One of the big questions about Superman concerns his secret identity. Is he really Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter who moonlights as one of the most powerful superheroes on Earth? Is he Superman, the last son of Krypton, and a man close to godhood? He could live as a citizen of the world, or rule it.
We already have the answer to this question with some of the other big DC superheroes. Wonder Woman‘s secret identity, Diana Prince, is nowhere near as important to her character as her Amazonian heritage. When it comes to Batman, the TV show Batman Beyond gave us the answer to the question of Bruce Wayne’s self-identity.
When it comes to Superman, the answer is less clear. Would he really be happy if all of the criminals and supervillains went away? Could Clark Kent really live a fulfilling life if he isn’t running into phone booths whilst ripping his shirt off? The history of Clark Kent is as rich and interesting as that of Superman’s, and we are here today to take a closer look at him. From using Disco dancing to hide his super-bomb removal power, to the real life aftershock of a fictional journalist quitting his job. Here are the 15 Facts You Never Knew About Clark Kent.
15. He Once Disco Danced In Order To Defuse Bombs
One of the big complaints about Man of Steel and Batman v Superman is that they were far too serious in tone. There is plenty of room for levity in a Superman story; not everything has to be weighed down by the relevance and importance of being such an important fictional character.
With that being said, if you go too far into lighthearted stories, you end up with “Super-Disco Fever” from Superman Family #196.
Even thought Clark Kent is supposed to be a nerdy reporter, he inexplicably has a fan club of hot young women. They drag him into a local disco, and force him to judge a “Dance Like John Travolta” competition. As this is happening, Clark uses his X-Ray vision to spot a staff member from a rival disco planting bombs beneath the dance floor. The disco wars had gotten so harsh, only terrorism and mass-killings could determine who truly has Night Fever.
In order to stop everyone in the disco from being blown up, Clark Kent enters the dance competition, and begins disco dancing on the stage. He uses the dance steps to mask the fact that he is using “super-vibrations” to disable the bombs beneath the stage.
14. He Is Named After Two Of The Most Famous Actors Of All Time
The story of the creation of Superman is one fraught with sadness and tragedy.
In 1932, the father of Jerry Siegal (one of Superman’s creators) was murdered during a robbery in a clothes store. It is ironic that this crime would mirror the origins of Batman, even thought it ultimately led to the birth of Superman. As time went on, Jerry Siegal imagined a hero that bullets would not harm. Combining his writing talents with those of an artist friend named Joe Shuster, they created the character that would go on to be known as Superman. The two would not get their financial due, however, as they sold the rights for the character to National Comics for $130. They would spend the rest of their lives in court, trying to get a small piece of the icon that they created.
The character of Clark Kent is named after the two biggest actors of the day, Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. Clark Gable was referred to as the “King of Hollywood”, and is one of the most consistent box-office draws in movie history. Kent Taylor is less well-known, but he had one of the most prolific careers in early Hollywood, starring in over 110 movies.
13. The Reason No One Recognizes Him Is Due To Super-Hypnosis
So why is it that no one recognizes Clark Kent as being Superman?
There have been numerous answers to this question over the years. He has used robots that look like Superman/Clark Kent in order to throw off suspicion. He would vibrate his face using super-speed, so that it would appear blurry in photographs. The Christopher Reeves Superman movies even had him using a memory wiping kiss, in case someone discovered the truth.
For a time in the 1970s, the official explanation for why no could see through the disguise was due to “super-hypnosis“. Clark Kent’s glasses are actually made from a special Kryptonian glass (presumably from the shuttle that he came to Earth in), that constantly emit waves of hypnosis that trick people into thinking he looks different. This explanation has quite a few holes in it, however. What would happen if he ever took his glasses off/had them stolen? What about all of the times he has appeared on camera (he is a reporter after all) or in a photo?
12. He Has Made Numerous Cameos In Marvel Comics
DC and Marvel Comics have been friendly rivals for a long time now. They’ve never had a Sega/Nintendo style relationship, where they took shots at each other in the media in any serious way. They have even collaborated on numerous occasions, with both universes crossing over in different ways.
Not every appearance needs to be highly publicised crossover, nor do they always need to be official. Sometimes a subtle cameo is all that is needed – a knowing wink to the audience about the so-called “distinguished competition”. With Marvel not being afraid to include references to DC in their works, it should come as no surprise that Clark Kent has appeared over 22 times in Marvel comics.
With Clark Kent having such an iconic design, it is easy for a square-jawed journalist wearing glasses and a blue suit to show up at crime scenes without DC’s lawyers getting involved. He has even been referred to as “Clark” or “Mr. Kent” on various occasions.
11. He Has Won Awards
Superman has many powers, and more than a few of them are, well, stupid, such as being able to control his facial muscles in such a way that people don’t recognize him as Clark Kent, or his memory wiping kiss from the movies. One power he doesn’t have is super-journalism. When it comes to his day job at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent had to learn how to write articles from scratch, just like everyone else on the planet.
Clark Kent appears to be very good at his job. One could argue, however, about his questionable ethics. Superman, the supposed epitome of truth of justice, is cool with abusing his position to publish stories about himself. Much like Peter Parker, Clark Kent has no problem giving himself the scoops when it comes to Superman related stories. If knowledge of his secret identity ever got out, then he would likely be black-balled from the industry for professional misconduct.
