Or The Curious Case Of Time Traveling SJWs
“Keep politics out of comics!” How many times have you seen this slogan repeated by a certain segment of the comics community on Twitter, Youtube, and sites that don’t deserve a mention? It’s become a rallying cry to monetize bigotry based on the erroneous assumption that SJWs are pushing a political agenda that simultaneously threatens to overtake comics and destroy the medium and unsurprisingly only they can save the industry! The irony is obvious when you examine their words and actions.
Numerous examples of comics mixing with politics over the decades can be pointed out. Notably, Simon and Kirby’s Captain America fighting Nazis, William Moulton Marston’s feminism in Wonder Woman, and the social justice aspects of Siegel and Shuster’s early Superman. The abundance of monsters in comics serve as metaphor for the American mindset of the Cold War/ Nuclear Era during the 1950s. This is just one more reminder for you that comics and politics can go together because they’ve done so time and again.
Recently I came across a Superman story from issue #355 from1981. Cary Bates and Curt Swan created a backup feature titled Superman 2020 that debuted in the previous issue. Here, Superman has married an unnamed woman and their son grows up to assume the mantle as Superman II. In turn he marries and they have a boy, Kalel Kent, who is about to assume publicly the mantle of Superman III as the first chapter starts.
In 2020 people travel in flying cars accessed with their distinct bio rhythms. Major cities from Boston to Baltimore have merged into one, foreshadowing the Metropolis of the Legion of Super Heroes in the 30th century. The Midwest of the United States is now a polluted wasteland as world wide over population makes matters ever more critical. These circumstances have spurred scientists to use and create advances in technology that leads to construct the first orbital domed city, New Metropolis.
The situation is dire yet hopeful except to the people comprising a terrorist organization calling itself the Purists whose ideology is to preserve the genetic purity of “Earthkind”. They view New Metropolis as a direct threat to their beliefs as they think its success will lead to more floating cities which they think in turn will encourage space exploration and thus the “danger of race mingling”. No surprise there since the group considers the marriage of Superman to a human woman and his son and grand son as nothing less than abominations. Words like spawned, being, unnaturalness, travesty, pure-blood, half-breed, and quarter-breed drive home the point. In case any readers at the time wouldn’t catch the implications of the language, a symbol resembling the Nazi swastika appears is a visual element in several panels and Curt Swan gives us a panel of Purists saluting the symbol. Now look again at the salute. Does it remind you of the white power salute? It does to me but of course any resemblance is completely accidental since the 4Chan campaign started that allegedly started it began in 2017. Just as real Nazis committed violent and terroristic acts, the Purists are committed to do the same and they’ve devised a plan to blow up New Metropolis in order to save the human race from any more alien contact that they believe will happen resulting from New Metropolis’ successful launch spurring space exploration.
Being the youngest and least experienced of the three Supermen makes Kalel the prime target for the Purists to trap and contain while bombs are detonated throughout the floating city. In the hope of maligning the heroes in the public’s minds, the Purists have placed a bomb directly under the podium from which the Supermen will dedicate the city. Alas, their plans go awry. Kalel proves his worthiness by punching through his containment cell’s power dampening walls and summons his father and grandfather with a sonic whistle. While the heroes throw no punches, the original Superman and grandson Kalel use their super breath to round up the Purists before they presumably stand trial and are imprisoned.
While the plot could have been tighter this two parter still packs a lot into its page count! Climate change! Over population! Xenophobia! Nazis! Militaristic uniforms! A willingness to commit terrorism! A radicalized ideology of ethnic superiority! A belief in the inherent equality and dignity of all people! Good overcomes evil! All that’s missing from sending certain people into a Youtube livestream screed is a queer, poly Kalel and some people of color!
Bob Rozakis and Alex Saviuk took over for the remaining Superman 2020 stories. The next several installments focused on Kalel’s life and were forgettably charming while the final one featured the return of the Purists. It unnamed leader had concocted a scheme to create and unleash a new disease on the citizens of New Metropolis and shape the reaction to blame the deaths on the Supermen. Page count limitations hampered Rozakis’ script from being as clever as it could have been. A last panel blurb teased another story that never materialized.
Out of curiosity I wondered what reader reaction to the story in #354 was like. Of the three letters printed in issue #359’s letter column, one reader disliked the general premise of Superman III because he felt it unnecessarily locked in character storylines. Imagine what he may have thought about comics after 1981! The other letter writer liked the general idea but objected to the original Superman having such a wrinkled face. One letter of three in the following issue’s column also objected to how old Superman was drawn to look. They were certainly unbothered by the political elements though the thoughts of readers at large remains unknown.
Superman 2020 was one of several rotating backup features in the Superman title during this time. Another told stories focused on Krypton while a third one told imaginary stories and a fourth one was titled Superman: The In Between Years. Superman 2020 had six installments in total.
According to GCD, Superman #355 was reprinted twice in comics for German and French markets so the other chapters likely never reprinted in a widely available way. You’ll want to check for second hand copies through comic shops or Ebay. My hoarding tendency paid off since the copies I read back in 1981 are in my collection still. Other issues are #354, #357, #361, #364, and #368.