even if it blindly fights for the status quo with a corporate private army. The big thing to remember is that Morrison is a great writer and great writers write great villains—convincing villains that are neither black nor white. The Al Ghul Family has always been a proponent of radical social change, which in their eyes seems like the right thing to do. But when it boils down, the politics of the Al Ghul style of change involve a lot of chaos, death, and destruction without much method to their madness. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that Morrison IMO has done such a splendiferous job of making Talia’s propaganda seem equally as sane/righteous as anything Batman has done to combat her! At the end of the day, propaganda is propaganda and we have Batman vs Talia (comic book good versus comic book evil). I tend to forget that point when I scrutinize the text as deeply as I do.

        • Jamison says:

          I think a great writer would show us that there is probably more options than either convincing or waging a violent war against capitalists. If the Al Ghul family dialed it back a few notches, they could certainly be heroes.
          I love these conversations. This is surely the best place on the internet for scholarly discussions about superheroes that I know of. Can’t wait for more. I had an idea for an article that would compare comic book timeline creation and historical study to religious apologetic behavior. There’s a lot of parallels I’ve noticed.

          • There’s such a thin line between crazy evil and… well everything else! And the comparison to religious apologetic behavior is amazing. Hadn’t thought of that. I’d be interested to hear more about it. Don’t forget the guest post spot is still vacant!

    • Rhett Khan says:

      Capitalism has the same flaw as socialism, communism, anarchism and most any other -ism you come across. The problem is the people inside the system. You will always find greedy people who look to break the system, manipulate system and/or take stuff from others. I realize that with these views, I’m not going to get my own cable news show.

      The end of Batman Inc. doesn’t necessarily have to move Bruce toward socialism. My guess is that Bruce finally realizes Batman Inc. is a bad idea. No matter how good’s Bruce’s intentions are, a huge corporation isn’t going to fix the world’s problems. But I don’t know where that leaves Bruce.

      • It is indeed a possibility that all the “isms” have the same flaw: HUMAN GREED. Unfortunately, the human greed that has reared its ugly head in the predominant “ism” of the 21st century happens to be coming in the form of mega conglomerates and world banks wantonly and knowingly destroying the environment, underprivileged, and non-normative (and now even the normative–in the form of the college educated individual that faces impossible fiat debt). And that is just the TIP OF THE ICEBERG. My worry is that the blanket statement that “greed is inherent in all systems” (even if it’s true) might be the type of rhetoric used to defend the status quo, no matter how bad it is.

        But this isn’t a media studies class! What about Batman? Let me make this clear. The end of Inc will definitely NOT lead toward Bat-socialism in the New Age/New 52. Obviously, since we are a mere two years into a company-wide reboot, Bruce won’t become a grey-haired Dark Knight Returns socialist any time soon (and likely won’t ever in the New 52). In the new continuity, Bruce won’t ever stop being a major corporate leader as head of Wayne Enterprises, that is for certain. Like you say, though, Bruce will prob realize that Batman Inc was a bad idea–and hopefully he learns some lesson in the process that guides him progressively forward.

        However, if Inc Vol. 2 is indeed the capstone to the MODERN AGE, as it very well may be, then the theory that it might lead to the grey-haired Dark Knight Returns socialist Caped Crusader in that continuity makes sense. (It’s also quite welcome, if you ask me).

  9. Jamison says:

    I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen him, but Anarky was pretty much an anti-hero for the left. I remember the awesome scene of him going to Apokalips to ask Darkseid about why evil exists. Anarky is supposedly the main antagonist in the new Beware the Batman cartoon coming out soon. I wouldn’t doubt that politics may end up being subtle plot points, even in a kids cartoon.

    • I’d love to see Anarky in the New 52—done right, of course. He was always the misunderstood hero-villain that represented exactly what I now currently want to see. While creator Alan Grant and others did their best to alter him in negative ways over the years, Anarky always remained, for the most part, true to his core. I’d like to see Anarky as an out-and-out hero—but maybe the world ain’t ready for that yet.

      Apparently, the Arkham: Origns video game will have him team-up with Batman to fight corruption, which is quite interesting.

      In regard to the Beware the Batman cartoon, Anarky will supposedly be the main antagonist and get the most screen time as Batman’s arch rival. This troubles me because, like you said, I doubt that they are going to push complex politics onto a kids show. And furthermore, if Anarky is the main villain, they might make him look like a killer awesome smart baddie, but I’m sure he’s definitely going to be portrayed as the wrong-minded one in a war against “right.”

      • Jamison says:

        So the Anarky episode of Beware the Batman premiered today. The character was intriguing, but still seemed to be a bit of a mustache twirler. He was clearly a villain who was interested in anarchism in a shallow sense, opting to incite acts of small scale vandalism. There was no moral ambiguity it seemed. The dialogue, however, between Anarky and Batman hinted at a larger picture, so I could see that the writers may have just introduced him as a straight villain with the intention of slowly bringing more sympathy to his cause. Time will tell.
        Also, have you ever read Alan Moore’s Marvelman? That is definitely an example of a socialist hero. Marvelman is an everyman pitted against the straight, black and white suited, corporate villain. Interesting stuff that predated the Matrix films by 20 years.

        • There are plenty of superheroes that have fought corporate villains. That doesn’t necessarily make them socialist heroes. Big Ben was dressed in a suit to mimic John Steed’s costume from The Avengers and, yes, while he was definitely an ex super spy turned metahuman crime-fighter, he was also a completely crazy nutball shapeshifter used as a pawn for the government. In regard to Mike Moran, he was more concerned with is baby, his wife, dealing with his newfound powers, and figuring out the mysteries of his sordid past—as opposed to championing the rights of the underprivileged. Only after his battle with Kid Miracleman/Kid Marvelman causes mass genocidal-level deaths does Miracleman/Marvelman decide to “sociopolitically intervene”—ushering in the “Golden Age” via a totalitarian reign of the new gods. While ostensibly a utopia, the world built by the Marvels/Miracles is not really a socialist paradise. And even at the end of Moore’s run and throughout Gaiman’s conclusion, Marvelman/Miracleman ponders on whether or not he has done the right thing for humanity. I would argue that Marvelman’s actions may not have been with humanity’s best interests in mind. Unlike Moore’s true socialist/anarchist hero V (from V for Vendetta).

          On a related note, Miracleman/Marvelman is one of my favorite stories and is the pride of my comics collection—I own every single issue and each of the long out-of-print collected trades. The utopia/dystopia built at the end of the series is very Matrix-like indeed. Some of the most interesting sci-fi superhero stuff ever written. Hopefully Marvel does something with the property and doesn’t taint the legacy of the character. The last thing we need is another bastardization of an old Moore book (i.e. the recent abysmal and offensive Before Watchmen crap fest).

          And interesting tidbit about Anarky on Beware the Batman. I wish I could motivate myself to watch every time they reboot the Dark Knight for the animated world, but there’s just so little time in my busy schedule!

  10. Rhett Khan says:

    “Can there be (and is there room for) a socialist/anarcho/true Left-leaning hero that wears his/her undies on the outside of his/her tights and represents the average 21st century human being?”

    How about Oliver Queen?

    • Ollie Queen in The Dark Knight Returns definitely winds up as an anarchist (and then communist in The Dark Knight Strikes Back). In the New 52, I’m not so sure he fits that bill. Although I haven’t really been reading his solo series, the Green Arrow that comes from a wealthy background as leader of the prominent Q-Core Corporation and that also works for the state-sponsored JLA team doesn’t seem to be much of a true “hero for the Left,” despite the obvious allusion to Robin Hood that his character makes.

      I think that a TRUE socialist/anarcho/Leftist hero prob wouldn’t be a part of a JL team (especially a state-sponsored one). And I think that a TRUE socialist/anarcho/Leftist might not have the ideals of the average superhero we see in the DCU today—instead, he/she would probably come off more as an anti-hero, which is why I think some of DC’s super-villains tend to have more “heroic,” “human,” or “anti-authoritarian” ideals (when they aren’t being sociopathic, of course). My vision is a 21st century Che Guevara in a domino mask and tights. Where is he/she at?

