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DC drops Superman’s ‘and the American Way’ for more inclusive motto

The superhero’s 82 years old and still growing

Superman flying high above a black and white city Image: DC Comics
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

As the Man of Tomorrow, Superman fights for all of humanity. DC Comics CCO and publisher Jim Lee drove that message home at the 2021 DC FanDome when he announced that the Man of Steel’s longtime motto would undergo a new change.

“To better reflect the storylines that we are telling across DC, and to honor Superman’s incredible legacy of over 80 years of building a better world, Superman’s motto is evolving,” Lee said. “Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement: truth, justice and a better tomorrow.”

Superman has always been “faster than a locomotive,” “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” and fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way.” Or, that’s what mass pop culture has assumed. In reality, the whole “Look, up in the sky!” speech containing Superman’s motto was only codified when he made the leap (over tall buildings in a single bound) to radio. And for the Adventures of Superman radio series, which ran all through the 1940s, WOR-AM writers imagined the comics hero fighting a “never-ending battle for truth and justice,” and no more.

As many historians and creators have noted over the years, it took the paranoia of the Cold War to add an addendum to the phrase. When Clark Kent made his first live-action screen appearance in The Adventures of Superman TV series, his motto got the “and the American way” bump. The phrasing stuck, embossed into the character by Christopher Reeves in Superman 1978.

Now, DC Comics hopes to prepare Superman for the next 80 years by rethinking the slogan. The progressive move follows news from earlier in the week that Jonathan Kent — half-Kryptonian son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and DC’s new Superman — will soon embark on a same-sex romantic relationship. The preconceived notions of American heroes are changing, and like their iconic hero, DC finally seem ready to embrace the evolution.

The announcement came with new art commemorating the change:

Superman flying high above a black and white city Image: DC Comics

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