MARTHA THOMASES: Superman Red… or Blue?

Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases brought more comics to the attention of more people than anyone else in the industry. Her work promoting The Death of Superman made an entire nation share in the tragedy of one of our most iconic American heroes. As a freelance journalist, she has been published in the Village Voice, High Times, Spy, the National Lampoon, Metropolitan Home, and more. For Marvel comics she created the series Dakota North. Martha worked as a researcher and assistant for the author Norman Mailer on several of his books, including the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Executioner's Song, On Women and Their Elegance, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost.

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17 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    I’m very much a Democrat, but I think Superman’s probably an independent. :) Great article, thanks!

    Oddly enough, the Superman Red/Superman Blue storyline you reference is, I think, exactly the period during which I put an end to a decade or so of avidly collecting DC Comics. :) Started with Byrne’s Superman relaunch in the eighties, continued with few interruptions until that storyline. Not that it was necessarily that storyline specifically that made me quit or anything; I had some pretty major Life Stuff going on. But I admit that that storyline wasn’t very impressive to me personally, and it was probably at least a little bit of a factor in that decision. Took the recent “New 52” relaunch to get me re-immersed in the DC Universe. But yeah, thanks for the insight into the creative dynamics behind that particular storyline! Very interesting. :)

    • Sean D. Martin says:

      Oddly enough, the Superman Red/Superman Blue storyline you reference …

      Heh. I was thinking of a completely different Superman Red/Blue story. I guess I’m showing my age again. (And wonder if these young wippersnappers even know what I’m talking about.)

  2. Todd Maxwell says:

    This might be simplistic but my definition of politicians is that a Republican is fiercly loyal to those s/he knows. A democrat cares about the people s/he doesn’t know just as much. Therefore I agree that Superman, like most comic book heroes, is a democrat.

    • Sean D. Martin says:

      I’ve heard it as a conservative gets offended for themselves while a Democrat gets offended on behalf of someone else.

    • Mindy Newell says:

      I’ve heard it said that “you’re a Democrat if you have no brain” and “you’re a Republican if you have no heart.” At least, I think that’s how it goes.


  3. allen says:

    tricky… i think Superman the “archetype” might be a Libertarian. but each writer writes him as they see their own ideal soo… i just can’t stand it when they try to heavy-hand it like with hawkman and green arrow :)

  4. George Haberberger says:

    FWIW, I think Superman is an independent also, not allying himself with a political party but with issues.

    Interestingly, the Superman / Red Superman Blue story that Matt believes Martha was referencing, (1998), but probably meant the one the Sean remembers, (1963), inspired me to write an humorous(?) essay about the original.

    In 1998, I couldn’t believe that DC was attempting to reference that story from the Weisinger days, so I wrote about my feelings about it, and a few years later, ComicBase, (for whom I was reviewing comics at the time), put it on their website. More than a screed against that story, it is an indictment against the entire Weisinger editorial output, for which, some of my friends think I am a traitor to my generation.

    If you want to read it, it is still here:

    • Sean D. Martin says:

      George –

      Read that, and can’t really disagree with the overall view. OTOH, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old when I first read the story and the childish quality of it didn’t bother me at all.

      (What did bother me was the Anti-Evil Ray. The Supermen demonstrated it worked by using it on a couple of insects, natural predator and prey, and showing that the one stopped attacking the other. Even at 9 I knew if that were the case then blanketing the earth with Anti-Evil Rays would be a terrible idea.)

    • Matt says:

      Thanks for cluing me in about the orginal Red/Blue storyline. I had a vague idea that it existed, but didn’t really know anything about it. I had the impression that Martha was referencing the one I remembered because of her comments about Simonson/Bogdanove and Jurgens, who were the Superman creative teams during the era that I remember. But the timeframe she references with respect to those folks doesn’t quite match up with the 1998 timeframe of the Red/Blue storyline I remember, either. So maybe I misconstrued what she was saying. :) Thanks!

  5. John Ostrander says:

    One thing that’s politically interesting to me about superheroes is that they all work outside the system — they’re all vigilantes, at the very least. Inherent in that is the concept that, for justice to be obtained, they HAVE to step outside the system. It says that the system doesn’t work. That’s a powerful statement, I think.

    • Clammy says:

      Finally, someone said it… They are not all vigilantes, but they pretty much all individualists. They will work with the system in limited ways, but primarily outside and by themselves or in small groups. The approach where the system takes over more and more aspects of people’s lives, locking them into a state controlled pigeonholes is an anathema to most superhero modes of operations.

      It is left as exercise to the reader to determine which party today is advocating increased role of the omnipresent state and significantly lessened individualism, and which one is advocating limited role and limited powers to be given to the state and greater control to be concentrated in individual and small groups.

      • Sean D. Martin says:

        And as the reader works thru that exercise, they would be wise to recognize that what a party is advocating doesn’t have to line up with what they actually do…

  6. Shane Kelly says:

    John, you totally nailed it!

  7. Mindy Newell says:

    The arts (all arts, all media) have always been political. Which is why the Soviet Union, China, and other totalitarian governments throw the artists (all arts, all media) into prison.

    Another great column, Martha!

    And DUNE is a VERY political book, as well as a treatise on religion, drugs, and power. (Like you, not much into the sequels.)

    Bought HUNGER GAMES last week. As soon as I finish KATHERINE OF ARAGON, I’m starting it.


  8. johnnieb says:

    Superman is an independent, because his loyalty would be to the “American Way” not special interests that both Dems and Repubs play to. But he’s far more Republican than Democrat. If you look at the history of both parties you’ll see why.

    • Ian says:

      Neither, really. He would probably see himself as outside the political system. Nevertheless, his primary value is protecting the weak and downtrodden from the whims and excesses of the powerful. His archenemy is a corporate overlord. These point to him being more sympathetic to the words, if not the deeds, of the Dems.

  9. Jim "Spooon" Henry says:

    First, I had a horible flash back to that awful post-rise-of-the-Supermen arc which split Clark, (amazingly enough without the aid of Kryptonite), into Superman Red and Superman Blue — so, y’know, thanks for that.


    Next, I thought about the actual question — is Clark a Republican or Democrat. (I think the question should be “Is Clark ..” After all, “Superman” gave up his citizenship, last I remember. I honestly tend to think that Clark would be more Republican — though a very moderate one. The (adopted) son of a Kansas farmer in the Bible belt would certainly give him that sort of leaning. But, he’d be a very intelligent one (No, that’s not a dig on republicans in general). I think he’d be against big government. From a town where everone works to earn their keep, he’d wouldn’t be enthusiastic about certain government handouts and programs. He doesn’t like war, but knows how valuable a strong military is.