Tagged: Jimmy Olsen

THE LAW IS A ASS Installment # 440: DID SUPERMAN BOUNCE A CHECK

…And then he ducks the guns.

Last column we discussed what happens to those criminals on Adventures of Superman who shoot at Superman only to have their bullets bounce off him. Bottom line, they get charged with some crimes. But that’s just for shooting at Superman. There are still two very important questions that remain unanswered.

First, why did the invulnerable Superman, who already had bullets bounce off of him, duck when the bad guys threw their guns at him? Actually, we need to answer a question before that one – hey, if airplanes can pre-board, I can pre-first – namely did Superman actually duck a thrown gun?

From my research, inextensive though it was, I can say it definitely did happen. Once. In the first season episode “The Mind Machine.”

Theories abound, as to why Superman ducked but the one I think the best is that in parts of said scene, Superman wasn’t being played by George Reeves but by a stunt double named Dale Van Sickle. Van Sickle bore a slight resemblance to Reeves, but it wasn’t enough to survive close scrutiny. Or even the level of scrutiny you could get on those small, grainy, not-hi def, cathode-ray TVs of the 50s. If you study the scene, you’ll note that after the gunshots, Superman is standing erect and smoke obscures his face. That’s because it was the stunt double who nobody wanted you to see very well. Then, when the bad guy winds up to throw his gun at Superman, the Man of Steel avoidance ducked, again hiding his face. I think Superman ducked so that no one would notice the stunt double or that “Superman” wasn’t Superman.

The more-important question is this: if one of those bullets ricocheted off Superman and rabbitted into an innocent bystander could the criminals be brought up on charges for that injury? For once I have an easy answer for you. Yes.

With what crime could the criminals be charged? Okay, now we’re back to our usual complicated answers.

Before we can answer that question, we must answer another question or three. Such as, did the poor bystander die, or only get injured? Meaning is it homicide or assault? Then there’s, did the criminals know the bullets would bounce off of Superman? (Yes that again.) And finally, what were the criminals doing before Superman confronted them?

Let’s take the easy question first. If the bystander is only injured, then, irrespective of whether the criminals knew the bullets would bounce, the crime is going to be what the Model Penal Code calls aggravated assault.

Aggravated assault is knowingly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon. A quick show of hands, how many of you think a gun is a deadly weapon? (Come on, it’s not a trick question, even Wayne LaPierre cops to that one.) But there’s a second prong to the definition, aggravated assault can also be recklessly causing serious bodily injury while showing indifference to others.

If the criminals knew the bullets would bounce off Superman, they knew a rebounding injury was as likely here as in a Basketball game. The law dictates that people intend the reasonably foreseeable consequence of their acts. So if the criminals knew the bullets would bounce like an inflated Bumble, they knowingly caused the reasonably foreseeable physical harm resulting from a bouncing bullet.

Even if the criminals didn’t foresee the bouncing bullets might hit another person, firing at something, or someone, that is going to make the bullets bounce when other people were around would be a reckless act showing indifference to others. Which constitutes an aggravated assault under the second definition.

If the criminals didn’t know the bullets would bounce then they thought they’d injure Superman and shooting at Superman would be aggravated assault. But, the bullets didn’t hurt Superman, they hurt a bystander. Ha! The law covers that possibility. The law may be an ass, but sometimes it’s smart enough to anticipate things.

The law anticipated this possibility with the transferred intent doctrine. If criminals intend to cause harm to person A but end up harming person B instead, the criminals’ intent to hurt A is transferred to the injury to B and the criminals are guilty of assaulting B. Because our criminals knowingly tried to injure Superman their criminal intent transfers to harming the bystander and they’re guilty of aggravated assault of the bystander.

What if the bystander dies? Obviously, we’re talking a homicide, but which homicide?

