Founded in 1938 by Jerry Spiegel and Joe Shuster, Superman is an iconic pop culture superhero. Always ready to help others, Clark Kent is known for his humanity, generosity, sense of duty and sacrifice. But Superman also has a darker side, in fact the latter makes ruling the galaxy a sometimes very cruel justice, or at least very far from what is known on earth.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the comics Superman and the Authority # 1. Don’t read any further if you don’t want to read it.
The ghost zone: the cruellest prison
Exile in the Phantom Zone is surely the most severe punishment Superman can inflict on anyone. This is because it is a special, interdimensional prison that has been used by the Kryptonians for many years. In the Phantom Zone, prisoners still exist as pure consciousness, but with no physical form. This is another dimension that resembles a space vacuum in which the convicts enter the ghost state of wandering for a time set by the judges. In the Phantom Zone, time is actually frozen: prisoners do not age and cannot die. You are doomed to experience moral suffering for what feels like an eternity.
The galaxy’s worst criminals are banished there, including General Zod, a fascist tyrant who tried to take over Krypton. He was therefore sent to the Phantom Zone along with his subordinates. Vicious versions of Superman also stayed there, like Superman Cyborg. The exact nature of the zone has changed over time, and DC recently revealed that it is the projection of a dark god’s consciousness and changes according to its whims. So being banished to the Phantom Zone is a terrible fate for anyone, and it seems very strange for Superman to use it.
Superman and his justification
In the first volume of Superman and the Authority, the superhero finally explained why he reaches into this prison. Indeed, Manchester Black, a notorious slanderer of Superman, confronts Clark Kent in the comic strip signed by Scotsman Grant Morrison about the use of this zone and the ethical issues it raises.
To fulfill a promise made to John F. Kennedy, Superman sets up a new version of Authority with the goal of “making a better world”. One of his first recruits is Manchester Black, and you should know that he deeply hates the superhero (he’s already fought with him). Superman takes him to the Fortress of Solitude and Black questions him about his use of the Phantom Zone.
“I’m running out of time to fix the problem. I have to do everything right at all costs. I think you can help me, Manchester Black. “
While Black makes scathing remarks about the recalcitrant pedestrians and tax evaders sent to the interdimensional prison, Superman corrects him by stating that any prisoner exiled to the area is a terrible villain. He goes on to claim that if the prisoners escaped, they would certainly destroy the earth. The only way to control these dangerous sociopaths is to send them to the Phantom Zone where they are harmless. This Superman answer to the ethical questions raised by the interdimensional prison seems to please Manchester Black.
“In reality, they are sociopathic supermaniacs. Alone or in groups, they have tried to overthrow or destroy planet Earth every time they managed to escape.”
Grant Morrison’s comic book, published July 21, somehow justifies these radical choices that Superman made. Banning someone in the Phantom Zone is not an easy task, so the rule only applies to extremely dangerous people. This rationale will no doubt satisfy fans of the superhero, but the next ethical question is whether someone can determine someone else’s fate for themselves. A topic of discussion that the comic book, Superman and the Authority, may try to answer.
Superman and the Authority is a comic book by Grant Morrison with illustrations by Mikel Janin, paints by Jordie Bellaire, and letters from Steve Wands. The first issue was published on July 21, a full volume is planned for November 16, 2021. By the way, if you enjoyed this article, you might want to find out which Superman or Flash is faster.