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Kittens or Keffiyehs? The truth behind Superman #712


Comics controversy!

This morning Jill Pantozzi wrote a story about changing contents in SUPERMAN #712. The issue was originally solicited to contain a story by Chris Roberson about Superman going to LA and meeting up with a Muslim superhero.

The contents NOW include a story by Kurt Busiek about Krypto, which has been in the inventory drawer for YEARS, and the subject of its own conspiracy theories.

So…a little different. Was the story changed because of uneasiness about Superman teaming up with a Muslim in light of Supe’s recent unAmericanism?

Pantozzi wrote:

The intended story revolved around a non-white hero coming into contact with prejudice in America. With all the flack DC has gotten recently for its patriotism (or lack thereof), is it any wonder this story got pulled at the last second?

Chris Sims at Comics Alliance was also on the case and wrote a very detailed piece covering all of DC’s recent activities with regards to Muslims, politics, and Fox News. (Sims himself was a guest on The Daily Show over the outcry over BATMAN franchising his cowl to a French Muslim.) Sims put the blame for the story being pulled squarely on the political fallout:

But whether they were prepared or not, the outcome was the same: there was now attention focused at DC, rooted in a desire to catch the publisher in activities so un-American that Glenn Beck would have to wheel out another chalkboard. As much as I don’t buy the “it doesn’t work with Grounded” explanation, it’s far easier to believe that after Nightrunner and Action #900, DC didn’t want the hassle of dealing with an anchor leading off the news with “Superman renounced his American citizenship — and you won’t believe his new terrorist sidekick!” Not that Sharif is actually a terrorist, but the accurate description doesn’t spike ratings.

And here’s the thing. As you may have heard, DC’s currently engaged in a line-wide reboot, something that they announced in USA Today. It’s a stunt that’s explicitly designed to grab headlines and get publicity. DC’s actively courting the media in an effort to get this news out there and draw in new readers, which is exactly what they should be doing. But if the decision to axe Superman #712 is motivated by wanting to avoid getting attention for something as innocuous as “Superman inspires a young Muslim hero to do good in the world,” then what does that say about the comics they’re pushing to the spotlight?

It all seemed very plausible…or…WAS IT? A little while later, Bleeding Cool chimed in with what they claimed was a well-sourced story : that the issue in question was pulled because of a kitten-saving episode that made Superman look like…a pussy.

And this caused considerable problems with certain DC executives. They thought it was too corny and heavy-handed, and not the kind of Superman stories they wanted to tell. The kitten up a tree image symbolised for them what was wrong with the Superman books. It became totemic in the office, standing for far more than it could possibly symbolise. It had to go.

That the book also has a lead Islamic superhero character, the kind of thing that does get the attention they like, seems to have passed them by.

BC’s Rich Johnston offered up the fact that the issue now included a Krypto story as a sort of deliberate kitten-refutation.

So…which is it?

Over the last few weeks, Johnston has absolutely been killing the DC relaunch story (and many others) with leaked or available but hidden information from what appear to be a variety of sources. In an era when 99 percent of what you read is canned filet of flack, this is a refreshing and remarkable performance and has been, as we’re reminded several times a day, rewarded by a huge traffic spike. And people inside DC are eager to close down the leaks.

But Johnston also runs a rumor site, not a news site…so was it possible that someone would plant a story that was ludicrous on the face of it…so ludicrous that Rich couldn’t’ resist?

Let’s use Occam’s razor here.

Either the issue was pulled because of problems over a story involving the most controversial topic of our times, and a story about a cute little kitten in a tree was used as a cover—or even to root out the leakers—to avoid the kind of bad PR that DC has gotten constantly over recent diversity issues, and someone somewhere is having a very big laugh at Rich’s expense right about now…

….or the story was pulled over a scene with a cute little kitten in a tree because it made Superman look like a pussy.

We’ve heard it both ways from good sources inside DC. Someone is spinning this like a Harlem Globetrotter.

Our advice? Be careful what you read. And wait for the Alter Ego interview in 20 years with the real story.

One thing we do know….Chris Roberson is getting Kurt Busiek’s comps, according to Twitter:

CR: Hey, @KurtBusiek, let me know if you didn’t get your comps of 712. WorldColor sent me two boxes that I’d be happy to forward to DM me your mailing address, and I’ll get them to the post office!

