The Politics of Superheroes
In the early days of comic book superheroes, politics were very rarely, if ever, taken into account when plotting out what was that, at the time, to be childrens’ stories. In the late 1960’s, around 1968 to be exact, this started to change. The kids who had been reading the comic books were now college students or older, and were still reading them. The comic book companies were beginning to see their audience had matured and, in response, had started to allow their stories to mature as well. This paved the way for the characters in comic books to begin having political leanings, and it allowed for them to have broader personalities as well. Some times a particular writer’s own agenda would overwrite a particular character’s personality, and in those instances it doesn't fit. Superheroes have grown into their own people, having taken on life all their own, if you will, and it shows. This essay is an attempt to examine the political leanings of some of the more popular comic book superheroes in a non-partisan, completely apolitical way.
One of the most popular and influential comic book superheroes, Superman is often credited as pop culture’s first superhero. He was the first superhero in comics, but he is pre-dated by many pulp fiction superheroes, such as The Phantom, who had the masks, powers and tights long before there ever was a Superman. Still, Superman is considered by many to be the quintessential superhero. Superman is really Clark Kent, adopted as an infant by Jonathan and Martha Kent when his space ship landed in a field close to their farm in Kansas. Despite some depictions, Superman works best when he is, at his core, that young farmboy from Kansas. Dean Cain said it best in an episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman when he told Lois Lane, “Superman is what I can do. Clark is who I am.” If we take this into account, along with Superman’s reputation as a big blue boy scout, we must conclude that Superman is a conservative Republican. Superman is one of the few characters that has survived today without having his political and religious leanings identified, and I think a big reason for that is because the liberals who run the comic book industry today would rather ignore the fact that all the evidence points to Superman being a conservative Christian, probably a Baptist or a Methodist. This is evident from Superman’s upbringing in Smallville, not to mention the fact that he represents “truth, justice and the American way.” Final analysis: Superman is a Republican.
Batman is not nearly as clean cut or simplified a character as Superman, and as such, his political leanings are a bit more difficult to identify. Batman actually shares views closely connected to both parties. He is against killing the bad guys. Now, it has never been identified if he is actually anti death penalty or not, but he certainly doesn’t feel it is his place to kill the bad guys. Now, if Gotham City were to sentence the Joker to death, I can’t say if he would agree or disagree with that. But the fact that he won’t kill himself, and that he has an aversion to guns (the weapon that killed his parents when he was 8 years old), are liberal traits. However, Bruce Wayne is a philanthropic billionaire, the head of a multi-national corporation, and that would lead one to think he is a bit more of a Republican. In all honesty, I don’t think Batman votes. I think when Lex Luthor was running for President last year, he made it a point to vote, but normally he is too all-consumed with his war on crime to do his civic duty. I really don’t think Batman cares too much for politics, I know he doesn’t care too much for politicians, but if I had to choose, I would say Batman is a center of the road type of individual. Final analysis: Batman is a Libertarian.
Wonder Woman comes from the mythological island of the Amazons, in the comics called Themyscira or Paradise Island. She was raised in a culture where there were no men and the women were bred to be warriors. She is a strong feminist character, and Dennis O’Neill even screwed the character up by trying to make her more of a feminist than she already is by nature. I say he screwed it up because the feminist movement at the time saw what he did as an attempt to take away her status as a feminist warrior, and he admits they were right. This is a perfect example of the writer’s own agenda not being compatible with the character. However, Wonder Woman is by nature a feminist icon, and has shown many liberal traits throughout the years. Final analysis: Wonder Woman is a Democrat.
No dissertation on superhero politics can be complete without mentioning Green Arrow. Like Wonder Woman, Green Arrow was revamped in the 60’s by Dennis O’Neill, but what didn’t work with Diana Prince worked just magnificently with Oliver Queen, probably because Ollie was such a two-dimensional character for his entire publication history that the injection of any personality at all was beneficial. And, Oliver became the voice of the left in the Justice League. Green Arrow is a self-proclaimed leftist. He stays close to the streets, he fights for the little guy, he rallies against the corruption in the government. Oliver Queen sees it as his duty to protect the poor and the minorities of Earth, because the JLA isn’t going to. Superman and Batman and Green Lantern are too busy fighting the likes of Darkseid to take notice of the real problems of real people. Oliver reeks with Social Justice, and he loves every minute of it. As with Wonder Woman and Denny O’Neill, a writer took over Green Arrow in the 80’s and tried to make him a little more conservative and this didn’t work at all. The closest he could get to conservatism was to become somewhat libertarian under Mike Grell. Oliver is a liberal and that is all he will ever be. Final analysis: Green Arrow is a Democrat.
Tony Stark started out as a huge conservative. He was an engineer, in the vein of Howard Hughes, who built an entire corporation out of designing and building weapons for the military. He was the poster boy for the military machine. Then he got trapped in Vietnam and blown up by one of his own weapons. He invented the Iron Man armor to escape from Viet-Cong imprisonment and when he came home, he wasn’t so hip on making weapons anymore. I wouldn’t say he turned completely liberal, but in that area he definitely got a bit more liberal than he ever had been. I think Iron Man still holds pretty true to most of his conservative leanings, but he’s abandoned a lot of them as well. Final analysis: Iron Man is a Libertarian.
Spider-Man has spent nearly his entire publication history in the education system. He began as a high school student, quickly graduated and went off to college, and eventually became a teacher. Also, Spider-Man is a scientist. Spider-Man is the epitome of the liberal intellectuals in the education system. He’s never been described as an Atheist, but I see him being such. Final analysis: Spider-Man is a Democrat.
There have been three characters in comic books to go by this name. Here, we are going to talk about the character of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. Barry, much like Superman, is a big boy scout. He is a policeman (a forensic scientist to be exact) and he is a good soldier. He follows orders, he doesn’t question authority, he drinks milk, he is a conservative through and through. And he has on many occasions butted heads with Green Arrow politically, and has even called Green Arrow a communist, to which Green Arrow usually responds by calling Barry a fascist. Like Superman, there can be no doubt which side of the political spectrum Barry sides with. Final summation: The Flash (Barry Allen) is a Republican.
I hope I have adequately shown that superheroes are a diverse lot. They have many different political leanings and opinions, and truly have evolved into having lives of their own, outside of the personalities bestowed upon them by their creators. As a conservative myself, I like the diversity in comics. I like that the characters aren’t all being used to ram liberal propaganda down our throats, but I also enjoy that there are differing points of view that allow for subjects and opinions to be debated and not just told one-sidedly. The politics of superheroes, like the politics of men, is varying from hero to hero, from person to person, and for me that brings them just a bit closer to humanity.