Is there Enough Irony in the World to Make this Ad Inoffensive?
This advertisement comes from page 399 the June 2006 issue of Previews, the catalog for Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. (Diamond is the major distributor of all US comics and related materials to comics shops.) I doubt if anyone at Diamond (or DC Comics or their parent company TimeWarner) is responsible for the ad copy; most likely it comes from the company that produces the shirt, Grafitti Designs.
I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to whoever came up with the slogan originally; I suppose there might possibly be folks young or sheltered enough out there who don't recognize the racist - oh, let's just say it, Nazi - associations with the term "White Power." But nobody else did? Not an in-house editor or design person at Graffitti? Not a licensing person at DC? Not anybody at Previews, or even at whatever printer they use? (Although Previews as a whole reads as if it were proofread by... well, nobody.)
In case the problem's not clear:
White Power -> Nazis -> Übermensch -> Superman.
Again, I'm not accusing anybody of racism here. I am accusing the entire production chain of, at best, a failure to edit or, at least, a really, really piss-poor sense of humor.
While I did find a small discussion about the ad at Snopes, I haven't seen it mentioned on any comics news sites (although I'm not sure even Tom Spurgeon could actually follow them all). Maybe that just means that nobody reads Previews that closely? I doubt it. Maybe it means that nobody thinks it's offensive? I sure hope not.
In any event, I would certainly hope that Warner Bros. would be bothered to know - especially with Superman Returns on the horizon - that their All-American boy scout is being publicized with a phrase coined by the American Nazi Party.