Dear Ms. Jenkins
I was dismayed to read this afternoon that DC Comics is refusing to allow the use of the Superman shield on a statue commemorating 5 year-old murder victim Jeffrey Baldwin. The statue was commissioned by Todd Boyce of Ottawa, who did not know the child or the family, but was so moved by the little boy’s story that he crowdfunded a memorial and commissioned noted Canadian sculptor Ruth Abernethy, whose noted works include a sculpture of Jazz legend Oscar Peterson that now sits in front of the National Arts Centre in our nation’s capital.
I am sure you know the horrific details of the story as Mr. Boyce will have surely communicated them to you, but here is an excerpt of a story that appeared today on the Toronto Star’s website with the gruesome details:
“ [Jeffrey] and three siblings were taken away from their parents by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society and sent to live with their maternal grandparents in Toronto’s east end.
There, Jeffrey and an older sister were kept locked inside a cold bedroom, devoid of toys. They had little access to food, and were forced to live in their own feces. Jeffrey died of starvation on Nov. 30, 2002.
His grandparents, Norman Kidman and Elva Bottineau, were convicted of second-degree murder in 2006.”*
The one light in Jeffrey’s short miserable life was Superman. He loved the Man of Steel. He wore the cape and the shield and he dreamed of flying. Like so many little boys and girls who are inspired by your intellectual property, like so many little ones who dare to dream because they have Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern, Jeffrey had a scintilla of hope. But he didn’t live to realize his dreams as have so many of us who have discovered wonder in the pages of comic books.
No child should endure such cruelty. No child should die of starvation. The system failed Jeffrey Baldwin but in his heart he had Superman. And who is Superman if not the “champion of the oppressed” (Action Comics #1) and the “friend of the helpless” (Action Comics #7). Superman has been protecting the weak since 1938. On page 5 of that very first issue he took on a man who was beating his wife. When Grant Morrison relaunched Action Comics as part of your New 52 in 2011, he echoed that iconic image of Superman as a social justice crusader. Superman looks out for the little guy when no one else does.
Do you recognize the irony of my quoting a story from the Toronto Star? First published in 1892 and previously known as the Toronto Daily Star, it is the paper that inspired the Daily Star, which evolved into the Daily Planet. As a matter of fact, Toronto, not New York, was the template for Metropolis as it was the home town of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster.
Toronto is baked into Superman’s DNA and I’d like to think that our citizens embody his values of truth and justice, even when our leaders fail us but especially when we have to turn inward and evaluate our shortcomings after having failed each other.
Finally, a core element of the Superman mythos is loss. Kal-El is an orphan who lost his family and his world, and would have never grown up to become the Man of Steel were it not for the kindness of strangers who raised him as a son. Jonathan and Martha Kent found baby Clark at a crash site and nurtured him through childhood and adolescence. Were it not for their love, the impossible boy would not have become the man who could outrun trains and leap over tall buildings, who would fight injustice with the brawn of the superhero and the brains of an ace reporter, who could topple bullies with his fists or with a fountain pen.
Jonathan Baldwin didn’t have the love of a Martha and Jonathan Kent. He didn’t have a fighting chance. By allowing Ms. Abernethy and Mr. Boyce to use Superman’s Shield as part of the memorial, you will not only be honouring a young man who died tragically, you will be honouring everything that Superman has ever represented.