If the criminals didn’t know the bullets would bounce off Superman and thought they would kill him, then the criminals are guilty of aggravated murder or murder in the first degree; whatever that crime is called in Metropolis, other than antisocial. That’s because the criminals tried to kill Superman but ended up killing another person. Once again the transferred intend doctrine transfers the intent to kill Superman onto the unintended killing of the bystander.

If the criminals did know the bullets would bounce, then we have to know what the criminals were doing that attracted Superman’s attention. It’s not like Superman was flying around until he got bored then decided to go hassle some guys to see whether they’d shoot at him. No, true to their names, the bad guys were doing something bad and Superman was trying to stop them.

If the criminal were committing a major felony when Superman intervened, then the felony murder rule comes into play. Criminals who cause a death while committing a major felony like armed robbery or kidnapping – and most of the crimes in Adventures of Superman involved one or both of those; especially kidnapping Lois Lane (Adventures_of_Superman) or Jimmy Olsen (Adventures_of_Superman) – commit first degree murder under the felony murder rule. This is true whether the deceased is the original victim or a bystander.

If the underlying crime was a lesser crime that wouldn’t trigger the felony murder rule, we’re in the realm of manslaughter. In some states, like Ohio, causing a death while committing a felony or misdemeanor that didn’t trigger the felony murder rule is an involuntary manslaughter. So if the criminals were committing a minor crime and killed someone by shooting at Superman, the criminals would be guilty of an involuntary manslaughter.

But what about Superman? Can he be brought up on charges for allowing bullets to bounce off of him and strike a bystander? A criminal charge of negligent homicide could apply to a person who allows another person to die through negligence. Superman allowing bullets to bounce off him without checking to make sure other people weren’t around is probably negligent homicide, provided a prosecutor wanted to risk reelection by bringing Superman up on charges. Nowadays, to prevent the possibility of Superman negligently killing someone, Superman either melts the bullets with heat vision or plucks them out of the air.

But what if Superman intentionally kills someone by, say, snapping his neck in battle?Oh no! Once was enough. I’m not going there again!

Mike Gold: Remember The Nickel Hot Dog?

Jimmy OlsenThe beginning of each new year fills us with hope for a better future. You’d think that after a while we’d catch on. After all, we have the same exact hope year after year after year. And after we acknowledge our need for such optimism, we go out and shovel the snow.

For some reason I need not investigate, this first week of 2016 has me in the thralls of nostalgia. This disease is common to comics fans; I think it comes as part of our shared O.C.D. But I’ve been thinking about how much fun I had when I was a wee tyke on my perpetual search for new comics.

Back well-before the days I started yelling at the clouds, I lived for The Great Hunt. We had no idea what was coming out each week, although we did know when certain monthly titles usually arrived at our sundry sundry stores. This, of course, was long before Phil Seuling started selling comics to comic book shops (and, initially, comic book “clubs”).

Growing up in a big city I had plenty of options, but my friends and I had to hit many stores in order to make certain we were able to buy everything – well, almost everything – that came out during the week. Some stores didn’t get comics from certain publishers; for some reason, on the north side of Chicago it was particularly difficult to obtain an array of titles from Charlton, Harvey (particularly those titles that weren’t meant to be funny), United Features and ACG. I only knew of one place that stocked the United Features titles and, then, only briefly. DC, Marvel (distributed at the time by DC), Archie, and Dell were just about everywhere. Woolworths stocked those weird I.W. titles.

Fantastic FourBack then, new comics came out on Thursdays and we would hit the drug store across from our grammar school while the last school bell was still ringing. Often, we would get there before the clerk opened the bundles so we invested our wait time gazing at the Robert McGinnis covers on the paperback rack. On Saturdays we would take our trek down Devon Avenue where, in the stretch of two-thirds of a mile, there were seven separate stores that sold comics and we’d  hit each and every one. There were two other outlets that were in different but nearby neighborhoods and we’d visit them individually or in smaller groups.

