The storyline ends with the reader discovering it's all been a nightmare Superman's been having through a Martian therapeutic device. He recalls the dream with horror: "Luthor took the U.S. to war, despite our protests ... he killed everything we stand for." Superman laments being "paralyzed with indecision ... and the world paid the price." Superman shouldn't be so hard on himself. Being paralyzed by indecision is how the United Nations usually responds.
The Internet message boards sizzled and seethed when the JLA book hit the stores. "Maybe Clark Kent is French after all," joked one. But mostly, comic-book fans prefer traditional fantasy situations, not the action-free, didactic lectures offered by JLA writer Joe Kelly. "Someone needs to remind him that these are superheroes with outrageous powers and shouldn't be bogged down in political situations all the time," said one. In other words, can we do without Superman as Cyrus Vance and Wonder Woman as Madeleine Albright? Can they kick butt instead of lecturing on international law? Do they get to engage evil, or do they have to wait for a subpoena from The Hague?
In an interview, Kelly explained his Superman as Ted Kennedy with muscles: "I believe that he believes in an idealized America. One that operates above boards, truly does embrace diversity, and cares for its downtrodden, but not because he's naive, but because it IS possible." As for the super-villainous president, Kelly opined: "Luthor represents duplicity to Superman, so to keep it personal, it makes the most sense to use him." Why the blatant (or if the word fits, cartoonish) propaganda? Kelly acknowledged his agenda: "I think that comics are a much more powerful medium than people imagine, and in certain circumstances, it's appropriate to use them to discuss political issues."
Sadly, DC is not alone in the liberal-revisionist comic-book world. The other giant, Marvel Comics, has also transformed Captain America, the former Nazi-fighting hero, into a brooding listener to a series of post-Sept. 11 lectures against America's "empire of blood."
But in the real world, it's not all an apocalyptic vision of rogue presidents and policemen bashing peaceniks who alone hunger for the truth. It's not a grim vision of media outlets and citizens reacting like sheep to Pentagon directives, and then, illogically, at the same time, a world rising up in unanimous protest against American military action. In the real world, people want a strong defense by action heroes, not just guilt-ridden lecturers waiting for universal agreement with their pacifist dreams.