Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Action Comics #900: Truth, Justice and the American Way?

I've heard a tiny bit of buzz in the mainstream media about Superman's decision in Action Comics #900 to renounce his American citizenship. (I can't help but notice that there was no discussion in the actual book as to whether or not he would be giving up Clark Kent's citizenship, which may end up being important as Clark Kent has a birth certificate, a Social Security number, holds a job, pays taxes, has a wife, can vote, serve in the military and given his relationship to Ma and Pa Kent, I can't help but feel that the modern interpretation of Superman thinks of himself first and foremost as Clark Kent.Although I must confess that lately I've seen a lot more of Superman than Clark Kent.) I did hear at least one report that suggested that a new Superman movie may be postponed by the studio to avoid controversy, although really, I haven't heard a lot of outcry.

I think it's only fair to point out that this move has really been a long time coming and has perhaps been Superman's unofficial position for quite some time. I remember an Issue of the Justice League of America Back in the 70's in which it is proclaimed that he fights for "Truth, Justice and the Terran Way." which suggests that as far back as forty years ago he was already thinking of himself as a "citizen of the world" rather than as merely a citizen of one particular country. This has been a trend at DC in particular and to an extent in comics in general for quite some time. Once upon a time the JLA quit referring to themselves as "of America" and became Justice League International, operating under the aegis of the United Nations. The Idea being that DC's superheros were more interested in protecting the entire world rather than expressing one nation's ideology. Of course eventually they became the JLA again but I don't think that this is backsliding. They have maintained a cast that includes aliens, angles and citizens of Paradise Island for quite some time.

Even Marvel got into the act for awhile with the Avengers operating with a United Nations charter after Agent Gyrich became a pain in the you know what, and for many years S.H.I.E.L.D. was identified as a UN group rather than a U.S. group. Although, since the apparently 9/11 inspired Civil War it looks as though the resources of both groups are now property of the USA.

I think much of this goes back to the Nixon Administration's Watergate scandal. I strongly remember an issue of Captain America in which, after a long story arch in which he was fighting The Secret Empire, a hidden criminal conspiracy, Cap finally confronted the mysterious leader of the cabal in, of all places, the Oval Office of the White House. We never saw this guy's face but Cap was shocked enough to suggest to us, the readers, that it was President Nixon himself, who then proceeded to blow off his own head on the White House lawn.

After a series of issues in which Steve Rogers resigned as Captain America and became "Nomad, the man without a country", he eventually returned to being Captain America (the way he will in current comics sometime before July when his movie is released I'll wager.) with the new understanding that representing American ideals is not the same thing as representing the United States government.

Given how divided the population of the United States has been about whoever happens to be running the country over the last decade and a half, I can't help but think that representing the government would only be a good thing with about half the country at any given time, but the ideals of the founding father's and founding documents of the U.S. still seems to fill we Americans with awe and devotion.

Superman's decision and the trend of the JLA goes a step further than this. It eliminates nationalism from the ideal of heroism. In many ways it reflects the ideals of Christianity and Buddhism. Do good and show compassion to others, whether or not they are of your family, creed, nation, tribe or what have you. I think in a world where history has show that nations and whole civilizations are mortal, it is a good thing if the ideal of heroism embraces the whole human race. Though, I think that ideal must also embrace much of the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Brown Tarantula: Part 2