This is not to say that we didn’t do other things while on our weekly comics journey. We would lag baseball cards, chomp down Vienna hot dogs and fries fried in lard, tell jokes, play pranks, and generally act our age. We’d wind up at the home of one of our crowd and read our comics and turn our buddies onto stuff we liked, while listening to rock and roll on the radio or on the turntable. And we’d be home in time for dinner.

I remember the day Jimmy Olsen number 57 came out. It was the first comic book I had seen at the 12¢ price point. I gawked at that cover in fear and wonder, thinking DC must have been violating some sort of law by charging more than one thin dime. Shortly thereafter, Marvel (again; distributed by DC) met DC’s action. Dell went up to 15¢ but, as the odd-man-out, they had to recede to the then-common 12¢ cover price.

I should point out that DC upped the price after many months of saying “STILL 10¢.” At the time, I didn’t see that as a threat. My mistake. Inside they ran a message explaining costs go up and when comics got their start hot dogs cost a nickel. When, some 15 years later, DC upped their cover price I was on staff editing publisher Jenette Kahn’s “publishorials.” I topped her piece with the headline “Remember The Nickel Hot Dog?”

Bill GainesA year or so later, Mad Magazine publisher Bill Gaines revealed he tracked inflation with the “hot dog index,” an invention of his own creation. He compared everything to the price of a Nathan’s hot dog when he was a kid. At that time hot dogs went for just under a dollar (New York had what was called “the hot dog tax” where they didn’t tax food under a buck), and comics were 35¢. Of course, we surpassed the relative cost of a hot dog within the next decade and our medium has never looked back.

About eight years later, when DC raised the cover price to 15¢, they re-ran that “Remember The Nickel Hot Dog” letter, pretty much word for word.

Prices go up. Stores go away. We invent new means of distribution. Comics live on.

Mike Gold: Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen, and My Generation

Jack LarsonI’m guessing it was 60 years ago. I was a mere tyke; five years old. My sister was eleven. We lived in an apartment on Chicago’s mid-northwest side, and we had a television set. There were “only” five VHF stations and one of them was educational – a betrayal of my sensibilities. I hated school, even if it was merely kindergarten, and the idea that someone would waste one of those few precious teevee channels on school was simply beyond my ken.

At that time I was only interested in cartoons and in Jack Benny. Yeah, I’ve been a Jack Benny fan since the light from the cathode ray tube first shined in our living room. And I wanted to watch Bugs Bunny. Being six and one-half years older, my sister had more sophisticated taste. She wanted to watch Superman. And, being six and one-half years older, my sister usually got her way. So I watched Superman with her, as though I had a choice.

The show wormed its way into my heart, not so much because of Superman or Lois, although Perry White and Inspector Henderson were pretty cool. No, the character that appealed to me most was Jimmy Olsen, as portrayed by Jack Larson.

Jimmy was, indeed, Superman’s pal and who wouldn’t want to be that? He was a bit of a doofus, but in a very endearing way. He was one of those guys who could fail upwards and turn a crisis into a victory. He was swell enough to enjoy Superman’s confidence (but not his secret identity) and to help Clark and Lois in their work – and share their danger. Even though I didn’t want to be him as I knew Superman didn’t really exist, I sure as hell wanted to live next door to him.

Just like every other baby boomer. Jack Larson helped raise my generation.

I first met him in 1977, give or take a year, in Neal Adams’ studio. There were about a dozen of us, and Jack was polite, funny, informative and charming – even more so than his alter-ego. This was before he became convinced that George (Superman) Reeves committed suicide, and his analysis of the various conspiracy theories was fascinating.

I’d seen him at conventions and various DC functions since then and became aware of his career as a producer and a writer, often working with his life-partner James Bridges. But it was his previous lover, Montgomery Clift, who told him he was hopelessly typecast as Jimmy Olsen and he should move behind the camera, where he was quite successful.

Due to Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen became even more successful. Roughly mid-way through the television run, DC came out with their first Superman spin-off book, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. It ran for 163 issues, with subsequent revivals.

