While Shuster, Siegel and Kane were, without doubt, the Olympians of Action Hero Comics, the creators of Superman and Batman – each the 24 year-old son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe – were never going to be the heirs of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Man of Steel, the latest Superman blockbuster that I ran faster than a speeding bullet to see last week, is best described as schizophrenic. The first 90 minutes – the average length of a 21st century movie – is cerebral beyond anything Clark Kent’s creative young gods could have possibly imagined, while the 53 minutes of extra time are pure, unadulterated violence, which is what they very probably did imagine. Violence and one single hell of a kiss. (Spoiler Alert – if you don’t know the Superman story by now, go back to Krypton). As our Superhero and Lois Lane embrace amid the ruins of Metropolis they are watched admiringly by a group of misty-eyed US army officers while General Zod still lurks in the shadows ready to end any chance the studio has of making Man of Steel – The Sequel. The scene is the watermark that proves the movie is genuine, infantile Hollywood.
Whatever Shuster and Siegel were thinking of when they were penning and inking the first adventure in 1938 (whoosh, pow, thwack?) they may have subconsciously been delving into their immigrant roots. They would likely have faced discrimination as kids and young men and this alienation does come out quite starkly in this latest cinematic offering – even if Clark Kent did not sail Steerage Class from Hamburg to Metropolis.
Earlier this month the OECD (the club of rich nations except the rich nations that are not members) published the latest edition of its International Migration Outlook report. 400+ pages of taxpayers money to come to the conclusion that the fiscal impact of migration is broadly neutral – that is to say, immigrants normally pay more in taxes than they claim in welfare.
With xenophobia spreading faster across the globe than Middle-Eastern immigrants to Europe, that money may be well spent. Enlightened politicians of developed nations, no longer able to use anti-immigrant arguments based on the lengths of noses or racial inferiority, have in recent years opted for the economic argument – immigrants are a drain on social services while not contributing enough to the national coffers. This latest report deflects that contention: while there are pockets where it is true such as Germany, in the main immigration neither adds not subtracts. Having said that, young educated immigrants are deemed a definite boon.
Despite being the grandson of immigrants (and, indeed, an immigrant myself) I am not sure this 400+ page of apologetics quite hits the nail on the council house door. Stating that immigration is a substantially zero-sum fiscal game does not take into account the effect on unemployment among the indigenous population crowded out of the job market (which was the ubiquitous gripe when I was a young man and should come round once more on the xenophobic carousel sometime soon).
The immigrants a country does need are those that add value to the economy – those that bring skills and diversity of thought (and hence innovation). In addition, unskilled labour is required for the functions the indigenous population are no longer prepared to undertake. Of course, the social consequences must be considered together with the fiscal ones. While cultural diversity is without question a boon to petrified- fossil countries, any attempt at minority cultural hegemony must be unceremoniously rebuffed.
Michael Chabon’s award-winnning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay tells the tale of a refugee from Nazi Europe who creates a comic strip character that fights Fascism – the immigrant’s superhero. Superman was the ultimate immigrant with strange, suspect powers and weird clothes – but he was also the All-American boy who paid his way and devoted himself to his adopted nation. That is what immigration should be all about. Maybe, after all, there was more to Shuster and Siegel than meets the non X-ray eye.