Spotlight Sunday 12.15.19

Spotlight Sundays

The biggest change to the status quo since the last one means there are spoilers ahead for…

Superman #18
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Rated Teen

My name is Clark Kent.

I haven’t done a Spotlight post in exactly two months, and I hadn’t really planned to break that streak, but someone elseweb expressed an interest in reading what I have to say about this – then-upcoming – issue in which we see one of the biggest changes to the status quo in Superman’s 81-year history.

So here we are.

Basically, Superman tells the world that he’s secretly Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper. That’s it. That’s what happens in this issue, in terms of plot and action.

This is an issue that sets the stage for the stories that are to follow, but while there is time spent focusing on little moments leading up to the announcement, and some discussion of what led the Man of Steel to make this momentous decision, there isn’t much else that goes on. No examination of the immediate repercussions. No exciting battles or acts of day-saving heroism.

That’s not a knock of any kind; that simple act is, obviously, worthy of an entire issue on its own, and the consequences of that act are going to take time to make themselves known, and it’s the right move to leave us all wondering…

What does this change mean for Superman, for Lois, for his friends, for his enemies, for the world, and, most notably, for Clark Kent? These are questions that can’t be answered in a single issue, and it doesn’t make sense to even try to do that.

I deliberately left out Jon Kent from that litany, as the question of what it means for him will likely be answered in Legion of Super-Heroes, his joining of which is connected to the events that led Superman to make this decision, and the fact that he’s not currently in this century renders the question somewhat moot.

So what did lead Superman to make this decision? A lot of things, both big and little, one of which was learning the truth about the destruction of his home and the life of his father, Jor-El, and the cost of telling and maintaining lies, especially for someone who, along with Justice and the American Way, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, in both of his lives.

Beyond that, circumstances were such that maintaining the fiction was becoming untenable. While Jon was conveniently shipped off to the 31st Century, the Kents would be hard-pressed to explain how their ten-year old son had aged seven years in a matter of weeks. (From the perspective of people who, unlike Jon, didn’t travel back in time to another universe and live through the full seven years.)

Also, rumors were swirling around about the marriage of Lois and Clark after Superman was seen – and photographed – very publicly kissing Lois.

And the double life had served its purpose and run its course. It began as a way to fit in, to find his place in the world, for Superman to live among the people of his adopted world, and to experience life the way non-super people do. But now, he has a place in the world, he’s experienced that life.

The other stated need for the dual identity, protecting those he loves, is a ship that sailed a long, long time ago, given that there’s pretty much no daylight between who Superman is closest to and who Clark Kent is closest to.

So there’s not much point in maintaining a useful fiction if that fiction is no longer useful.

On a meta level, the entire concept of a secret identity has become increasingly passé, in part due to the rise of the surveillance state and facial recognition software, but mostly due to the depictions of superheroes in other media.

In film and TV, no costumed hero has really put much effort into maintaining a secret identity since Robert Downey, Jr. spoke the words, “I am Iron Man.”

Even before the mid-credits scene in Far From Home, Spider-Man was constantly taking off his mask – can’t hide that oh-so bankable movie star face, after all – and introducing himself as Peter Parker.

On the DC side, even Batman hasn’t really done a whole lot to hide the fact that he’s Bruce Wayne in his last few outings.

In fairness, it’s been a bit of a trend in comics since before that, as well. Indeed, this isn’t even the first time this decade that Superman’s identity has been revealed to the world, though the events of that storyline were wiped out by “Rebirth.” Still, there’s no denying that the expectations of movie-going audiences are having an impact on the comics that are increasingly-viewed not as engaging and entertaining stories in their own right but as a rich vein for mining raw material for adaptations.

For my part, because I’m an old, I miss the days of secret identities, of carefully-guarded and jealously-protected mysteries, even as I recognize that their time has largely passed. From the beginning, they’ve been an essential component of the modern mythologies that are superhero stories, and while, intellectually, I realize that they really aren’t tenable overall, on an emotional level, I wish they’d stick around.

Still, this issue does open up many new and exciting avenues of storytelling, and I’m interested in seeing what happens next, particularly as we see things happening linewide at DC that are going to lead to dramatic shifts away from the DC Universe that we know, not the least of which is the formation of the United Planets, an idea suggested by Jon Kent (which is what scored him his invitation to join the Legion in the 31st Century), and Earth’s inclusion in it.

In terms of this issue itself, like I said, not a whole lot happens in it, even though a great deal happens. It looks great – having top-notch art from top-tier artists has been a nice and appropriate aspect of the Super-books since the arrival of Bendis – and there are fun little moments in the time leading up to the big announcement, as Superman meets with some important people to reveal the truth personally before announcing it to the world.

I particularly liked when he dropped this bombshell on Jimmy and it turned out to be a dud.

So…now what? Only time will tell, and despite some misgivings about the direction, I’m definitely interested in finding out.

As always, special thanks go out to my comic shop, Comic Logic Books & Artwork. Please remember to support your local comic shop, and if you need to find one, click here.

As mentioned, and as is obvious, I’m not that committed to regularly providing Spotlight posts, in part because I’m lazy and hardly anyone reads them anyway, but mostly because that’s not really what OpenDoor Comics is about.

Still, I could be enticed maybe do this a little more often if the support for it – and for the overall mission and vision of OpenDoor Comics – were to, like Superman’s no-longer secret identity, be revealed.

After all…

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