Superman’s Long History With Comic Book Censorship
Superman’s team with Lobo has revealed he has the bizarre power of comic book censorship, which speaks to his long history.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Superman vs. Lobo #3, on sale now from DC Comics.
The Man of Steel has had many weird and interesting powers over the years, especially in the wild days of the Silver Age, but perhaps none as ridiculous as the one Lobo just had. discover. The Main Man is known for his more vulgar attitude, which always puts him at odds with Superman. Oddly enough, it turns out the Kryptonian has a way to tone down Lobo without lifting a finger.
The main man hated being around the Man of Steel during this series. So much so that he launched into a diatribe listing everything he despises in the benefactor of Superman vs. Lobo #3 (by Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie, Mirka Andolfo, Arif Prianto and Fabio Amelia). Chief among them was that Superman thought he was better than the crass Tsarian bounty hunter, but the weirdest reason of all revealed that Krypton’s Last Son had the weirdest ability – tape censorship. drawn.
Apparently, whenever Lobo is around Superman, he’s completely unable to swear. In a fourth piece of wall-breaking dialogue, the main man detailed that he spouts all “gibberish” in the form of the classic punctuation that comic book readers expect to see when characters attempt to swear. It’s a fun little detail, but it says a lot about Superman’s place in society and the larger issue of comic book censorship.
Superman had a lot of weird, goofy powers like this in the 50s and 60s, the Silver Age. These abilities usually only appeared for one, maybe two issues and then disappeared again. They only served to rescue the Man of Steel from the precarious situation he found himself in at the time. However, the inconsistent powers weren’t the biggest problem for the character at this time. The biggest problem, to which this last ability relates, was the broader censorship of all comics at the time.
Although Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had beaten villains and faced perilous situations for about a decade, when the 1950s came overzealous groups exerted increasing pressure to tone down the content of children’s comics and comics in general. This quickly caught the attention of the US government. The Comics Code Authority was created to avoid government regulation, but it nonetheless prevented comics from telling the kinds of difficult stories they had done before. Suddenly, the Man of Steel was no longer gunning down gangsters and corrupt capitalists like Lex Luthor, he was battling aliens and instead embarking on strange space odysseys.
While comics have improved since then and become a large, dynamic, and deeply impactful medium, that doesn’t mean censorship no longer plays a part in comics. That doesn’t mean that Silver Age censorship still doesn’t play a role, either. More recently, Black Knights of Steel #3 saw his own brutal Kryptonian, Zala Jor-El, have his very graphic kills masked by creative comic book sound effects, like “RNNGH” and “SHNK”, keeping him in line with his age rating of 13 years and older.
Although, of course, this censorship makes sense to keep Black Knights of SteelThe age rating is consistent, it speaks to the range of stories available for Superman and his family. When was the last time DC produced a Superman comic that was only suitable for an adult audience? The Man of Steel has a reputation for truth and justice that lends itself to keeping the character more family friendly. This leads to the weird little power seen here that doesn’t allow Lobo to swear in a Superman-centric book.
Yes, it’s only fitting and somewhat hilarious that Superman is so pure and good that he can stop even the most seasoned sweaters from uttering a single curse while he’s around. However, it is also a sign that the problems he is able to deal with should be seen as family friendly. Racism and climate change are on the table, as Jon Kent proves, but the more brutal realities of real-world violence and oppression are not. When used correctly, censorship can allow important stories to reach a wider audience. However, the effect it has on storytelling in general and larger characters like Superman means that other important stories either reach a considerably smaller audience or are not realized at all. The Man of Steel could deal with grittier, bloodier issues, the kind that are at Lobo’s level. Unfortunately, Superman’s history as an all-ages hero makes that increasingly unlikely, as evidenced by his powers of censorship.
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