Truth, justice and the American way is the legendary mantra of the Man of Steel. In April, DC Comics published Action Comics #900 which features Superman renouncing his American citizenship because he views himself as a citizen of not just one nation, but of the entire universe. “Truth, justice and the way of all men” was the motto announced by Superman in inaugural episode of 2001’s Justice League animated series. Though Superman’s intentions with renouncing his status as an American were noble, it was a move met with much controversy. An American institution like Superman no longer American? The idea is frightening. But no matter what identity Superman decides to subscribe to, he will always be the example of what the American way and the American dream stands for.
Superman is the ultimate idea of the American. An immigrant. We all know the story. Rocketed from a dying planet, Jonathan and Martha Kent found an infant child in a crashed ship and raised him as their own on their Kansas farm. Though the story of America’s foundation doesn’t play out as fantastical as the origin of Superman, the idea is the same. Kal-El was sent to a new world with hopes of an opportunity to thrive and succeed.
I think the stereotypical idea of the American dream usually involves owning a home and a car, having a wife and raising X number of children, bottom lined with simply being happy. But for young Clark Kent, it was about finding purpose. Clark migrated once again from rural Smallville, Kansas to the city of Metropolis with big dreams, but was faced by the same challenges of all the aspiring citizens from the old country. Poverty and corruption were not just themes of cartoons and comic books, but of real American life in Superman’s original publication era in the 1930s. Clark Kent’s purpose was discovered in using his talents to fight moral injustice as a social crusader, and found his unique way to contribute to American society.
Clark Kent has found purpose as Superman, but where does that leave happiness or success? Superman saw happiness when he married Lois Lane after a nearly 60 year courtship, and success as a star reporter for the Daily Planet, but the real happiness is that which he brought to all his fans throughout the decades, and the success in the billions of dollars the property has made since his creation. Superman not only defines a true American, he shows us the American dream is not limited to one idea. It’s about dscovering your own passion in life, and going after it. That’s the American dream.