LET’S TAKE COMIC BOOKS SERIOUSLY- Clark Kent’s identity issue


Superman Clark KentMy friends know that I read comics. And every once in a while, there is someone who asks me: Don’t you think it’s ridiculous that nobody recognizes Clark Kent without his glasses? Don’t you think it’s ridiculous that nobody knows that Clark Kent is Superman? Everytime someone drops that question they do it with pompous air and attitude. As if they’ve just discovered the meaning of life itself, they also regularly think they’re the first ones to ask. I always tell them that there are several answers: The easy, the complicated and my personal answer. I’m lying of course, there is no easy answer and there’s more than 3. Truth is, my friends always want me to tell the complicated one first.


THE COMPLICATED VERSIONIn my opinión, this version is the one that most writers use. They have tried to explain the secret identity issue with lots of theories. Some say Clark uses ill-fitting clothes to give the impression that he is out of shape, that he raises his voice an octave, some say that nobody thinks Superman needs a secret identity, that he is superman 24/7 and I remember someone telling me that his glasses were made of some Kryptonian material that distorts his facial expressions. The point remains the same, these versions usually don’t convince the general non-comic reader.


MY OWN VERSIONI take some aire before I tell them my own version, it’s complicated. First of all, we have to know that Superman was created by two anti social guys called Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster. They were sci-fi fans and practically the nerd stereotype that most people like to bully. They were geeks before the word was invented, and they were geeks before it was socially accepted. I think subconsciously, they created the Clark Kent persona in an almost masochistic way, highlighting the characteristics that made them social rejects in the first place. Nobody would think that kind of person could have a Superman within. Bottom line, I think of Clark’s glasses as a powerful metaphor: It tells us about our social inability to see beyond the first layer. As Lion-O says: Sight beyond sight.


THE EASY VERSIONThe easy version seems to be the most complicated to understand: Superman is a fictional caracter, stop measuring him by reality standards. It’s sad that among all the incredible powers and the impossible victories that Superman has, the one thing that bothers you it’s the glasses. Grant Morrison says that children don’t have that problem, kids know exactly the difference between fiction and reality.

Superman Gary Frank

I’m sure with these points you can help your friends understand that they are looking at things thewrong way. In fiction, it’s not always about getting explanations, it’s not about making fiction real. To be honest, I think we already have enough reality, let’s not spread it into the fiction. Don’t you think?One thing is certain, Superman can’t wear a mask. As Martha Kent said, “people need to see Superman’s face so they can see there’s no evil in it”. People need to trust Superman, because if we don’t, The Superman myth just falls apart.

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