Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Thoughts on Action Comics 870

I have to admit. I'm kind of disappointed by the death of Jonathan Kent. (Though to be fair, isn't it like his third death since Crisis?) It isn't a huge deal for me, mind you, but I suppose it just feels unnecessary.

I mean, it made sense in the Silver Age or the George Reeves-Superman backstory. The death of Jonathan (I think it was Ephraim for the Reeves version. Or Hiram? Something old school and vaguely Amish like that) was an important part of Superman's development, introducing him to the notion that he can't save everyone and providing a tragedy that, forgive me for saying so, is somewhat more REAL than the many Kryptonian deaths that Kal-El was too young to witness/remember.

The thing is though, none of those reasons really work for the post-Crisis Clark, in my opinion.

The first problem is the whole "can't save everyone" lesson. Which is a good lesson for a superhero to learn. It will be very helpful in helping Clark adjust to the recent deaths of characters like Sue Dibny or Ted Kord or J'onn Jonzz or Conner Kent. Or one of the countless other dead friends/superheroes/victims that Clark couldn't save because he's not omnipresent.

Come to think of it. Superman hasn't been able to save a lot of people long before this version of Jonathan Kent managed to kick the bucket. So...wouldn't he have learned that lesson already?

I think that also, somewhat, addresses the idea of a personal tragedy befalling him too. Honestly, I'm kind of irked that Clark has never really addressed the fact that his SON is dead. Admittedly, their relationship was very awkward and Clark did not play any consensual role in his creation...there still ought to be SOMETHING. He did care about the boy after all.

And as much as we love our parents, it must be that much more devastating to lose a child.

But even discounting that, and the deaths of other friends, the loss of Krypton IS fairly real for Clark. He has a lot more knowledge and experience regarding that planet than his counterparts had when THEIR Jonathan Kent's died. He has a reasonable understanding now of the kind of people Jor-El and his wife were. And he knows what he's lost. Having Jonathan alive didn't diminish that tragedy.

And for all that there's a Campbellian aspect in the hero gaining maturity through the loss of a parent/mentor, that doesn't really work in this case. Clark's not some newbie come lightly. He's more than confident and capable enough to rely on his own judgment.

I mean, take Kyle Rayner in contrast. Yes, yes, baseline WiR origin, sure. But the whole significance of Alex DeWitt's death wasn't that she was his girlfriend. When we first see Kyle, he's brash and feckless and has no real understanding of the seriousness of the ring that the funny blue person handed off to him. It's Alex who explains the significance of the costume. Alex is the one who educates him on how he needs to be a hero and helps him figure out how to do it. In two issues or so, she's pretty much defined his role as Green Lantern. And THAT is why she had to die. Because a hero isn't really a hero until he's calling his OWN shots. Until he's operating on his OWN judgment.

Jonathan Kent though wasn't any such heroic mentor like that. And while killing off parents is a fairly standard part of a lot of heroic stories, there's a reason that tends to happen when the character is a child or adolescent. Because THAT is when we still define ourselves primarily by our parents.

But Clark is an adult. He lives on his own. He manages his own money. He's married, he has a family. Clark clearly loves his parents and visits them often and occasionally gets their advice, but he doesn't define himself by them either. He's his own man. And while I'm not saying that Clark wouldn't be devastated at the loss of a parent (I don't think anyone's ever old enough or independent enough not to feel that loss to the bone), it's not the same thematically as a younger hero losing a parent.

Essentially it's a matter of need and acceptance. Clark loves his parents, but he doesn't need them in the same way a child/adolescent does. And the older a person gets, the more we start to understand that someday, hopefully a long time in the future, our parents aren't going to be there any more. That doesn't mean it's not INCREDIBLY devastating when they do leave us. But again, in terms of NARRATIVE THEME, it's not the same.

I guess I just don't see the point of this. It's a natural part of life, sure. But I don't READ comics for their portrayals of natural parts of life. So this is something that I'm less than happy about.

That said, there's always the possibility it won't last. And even if it does, well, I'll get over it. It's not something that crushes my joy of comics or anything like that. It's just mildly irritating to me.


  • At October 12, 2008 5:42 AM, Blogger James Ashelford said…

    Hang on. Clark had a kid? I only started reading recently, sorry, are we talking about Chris Kent from the Donner storyline or did he have a biological offspring?

  • At October 12, 2008 6:04 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Well. Technically he has a clone with Lex Luthor. Or had. Close enough. :-)

  • At October 12, 2008 6:19 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    She means Superboy. Though wasn't reaction to IC part of why the Trinity were away during 52?

  • At October 12, 2008 7:23 AM, Blogger D.Bishop (aka Mr. Allison Blaire) said…

    Lurker: Was Superman away after IC ? I thought he just lost his powers for that year ?

    It would have been nice if Jonathon had a chance to say goodbye instead of just dying so suddenly. Maybe I'd feel some closure.

  • At October 12, 2008 7:27 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    I know Batman was meditating in the desert and Wonder Woman was playing at Checkmate or DEO agent. I'm not sure what Superman was doing since I didn't really pay a lot of attention to the series...

  • At October 12, 2008 9:27 AM, Blogger Anthony Strand said…

    Superman, indeed, lost his powers for that year. When his One Year Later arc opens, he's a hard-working, dedicated Daily Planet employee who has mostly adjusted to life as Just A Guy.

  • At October 12, 2008 12:25 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    I'm totally in agreement. Honestly, I get the feeling that the only reason they had Jonathan die was to bring the comics in line with the Donner films, which Johns has been fanboying way too much since he started his run.

  • At October 12, 2008 12:52 PM, Blogger Diabolu Frank said…

    Well, the first Donner movie started turning Superman into Peter Parker, and now Uncle Ben has finally kicked. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We've all been reading the Adventures of Superboy since Byrne, and falling in line with Smallville only reinforces that.

  • At October 14, 2008 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was Eben & Martha Kent in the 1940s movie serial and Eben & Sarah Kent on the '50s TV show.

    In the comics their names changed a lot in the '40s (John and Mary, mostly), but finally settled into Jonathan and Martha in the '50s Superboy stories. I think DC eventually decided that John and Mary were the Earth-2 versions.

  • At October 16, 2008 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Three things,

    1. Hiram is Clark's Grandfather via Jonathan, and was the reason Jor-El chose the Kents, one of the very few great Smallville episodes

    2. Campbell had something but he's an overhyped sexist bigot to.

    3. Kyle is also not a hero until then because he had not dealt with loss or fear or death and therefore shown courage, That btw is why the greek gods envied mortals, because their immortality precluded courage.

    Nice to be back Kalinara, see ya!


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