When DC was forced to abandon the Superman series due to the death of its star, they asked Jack if he would be interested in starring in his own Jimmy Olsen series. By then, John (Perry White) Hamilton had died, so they could take the show in just about any direction. Understandably, Jack declined.

Jack Larson had a major impact on an entire generation – and that was a damn large generation. He was the first television actor to make bow-ties cool.

We mourn for Jack, who died last Sunday at the age of 87. Thanks to him, Jimmy Olsen lives on.

The Point Radio: Aaron Ashmore Could Use The Force

Aaron Ashmore joins us to start our coverage of the new SyFy series, KILLJOYS and to talk about his wish for a role in STAR WARS. Then THE TODAY SHOW’s Tamron Hall talks about the third season of her series, DEADLINE:CRIME on Investigation Discovery.

 ComicCon is coming! Follow us on Twitter now here.

Dennis O’Neil: How Green Is My Arrow?

Green Arrow was never really a loner. When he first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 he already had a young partner whose nom de arrow was Speedy and whose other name was Roy Harper. As GA – other-named Oliver Queen – sauntered through the years, he formed alliances with another greenish hero, Green Lantern, and, maintaining the color-motif, Black Canary, with whom he had a full-out, bells-and-whistles romance. And he was a member in good standing of the Justice League of America, comics’ first…what? – superhero club, I guess.

So no, Ollie, as we are pleased to call him, was never a loner, but I never thought of him as a clubman, either. He was this guy who did what he did and had occasional friends and associates.

Now he is enjoying what are undoubtedly the largest audiences of his life as the title character of a network television series. For whatever (corporate?) reason he’s lost an adjective and is now known as plain old Arrow. And Roy Harper – you remember Speedy – is still in the picture and so, sometimes, is Black Canary and then there’s John Diggle and a cop friend and the lovely computer whiz Felicity and, recently, a guest superhero in the person of The Flash and…Golly! It must be getting crowded in the Arrow’s subterranean headquarters, there in Starling City.

Well, what did we expect? It’s television and television drama, with no current exception that I can think of, is built around families. These are not necessarily biological families – in fact, they are seldom that. But they have a clear family dynamic.

Cop shows are good examples: There’s the father/mother figure – often a bit grumpy, and usually bearing an elevated rank – and sometimes an aunt/uncle avatar – those cadaver-cutting medical folk, for instance – and occasionally the young guy/gal who, while lovable, is not yet fully formed professionally – and don’t we adore the youngsters in the house? – and finally, and most important, the brother-sister combos, the heavy lifters who get the jobs done.

You could find a family on the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise and in the streets of Dodge City, and in the corridors of the Jeffersonian, whatever that is. I’m not a fan of sitcoms, but there are probably some in laughtrack land, too.

Way, way back in the early 1940s, the producers of the daily Superman radio program added young Jimmy Olsen to regulars Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Perry White and he’s been a part of the – yes! – family ever since. Those loner private eyes that were in vogue back then didn’t know that their days were numbered.

Now, we have Arrow and his cadre of virtuous ass-kickers saving Starling City. Literally: in a recent episode, that’s what they said they did – saved the city.

But do they pose for group photos at Christmas?

 

Martha Thomases’ Girl Fight!

