Superman is one of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes, but it’s sometimes easy to forget how he got there. If anyone other than Jonathan and Martha Kent had found Clark in the field that fateful day, things could have turned out very differently. In Superman of Smallville, the playful all-ages graphic novel from Art Baltazar and Franco, we get a brand-new look at Ma and Pa Kent helping Clark navigate both using his superpowers responsibly and getting through middle school. (What a double whammy!) The Kents are truly super-parents with abilities we can all strive to have ourselves.
Superman of Smallville is a lighthearted look at the life of thirteen-year-old Clark Kent. He’s learning to use his powers to help others with a smile and wave, from rescuing a farmer and his sheep caught in a mudslide to plucking a sinking boat from the water of Lake Smallville. But while Clark may be having a blast, his mother and father can’t help but wonder if he’s taking on too much responsibility too quickly, so they talk to him about it. That’s their first superpower: Ma and Pa always lend Clark a sympathetic and attentive ear.
It’s often too easy to get caught up in the stresses of everyday life and to try to handle everything on our own. When we take time to sit down and listen to each other, the problems of the day can seem a little more manageable. In Clark’s case, it’s using his powers while keeping his identity safe that his parents want to chat about. “Take time for yourself,” urges Jonathan, wise advice that Clark will take to heart well into adulthood.
Jonathan is also a stickler for chores, making sure Clark fulfills his own duties around the farm without using his powers as a shortcut. The Kents keep Clark grounded in more ways than one, whether it’s learning the value of hard work or literally trying to plant his feet back on the ground after he accidentally starts floating in the air. Which, adorably, only happens when Clark thinks of Lana Lang.
Of course, things don’t always go so well. After Clark sneaks out to help Lana, Pete Ross and Lex Luthor investigate some of the strange events happening around Smallville, Ma and Pa actually ground him, telling him he’s not allowed to go out with his friends. While a parent might feel like a villain when it’s time to enforce consequences for kids’ careless choices (at least I do, anyway), Jonathan and Martha know that it’s for his own good. Can you imagine? Grounding Superman? Ma and Pa Kent can and do. They’re flexible when they can be and firm when they need to be, which absolutely has to be a superpower.
Okay, maybe it’s not, but as any parent can tell you, it should be.
All that said, if you suspect Jonathan and Martha are perfect parents who are completely confident in their decisions, they’re not. They also have their share of worries and doubts that they’re doing the best thing for Clark.
“Who knew trying to do the right thing would be the hardest thing to do,” frets Martha Kent. It’s because they’re willing to take just as hard of a look at themselves as they are at their son that makes them such good parents.
Most importantly, Ma and Pa are unwavering in their support of Clark, whether it’s a pep talk for the first day of middle school, trusting him when he needs them to believe him or simply fixing up his sweater and red cape. Watching him fly away to save the day, putting his normal life on the line every time he wears the cape can’t be easy for Jonathan and Martha, but they always do it with a smile and all their love. They are the unsung heroes of the Superman universe.
Also, Ma Kent really rocks that red head scarf.
Superman of Smallville shows us that it’s just as stressful to be a kid with superpowers as it is being a grownup taking on some of the biggest super-villains in the universe. But when you have friends and family supporting you, neither middle school crushes nor physically being crushed by a bad guy feel like they’re too much to handle. Thanks to Ma and Pa Kent, Clark Kent is just as big a hero as Superman, sharing kindness and thoughtfulness in everything he does.
Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for DCComics.com and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist, Geek & Sundry and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and crafts.