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‘If you want Superman without the immigrant aspect you want Captain America’: Criticism of DC’s iconic alien misses the point entirely

He's literally an illegal alien, and the best Superman stories seize on that.

One of the core aspects of Superman‘s character is that he’s literally an illegal alien. Despite famously standing for “truth, justice and the American way”, he wasn’t born in the United States, and the Nationality Act of 1940 prevents a child from being given automatic US citizenry if they can be proven to have been born in another country (or planet in his case). This means he’ll forever be an outsider looking in, something multiple writers have seized on across almost a century of stories.

Superman creators Joe Siegel and Joe Shuster were both second-generation immigrants, and it’s commonly believed that this informed the character’s origin story. But one pretty awful take is asking fans to ignore all that, arguing that he’d be a beacon of morality and heroism “regardless of his origins”.

As a reply rightly points out, his origins are what informs his character:

Superman post
Image via X (formerly Twitter)

We can only agree, and we love the thematic resonance of Kryptonite, the one thing that can truly harm him, being the broken fragments of his dead home world.

Beyond that, Superman is commonly used as an example of an immigrant success story and a bulwark against xenophobia. Exploring the tensions between the weight of expectations as “the last son of Krypton” against his emotional links to his human friends and family powers some of the finest Superman stories ever written, and ditching all that in an effort to ignore his origins completely misses the point.

We’re eager to see how James Gunn approaches the character in Superman: Legacy. He’s already confirmed that it won’t be an origin story, though his Kryptonian heritage should play a major role in the story.

David James
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David James

London-based writer about everything and anything. Willing to crawl over rusty nails to write about Metal Gear Solid or Resident Evil.