Maybe I had a “secret identity”, but then when you think about it, don’t we all? A part of ourselves very few people ever get to see. The part we think of as “me”. The part that deals with the big stuff. Makes the real choices. The part everything else is a reflection of.
We meet Clark Kent for the first time in Kurt Busiek‘s Superman: Secret Identity. Sure, we know the Man of Steel who can fly, use x-ray vision, save a lot of lives…we know of him and his romance with Lois Lane and even as children we’ve found ourselves scratching our heads over that fine line that differentiates Clark Kent from Superman. The other one wears the glasses, that’s all.
The fixation on Superman has led many to examine him beyond the panels. I’ve heard many a priest go on about Christ as the ultimate Superman–Saviour of us all–and while phone-books are added to the already towering pedestal of Christ and Superman, there really isn’t much that we’re told about Clark Kent.
Who was he, really? Sometimes I think Siegel and Shuster made him boring so as to properly distinguish between the hero and the everyman. This could explain why I hated seeing Clark Kent on episodes of Lois & Clark. They aired that on tv years before cable and it became a staple after dinner, pre-bedtime treat. I never understood why the show was called Lois & Clark when it was really about Lois and Superman, right? It was so long ago, maybe the show had other things going on which I couldn’t follow because I was 8 and intent on sewing my own cape to fly with. Who knows? I never even read the comic books until fairly recently because well, mom only bought me Archie’s and I doubt if we could have afforded the comics. Anyway, you get the drift right? There’s something innately appealing about Superman that would make any sane person pick him over his cover, Clark Kent. So we leave it at that. The guy in a blue suit is the star and the dweeb that we see in glasses is just a front. We need him so that the hero survives. End of story. But is it, really?
Kurt Busiek looks beyond the heroic and inserts some much needed humanity into the exhausted tale of Kal-El. Sure, he’s already an alien so feelings of isolation should not surprise him but when he cleverly narrates a similar story from the perspective of another Clark Kent–the one at fault only for having parents with an awkward sense of humor–we can’t help but relate. Or, at least, recognize the aloneness that’s so deeply manifested in our being human. (Okay, gross. I didn’t like that line so much but I guess we have to say what we have to say so there…I said it. Don’t crucify me.)
But I don’t want you to read this just because it will make you feel sad. That isn’t the point. Read it because Kurt Busiek will show you another side of Superboy which undoubtedly tells of possibilities that each everyman (and woman) has. Read it because Stuart Immonen will have you wanting blown-up panels to tape on your walls or little A4 sized ones that you can easily fold, keep in your pocket and hand to anyone who has ever made you feel wonderful. Read it because this is about all of us and our own struggle to do good everyday. We’re in the same predicament as this Superboy who is more ‘boy’ than ‘super’ but manages anyway because that’s what heroism really is.
I’ve forgotten how much I love this book and reading it now, a few hours into Good Friday, I can’t imagine a better book to be reading.