It’s also a gift for the fans. I expect DC to return it as soon as possible.

And it appears we have an opening. At least if you ask CBR, the website that used to be known as Comic Book Resources before they went crazy. A recent article on the situation claims that Superman may not be willingingly restoring his secret identity as Clark Kent, and at least two different CBR writers would rather it stayed gone.

Nevermind the fact that Clark is how we connect to him as readers while also how Kal-El stays tuned to the world. Even Tom King knows that Clark is the source of Superman’s humanity. Take that from him and he grows distant, becoming the “godlike” being some people wrongly believe he is.

Specifically I’m going to look at four articles by two writers: Amer Sawan and Renaldo Matadeen. Apparently they’re fixed in the Supergod camp rather than Superman. They hate the idea of secret identities, at least for Superman. Well, I think they’re wrong and I’m about to go into why. Superman is my favorite superhero, I grew up with Superman as an important factor in what I believe a superhero should be, and Clark Kent is part of the reason why.

First, I should note that all four writers are going on spoilers for Action Comics #s1049 and 1050. So step away now if you’re trying to keep yourself spoiler-free. Our first article is the proclamation by Sawan that Superman isn’t happy about the restoration of his alter ego. After theorizing that Luthor will be using Manchester Black to wipe minds he discusses his issues with the change back.

Superman’s ideals are truth, justice, and hope — his other beliefs flow naturally. There can be no justice without knowing the truth, and hope can endure either because of or in spite of the truth. Superman has also struggled for a long time with the hypocrisy of keeping a secret from the world while preaching the value of honesty. So, when he revealed his identity to the world, it wasn’t just him finally putting that burden aside, it was him living up to his own standards.

To have that constraint put upon him again might be one of the worst things that could ever happen to him. The truth behind his mantle is taken away from him would be a tragic circumstance for someone who has worked so hard these last few years to be honest with the world he loves. Lex may inevitably lose this battle as he always does, but he will still have dealt a lasting blow to his foe.

This idea that Superman keeping a secret identity is living a lie is shared by his colleague Matadeen, who goes further by saying Clark shouldn’t even be a reporter because of that lie.

No matter what, Clark can’t go back to lying to the masses. He came clean about his identity partially because he felt dishonest while infiltrating places as a reporter and then writing stories about himself. It also made Lois come off as unprofessional, as she had access to unique inside info regarding other heroes and villains. Simply put, it gave them both an advantage that made their journalism unethical and took credibility away from the Daily Planet.

Thus, to put Clark back as a reporter would be a repeat of a controversial double standard. It would also negate the emotional connection to the reader. It would be hard to root for a Man of Steel who can’t keep his word. In short, the double standard has to be removed, with Kal-El finding another job. This helps remove Clark as an agent of what villains like Lex Luthor would construe as biased, political propaganda on the front page. This isn’t without risk of course as it opens the Super-family up to more smear campaigns, but it is morally right.

I see he’s going for the “realism” argument, ignoring that in a “real world” Kryptonian powers can’t scientifically exist of course. However, it’s not like the Daily Planet has suffered this before. Both times Clark came out, first by force from New 52 Lois Lane who thought she was helping him and then on his own when Bendis took over to help restore as much of DiDio’s direction as they could get away with, there wasn’t such a huge ramification. They’re basically saying that Clark has been a false journalist since 1939, when he was only taking the job at the Daily Star to get access to the latest news stories so he would know who to help. It was post-Crisis that Clark wanted to be a reporter to report the truth.

So answer me this: if someone was in the Witness Protection Program, would it be Clark’s job to out them? He’d be ignoring the truth if he didn’t. What about the other superheroes? By this way of thinking, shouldn’t the Wayne Enterprises stockholders know their companies’ owner runs around in a bat costume with a bunch of teenagers? What about Oliver Queen’s investors? At what point does it become a violation not to out other heroes? They keep the secret identities for the same reason Clark does; they want to protect people they care about and the resources they use to fight crime. Are the CBR writers anti-vigilante or is the Punisher okay to murder mobsters by the hundreds because everybody knows he’s Frank Castle?

Plus let’s be honest, it’s not like the Daily Planet wasn’t being called biased on other occasions. Lois Lane at one point was dating Superman rather openly in the Silver and Bronze Ages. Jimmy Olsen has a watch that calls Superman for help, something no other  copy boy or photographer has access to. Clark is believed to be able to call Superman because Superboy was in the town Clark grew up, and I don’t know what the thinking is when that was removed from Clark’s story post-Crisis. Even Perry White is considered a friend of Superman. Clark actually being Superman is just him telling his story, and if this is the guy who believes in truth and justice (both writers break out the recent “better tomorrow” nonsense, because “The American Way” bothers them), shouldn’t he be telling the events honestly anyway? Abe Lincoln and Santa Claus couldn’t be more honest than Clark in reporting what happened, and even then Lois has to tell some of those stories because she saw stuff Clark didn’t because he was busy being punched into a building. So, not really all that different if the reporter isn’t mentioning that he, or her husband, is the source. Reporters use anonymous sources all the time.

Now, apart from maintaining his integrity, DC can look to the humanity of the New 52 and…

Let me stop you there. He also mentions All-Star Superman, a story in which he’s dying and tries to do all he can before explodes, but despite scenes like this…

THIS IS HOW YOU DO SUPERMAN!

…most of the time his humanity wasn’t showing through nearly as much. This scene was written by Dan Jurgens, one of the few DC writers who understands how to do Superman right most of the time. There are reasons fans hated the New 52 and why when DiDio was forced into the back for a while they restored post-Crisis Superman with a ten-year-old son and the Super Marriage back in existence.

…putting Clark with the working class: whether it be a construction worker or a sanitation engineer. These sorts of jobs would fit his powers, as he gets to literally clean up Metropolis or build society back. More so, Clark would be with the common man, experiencing humanity in a “salt of the Earth” light that journalism only affords in select cases.

Except he didn’t just become a journalist to get close to the common man. Sure, now we have the internet and news alert texts and all that, but despite what Matadeen thinks about secret identities being lies Superman can actually use Clark Kent to get out truths that Superman can’t. There’s a great issue of Superman Adventures, based in the DCAU (allegedly), where Clark uses his reporter skills, with only one or two minor assists from his superpowers, to save a whole lot of lives when someone builds a subway and railway too close together with shoddy materials and work. That would be a serious disaster without Clark Kent.

That said, at least he got one thing right: DC heroes do take civilian occupations that not only pay for their activities, or at least a roof over their heads and food in the bellies, that benefit people. Bruce and Ollie use their money to help others through charities as well as run businesses that employ a lot of people in Gotham and Star City. If you listed all of Wonder Woman’s jobs all the way back to her first “man’s world” job as a nurse, every one of them was to help people or expand their knowledge of Greek culture (that time she worked in a museum). Even the artistic Green Lanterns, architect John Stewart and graphic designer Kyle Rayner, provided a needed service…though neither holds those jobs anymore as they only work with the Green Lantern Corp. At least construction worker would have benefits for a city being trashed a lot. It worked for Mighty Mouse during the Bakshi show, and it’s one of the few things I give him credit for despite not being a fan of Bakshi’s work in general.

Then again, in a second commentary (and let’s not pretend these aren’t commentaries, with only Samar actually having some interesting information around his commentaries) Matadeen goes all-in on hating secret identities right down to the article’s title” DC’s Making Superman’s Identity Secret Again Is A Lazy Trope. Oh, here comes the ride, folks. We’ve had this debate before.

When Superman announced his identity to the world, it’s safe to say the decision divided DC fans. Many felt he should have kept his secret as Clark Kent safe, while others thought it was a proactive, honest move to shake up the status quo.

