Friday, June 13, 2014

It's Not a Nerd, It's Too Inane...It's Soviet Superman!


Pat e-mailed the rest of the Drinkmore crew this panel today. It’s from Superman: Red Son, a three-issue comic book produced in 2003 and premised on Kal-El having landed in Ukraine rather than the United States and grown up a Soviet “citizen,” fighting a never-ending battle for Josef Stalin and the Red Army rather than Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Although I’ve never read Red Son, aside from the canon of the story, in which the Soviet Union apparently becomes the predominant superpower and the United States produces super-villains to destroy both it and Superman, it is readily evident just from this panel why the USSR ultimately failed in its goal of world domination: the Russkies were dopes.

Firstly, Soviet Russia officially adopted the metric system in 1918, almost immediately upon its inception. Now, I’m not saying that Tsar Nicholas II might have saved his and the Royal Family’s tsasses by going metric—after all, the Russian Revolution was more socio-politically than metrically motivated—but I am saying that the Tsar could have substantially improved life under his apathetic reign by standardizing the nation’s AAA maps both internally and to the rest of Europe, vastly simplifying vacation travel for serfs. Even so, why the hell was Superman calculating in “capitalist” miles instead of “communist” kilometers? Soviet Superman wouldn’t have made it past Russian elementary school—yet he’s the USSR’s ultimate weapon?   

Much more importantly than simple units of measure, look how utterly vague and scatterbrained is the hammer-and-sickle–chested Superman: In a nation that measured more than 6,000 miles east to west and nearly 3,000 miles north to south—an area of 14 million square miles—he’s “pinpointing” a destination more than 3,000 miles away from a known locale.

Three thousand miles west of Vladivostok, a coastal city in the Russian Far East, is just east of the Ural Mountains. However, the Urals stretch north-south for approximately 2,500 miles. Even considering Superman’s incredible flying speed, that’s still precious minutes wasted in a millions-of-square-miles wild-goose chase across the Soviet Union’s spine. How many people will die and homes will burn while the Man of Stoli searches for this chemical fire by needlessly zooming up and down mountainous wilderness of the Urals like Clint Eastwood looking for his refueling point in Firefox?


Considering that Stalin and Soviet Superman are surely in Moscow—4,000 miles east of Vladivostok and thus obviously much closer to the chemical fire than that cross-continental port city—citing Vladivostok as a reference point makes absolutely nyet sense. Why not use Yekaterinburg, a major city on the eastern slope of the Urals and approximately those 3,000 miles west of Vladivostok, as the reference point? It’s still almost 900 miles from Moscow, thus preserving the image of Superman heroically coming to the rescue from a great distance yet eliminating the asinine inexactitude that betrays his stupidity. After all, one does not summon emergency services by saying that an ambulance is needed fifty miles west of a town located fifty miles to the east…

That neither Comrade Kent nor Stalin—who also foolishly fails to demand a more-specific location—could not fathom such obvious logic displays the kind of flawed reasoning that led to the USSR’s demise. Would American Superman know to go to San Francisco if he were needed “3,000 miles west of New York”? Of course not—but, possessing the American penchant for individual thought and the free exchange of ideas, you can bet he would look into it, he would at least ask for directions. Little wonder the USSR never landed a man on the moon, conquered capitalism, or beat the Broad Street Bullies in 1976—those Soviets were such slaves to their own narrow-minded system, their overbearing Mother Russia, that they were utterly incapable of thinking even slightly out of the Bloc.

Not that the United States owns an unblemished heritage of geniuses at the helm—the US government atom- and hydrogen-bombed its own country more than a thousand times since the end of World War II—but at least our superheroes’ kryptonite isn’t common sense and our pizza deliverymen get their precious cargo to hungry mouths without empty-headedly basing their route on the customer’s distance from the Cumberland Gap.

(Superman: Red Son panel copyright DC Comics; map of Russia copyright npr.org.)

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