Clark Kent has fought for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” for the best part of seventy years of his career as a comic book icon, a career that spans even longer than that. But while there have been times he’s moved away from it momentarily, and its origins worded it a little differently, now, Superman has a new duty.
Announced by DC Comics’ Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee at DC Fandome, Superman will now rally himself under a modified catchphrase: still fighting for truth, still fighting for justice, but now also fighting for “a better tomorrow” instead of simply the ideals of his adoptive home nation.
The move is far from the first time that Clark has attempted to grapple with his position as a symbol of American interests. After all, that’s how the catchphrase first came about: when Superman made the leap to radio in Adventures of Superman, as America joined the second World War, his battle for truth and justice was turned patriotic when the catchphrase we all knew was first uttered in 1942. The radio serial dropped “The American Way” a few years later, only for the 1952 TV show of the same name to pick it back up. While the catchphrase entered the cultural lexicon, over the years in both the comics and myriad adaptations of the Man of Steel, it’s not always been the American Way that made it into mentions of Truth and Justice.
Although Superman has always tackled social justice and politically-charged subjects since his very beginnings, his explicit desire to push back on being seen as a uniquely American figurehead has been relatively recent in the grand scheme of things, even as “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” has ebbed and flowed in usage. Most infamously in 2011, after engaging in a protest in Tehran, Clark renounced his U.S. citizenship — just a year after a storyline where he walked across the American heartland in a quest to better understand the normal people he fought to protect. But DC taking a specific stance to push back against the classic phrasing is a needed reminder to the world that Superman protects it as a whole, even as he’s off-Earth right now leaving duties to his son Jon.