Coincidentally, the publisher has decided to reverse the decision, making the truth hidden again, not just for Kal-El but for his son Jon, too. It’s still obscure as to what’s the long-term plan, but as usual, DC’s touting something big, and connected to a larger tapestry. However, recalling the identity perpetuates a lazy and cliché comic book trope that lacks creativity.

Marvel, for example, walked this back with Peter Parker after he revealed his identity in the original Civil War(by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven). It then took Mephisto’s supernatural dealings to reverse things, which has left fans polarized to this day. Some thought Pete being an adult and responsible would have benefited him, raising the stakes for MJ and Aunt May, which eventually happened when May got shot. Thankfully, she survived, but it confirmed how comics could blend realism with escapism.

Right, the “realism” that the greatest scientists, sorcerers, and scientist sorcerers couldn’t heal a lousy bullet wound so MJ talked Peter into making a deal with the devil…

with the devil to erase his marriage. Covering his secret identity was a benefit that shouldn’t have been necessary because Peter didn’t even have to reveal his identity. The law, which wasn’t even active yet, was to reveal yourself to SHIELD so they could keep track if a superhuman went rogue. Not that the law would have solved the incident that started all this but what else is new with the government. And don’t get me started on how Iron Man revealed his identity in the comics. It was a story that screamed “I don’t give a damn”.

What’s an advantage for Superman is the authenticity shines through, reducing the gimmicky vibe. However, once the identity goes back, no one will ever take the publisher seriously regarding masks coming off. It’ll feel cheap and like a marketing tactic, which shouldn’t be the intended effect. The Man of Steel, after all, not hiding his identity presents a challenge that’ll push the creative team, subvert the industry, and get the common people to feel like they’re on the ground with the superhero. Sadly, the idea superheroes should hide the truth, as it adds more drama for them and their families are archaic.

Secret identities were never a gimmick. They were doing secret identities before there WERE superheroes. Zorro. The Scarlet Pimpernel. Various spies in saboteurs in fiction that felt more like superheroes than actual spies in history. The pulp heroes like The Shadow, The Phantom, The Phantom Detective, or the Spider used secret identities. They weren’t gimmicks, they served a purpose, a different one for each hero. The secret identity was an important part of their activities back when people wanted to write about extraordinary people rather than gods. Again, being Clark is what helps keep Superman in touch with humanity. One of my favorite Superman stories (and often linked to reviewed comics) has Superman and Clark separating from each other, and it leads to a Superman that saves lives but is rather cold about it, as well as burned out because his whole life is just being Superman now. By the end they were merged back together, both identities better off for it.

In Superman’s case, it’s outdated, and for his son, Jon, it’s quite regressive. These alien migrants, for example, should be themselves, unabashed and unapologetically, without the forced drama of having to hide their real identities. Ultimately, this makes the publisher feel as if they’re over-relying on the endangerment of the heroes’ loved ones to stir tension, suspense, and dread. It’s, honestly, an overdone tactic by now, at a time fans want more nuance.

THEY ARE NOT MIGRANT ANALOGES! Clark was raised on Earth, even born on Earth according to John Byrne’s run and that “birthing matrix” Clark came in. He was never even a baby on Krypton post-Crisis. Jon was also born on Earth and his half human. It’s like a baby born in another country let’s choose Aruba because we only acknowledge them on game shows, raised by American parents and then having an interracial marriage to an American woman. The strange thing is, Sawan’s other commentary actually makes a good case for the secret identity. At least he tries to be unbiased weighing the pros and cons of restoring Jon’s identity along with his father’s.

The first and most obvious benefit of having a secret identity again is anonymity. Jon has been juggling the media almost the entire time he’s been Superman, going through the highs and lows of popularity with the public, and often being called out and questioned by people who were doing everything in their power to destroy him. Not having to deal with that particular issue anymore would be a blessing.

