What’s so funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?

Hey everyone! So DC recently posted a quote from Action Comics #775, and I thought it was worth us taking a moment to see what this comic is all about, in the hopes we can all take a moment to reflect on what it is wants to say.

Superman gets a call about a genetically enhanced gorilla attacking Triopoli. It takes him four minutes to arrive, by which time a new group of heroes called the Elite have already stopped the attack, although they used a level of violence that leaves the Man of Steel reeling. As Clark Kent later writes a report of this, he alarmed to see a rival reporter at another paper, Jack Ryder, making the Elite seem like heroes. Jack defends this when they run into each other, saying that the Elite are putting down criminals for good with their violent methods. Those responsible would have been allowed to continue on if the Elite hadn’t killed them, and would create another monster again. He claims the age of Superman sparing villains is over and outdated. The rest of the world is similarly divided over this issue, with even president Lex Luthor taking interest.

Things come to a head when Superman goes to battle a group of villains in Japan. He is suddenly paralyzed and forced to watch as a group of villains are violently killed by the Elite. Their leader, Manchester Black, introduces himself, saying they are all big fans of the Man of Steel. Black takes him to the Elite’s headquarters, a fortress they stole from another universe, but Superman is furious at their murderous ways. Black brushes this anger off, insisting they are simply being more pragmatic and realistic than Kal-El. When Superman demands they stop, they just teleport him away.

Clark goes to the Kent farm to talk to his father about this. Pa Kent understands why people, even here in Smallville, support the Elite. When faced with the problems of the world, many seem to find truth, justice, and the American way is not the quick and easy solution they want it to be. The elder Kent reminds his son that they need to be taught, led by example, and shown a better way.

Later, Superman stops some aliens, only for the Elite to show up again. They claim the aliens capture refugees and turn them into living weapons, and then sell them on a black market. Manchester warns that if the aliens are captured, they will end up in a prison just teaching others how to do the same sort of trafficking. Superman affirms he’ll stop them, every time, so Black orders the Elite named Hat to kill the aliens, prompting Superman to retaliate with a single blow. <SFX> Manchester only promises to settle this dispute once and for all at dawn tomorrow.

That night, Lois asks why Superman insists on handling this group alone, worried that these new metahumans have proven to be profoundly strong. Lois isn’t convinced Superman is strong enough to handle this, but Clark feels he must make this stand on his own. He was the first superhero to emerge – he defined the idea of it. And now that idea has been twisted into something dark with no respect for human rights. Clark is particularly haunted by the number of children he has overheard looking up to the Elite in recent days.

The next morning, the Elite meet with Superman on one of Jupiter’s moons, protecting Earth, while a number of camera drones to broadcast the entire event to the world. Superman tries to reason with them again, only for the Man of Steel to be sent flying. Manchester Black is then able to inflict tremendous brain damage on Superman with his powerful telekinesis, before they try to finish him off with a massive explosion.

The Elite find only his cape remaining, but a voice speaks out to them, claiming to understand now, and says the Elite were right all along. One by one the rest of the Elite are violently killed in front of Manchester Black. An injured and terrifying Superman appears before Manchester Black, smiles, and knocks a baffled Black down, explaining that he just combined his x-ray vision and heat vision to give Black a small lobotomy, effectively removing the part of his brain that gave him powers.

A stunned and now powerless Black is reduced to tears, pointing out everyone just watched him become a murderer. Superman says the world must be terrified right now. He was too, crossing that line. But it wasn’t hard. It was easy, pathetically so. Lucky for all of them, Superman doesn’t believe in any of that. The Elite are fine, as it was all a trick. Even Black wasn’t really lobotomized, just given a mild concussion, though they are all definitely going to jail. Manchester Black swears revenge, and claims that if Superman thinks this is over, he is living in a dream world.

Superman replies, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And, on my soul, I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honour, and justice becomes the reality we all share – I’ll never stop fighting. Ever.”

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