Last week, I vented my pique at Marvel’s tone-deaf marketing of the new Spider-Woman comic. Then, on Monday, my esteemed colleague, Mindy Newell, offered a different perspective. Who’s right? Normally, I would say I’m right because I’m the mommy. However, in this case, Mindy has also given birth, and even trumped my creds by being a grandmother. So I’m not playing that card. This also means I can’t just say “Because I said so.” Denied my two favorite debating tactics, I’m going to have to approach this from a different angle. Despite what one might think about feminism and other kinds of so-called “identity politics,” there isn’t a single governing board that determines what is “politically correct.” There are married feminists who take their husbands’ last name, stay home with the kids, and volunteer at the PTA. There are radical lesbian separatists who live in communes and never have to interact with men at all. There are feminists who wear make-up, dye their hair, use Botox and wear high heels. There even used to be Republican feminists. To be a feminist, you must support equal rights and opportunities for all, and respect the right of women to define themselves and their role in the world. See? You don’t even have to be a woman to be a feminist. Being a feminist doesn’t mean one doesn’t enjoy sex. Not even heterosexual sex. It does mean one opposes coercion, rape, and the unwilling objectification of one’s partner or partners. It means one can imagine a woman being the subject, rather than the object, of desire. In other words, feminism is not the same as Puritanism. So, what does this have to do with comic books, I hear my editor thinking? Plenty. For one thing, it means that a comic book cover, like the variant for Spider-Woman #1, is not a feminist image. It is not intended to make women feel empowered, nor to show a woman being heroic. However, that doesn’t mean a feminist can’t like the cover. Manara is a famous artist with millions of fans. Liking the cover doesn’t make them “bad” feminists. As a feminist, I am in favor of pleasure and joy. I like a lot of media that isn’t specifically feminist. I like Power Girl, for crying out loud. I like those inane Silver Age stories where Superman has to “teach a lesson” to Lois Lane for having the nerve to try to do her job and find out his secret identity. And, as a feminist, I’d like to propose a new standard for graphic storytelling, similar to the Bechdel test, dubbed the Willis test by the Jezebel blog. They quote pioneering rock critic Ellen Willis, who wrote this: “A crude but often revealing method of assessing male bias in lyrics is to take a song written by a man about a woman and reverse the sexes. By this test, a diatribe like [the Rolling Stones’] “Under My Thumb” is not nearly so sexist in its implications as, for example, Cat Stevens’ gentle, sympathetic “Wild World”; Jagger’s fantasy of sweet revenge could easily be female—in fact, it has a female counterpart, Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots” – but it’s hard to imagine a woman sadly warning her ex-lover that he’s too innocent for the big bad world out there.” Would Supergirl try to teach Jimmy Olsen a lesson if he tried to find out her secret identity? Of course she would. Would Superman wear a costume that distracted his enemies by focusing their attention on his sexual organs? Of course he would not. Would Spider-Man stick his ass in the air submissively, as a way to demonstrate his web-sticking abilities? I don’t think so. Is this a comic book I would buy for a young girl? Probably not, unless she was taking a class in gender studies and had the vocabulary to talk about it. None of this will stop me from enjoying Power Girl stories (unless Scott Lobdell starts writing them and turns her into Starfire), as long as I still find them fun. Comic books and fun. Now that’s a marketing campaign I’d like to see.

Mike Gold: Superman’s Real Family

Gold Art 131204There was a time when the world could not get enough of The Man of Steel. In the 1950s National Periodical Publications, the name DC Comics went under back then, published seven different Superman titles, five of them every six weeks and two every month. In those days, that was a lot.

Today, of course, Wolverine wouldn’t lift his head out of his own puke for such paltry exposure. But back then, that workload was astonishing – and it wasn’t uncommon to see sales figures on certain of these titles reaching seven figures. Action Comics was shipped at the end of the month and that very issue was re-shipped two weeks later.

Superman had more than just that going for him. In the 40s he had one of the most popular and long-lasting radio shows around. In the early 50s, a time when most cities were lucky to have two television stations and it was common for one of those channels to pick from the offerings of two of the three networks, Superman was offered up in first-run syndication and he captured the awe and wonder of the entire baby boomer generation. We were all glued to the boob tube; it was our crack. And there were a hell of a lot of us, too.

The Big Guy had something else going for him: he was in the newspapers daily and Sunday all across America, including Hearst’s New York Mirror, which sported the largest circulation of any U.S. newspaper at the time. His newspaper circulation made the comics work appear downright skinny.

All this exposure required the efforts of an astonishing amount of talent. By and large, there were three primary Superman artists: Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, who did the newspaper strip as well as Action Comics and Superman, and Al Plastino, who did… well… everything.

To be fair, there were other great talents in this group, legends all. Kurt Schaffenberger, whose work dominated the Lois Lane stories, Win Mortimer, George Papp and John Sikela, perhaps best known for their Superboy efforts (as was Curt Swan), and Dick Sprang on the Superman-Batman feature in World’s Finest.

Gee, no wonder Big Blue was so popular. And, yes, I’m leaving at least a half-dozen artists out.

Last week the last of these awesomely talented people died. Al Plastino, the medium’s best utility infielder, died at 91. He was an artist, a writer, an editor, a letterer and a colorist. He co-created the Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl and Brainiac. He drew the Batman newspaper strip in the 1960s, and he ghosted the Superman strip in its latter years.Plastino Hap Hopper 2-02-44

Al was the go-to man at the United Feature Syndicate, creating a couple of minor features in the 1940s (Hap Hopper, from 1944, is pictured to the right) and doing Ferd’nand for its last 20 years, retiring in 1989. He also stepped in to do the Sunday Nancy page for a while after Ernie Bushmiller died. And there was some work on Peanuts, but there’s a whole story in that one that should be reserved for a later date.

Oh, and he inked Captain America in the early part of both their careers.

Al Plastino was an editor’s dream. A wonderful artist and a fine storyteller, he could do anything and do it on time. His legend as a comics creator alone makes him a permanent part of comics history.

Al, thank you for making my childhood all the more amazing.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Return of The Tweaks

Superman Silver Announced

Superman SilverIn the run-up to Man of Steel, the most eagerly-anticipated super-hero film of the year, DC Comics just can’t seem to keep its new Superman initiatives secret for very long. ComicMix has learned that, in the wake of unprecedentedly strong orders for the print version of Batman ’66, DC has started work on Superman Silver. Like the Jeff Parker-Jonathan Case series, Superman Silver will exploit Boomer nostalgia for an earlier incarnation of one of its two biggest super stars. Obviously, “going retro” to appeal to an aging readership has paid off big-time for the publisher, since it’s decided to commission this series even before having metrics on Batman ’66.

Work on the new seven-week series, edited by Bobbie Chase and scheduled to begin in June, is only just beginning, but a few details have been leaked to ComicMix. Each issue will recreate the style, look, and tone of a Mort Weisinger-edited “Superman Family” title of the Silver Age, with several issues offering three 8-page stories.

While DC is still finalizing the lineup, we’ve learned that the series will kick off with Superman Silver: Superman, featuring a book- length Imaginary Story, “The Death of Van-Zee and Sylvia” by Howard Mackie and Alex Saviuk. This will be followed by Superman Silver: Action presenting a Superman lead, “When Superman Became Congorilla!” by Ralph Macchio and Terry Dodson, and a Supergirl back-up story, “Jeff Malverne, Super-Horse – Comet’s Rival for Supergirl’s Heart!” by Ann Nocenti and Patrick Olliffe. Week Three brings Superman Silver: Jimmy Olsen, whose cover story, “The Bedbug Boy of Metropolis,” is by Roger Stern and Javier Salteris.

To date, no creative team has yet been assigned to Superman Silver: Adventure, whose book-length story will feature the Bizarro Legion of Super-Heroes. Artists are still being sought for the remaining titles, Superman Silver: Lois Lane, Superman Silver: Superboy, and Superman Silver: World’s Finest, all of which will be written by Tom DeFalco.

Martha Thomases: Not For Kids Anymore

Thomases Art 130329As Blondie says, “Dreaming is free.”

Which is lucky for me, because I have a rather frantic week, and not a lot of original ideas for a column. Sure, I could write about the John Stewart scandal (or non-scandal, depending on which rumor you believe,), but I am late to that party. I could write about some obscure book that deserves more attention, but I am behind in my reading.

My sub-conscious came through for me.

Last night, I had one of my recurring dreams in which I still work for DC. Sometimes in these dreams I no longer work for DC, but sneak into an office and pretend I do. And sometimes, I even wear clothes. I can’t remember which of these scenarios was at play this time, but I remember getting a memo from Jenette Kahn about some new publishing initiative.

In my dream, I ran to my son, the genius writer, about the opportunity this afforded us. We had two ideas worth pursuing.

The first, and more interesting, was a graphic novel about an upper-middle-class teenage white girl in Georgia in the 1980s who is, unbeknownst to her or anyone else, the reincarnation of Mohammed Ali. I don’t think we should let the fact that Ali is still alive get in the way of the fact that this would be awesome.

However, since my subconscious apparently has no literary taste, in my dream I urged we concentrate our attention on an on-going series, The Legion of Jimmy Olsen. It would be like the Legion of Super-Heroes, but set in the present, not the future, and feature all the different characters Jimmy has morphed into over the years. You would have your Turtle Boy, your giant, your caveman Beatle, even your girl.

All at the same time.

I would buy that series in a heartbeat. Wouldn’t you?

The New 52 doesn’t have a lot of Jimmy in it. There isn’t even much Lois Lane. They show up to take pictures or report on some Superman exploit or another, but that’s about it. Grant Morrison had Jimmy doing a bit more, as a friend to Clark.

Even Grant couldn’t work in any Turtle Boy.

As the comics audience has aged, publishers have tried to respond with more mature offerings. They don’t think their readers need a character like Jimmy with whom to identify. Today’s superhero reader, they think, needs stories where the universe is at stake every single issue.

This is a shame, because we could use somewhat less constant cosmic apocalypse, and a bit more whimsy.

And gorillas.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

MARTHA THOMASES: Superman Family Values

As we gird our collective loins for another presidential election season, we become accustomed to another iteration of praise for “family values.” It is a phrase that has different meanings to people of different political persuasions. To Democrats, it means a living wage and a financial safety net for the poor, the old and the infirm. To Republicans, it means no gay marriage, no sex outside marriage, and no abortion.

For me, neither viewpoint is adequate. I strive for Superman Family values.

As a woman of a certain age, I remember a comic book series dedicated solely to the Superman family. It had stories about Superman, of course, but also Supergirl, my favorite character, and Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane and Krypto. At 60¢ (not the standard 15¢ or 20¢), this was a big, fat comic book, good for a whole afternoon.

I learned a lot about family from those books, and not just how to get some extra change from my parents.

Superman grew up with loving, principled parents in the Kents. He lived on a farm where everyone had chores that contributed to the family fortunes. He knew he was adopted, so he knew his parents really wanted him. However, since he was Kryptonian, he had powers and abilities far beyond those of his friends and classmates. His parents taught him to value his differences, but not use them to draw attention to himself for personal gain. His gifts were best appreciated when he used then to help his community.

Years later, Superman discovered he had a teenage cousin, Supergirl. He didn’t know anything about her, yet he immediately accepted her and loved her.

When he grew up and moved on to his adult life, Superman, like the rest of us, assembled a family of sorts, of people he chose. Most of this family came from the people with whom he worked, Perry White a surrogate father, Jimmy Olsen like a little brother. Bruce Wayne was his best friend, a peer who understood what it meant to live life with secrets.

I have to believe that Superman would favor the rights of immigrants, since he is one. I have to believe that a man who has roamed the various universes and seen thousands of different societies would develop respect for people with different beliefs than his, and different ways of defining family.

As a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Superman had good friends who were in romantic relationships that were not only not conventionally heterosexual, but often between two different species. If this bothered him, we never saw his discomfort in the comics. He accepted his friends as they presented themselves.

Is Superman political? I have always imagined him to be a New Deal Democrat, or what the GOP today calls a “socialist.” At the same time, I don’t see him as an activist, nor even all that partisan. As Clark Kent, he votes, he serves jury duty when summoned, and he pays his taxes.

To him, family is a joy and a refuge. It isn’t something for politicians to use to bludgeon each other and score points.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman