Superman Reveals His Identity To The World

Dec 11, 2019
Originally published on December 11, 2019 4:42 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Superman is secretly reporter Clark Kent. Everyone in the real world knows that because as "Superman" superfan Jerry Seinfeld pointed out back in 1979...

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JERRY SEINFELD: Well, of course, a pair of glasses is a dynamite disguise.

(LAUGHTER)

SEINFELD: Yeah, no way you could detect it.

CORNISH: Well, Superman kept his secret pretty well in his comic book world until now. In a "Superman" comic out today, the man of steel reveals his secret identity to the public. NPR's Glen Weldon says it's a rare change to Superman's status quo and one that's likely to stick.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Superman always had a reason for the disguise.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

BILL KENNEDY: (As narrator) Superman, who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.

WELDON: He said he needed a job as a reporter to monitor emergencies. He kept his civilian life a secret, he said, to keep enemies from targeting his friends and loved ones. But let's back up a bit. What was that never-ending battle stuff, again?

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KENNEDY: (As narrator) Fights a never-ending battle for truth...

WELDON: Yeah, not so much, though, right? I mean, you dedicate yourself to honesty.

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CHRISTOPHER REEVE: (As Superman) Lois, I never lie.

WELDON: Except you do lie, though, Clark, to everyone - until today. In "Superman" No. 18, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Ivan Reis, Superman holds a press conference on the steps of the Daily Planet and tells the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: For a long time, I've kept this big part of myself a secret, and there were good reasons. But all the while, I'm trying to empower others towards truth and justice. My life as Clark Kent is something I'm deeply proud of. And keeping it a secret - today, that feels false, almost dishonest, so no more.

WELDON: OK. Well, that sounded like Superman by way of Bushwick, but you get the idea. You'll notice the language he uses is the language of coming out. It's a change to the character that, if it lasts, would be one of only a couple that have stuck in his 80-plus years.

Back in the '90s, Clark finally worked up the nerve to ask Lois to marry him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

TERI HATCHER: (As Lois Lane) Who's asking, Clark or Superman?

WELDON: She's a good reporter. She knew. Recently in the comics, they had a son together. So Superman's got different priorities now, and keeping secrets is not among them. In an interview on the comics podcast "Word Balloon," writer Bendis told host John Siuntres that revealing Superman's secret identity also gives the man of steel something any character who's been doing the same thing for 81 years desperately needs - unpredictability.

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BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS: This idea of him owning his truth is kind of a beautiful thing. And it also opens us up to the hundreds of new story possibilities for Superman and all of his friends and antagonists. Every relationship in the DC universe now changes - everything.

WELDON: How will the secretive Batman react to his decision? What will Lex Luthor do now that he knows? And what about the HR department at the Daily Planet now that it turns out Clark's been reporting on himself for decades?

Bendis got permission from Superman's bosses at Warner Brothers for today's move, but we don't yet know how it will affect depictions of Superman on TV and in film, if it will at all. But it's been a long time since a character as stolid and dependable as Superman has had anyone wondering what might be next for him.

Glen Weldon, NPR News.

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