KB: You know, I was just thinking that they’d send you the comps, much like they sent me Todd Klein’s comps of a GLC trade…
…after my story was pulled for one of his. I got his royalty check, too. So you may have another treat coming.

CR: Well, JMS already gets half of my royalties for Supes, so it would be half-a-treat, at best.

KB: In any case, yes, that would be very nice of you. Thanks!

CR: Well, truth be told, I *am* keeping one copy for my own self. I’ve been looking forward to this story for YEARS!

Let’s leave this story on that civil friendly note, almost as friendly as a cute little kitten up a tree.

  1. So either portraying a Muslim in a positive light or a character rescuing a cat from a tree in a cute scene is out of bounds, but women being decapitated (Flashpoint, et al), child murder (Cry For Justice, et al), and erectile disfunction (Rise of Arsenal) are A-OK with DC?

    This is why I hate mainstream superhero comics.

  2. I just want to assure people that the long-promised upcoming appearance in Captain Miracle of Sodom al-Mohammed has not been altered in any way due to the recent killing of Osama bin-Laden, nor the controversy surrounding Batwing, nor the announcement of Holy Terror, Not-Batman!, nor this kryptic substitution. And the way that God’s superhero deals with his Islamist adversary… will surprise you!

  3. Does anyone else feel like the execs in DC are just falling over themselves to do whatever they can to make it look like a hot mess over there? With stories like this it seems like they are following the philosophy of any publicity is good publicity. But I think either version of this story makes them look bad. Either they are afraid to do stories about an islamic superhero or they don’t want people to see Superman doing things that people have viewed him as doing for years. Hopefully they don’t give this new Superman a gun and have him punch kittens just to show that this is not your father’s Superman anymore.

  4. Keep in mind that if there really was a problem with an issue because it opened with a kitten-rescuing scene, it would be easier, less controversial and more cost-effective to redraw the scene than to turf the whole issue.

    And it’s not as if the folks at DC don’t know that. Redrawing scenes is not a bizarre or unusual idea.

    Turfing an issue over a scene with a kitten, though? It takes a special kind of dopiness for someone who knows much about comics production to buy that explanation — or try to sell it.

    Particularly in the same breath as they try to sell the idea that DC was so embarrassed at the thought of something as corny as Superman saving a kitten that they replaced it with a sentimental story about Krypto the Superdog.

  5. Very interesting story. Until that Alter Ego hits the stands, the only truth we can perhaps get from this is how dirty DC executives seem willing to get their hands when it comes to affecting story beats — whether they involve Islamic characters or kittycats. Great to finally see the Krypto story though.

  6. Kurt, this is the company that pulped a print run of Superman because Clark was drinking a bottle of root beer on the cover with his Dad.

    And yes, a change would have been so much easier. See the Brightest Day Aftermath issue published this week for changes from the previews. But I’m told it became totemic, and only a complete change of issue would do. And the person who commanded the change did not decide on what the replacement would be.

    That it was a story about a dog, that itself had been frequently replaced, smacks of someone trying to make a point. But that would be speculation on my part.

    This is not about logic. This is not about sense. This is about executive decision making and the way people react to it. Dilbert at play.

  7. However it went down, what matters is that I will finally get to read Kurt’s long lost Krypto story. Even better, I won’t have to read the any more of the dreadful JMS “Grounded” storyline. Win-win.

  8. I think it’s clear between this and the Rise of Arsenal, that DC has it in for felines and don’t want to be seen as feline supporters. They’re dog people. End of discussion.

  9. I think DC has entered the Lindsey Lohan Zone where no story, no matter how insane, sounds perfectly reasonable for them. DC set up interviews while on house arrest only to say “no interviews” when everyone shows up? Yep, can totally see it happening.

  10. The ultimate message to me is that DC editorial is so screwed up right now that the kitten story is utterly plausible. In my mind, it’s too stupid to not be true.

  11. “Muslim or Cat” is probably going to be the most enjoyable thing to happen in comics for me, all year, and I meant that very, very sincerely. Thanks to everyone who is in any way involved with this. Thanks to everybody, just for being you.

  12. Well, I for one was not looking forward to reading a story about mythical American Islamophobia. There’s far more antisemitic crimes committed in America than anti-Muslim.

  13. That doesn’t make American Islamophobia mythical, bob. We’re well capable of being dicks to more than one minority group at a time.

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