So, before the Superman super fans and experts attack, I am nowhere close to an expert on the history of Superman and his many incarnations and do not profess to be. I just know what little bit I’ve seen/read over the years and the teeny bit of research I’ve done on his back story.
With that being said, this random thought(s) are about the ever asked question, which is the lie, Clark Kent or Superman?
Background on my superman fanhood is that, as a kid I grew up watching Super Friends, Christopher Reeve was my movie Supe, and Dean Cain was my TV Supe. Later on (as an adult) I watched Tom Welling struggle with being Clark Kent and…do we even want to mention Brandon Routh’s brief and terrible foray into the legacy of Superman? And now we have Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin. There have been bunches of other versions of Superman, but these are the ones that I am familiar with and enjoy the most.
Let me start by saying [ignoring Super Friends which is animation and voice work] Christopher Reeve was my very first Superman. He’s the one who brought the character to life for me and stands out in my mind as Superman. You always have a special love for your first, and he’ll probably always be my movie Superman. Nothing against Henry Cavill, I love him as an actor, and even though I was skeptical about him be being tapped to be the new movie Superman, he did very well. His portrayal of Clark Kent leaves a little to be desired, but that can be chalked up to the script and direction and is only my opinion.
Reeve, to me, is the epitome of both personas. He is the intimidating, ridiculously good hero, and he’s the ultimate mild-mannered, klutzy reporter. And as my first Superman, he pretty much of set the bar of expectation for me. While Dean Cain brought his own flair to the role, he was similarly, intimidating as the man of steel and wholesome and clumsy as Clark. He set the bar for TV Superman. Superman Returns was [in my opinion] a nightmare that I don’t ever want to relive. I don’t blame Brandon, because I’ve come to love him on Legends of Tomorrow, but I hated his Superman. And then Tom Welling who played the ultimate, wholesome, too-good-to-be-true Kansas version of Clark…well he was never really Superman. He was Clark struggling with the fact that he was different, struggling with being a teenager, struggling with the emergence of his powers, struggling with the [new] knowledge that he wasn’t human. And barring the occasional “meteor freak” and dealing with Lex’s unending need to know everything about Clark, he was more keeping a secret than living dual identities.
Now we have Cavill, who I mentioned earlier, in movies, and in TV, most recently, we’ve got Tyler Hoechlin, whom I adore. And maybe I’m biased because I loved him in 7th Heaven and the other show that I will not name because it’s a big pile of crap now and doesn’t deserve the mention–I digress; but I think Hoech’s portrayal of Superman pulled together everything I loved about Reeve and Cain. He’s serious and intimidating with a little humor thrown in, and he’s sincere and honest, wholesome and klutzy, not to mention the perfect mentor/big-brother figure for Kara.
So, I’ve completely gotten of track, as usual. The debate has always been which is the secret identity, which is the lie, Clark or Superman? As a child and until very recently I would have always told you that Clark Kent was the secret identity. He was Superman for real and used the Clark persona as his shield. But now I’ve changed my mind.
Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser and I’ve seen several live action versions of the character, I feel completely different about debate. Now please remember my knowledge of Superman is limited to the media I’ve been exposed to. I currently believe that Superman is the lie and Clark is his true identity. Think about it.
Clark was sent to earth as an infant. He’s grown up knowing no other parents or planet than Jonathan and Martha and Earth. For a long time, he didn’t even know he wasn’t human. His way of life, his way of thinking is what he was taught by his parents Jonathan and Martha. His sense of goodness, justice and right were instilled in him by the people he was surrounded by growing up in the cornfields of Kansas. I’m sure some of it is just who he is and was always meant to be, but a big part of who we are as people are the interactions with the people around us. His thought process is completely human and it comes from the best part of humanity, where doing the right thing no matter the cost is the best and only thing to do.
Clark is inherently a down-to-earth, kind, generous, all-around good person. He doesn’t lie (except to keep his secret) he doesn’t steal, he doesn’t really do angry. He gets angry, but he doesn’t let it control him or allow himself to do terrible things because of his anger, unlike most of us. He doesn’t even do petty. The only flaw I’ve seen–if you can really call it a flaw–is that he gets jealous, but only when it involves Lois. He doesn’t care about money, power or possessions, but he does love the hell out of Lois.
All of these traits were his from childhood. His sense of goodness and justice are all Clark. His desire to help people who are in need comes from Clark. Clark is a little nerdy and goofy and maybe even clumsy and he’s a genuinely good person. Superman is the cover. Superman is the lie. I’ve recently been re-watching Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and there was a particular episode after the big Clark/Superman reveal. Lois was arguing that Clark was Superman, to which he replied that Clark was who he was, Superman was what he could do. At this point in my thought process, I already believed that Superman was the lie, but this really brought it home for me. Clark is who he is every minute of every day; Superman is what he can do, when he needs or chooses.
Question answered, for me at least.