Then there is the bonus of being able to live a more normal life. Jon’s daily routine as Superman has consumed his entire life. Sure, he makes time for his loved ones, but beyond that, acting as the planet’s protector is all he ever does. There is no room for things like pursuing an education and making new friends, even normal activities in public are met with adoring fans and paparazzi desperate for a picture. The world not knowing who he is anymore would afford Jon the opportunity to enjoy his personal life in total privacy. He was pretty upset about losing the chance to pursue normal goals in his own life, now he has a chance to do so.

Losing Clark has also meant losing moments like this.

Not everybody is obsessed with being a celebrity. If I could have come up with a better solution, and sadly YouTube creators that came out or I discovered years after doing my first video review, you wouldn’t know what I look like because I want my commentaries and reviews to speak for themselves while the interviews focuses on the person I’m interviewing. That cat is out of the bag and there are shows I’d like to do where that would be a problem so the face is revealed. Luckily I’m not very well known on the internet, either. So I get to go to the store without some fan begging for an autograph or wanting to bash my neighbor’s stereo or something. (I did run into one of the Doctor panelists from the Doctor Who+A panel at a grocery store though, and he recognized me. The only other time that’s happened is at conventions if I met them at a convention, not from YouTube.) Jon doesn’t have that luxury, and while he has used his celebrity status to push protest rallies he really hasn’t been able to connect to people AS a fellow person, like so many Hollywood and party life celebrities. This one of the things Clark and Jon might want to avoid.

There are more benefits than negatives to Jon’s secret being restored. Jay potentially forgetting Jon is the one major negative, but as it hasn’t been stated that this will happen, it seems likely that Jay will remember. Though living out in the open was important for Jon to live up to his family’s belief in the truth, it also hasn’t done him many favors in living his own life. For all the changes that keeping this secret will bring, Jon may find he appreciates it more than being the center of attention all the time.

Or Jon just tells him like Clark told Lois. Or maybe Jay, who has also been a superhero I hear (or as much as the would-be gay icons have been allowed to be superheroes), will think he’s dating Jon. Like he said, we don’t know, but this is the only negative Sawar could find. (The paragraph above it only goes into detail Jay not knowing his boyfriend is the son of the world’s greatest superhero.) Matadeen’s final thoughts are of course contradictory to Sawar’s.

Sadly, hiding Kal-El’s truth again feels like its cowardice, making the readers think this facade is the anchor of the character. That’s not the case — it’s their heart, soul, and good deeds, which would resonate more if they’re not mysterious strangers to the masses, but humans and citizens like them.

It is one of the anchors, the thing that helped the reader connect to Clark and Clark connect to humans as well as have some kind of normal life so he doesn’t burn out. It’s also a source of occasional humor, a chance to understand WHY Clark believes what he does thanks to his Earth parents, and only occasionally used for “protect the identity” drama. Heck, I’m going through the old radio dramas and the early stories have Clark sucking at protecting the fact that Superman even existed, which in the early comics even that was kept under wraps as long as possible. The secret identity is hardly a protection when Lois is already in trouble with Intergang, Lex, and anyone else, and Jimmy has that signal watch for a reason. Sure, things would get worse if they knew Lois was Superman’s wife and not just Clark’s (who has also been targeted as one of Superman’s friends), but the point was to protect Clark’s parents, and give Clark a chance at a normal life and do something he loves so he isn’t just Superman all the time. Clark likes being a reporter. Clark likes hanging out with friends without getting hounded. Clark likes going out to eat without being mobbed. There are a lot of reasons superheroes continued the pulp hero tradition of secret identities.

That never stops being funny. It’s not regression, it’s restoration, which is rare with these deconstruction-happy writers. There are reasons so many of us longtime Superman fans hated the change both times DiDio forced it on us, and why we’re happy to see it come back. Now if we could solve all the other problems with modern DC we might actually want to read modern Superman, but we aren’t enough of a “modern audience” for them to care. I only read, watched, and played Superman since I was five.

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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