In honor of Superman’s often overlooked and even more maligned alter ego, I’m bringing back a semi-regular feature that first made an appearance over at the older version of this blog — Clark Kent, Mild-Mannered Reporter! I love the Clark character for a bunch of different reasons, which I briefly explained when this series premiered, and which I’m reprinting here as originally posted.
I don’t want to get into a whole “thing” here, but let me just address the chicken-and-egg question people like to ask when it comes to Clark Kent and Superman; Clark was first.
You’re own opinion might vary, of course, and that’s fine. As long as you don’t mind being wrong, wrong, wrong. Look, I know there are some who point out (factually, as much as you can be where a fictional character with a malleable origin is concerned) that Clark was originally Kal-El, last son of Krypton and a nigh-indestructible alien since he crash-landed on Earth as a baby. I agree.
But! This isn’t information little Kal grew up with. As far as he was concerned he was Clark, a kid growing up in Kansas with Ma and Pa Kent and a growing number of freaky powers that went way beyond puberty. For as long as he could remember, he was Clark. A boy, then a man, with powers far beyond those of mortal men, sure — but still Clark.
Sure, Clark hams it up with the meek milquetoast act. He’s got to if he wants to deflect any suspicion he’s Superman. And c’mon, with all those “coincidences” he needs all the cover he can take. But the point is, it is an act. Not the identity of “Clark;” again, that’s who he is. The bumbling, the absent-mindedness, the queasy stomach … that’s the act.
Something to remember is that Clark might come across as a marshmallow (especially depending on whoever the writer might be), but he’s a highly competent S.O.B. He’s a respected novelist, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and the only real competition Lois Lane has in the newsroom. And he’s done all that as himself. As Clark.
His role and his responsibilities as Superman are essentially two things — his duty, and his job. It’s his job in the same way a person might be a firefighter or a cop, people who put their lives on the line in the name of the greater good, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Being Superman just happens to be a job he can do, and do better than anyone else. The fact that he wants to do it comes from his sense of duty … and that’s from being a farmboy who was raised with solid values, a sense of right and wrong, and an unerring dedication to truth and fairness and the idea that there is always hope. These oh-so-human values — not the flying or the heat-vision or sheer planet-moving power — these are what make Superman a hero.
And that is all Clark.