Superman: During an undeclared war against the Soviets, Miller's President assures the public " we've got god on our side… or the next best thing, anyway" (119, ellipsis in original). This deification of Superman and his cooptation by the American government are far removed from his origins in the Depression era as a vindictive thug, vigilante, and radical anarchist embodiment of the New Deal reforming social consciousness. The first superhero proper, he fought against corruption in industry and local government, physically assaulting production facilities, public officials, and both the police and National Guard, long before supervillains became the established convention of the genre. This strident social criticism disappeared during the course of World War II, while his powers became more godlike, and any contemporary political relevance Superman held became relegated to public service announcements. The fifties television series completed this realignment with the weekly assertion of his 'never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.' Following this trend, Jules Feiffer famously articulated Superman, by virtue of his alien birth, as the embodiment of the American integrationist ideal, though this interpretation has not been received uncritically. By the sixties, Umberto Eco observed that "in Superman we have a perfect example of civic consciousness, completely split from political consciousness" (123); this continuing characterization – the moral hero as the penultimate law-abiding citizen – in the ensuing decades provided the material Miller expands upon in his figuration of Superman as the well-intentioned accomplice, naive enough to support the cynical, corrupt ruling powers of a Cold War American conservatism.
In lieu of arguing the apparent, I will briefly cite moments illustrative of the positions both Batman and Superman occupy in relation to the political structure in , through the icon of the American flag (see Figure 3). Superman is introduced to the narrative in an off panel conversation with the President, who orders Superman to suppress Batman's power in the trite cowboy metaphor of a wild bronco upsetting the herd. This dialogue occurs over the background of a flag, increasingly enlarged until the red and white stripes deform into the red and yellow symbol on Superman's chest (Miller et al., 84). Batman's relation to the flag is equally unambiguous, where a flag wraps the corpse of a corrupt General's suicide in a high contrast composition which systematically removes any alternate colors (70). This exemplifies the distinction, drawn by Mike S. Dubose's 2007 essay "Holding Out for a Hero," between Superman as "police vigilante" and Batman as "vigilante proper," determined according to the characters' respective political beliefs, while ultimately becoming a simple question of control (918, 921). Miller's extrapolated reading of his characters, based upon a thorough knowledge of their histories, is at once both innovative and familiar, a return for each to an origin that never existed, yet remains unchallenged by the reader (see character histories in Notes). The narrative overdetermination of these alignments conforms to Carl Schmitt's classic 1932 definition of the political as reducible to a single criterion, the concrete differentiation of friend from enemy (26-7). Thus Batman derides Superman for participating in covert police actions with "military friends" against the Soviets, "you always say yes – to anyone with a badge – or a flag […] You sold us out" (Miller et al., 168, 190, 192, ellipsis added). In a scene prior to Batman's return, during his political/ideological withdrawal from the world, Bruce Wayne refuses to signify members of the Mutants gang as targets of his personal crusade against crime. Comparing them to the man who killed his parents, Wayne asserts "he flinched when he pulled the trigger […] These are his children. A purer breed … and this world is theirs" (14, ellipsis added). In this conceptual realm without friends or enemies, Batman cannot exist as a political entity, but remains the perfectly impotent dead man Wayne laments. Upon resuming what Superman characterizes as his "holy war" (139) – differing from Batman's own conception only in the use of "holy" as epithet – the newly political Batman must contend within the conventional ideological battleground of a televised mediation.
Umberto Eco, “The Myth of Superman” – earthx blog
The television as panel is both a singularly distinct visual device and multiply complicit as a bearer of narrative significance. The dichotomy between image and text inherent to the comics medium is augmented through the universal dislocation of the televised voice to the upper half of the grid-unit, disembodied in an extended gutter space between panels, emphasizing its removal from immediate experience. The television frame is a uniformly visual stasis of mediation in the midst of the fluid actions juxtaposed within the multiframe, the embodiment and bearer of the orthogonal grid layout, in its most restrictive form, wherever it appears. Though Tim Blackmore's 1991 essay "The Dark Knight of Democracy" focuses almost exclusively on textual-narrative analysis, he successfully identifies the employment of the television in structuring the movement of the plot through "channel flips," establishing an "'objective' camera" whose gaze is not that of the reader, and as symptom of a modern media culture structured through the communal viewing patterns of an otherwise fragmentary public (43). In the latter two functions the television panel assumes its political dimension, augmented by the parergonal structure of screen as border which, as Jacques Derrida analyzes frames in , serves to paradoxically effect a separation of its content from the surrounding space while simultaneously embedding itself in its contextual referent, the multi-frame page. To begin on a purely narrative level, the television is not only the sole source of public information for members of Miller's fictive realm, it is also their only forum for civic discourse, mediated through the commercial structure of the network corporation and the public personalities of its hosts and news anchors. Simultaneously, the television effects the reader's complete knowledge of the text's social field. In the second half of , the increasingly public nature of Batman's actions pressures the Reagan-inspired President to action, and Superman's mysterious presence in Gotham illuminates the indirect governmental control of the media. As one news anchor playfully alludes to the classic mantra of Superman – faster a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, etc. – her counterpart repeatedly attempts to curtail these statements before lamenting "the last thing we need is trouble with the F.C.C." (Miller et al., 109-11). The television thus transmits the approved ideology of the governing class, reproducing in its audience subjects of and for this ideological order through the hailing address of interpellation developed by the Marxist theorist Louis Althusser in his 1969 essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses."