Prohibition in Smallville

Rich Johnston reported a week ago that DC had recalled Action Comics #869 due to what was apparently an unacceptable depiction of Clark and Jonathan Kent drinking beers while leaning up against a fence down home on the farm.

DC’s way of correcting this problem was to Photoshop some “SODA POP” labels on the bottles in a none-too-subtle fashion:

It was while regretting my own beer consumption from the night before that I started thinking about the implications of this particular judgment — DC Comics is saying it’s okay for Superman to drink pop, but it’s not okay for Superman to drink beer. I was thinking about why DC might make that call, particularly at the expense of all of those recalled comics, and honestly, I couldn’t think of a good reason to justify it. So I conducted a completely unscientific survey among several of my friends (some are comics readers, most are not; some are drinkers, some are not) and asked them what their reaction would be to seeing an image of Clark and Jonathan Kent sharing a beer on the farm.

Offensive? Shocking?
“If I saw Clark Kent drinking with his father, I would think that it would be normal, simply because his dad is a good ol’ boy,” one friend said. “I would expect nothing less. Well … maybe a shot of whiskey with it. If I saw him drinking a cosmo, that would be a completely different story.”

No one in my sample pool said they would be offended, “…but I guess it might surprise me a little,” one person said. “I picture Clark and Superman to be almost too virtuous to drink beer.”

“I imagine there would be people out there who would be offended by it,” another said, “but someone is always offended at something.”

Two people were concerned about Clark being a minor. The most recent origin story of Superman, “Birthright,” put Superman at 25 years old when he began his superhero career. Although that origin was quickly negated by Infinite Crisis, I doubt anyone would argue that the current Clark Kent is a minor. And even if he is under 21, one person said “I don’t think I would mind, really, seeing as Superman’s invulnerable and shouldn’t be affected by alcohol.”

Bad influence on the kids?
One person thought the decision may have been made because of concerns about children reading the comic. If that’s the motivation, what a weird time to start using Superman comics as a platform for moral judgment.

I’m not disputing for a second that Superman isn’t the embodiment of a certain brand of morality, but if DC is worried about the kids, why didn’t new sports editor Steve Lombard’s desire for a morning beer, his suggestion of a threesome with Lois Lane, or Cat Grant’s page-long thrusting of bulbous breast implants into Clark’s face give anyone pause in the first issue of this arc (Action #866)? What about the message sent by a bunch of grown men lusting over a teenager (Action #868)?

Or if someone is really worried about upsetting some parents group or corrupting some children, how on Earth did DC green-light that celebration of Satan in Superman #666???

Does a body good
Figuring DC surely wouldn’t be moral hypocrites and endorse pedophilia, breast enhancement and Satan while denying Clark a drink with his dad, I thought, “Maybe it’s a health thing.”

But no! I found some nutrition guidelines that allow for three times as much beer as they do soda! As Jo4nny at the Booze Journal said,

I could find NO health benefits to drinking soda. It contributes to diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, caffeine dependency, provides no substantial amounts of vitamins or minerals, and it can actually dehydrate you more (because of the caffeine being a diuretic).

The health benefits of beer are surprisingly vast & varied. You can read all about it here — but basically beer improves blood flow, decreases risk of heart attack & stroke, contains numerous vitamins, improves brain function, reduces risk of kidney stones, fights cancer, etc.

When I thought about who was drinking beer and who was drinking pop, I finally figured out DC’s message. I had been looking at the judgment completely backwards.

Steve Lombard, a normal human, was drinking beer. Clark Kent — with his super immunity — was drinking the sugary pop (clearly not diet).

DC is saying “If you’re human, it’s best that you drink beer. Don’t touch pop unless you are from Krypton.”

Pa Kent, who is drinking pop, apparently just wants to die.

At first, I actually thought Clark’s bottle said “Root beer,” but then I thought it actually said “Light Beer.” I looked around online for any “Crow” beer or root beer and found the Sprecher Brewing Company of Milwaukee. Turns out, while they don’t have a “Crow” brand root beer, their root beer label does have a crow on it.

Gary Frank is British, and very likely doesn’t know about a small brewery in Milwaukee, but if he even went to the trouble of doing a google search to give the label some midwest authenticity and stumbled upon Sprecher, this may have been a whole lot of expense for absolutely nothing (working from the belief that someone felt that recalling thousands of books in order to change a label from beer to soda pop was justifiable).