But less than two decades later, the courage and dedication of real people on our own Earth put an end to apartheid and began the work of reconciliation between the diverse peoples of a divided country.
I was reminded of this comic because, stuck on the couch with a head cold, I've been resting and watching movies. Today I watched Invictus, Clint Eastwood's 2009 film about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Anyone who knows me know that I'm not a sports fan, generally speaking. I am, however, a fan of Clint Eastwood's filmography; whatever the subject, he rarely disappoints. Invictus takes its name from the nineteenth-century poem by William Ernest Henley, which apparently inspired Mandela during his decades-long incarceration:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,Henley's poem helped drive one of the era's most important political figures to lead a nation from segregation to reconciliation. While there's no doubt that South Africa is still beset by many problems, that nation's story remains hopeful, thanks in great part to Mandela and the millions of citizens - including the Springboks, the national (and almost all white) rugby team - who worked together, and continue to work together, to build a better country.
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Aside from the connection to South Africa, what does a classic poem have to do with a one-off reference in a mostly-forgotten comic book?
It's this: hope is important. To dream of a better world, no matter the medium, is to instill in our minds the notion that the world may be imperfect, but it needn't stay this way. Just as Henley's poem inspired Mandela, I have no doubt that that panel from All-Star #66, or some other pop-culture reference with the same message, inspired others to work for a better world. Maybe that's too much import to impart upon a thirty-cent comic book, but I appreciate its message of hope nonetheless.