Why Superman? Civil Rights…?
Superman’s politics have always been a frequent topic of discussion by academics, fans, and pundits. Civil rights are dicier, even from the alien from another world. Superman #239 from 1971 with its infamous map of Krypton (that I have on my wall >cough<>nerd<) shows “Vathlo,” description included (see below) that pretty much sums it up.
You can argue both sides of the treatment of race in Superman comics. Jerry Siegel’s attitude towards civil rights in particular should be interesting because he was writing during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time.
The radio show dealt with the Klan, but the Superman stories of the time don’t do too much worth noticing. There is a silence there.
In the book, I’m going to reveal a very gutsy story by Jerry about civil rights that was, literally, dangerous for him to write. This is not the scared, nerdy version of the writer.
I also have a really cool footnote about MLK and Glenville High School in Cleveland, where Jerry and Joe went to school, that is about NEVER THROWING ANYTHING AWAY EVER. In the meantime, Superman has evolved with humanity, I guess, even as our own political/cultural figures tend towards broad, softly-lit corners. Superman isn’t real, and often bombs when trying to tackle so-called real life issues. In fact, any comparison of him with King fails miserably: one was real; one is not.
The last word on Vathlo is from the great Final Crisis by Grant Morrison. Here is a look at a parallel Earth’s American President, on this, Inauguration Day: