Superman’s new job

What next? Batman gives up his millions and retires to a cave?

sureshmenon

Suresh Menon | December 10, 2012



Last year Superman renounced his US citizenship, and many asked if that was in response to a possible attack from right-wingers regarding his birth certificate. As we have known for decades now, Superman was not born in the US, not even in Mexico or round the corner in India, but on a different planet altogether. There is some confusion over the citizenship deal between Krypton and the US, but since it was the American way of life that Superman was upholding, he was seen as a citizen of that country. And it was entirely possible that he was made one officially between the issue of his comic books.

As it turned out, he gave it up because he was tired of being mistaken as a spokesman for the American way of life. Ah well! You can’t always figure out these men from Krypton with X-ray vision and super hearing.

Superman might be upholding the American way of life, but America is happy to reciprocate, upholding the Superman way of life. The Director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City has gone out of his way to pinpoint the location of the planet Krypton.

It is, for those astronomically inclined, 27.1 light years from Earth, in the southern constellation Corvus (The Crow, for those not so inclined) and it orbits the red dwarf star LHS 2520 and is both cooler and smaller than our sun. Now we can look up at the sky, stretch our vision so we can see a planet 27.1 light years from the earth and say knowingly, “That’s where Superman was born.”

“If he wasn’t a superhero,” said the director of the planetarium, “he would have made quite an astrophysicist.”

Sadly, he doesn’t tell us why – it’s not as if astrophysicists spend their average day flying round the city, doing good both by stealth and brazenly, swallowing bullets and rescuing children and animals on the way. I mean, he might as well have said, “Superman would have made an excellent poet writing sonnets in the iambic pentameter” or “He would have made an excellent cobbler.”

What can no longer be said with any enthusiasm is that he will rise to become the editor of the newspaper he has been working for all these years. Superman might know where he is coming from, but has no clue as to where he is going, professionally speaking.

For there is more startling news coming from the Superman camp. Superman has resigned from the newspaper he has been serving faithfully for over seven decades. The Daily Planet will be minus one Mr Clark Kent (Superman in mufti) from here on. And the reason? He is shifting to an online publication. That apparently is where the future lies, as Superman’s super sense of tomorrow tells him. It might lead to a spate of resignations from around the world as others follow Superman’s lead.

Or it might end up like a grand gesture without any impact. Let’s wait and see.

These fictional characters get so much publicity. Some years ago I remember announcing dramatically that I was resigning from a newspaper abroad and returning home. No editorials were written in any of the world’s top newspapers, the New York Times remained depressingly silent on my motives, and only my son had a semi-rational theory: “Oh! It must be your mid-life crisis,” he said, which was pretty good for someone in the thirties as I was then.

I admit I can’t catch bullets in my teeth (that is, I presume I can’t; I haven’t actually tried to) and, forget super hearing, I may not even have normal hearing. But is that all it takes to get the media excited? In fact, one of the reasons Superman has given for resigning is that he feels that newspapers have begun to sacrifice news for entertainment. Familiar as that complaint sounds, surely he is Superman and can do something about it if he asks for help from Editorialman and Marketingman his co-superheroes.

The irony however is inescapable. Superman’s resignation made the front pages of newspapers around the world. News or entertainment? Even Superman with his super nose for news will struggle to answer that.

What next? Batman gives up his millions and retires to a cave (a real one, not Batcave)? Harry Potter drops out of school and becomes an investment banker?

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