I was in London, on the way to a family wedding, when the news broke last month. “Superman has a boyfriend,” the headlines read. Everyone from my own parents to relatives I hadn’t seen in over a decade wanted to talk to me about this. Maybe it’s just because I’m known as the comics guy in my family, but around me, this seemed second only to my sister’s nuptials in the conversation.
“What happened to Lois Lane?” they asked me.
“This is a new Superman,” I explained, patiently. “Jon Kent, the original Superman’s son. Lois is his mother.”
“But how did they even have a kid?” was their next question, some ‘70s thought experiment about metal and tissue paper not far from their minds.
“It’s a long story. But originally, he was conceived and born during a year when Superman was depowered and Metropolis was captured by Brainiac,” I answered, summarizing Jon Kent’s origins in 2015’s Convergence: Superman.
“Oh right,” my dad said, recalling his own Bronze Age Superman comic collection. “I remember Brainiac.”
“Okay, granted. It’s a new Superman and Lois is fine. Who’s the boyfriend?”
This was the point where I ran out of answers. Sure, we’d gotten a few glimpses of Jon Kent’s pink-haired paramour, smooching Superman in that splash page from Tom Taylor and John Timms’ Superman: Son of Kal-El #5. But who was he, really?
Jay Nakamura, like both of Jon’s own parents, is a journalist. Not for a great Metropolitan newspaper, but as part of an underground online collective of citizen reporters who call themselves “The Truth.” Together, they shine the light on international ugliness and corruption that a sanitized media landscape would rather its viewers not see.
Jay Nakamura is a refugee, from the island nation of Gamorra ruled by the tyrannical President Bendix. If those names are familiar to you, then you were probably really into comics in the ’90s—Bendix and Gamorra were frequently featured in WildStorm titles such as StormWatch and The Authority. In the past, Bendix has been a proponent of “posthuman” experimentation, genetically manipulating human subjects in pursuit of generating superpowers. Some of his greatest successes include an earlier queer super-couple you may be familiar with already: Midnighter and Apollo.
Bendix’s latest success seems to be Jay Nakamura himself. As we discover in Superman: Son of Kal-El #4, Jay has the power to turn intangible seemingly reflexively, protecting him from all potential threats. In other words, he’s the last person Jon ever needs to worry about saving.
Most importantly, Jay Nakamura is pretty quick on the uptake. It took Lois Lane 52 years to crack Superman’s secret identity once and for all. Jay Nakamura clocked Jon Kent as Superman in one issue.
Granted, that’s not entirely on Jay. Under the assumed identity of “Finn Connors,” Jon was attending his first day of college in Son of Kal-El #2 only to immediately abandon his cover to save the students from an active shooter. Junior journalist Jay Nakamura bore witness to Jon’s heroic transformation, and immediately, he knew two things about Jon Kent. One, that he would sacrifice everything he had in a heartbeat to save the people around him. And two, if he kept going like this, he would inevitably burn himself out.
This brings us to the current issue, Superman: Son of Kal-El #5, “Who’s Got You?”
The title is an auspicious one, to be sure, echoing Lois Lane’s first words to Superman in the 1978 Superman movie which, all else considered, was ultimately a romance film. But it’s also a question that addresses very much who Jon Kent is and the role that Jay Nakamura can play in his life.
After our 21st century Superman joins the Truth in calling attention to Gamorra’s refugee crisis, President Bendix devises a cunning strategy to burn out his new nemesis: weaponizing Jon Kent’s selflessness against him. With his ability to enhance metahuman powers, Bendix magnifies Jon Kent’s super senses, sending him in a mad rush to resolve every disaster he can sense until he exhausts himself. Only by feigning a crisis of his own does Jay allow Jon the time and space to slow down, rest and consider his own needs. No one has ever doubted Jon’s ability to live up to his father. But if Superman’s got everyone’s back, then who’s got him?
The story of Superman began in 1938 as the tale of a man from the stars who could save humanity through leading by example. Eventually, it transformed into the story of an outsider who longed for a place in his adopted home world. Jay Nakamura is here to provide that place for Jon, where he can be permitted to take a moment to consider what he wants for himself—whether that be an emergency nine-hour nap, or a stolen kiss from a cute, pink-haired boy.
At my sister’s wedding, I was happy to talk to whoever found me about Superman. But as my family and their friends asked me if I was seeing any nice girls and where the next destination wedding would be, I didn’t have it in me to tell them my own truth: that I am an asexual man, that I was proud of my identity, that there would be no nice girls, and that they could save their wedding gift money. It didn’t seem like the time or place to do so.
But there is a time, and there is a place, to accept and live within that truth. That’s Jay Nakamura’s message, after all. You’ve got to make room for yourself.
Jon Kent is not “a gay Superman”—he is a bisexual Superman. That is an important distinction. Jon’s budding relationship with Jay doesn’t negate, for instance, his romance with Saturn Girl in Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook’s Legion of Super-Heroes. Hard as it is to believe, there are still some people in this world who believe that sexuality is binary. You’re straight, or you’re gay. But sexuality is much more complicated than that. People are much more complicated. And comic books are even more complicated. If comics can provide a place for a 12th-level intellect Coluan who can bottle alien cities, then they should have no problem reflecting that there are people who can feel attraction to more than one sex. Or even attraction to no sex at all and thousands of other configurations of sexual identification. When we examine ourselves, we’ll find that there are as many ways to feel about people as there are people on Earth to have those feelings. And it is a good, true thing that our heroes reflect that.
As we stand together for a better tomorrow, as Taylor writes in Superman: Son of Kal-El #1, it means a great deal that our Superman, who represents justice for all, stands with Jay by his side in the Truth.
Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 by Tom Taylor, John Timms and Hi-Fi is now available in print and as a digital comic book.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.