The Brown Tarantula
Copyright Robert F. Sacco

Part 2: The Players
At seven A.M., Charon, boss of bosses, self proclaimed king of the city stood in his luxurious twenty third floor office looking out at what should have been Grand Park, but, was instead a sheet of water pouring from the sky. He was an early riser but he was annoyed to be in the office at this hour. Behind him, his chief goons, Manny and Bill stood quietly, not yet fully awake, on either side of Tusk, the chieftain of The Vampire Bats who was still strung out and very nervous. Charon was nearly shaking in rage but his self control was such that this remained invisible. Tusk had been sputtering for almost fifteen minutes about the events of the previous night. Charon interrupted “So… you’re telling me that two thirds of your soldiers are dead or incapacitated?” “Y Yes sir” Tusk stuttered. “B B But it’s not m my fault. I I told ya… the guy with…” “Six arms, yeah, I heard you, the guy who says I don’t control the streets anymore. He sort of made you useless to me didn’t he?” No longer able to contain his rage he pulled a nickel plated revolver from underneath his hand made suit coat, turned, and shot Tusk once through the face. “Manny, get the cleanup crew in here. Bill, hit the streets, confirm Tusk’s story or find out what really happened.” As the two pinstripe suited thugs opened the door to leave another thought hit Charon. “Have Harvey go up town and talk to some of the old Mafioso types about six arms. I have a hunch this isn’t new. Tell him to be… casual.” “Okay boss.” Bill replied for the both of them.

By late afternoon Charon would know what Detective Tom Slovino had learned reading a file that had been dropped on his desk at noon. Reading the file while eating his lunch had left him with a stomach full of acid and a headache that was the central focus of his world. He stood talking to the sixty five year old file archivist who would be retiring at the end of the week. “You mean to tell me, that seventy years ago, a guy dressed as a tarantula with six, functional, mechanical arms, was wandering the streets murdering gangsters and the cops at the time not only didn’t ever get any real information on him, but, didn’t even put a whole lot of effort into the investigation?” “Gosh Tom, I think it was four mechanical arms, two of um were probably his real arms, ya know? But, yeah… half them guys was on the take back then. The mob probably wanted to sort the guy out themselves, make an example of him. The other half thought, hey, he’s only killing bad guys, he’s doin’ our job for us… ya know? He took down the entire Marino mob for Chrissake! Organized crime didn’t get back on its feet till the late fifties.” Tom wandered back up to his desk muttering to himself. “Doing our job for us!? So they let a mass murderer roam free! Jesus Christ!” He dropped into the swivel chair in his cubical and tried to think past the head and stomach aches. “This guy can’t be nearly a hundred years old. Might be the same suit though, or a copy cat. Time to think about that later. The real question is, what is Charon going to do tonight… and what is The Tarantula going to do about it?”

At four thirty that afternoon Delia Clarette burst through the door of the Brownstown that her family had owned for four generations. It had been lonely here since her mom had passed, but it was spacious and beautiful and she loved it more than any other current aspect of her life. She was very responsible for twenty three years old. She didn’t devote herself to frivolity. She worked hard and studied hard, but she was adrift. She had never known what she wanted out of life. She only ever did what she was supposed to do. Even now with no one looking over her shoulder. She felt the weight of a long family history of prim and proper behavior. Not really being interested in anything that she was doing at school or work, she had considered that it might be time to start looking for Mr. Right, and settling down, getting married, raising a new generation. The idea didn’t particularly appeal to her, but she wasn’t sure what else to do. Luckily prim and proper now included career as an option but she didn’t like that idea either. However, none of that mattered any more. When she had picked up the morning paper she was filled with excitement for the first time in a long time. The front page had screamed the news of the death of almost twenty members of The Vampire Bat Gang. All had spikes thrust through brains or hearts or guts. The paper hadn’t noticed but the MO was the same as a figure that played prominently in her family’s secret. Maybe this was what she’d been waiting for. Maybe this was her destiny. She had been good, gotten through the morning shift at work and afternoon classes, but now she couldn’t contain herself as she vaulted up the stairs to the master bedroom. The bedroom that should now be hers but that she hadn’t had the heart to move into after her mother died. She opened the secret sliding door to the hidden closet wherein the family legend was stored. And, hanging there, as they had been since long before she was born, were the heirlooms of her great grandfather who had been a cabby, a long trench coat for a big man, a weather beaten fedora, a revolver that she knew little about, a billy club, a domino mask and behind glass, a framed newspaper page, whose headline asked “Who is the Tarantula?”

This Story Has 15 Parts. Links Will Appear Here As They Are Published. 
The Brown Tarantula Parts 3 & 6