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Author Topic: Superman is vegetarian, right?  (Read 25486 times)
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Aldous
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« on: September 30, 2006, 12:24:33 AM »

I came across the Lois Lane story "A Tree Grows in Metropolis" (1971) and it's an odd one, but I'd just like to concentrate on the opening panels for a moment. Superman, sporting a Roth-Colletta body and an Anderson head, is examining a planet on which all the plant life appears to have died except for one tree. Superman thinks: "Hmmm... Chances are this specimen will die like the rest if I LEAVE it here! And I've vowed to preserve ALL forms of life wherever possible." The only thing for it, then, is for the Man of Steel to uproot the tree, carry it back to Earth, and plant it in Metropolis.

Throughout the 70s we're reminded of Superman's code against killing, ie. he does not deliberately kill. In this adventure, and not for the only time I'd wager, this "code against killing" idea is taken a little further, yet it boils down to the same thing for my purposes.

We are also reminded throughout the 70s that Clark's favourite food is beef bourguignon. This doesn't square with Superman's code against killing, for in eating beef Superman has allowed someone else to do his killing for him. (We won't get into that particular argument.) But then this "preservation of life" idea would imply Superman should think twice before eating certain plants that have had to die in order to be available for human consumption.

Is Superman being a complete hypopcrite? It sure seems that way to me. But (and it's a big "but"), I also see here a parting of the ways of Clark's and Superman's values, and ask the question: is this another purpose being served by the Clark-Superman alter ego ? Superman by rights, by everything he thinks and says, shouldn't eat anything that has been deliberately killed. In fact, he could avoid eating anything at all and survive quite happily. Clark, on the other hand, is our hero's sly way of enjoying the taste of animal flesh, a forbidden pleasure for Superman.
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Super Monkey
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2006, 12:47:47 AM »

Animals don't count.

Superman may have a code against killing humans, but he has killed lots of monsters and animals during the Silver Age.

Also, he loves beef bourguignon.

He is no Vegan.
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Great Rao
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2006, 01:29:26 AM »

I think that in this arena there was no editorial consitency or thought on the matter and that it just depended on the writer.  Most likely the conflict was just completely ignored with the assumption that no one would bother to think about it or would even notice it.  Maggin's Superman was certainly no vegetarian and even helped his mother cook meat.

Much like those old Disney comics where Donald Duck and clan sit down to a nice family dinner of roast duck, where the implication is that the walking-and-talking main character ducks are completely distinct creatures from mere "animal" ducks; the beef in beef bourguignon was somehow never really "alive" or part of an animal.

Either that, or in Superman's code there's a difference between direct killing and indirectly supporting an industry.

Waid's solution of making Clark a vegetarian was a good effort in bringing consistency to the table, but it merely moved the problem.  Is eating plant life "taking a life"?  I suppose that Superman's code now only applies to beings with a certain level of sentience because, to some degree, everything is alive.

The real question is - does Kal require material sustenance?  If so, then eating is a matter of survival.  But if not, then eating is a conscious choice to kill something.
Quote from: "Superman"
I've vowed to preserve ALL forms of life wherever possible.

That "wherever possible" bit might make things somewhat flexible.

S!
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Permanus
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2006, 08:47:53 AM »

In the recent Superman: Birthright series, Superman is a vegetarian because his vision powers allow him to see an "aura" around all living things and he feels great pain on seeing them die; this doesn't sit right with Clark's grandfather, who is a cattle farmer.

I rather like that take; it gives him a dimension he didn't have before. Writers (or more likely, editors) never seem to like having Superman espouse a certain cause because they don't want to alienate any readers. I suppose vegetarianism is something nobody can really object to. I don't know if it really squares with Clark's rural origins, though: he must have seen lots of animals being slaughtered over the years - surely he would have become inured to it?

1970s Clark's taste for beef bourguignon was probably a bit of a fashion thing, when you come to think about it. It was such a mainstay dish at dinner parties back then, rather like when fondues enjoyed a brief but baffling trend in the 1980s. Anyone over 40 probably owns a fondue set that hasn't been in use in twenty years somewhere in the back of their cupboard.
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Continental Op
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2006, 02:50:05 PM »

Superman loves his burgers!

http://www.milehighcomics.com/cgi-bin/backissue.cgi?action=fullsize&issue=01062288700%20454
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Super Monkey
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2006, 03:44:34 PM »

Quote from: "Continental Op"


case close!  :lol:
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2006, 04:13:49 PM »

LOL, I'll buy that (even if it violates my "law" of not trusting a regular length comic that sold originally for more than 15 cents)! Cool
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Doctor_Vortex
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2006, 07:58:10 PM »

It's quite easy to see a difference between preserving a life form which is the last member of an entire bio-sphere, and eating a cow whose species isn't going to vanish anytime soon.

The majority of meat eaters that I know would not stand idly by and let a cow starve to death, which is essentially the fate that the tree was facing. Life's full of dichotomies that way. Even if things end up equally dead, all deaths are not necessarily the same thing.
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