EDITORIAL: How To Get Superman Right - Part 2 of 4

EDITORIAL: How To Get Superman Right - Part 2 of 4

Part two of a four part editorial examining what's missing from the Superman films thus far.

If you read part one, thanks for coming back. The first installment of this editorial focused on the importance of establishing Clark's motivations and his choice to become Superman.

Part two is all about Clark and his parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent.


How different would Clark's life be if the Kents weren't the ones who found him? Or if he landed somewhere other than Kansas? It's an idea explored in stories like Mark Millar's "Red Son" and J.M. DeMatteis' "Speeding Bullets". An episode of "Smallville" even showed what happened if the Luthors found him.

It's no secret - Clark is who he is because of Martha and Jonathan Kent.

Now, some hear this and limit it to his time growing up on the farm. Yes, his actions are a reflection of their upbringing but Clark's parents are just as important to him as an adult. Arguably, more important.

Because, as in life, the parents' responsibility to their children don't end once they leave home. They're still needed. The same goes for Clark. This is one of the many things unique to Superman's mythology - his relationship with his parents - Of all the superhero properties out there, Clark's reflects the ideal family dynamic.

People give Superman a hard time for being "perfect". Because "he always makes the right decision" or "always knows what to do". They label his stories boring because of this. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, Superman often makes the right decision, thanks to Martha and Jonathan's teachings. But in the comics, he has doubts at times. He doesn't always have the answers. And when he doesn't know what to do he goes home. He turns to his parents for guidance. Fans who accuse Superman of not being relatable are overlooking this. Or they've never turned to their parents for help.

Martha and Jonathan play a prominent role in Clark's life, as a man and as Superman. Unfortunately, we don't see any of this in the films.

The writers kill off Jonathan in "Superman: The Movie" and "Man of Steel". "Superman Returns" is an unofficial "Superman III" or "Superman 2.5", considering how you look at it. Either way Jonathan isn't around anymore.

Jonathan does suffer a fatal heart attack in the comics but that's well into Clark's career as Superman. So why not wait until a third film for him to die? Then there's the way the films treat Martha.

In "Superman", after Jonathan's funeral, Clark leaves home and that's the last we see of her.

Unless you count "Returns" and Martha Kent is barely in that.

In "Man of Steel" Martha isn't given much to do. It feels as if she's there for Clark to save. In one scene she literally takes a backseat to Clark and Jonathan.

One of the great choices John Byrne made when relaunching Superman was having both parents live into Clark's adulthood.

They not only get to see their son grow into this inspirational figure but also play a prominent role in his ongoing battle. And not just his.

In the comics Martha and Jonathan influence other members of the Super-Family like Kara Zor-El and later Conner Kent. Imagine the Superman universe expanding like Fox's "X-Men" or Sony hopes for "Spider-Man". If Supergirl (or even Superboy) did appear in the new DCCU, it would be nice to see them on the Kent farm with Clark's parents. Even if it's a cameo appearance.

Bringing the Kent Family to the screen would help Warner Bros.' attempt to separate the franchise from every other superhero movie out there. It would incorporate themes like "going home" and "the importance of family". It would show, with all of his power, even Superman relies on his mom and dad.

We aren't getting any of that in our movies. Not Nolan's Batman. Not Spider-Man. And, despite how family friendly their films are, not from Marvel Studios.

The Fortress of Solitude is where Clark can be Kryptonian. The Kent Farm is where he can be himself.


Equally important is developing Martha and Jonathan's characters outside of Clark. Showing they have lives of their own. TV's "Smallville" did an outstanding job of this. Viewers got to see them argue. We got to see them fear for their son. We saw how deeply in love they were with one another. They weren't just the future Superman's parents, they were fleshed out characters in their own right.

We didn't get this in "Superman Returns". As mentioned before, Martha and the farm are barely in it. In "Man of Steel" there's only one line of dialogue between Martha and Jonathan in the whole film and that's an offhand remark aimed at Clark.

The closest look we get at Martha and Jonathan's relationship are the moments in "Superman" when they find Clark's ship. It's the only scene in six films that's about them.

One of the ideas "Man of Steel" is built on is the fear Clark's existence would create. Are Martha and Jonathan exempt?

Consider this - instead of opening with twenty minutes on Krypton what if they showed the moment the Kents discover Clark is different? Something where one of his powers manifests - and someone gets hurt.

Maybe three year old Clark accidentally breaks Martha's wrist. Or Jonathan is singed when Clark's heat vision fires for the first time. We see how frightened they are and are suddenly faced with this impossible decision.

To take it further, later on an older Clark asks straight up, "Were you ever afraid of me?"


As mentioned in part one of this editorial, it feels as if Warner Bros. doesn't have faith in Superman or the messages his stories offer. His messages are optimistic. They should be with a name like "The Man of Tomorrow".

In the New 52 both Martha and Jonathan are dead. As if DC is saying loss makes him more interesting, or "gives him depth". As if he were flat to begin with. The thing is, Superman wasn't and never has been flat.

Pessimism is not "more realistic" than optimism. Having both of his parents to turn to or having them encourage and support his choices doesn't make his story less interesting. Martha and Jonathan are a vital part of Clark being Superman and a Superman film should show that.

People say characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine and Batman are "cooler" than Superman. But, truthfully, whose life would you really want, Peter Parker's, Bruce Wayne's or Clark's?

Part three of this editorial will focus on Superman, what he represents and pulling off the Clark Kent "secret identity". Until then, let's hear your thoughts. Sound off below. And, again, thanks for reading!

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