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Opinion Truth, justice and the American way? It includes room for a bisexual Superman.

Christopher Reeve as Superman. ((Courtesy of Warner Bros./DC Entertainment))

When the news broke that Superman is coming out as bisexual, it became a trending topic on Twitter, which is not how I typically determine whether something is important. To me, it was important because, like millions of Silver Age comic book kids growing up with Superman in the 1960s, I feel a sense of ownership.

Back then, my devotion extended beyond the comic books to include the daily reruns of the syndicated TV show, “Adventures of Superman,” starring George Reeves. The producers had the foresight to film the last four seasons of this 1950s classic in color, but the negatives weren’t processed that way until about a decade later. When the color version finally debuted, my 9-year-old self was mercifully driven to my grandfather’s house — we didn’t have color TV yet — so I could witness in wide-eyed wonder the Man of Steel’s bright red cape flapping in the wind against a vivid blue sky.

The big-budget films began arriving in 1978 with Christopher Reeve impressively embodying the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman. But I was disappointed in the second film when Superman and Lois Lane were shown waking up in bed after consummating their relationship. That would have been fine had it been James Bond, that roguish womanizer as portrayed by Sean Connery or Roger Moore. It was part of Bond’s character. But Superman?

Superman and other superheroes of my youth, both male and female, were targeted to kids and devoted to thwarting evil. Their sex lives were irrelevant. The fact that Lois Lane was Superman’s girlfriend was understood, but that was as far as it went. If the pair kissed, it was usually in a dream sequence with Lois pining for her wedding day.

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Today, our graphic and sexualized society demands more, and our comic book heroes are marketed to mature audiences. The first image circulating with the news of Superman’s pending bisexual identification was that of a full-on kiss on the mouth between Superman and another man. Subtle.

When I read that Superman — technically a new Superman, the original’s son — would be bisexual, my first reaction was that it was entirely predictable. We’re in a progressive PC world where popular fictional heroes who were White and straight must become something different.

The concept is already in danger of becoming monotonous. “Captain Marvel” has gone from straight man to straight woman to lesbian (it’s complicated). Bond’s iconic “007” codename has been assumed by a woman of color. Batman’s third Robin came out as bisexual this year. Tom Taylor, who writes the new Superman series, told the New York Times, “The idea of replacing Clark Kent with another straight white savior felt like a missed opportunity.” One suspects that the opportunity missed would primarily have been the brief splash of publicity this week.

Make no mistake: It’s true that when Superman (1938), Batman (1939), Spider-Man (1962) and other popular comic book heroes were conceived, introducing LGBTQ or Black superheroes would have been socially and commercially unfeasible. The first openly gay comic book hero to appear in a major title was Marvel’s Northstar, who made his debut in 1979 and eventually wound up in the popular “X-Men” series. While his sexuality was only suggested for several years, it was made explicit in 1992.

Countless new superheroes representing minorities have flourished over the past 20 or 30 years, and some of us would argue that it’s unnecessary to appropriate older ones. Why not just give Northstar the kind of star turn that Black Panther received in 2018? But, nostalgia aside, Superman is not owned by fans of the romantic discretion of an earlier era. He is owned and published by DC Comics, and they can do with him what they will.

Change is part of life in an increasingly multicultural world. I have long objected to allegations of “appropriation” and the notion that art belongs to any particular group. Music, for example, is available to be reinterpreted by anyone, regardless of its origins. The same is true here — previously White and straight fictional characters can be repurposed as people of color or gay or bisexual.

That doesn’t mean everyone has to embrace every new version of an old favorite. Far from it. We’re told that the new incarnation of Superman won’t shy away from political causes, and it’s easy to predict where he’ll land on the left-right spectrum. Since the introduction of his own series in July, The Post reported that the new Superman has been shown “aiding the world against climate change (and) supporting refugees.” That’s fine, but something tells me he won’t be fighting for Second Amendment rights or helping patrol the southern border to curb illegal immigration.

The opening of each episode of “Adventures of Superman” assured us that our hero was fighting for “truth, justice and the American way.” Turns out, the American way is constantly evolving and open to interpretation — just like Superman.


An earlier version of this column incorrectly identified Tom Taylor. He is the writer of the new Superman series. This version has been updated.