      • Rhett Khan says:

        I wasn’t thinking about the New 52 version of Arrow. Then again, it’s hard to imagine DC Comics (Time Warner) or Marvel Comics (Disney) creating any sort of anti-capitalist hero and taking him/her seriously.

        As for the other question in your column, the villians are the guys with the guns. 😉

        • Superhero comics rule of thumb: The guy with a gun is always a super-villain. Too true.

          But I submit, in this instance (and in other related instances hopefully to come), the revolutionaries will have the guns in a war of aggression against the hegemonic oppressors. I think, in terms of true Leftist thought, the vigilante that brandishes a gun won’t/shouldn’t be labeled as a villain or even an anti-hero—instead he/she/it/they (insert pronoun of choice) will be the true counter-culture superhero, packing heat because the time for peaceful/non-lethal revolt in the Capitalist world has passed.

          • Jamison says:

            I take your point, but aren’t super heroes in comics, especially from the Grant Morrison view, intended to represent the best of humanity? That’s not to say that they should necessarily favor one political/economic ideology over another, but saving the day by murdering the capitalist villain with a gun is not preferable to convincing the capitalist villain that his methods are flawed. I know this doesn’t really work out practically in reality, but these are comic books, where characters can be better than us. I really dislike the Punisher because he is a murderous mouthpiece for the right. I would hate a murderous mouth piece for the left just as much, I think.

            • The Punisher and Wolverine and other heroes who kill wantonly do come off as Right Wing nutballs most of the time and it does seriously weaken their characters. I don’t think the evolution of Batman is to kill people (or to become a guy who guns down anybody). I don’t think the Batman at the end of Dark Knight Returns was about to wage a blazing war using guns’n’ammo, but then I never really imagined Batman as the best version of the anarcho-Left superhero that I was imagining above. However, I’d have to imagine that Batman’s non-lethal war following TDKR would likely motivate others outside of his camp to strive and act for more radical global change, which might involve an actual armed revolution. My idea of an archetypal future counter-culture Leftist superhero is someone who feels as though he/she is truly fighting in a revolutionary war against oppression. A soldier in war ultimately (usually) must kill in order to survive. The way the real world is sadly evolving today, the “capitalist villain” reflected in comics can no longer be convinced that his methods are flawed. Therefore, there is no other alternative than war—and not a declaration of crazed war the way Logan or Frank Castle do it, but a calculated response to the war already being waged! The idea of the Leftist hero trying to reason with the “capitalist villain,” at this point, I feel would be ludicrous. One of my personal heroes Stokely Carmichael, in the spirit of Emma Goldman and Malcolm X, once said: “Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s policy was that non-violence would achieve gains for Black people in the United States. His major assumption was that if you are non-violent, if you suffer, you opponent will see your suffering and be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption. In order for non-violence to work your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.” This quote is just as relevant today as it was in 1967. If you understand that the hegemony of global capitalism (and all the ills that are attached to it) is basically one-and-the-same as “the USA” that Carmichael references, and “suffering” and “non-violence” can be understood as “trying to reason with,” “trying to convince,” or even “trying to forcibly reason or convince” then it is easy to see that it is impossible to achieve positive social change without violence if the “conscience” does not exist. But I digress, haha. Starting to go off the rails here a bit. Is this even about superheroes anymore!?

              Now that I think about it, the debut of the socialist superhero character that wants to reason or change viral corporate mentality would be a great prelude to my ideal socialist superhero—mainly because that character would get wiped off the face of the Earth as soon as he tried to speak. And supposing he didn’t? Well then we’d have two great differing voices—sort of like a Martin Luther King in a domino mask and a Che Guevara in tights and a cape! (Don’t hold your breath for either of those).

              All that being said, we all know that, no matter what, the perfect superhero is Batman. (Duh). And if anyone could shake up the world without shedding blood, it’d be the Dark Knight.

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