BOOKS: Superman for the Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2000:

Superman For The Animals by Mark Millar

drawn by Tom Grummett & Dick Giordano

D.C. Comics / Doris Day Animal Foundation

 

Sold as a bonus item, packaged with Batman: Gotham Adventures, Superman Adventures, Impulse, Hourman, and Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. comic books, Superman For The Animals is the Doris Day Animal Foundation’s attempt to reach adolescent and teenaged males––the age/gender subcategory most closely associated with violence against animals, both legal (for example, high-volume “varmint” shooting) and illegal, and for that matter, violence against humans and each other.

The message is that young men can resist peer pressure to take a stand against mayhem, which often results from peers oneupping each other, first in talk, then in action. Each tries to top the others in imagined bravado and the leader maintains position by instigating the most atrocious deeds.

The atrocities often take the form of an initiation ritual, which youths of lesser status are asked to perform or at least participate in, in order––they are led to believe––to gain higher status. But the price of the imagined higher status keeps rising, and the atrocities escalate in magnitude and risk. until in extreme cases they culminate in gang rapes, homicide, and even school massacres.

Superman For The Animals accurately addresses the psychology and pathology of much juvenile violence, especially but not exclusively against animals. It also accurately depicts the too frequent failures of adult authority to respond to troubled youths when they ask for help.

Worth asking, however, is whether the young people who most need Superman For The Animals are likely to be among the audience. It isn’t clear at all that truly troubled youth have ever looked up to the now 61-year-old exemplar of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

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