Superman Renounces American Citizenship

Superman will renounce his American citizenship!

Superman will renounce his American citizenship!

Comics AllianceSuperman Renounces [SPOILER] in ‘Action Comics’ #900.

The key scene takes place in “The Incident,” a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President’s national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

This will, no doubt, create a firestorm of outrage in some quarters (since, for example, I saw people upset that the new Wonder Woman costume wasn’t patriotic enough because the pants didn’t have stars on them).

A few quick thoughts:

1)  These things (like the death of Captain America) are done to generate PR and sell comics.  Mission accomplished.

2)  These things (like the death of Captain America) have a way of being impermanent.  (Trust me, I used to collect comics).

3)  Quite frankly, the storyline makes sense, if one wants to take a semi-realistic view of superheroes.  If Superman was real and was as linked to US as he has been (the American way and all that) then, indeed, any action he took would be construed as US policy.  Seeking to be identified as non-national would make sense if Superman was going to do what Superman does (unless, of course, he went the The Dark Knight Returns route).

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Popular Culture, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jay Tea says:

    Looks like Supes is directly rejecting Obama’s non-intervention policy in Iran.

    So Superman is obviously a racist.


  2. Loviatar says:

    wow, J can you be any more obvious. Well, I guess going around in a white sheet would be a little more obvious, but not by much.

    cue, the reverse racism call in:

  3. PD Shaw says:

    How dumb do they think the Iranians are?

  4. John Peabody says:

    You lost me at “If Superman was real…”

  5. @John:

    Two thoughts:

    1) Clearly you are not a geek. 😉

    2) All silliness aside, this would be the point, yes: why freak-out over a fictional character, and yet…

  6. mantis says:

    It’s amusing how Jay’s thinking is exponentially more childish and simplistic than that of a comic book.

  7. Trumwill says:

    Well, good on DC. If it were Marvel, he would be renouncing his citizenship to protest people saying mean things about illegal immigrants…

    From an internal logic standpoint, though, I do somewhat question the decision. Superman, like other superheroes, operates within the US on a good faith basis. The lack of actual citizenship, as the case might be with Katar Hol, might be overlooked (though with others, like Hal Jordan, it can be assumed). But renouncing citizenship could be more problematic. The publicity surrounding it forces the US government to make accommodations (if only to say “we’re going to ignore the law in this high-profile case” – although perhaps to grant him a visa), which might make things uncomfortable.

    Unlike with, say, Batman, Superman’s effectiveness is borne out in part because he is a (a) public and legitimate figure that (b) that has cordial relations with the United States government and access to government information (and personnel). This is due in part because he is Superman, but also because he is “one of us.” By declaring that he is no longer one of us – a neutral, international figure – that becomes more complicated. Indeed, whether he is an American citizen or not, if he continues his cordial relations with the government, he would still be considered an agent of it (and not wrongly so).

    I would also be remiss not to point out that in The Authority, Wildstorm (a division of DC) explored the results of what can happen when superheroes don’t view themselves as subjects of the authority and law of a country. It’s the sort of thing that would give any government the heebie-jeebies.

    And all of this is done with the assumption that Iran will understand and respect what he is doing and why and no longer view him as an agent of the American government. It’s an iffy proposition at best.

  8. Props for the geeky reply.

    Really, superheroes would create all kinds of problems for governments.

    Indeed, there is that whole vigilante, taking the law into one’s own hands problem

    Batman, for example, likely creates a host of courtroom problems for the Gotham DA.

  9. Trumwill says:

    Batman, for example, likely creates a host of courtroom problems for the Gotham DA.

    That’s my theory as to why Batman spends most of his time going after the colorful bad guys. They’re the least likely to raise a fuss in court and say “Don’t you understand?! I am the reincarnation of ZEUS!” rather than have their lawyer say “My client chooses to remain silent at this time and we would like to know what the probable cause for that search was…”

    Anyhow, I’m actually pondering a creative project that explores the logistics of superheroism. How those without day jobs support themselves. Insurance ramifications. Legal requirements. Things like that. In short, they would almost have to be given some sort of official status and there would need to be some sort of licensing regime. Alternately, regular law enforcement just buries its head in its hand and cries for lack of any control over anything.

  10. Trumwill,

    There is an entire blog called Law and the Multiverse where two attorneys have been writing about the legal ramifications of superheros for years.

    Also, Ilya Somin wrote vo****@li***.com/msg06713.html" rel="nofollow">a piece at The Volokh Conspiracy about Superman and the law some years back.

    I’m sure there’s more out there.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    As I recall, Superman fought with the U.S. during WWII; helped sell U.S. war bonds, and worked with the feds to capture NAZI saboteurs. A quick google shows he’s worked with President Kennedy and others.

    I always thought the justification for the secret identity was to avoid such legal issues. If you look on page 3 of the Yoo memorandum, he makes a convincing case that a costumed vigilante is not a “person” as that term is defined under U.S. and international law, and thus is only accorded those rights and obligations deemed useful to the U.S. government.

  12. DavidL says:

    Unless Clark Kent got naturalized at some poiint it the last what seventy some odd years, he is still an undocumented illegal alien, having been born on Krypton Lois will be heart broken..

  13. mantis says:

    I demand Kal-El’s long form birth certificate!

  14. Trumwill says:

    Legally speaking, Clark Kent is the child of American parents. Presumably, they even got a birth certificate. The fact that it was predicated on fraud is unlikely to have any legal impact since the fraud was not on the part of Clark himself. There was probably a time, when he was a youngster, when his citizenship would have been revoked. But in all likelihood, they would consider him having been adopted by American parents and therefore a citizen.

    I don’t know where, but I do think that Kal-El was naturalized at some point. There was an Elseworlds where Superman became president. It was probably addressed in that issue. I can’t remember how. Maybe I’ll dig it up.

  15. Southern Hoosier says:

    Jay Tea says: Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 10:18

    Looks like Supes is directly rejecting Obama’s non-intervention policy in Iran.

    So Superman is obviously a racist.

    Can Superman really be racist? He’s not Caucasian. He’s not even a human being.

  16. Trumwill says:

    Technically, I don’t think that Obama is president in the DCU. Any current DC readers can correct me, but my understanding is that they departed from the tradition of using real presidents when Lex Luthor was elected and since then have used fictional presidents.

  17. PD Shaw says:

    Trumwill, when I was googling around the other day on this topic, somebody claimed that JFK made Superman a citizen. While it appears that they had a particularly close relationship (JFK once disguised himself as Clark to help protect his secret identity), I couldn’t find any reference on the intertubes.

  18. It occurs to me, too, that Superman’s citizenship would have to be largely symbolic in any event. I doubt he has, to name a few things: birth certificate, passport or Social Security number. I suspect he doesn’t pay taxes, either.

    Plus, his main residence in is Antarctica.

  19. Superman was born not only in another country, but on another planet. Then he snuck into the country where the Kent’s surreptitiously claimed him as their own child. He is an illegal alien

  20. Jay Tea says:

    Sorry, Doug, but Kal-El arrived in Kansas as a fetus. He was “born” on American soil when his “matrix” — the artificial womb that carried him here — finished his development and released him at the Kents’ touch. And yeah, legally, he’s the son of Jonathan and Martha Kent, two American citizens, so he’s all legal.