It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a comic book about the dangers of playing near or with land mines and given the current US opposition to a land mine ban, we’ll need to print lots more of them.
After reading Eyeteeth blog about the US opposition to banning landmines, I went back through my comic book collection…and sure enough, there it was, my 1996 Superman: Deadly Legacy, Bosnia Edition #1, a DC comic published in cooperation with the US Department of Defense and UNICEF.
It’s the first of two comic books warning children in Bosnia and Herzegovina about the dangers of land mines where estimates say 4 to 6 million landmines remain buried today. The second comic is in Spanish,released to Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 1998, is twice a long as the first, contains stickers, signs and a quiz, It also directs young readers to place stickers on sites were land mines are hidden. Both feature Superman and the second also has Wonder Woman, but each has the same message. Beware, Be Careful, Be Safe. Even when Superman can’t be here, you can keep yourself save from landmines! (And you'll have too as the United States has decided not to sign on to the ban of these deadly devices!)
Landmines are very bad news for children as they are closer to the ground and smaller, their injuries from mines are likely to be more substantial than adults. Some land mines such as ‘butterfly’ mines lure children with their attractive, toy like appearance. "I know they look like fun," says Superman as he sweeps up two boys before they can pick up a couple of mines. "But even if they haven't gone off doesn't mean they won't -- at any time!"
And they do, with appalling frequency. About 800 people are killed by landmines every month, 40 per cent of them children. "A landmine is a perfect soldier," the UNICEF State of the World's Children 1996 report quotes a Khmer Rouge general as saying. "Ever courageous, never sleeps, never misses." And once laid, an anti-personnel mine can remain active for as long as 50 years.
Land mines are shattering the lives of children with more than 115 million unexploded mines buried in the ground around the world. The United Nations says the mines kill and mutilate up to 10,000 children every year. Adding to the peril is the lack of functioning hospitals and other nearby medical treatment facilities. As a result, some land mine injuries that should have been treatable result in fatalities.
There’s a 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Anti-personnel mines and other destruction (1997 Mine Ban Treaty). It has the agreement of 150 different counties including the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of them. In Bush’s isolationist ‘we don’t need to show any stinking international cooperation and assistance’ mode, the United States has refused to ban these destructive devices.
Instead of taking the lead and ending this deadly practice, the United States wish children well by forming school curriculums with plays, puppet shows and songs about the dangers of landmines. Sure do all the above but do it while banning the use of these deadly mines!
While the rest of the world leads by signing on to a treaty banning land mines, we produce comic books telling them: "They still can be heroes, even without superpowers," the Man of Steel tells a crowd of adults and children in the last frame of the comic book, as he lifts off for adventures unknown. "The only superpower they need is the power of knowledge."
If only that were true! If the power of knowledge was so strong - the United States would be leading the charge against the use of land mines instead of standing in the way. We keep treating the symptoms and not the causes. Every 22 minutes of every day there is another victim, a life lost or a life destroyed.
Superman would expect more from Americans to protect children and end this deadly practice.