You know what’s not been super lately? My getting this column written and posted each month. But I’ve returned with a commitment to get Super Here For… back on track. Look for new installments during the final week of each month. I mean, if the Man of Steel can take on the Legion of Doom and Leviathan at the same time, I should be able to handle squeezing out a few words every thirty days about what it all means.
But since it’s been a few months since our last column, we kinda have to talk about the biggest thing to happen to Supes since he lost the red trunks. Yes, I’m talking about his shocking decision to reveal his identity to the world in Superman #18.
I know all of you have your opinions about it, and I do as well, so let’s see if ours align.
The title is kind of a spoiler, but I’m all for it. I love it as a Superman fan, and I love it as a comic book reader. Look, the guy may not appear to be a day over 35, but Superman made his debut in 1938. People have been writing and reading Superman comics for over eighty years. Every now and then, you have to make bold creative decisions to shake things up, and I’d put this firmly in that camp. The sheer amount of new story potential that Kal-El’s decision unlocks, in all of the Superman books, is unbelievable. We’ve started to get a sense of this in the two months since issue #18. While Perry White and the staff of the Daily Planet have been supportive, it’s clear that Superman can expect no such treatment by the Planet’s competitors.
As someone who is fascinated by the role of the press in our society, especially in today’s times (one of these months, I’m going to devote an entire column to Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins’ absolutely brilliant Lois Lane), I found the arguments about the ethics of Clark Kent continuing in his role at the Planet to be fascinating. I was equally enthralled by Bethany Snow’s understanding that regardless of how they as journalists might feel, the public is going to continue to love Superman. Of course, that was before the Daily Star discovered that he’d secretly agreed to represent Earth in the United Planets—an organization that humankind didn’t even know existed.
This revelation, which Superman didn’t make himself, reveals what’s so tricky about truth when you’re in the public eye. If you’re going to claim that you felt guilty about keeping a secret, that claim seems pretty insincere when it’s discovered that you’ve been keeping other secrets as well. There are people who likely weren’t thrilled about Superman’s deceit who might have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but now, maybe not.
Regardless, the United Planets discovery seems likely to make clear some of the other problems Clark’s created for himself and his circle of family and friends. Now, everyone knows who to go to when they have a question about Superman. Perry, Jimmy, Jon and especially Lois are going to find themselves on the receiving end of a camera or portable recorder far more often than they’re used to. That’s what we see at the end of the recent Superman #20. And Clark himself? Well, it really seems like he’s about to learn a lesson that his small screen cousin is learning this season on The CW’s Supergirl. Sometimes the most unpredictably dangerous people in situations like these are the ones who thought they knew you pretty well but didn’t know about your dual identity. I’m not sure what Lana Lang is going to say to Clark when she confronts him. It’s entirely possible she’ll hug him and tell him she’s proud of him. But it’s equally possible she may be hurt, angry and looking to lash out, and as a fellow reporter, she’s not without power.
All of this gets to an important distinction that I’d like to make. You notice earlier that I said I loved Superman’s decision to reveal his secret identity as a fan and as a reader. But that doesn’t mean I think it was a wise choice. Clark said that keeping the secret in light of recent events was bothering him, and at the end of the day, we all need to be able to live with ourselves. But there’s a reason Superman, like most superheroes, has had a secret identity for so long. Everyone talks about how it keeps their friends and family safe—and that’s very important—but it also keeps them safe. Prior to now, people only knew Superman as Superman. They didn’t know he was also a working stiff roaming the streets of Metropolis with a wife, family and mortgage. They may have suspected, but they didn’t know for sure.
I’m sure Kal-El knew he had to view anyone approaching him that he didn’t recognize as a possible threat when he was Superman, but there was no reason to suspect the same as Clark. That’s all changed. Now, Clark’s a target too. And I’m not just talking about physical threats. Clark Kent is a guy with a life. He’s someone who could have his credit card frozen, or his home repossessed. He’s someone who could have his e-mail hacked, his identity stolen, or his personal information doxed. This is new territory he’s in, and nothing we’ve read in Superman or Action Comics suggests that he’s considered all this. There are always unanticipated results, and when you’re one of the world’s most well-known superheroes, anything unanticipated can be destructive or even deadly.
As a comic reader, I’m excited at all the unexplored story possibilities this opens up. But as someone who cares deeply about these characters, I can’t help but worry about all the new danger it puts them in. Let’s hope they’ve considered that as well.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, writes our monthly Superman column, "Super Here For...", and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Look for him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.