Ethics in super-journalism aside, Clark Kent is clearly a talented writer. In the post “Crisis on Infinite Earths” reboot of Superman, it is revealed that Clark Kent has actually won two Pulitzer prizes (a fact that was confirmed in Kingdom Come). He has written two award-winning novels, The Janus Contract and Under a Yellow Sun.
As any writer will tell you, working on a book takes a considerable amount of free time. One wonders how many orphanages burned down while Clark Kent was staring blankly at a screen, trying to get past his writer’s block.
10. His Secret Identity Was Figured Out By Muhammad Ali
DC Comics once released a crossover comic featuring Superman and Muhammad Ali. The cover shows the two in a boxing ring, suggesting that the two are going to fight. If you saw this comic on the stands, you would probably ask yourself “Who would win in a fight between Superman and Muhammad Ali?”
The answer is Superman, there isn’t even any argument. He would kill him with one punch… unless Superman had his powers taken away, then Ali would win.
This is more or less what happened. Aliens invade Earth, and decide that Muhammad Ali should box Superman (with his powers removed), and that the winner would challenge the leader of the aliens. Without his powers, Superman gets creamed by Ali. After resting on Earth for a while, Superman gets his strength back and sabotages the alien fleet. Ali beats the leader of the aliens, and the world is saved.
In the last few pages of the comic, Ali reveals that he has figured out Superman’s secret identity (based on very little information), but will keep it a secret because he’s such a cool guy. The comic ends with him saying “Superman, we are the greatest.”
9. He Built Robots To Protect His Secret Identity
Superman is a hypocrite when it comes to the Fortress of Solitude. It is filled with Kryptonian technology that would have massive benefits to mankind, but he hordes it all for himself.
One of these innovations is the Superman robot. Depending on the era, Superman has a team of robot lookalikes that are similar to him in power. He often uses them to deal with situations involving Kryptonite, or other scenarios where it would be too dangerous for him to enter. There also exist Clark Kent robots, whose sole purpose is to help Superman with keeping his identity a secret. The main purpose the robots serve is maintaining and protecting the Fortress of Solitude.
The ability to create loyal robots with powers similar to Superman would be an incredible gift to humanity. Why should there be only one Superman when you could have ten, or twenty, or a hundred. Instead, he uses them to make sure he can keep his lame reporter job a secret.
8. He Can Build A Perfect Dummy From A Blanket
If you thought super-hypnosis was silly, then prepare for something even worse. The yellow sun grants Superman many powers, such as flight, super-strength, and heat vision. The one power that rarely gets mentioned is his ability to create a perfect duplicate of himself using only a blanket.
In Superman #108, three female police officers figure out that Clark Kent is Superman. In an act that breaks pretty much every law about civil liberties, the policewomen lock up Clark Kent without cause. Superman is supposed to open a youth centre at 3:00 o’ clock, so they lock Clark Kent up at 2:45. Just to make sure that he doesn’t try anything funny, one of the police women gets in the cell with him. She decides to watch him through a mirror, in case he tries using his powers that would deceive her.
Superman isn’t the kind of person who misses an appointment. He uses his super-breath to blow dust onto the mirror, and then uses his power of super-weaving in order to turn an ordinary prison blanket into a perfect replica of Clark Kent. He then uses his super-speed/strength to escape the prison, open the youth centre, and return without anyone noticing.
7. He Took Acting Lessons To Look Different
While concepts like super-hypnosis and Clark Kent robots had their place in the early days of Superman, most modern comics tend to eschew the sillier details. In the 2004 graphic novel, Superman: Birthright, we are given a more grounded reason for people not realising that Clark Kent is Superman. It is revealed that Clark Kent took acting lessons, and learnt the Meisner technique, in order to better separate the two aspects of his character.
The Meiser technique is a popular form of acting that is used by many famous actors (such as Tom Cruise). Unlike Method acting, in which the actor completely takes on the personality of the person they are portraying, the Meisner technique requires outside sources. Using techniques such as sense memory, or repeated phrases, the actor learns how to become the character based on outside reminders of what they should be feeling.
There is something to be said for Superman learning how to act in order to better protect his identity. In this classic scene from the original Superman movie, Christopher Reeves really shows off his acting ability. With a slouch of the shoulders, a slight lean forward, raising the pitch of his voice, and stammering his words, he completely changed into Clark Kent. By rectifying these changes, he becomes Superman. In a few minutes of dialogue, Christopher Reeve managed to prove that acting was all the explanation needed for the effectiveness of Superman’s secret identity.
6. He Once Told Lois Lane The Truth… And She Didn’t Believe Him
When Batman: The Animated Series proved to be a success for DC & Warner Bros., it was only a matter of time before Superman would get his own cartoon on the same network.
Superman: The Animated Series ran from 1996-2000, much like its predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, the show was highly acclaimed and popular with audiences. The two characters would cross over in The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, a film that was far more entertaining than Batman v Superman. Due to the popularity of both shows, they would receive numerous spin-offs, culminating in the classic Justice League cartoon. One of the things that Superman: The Animated Series was acclaimed for was its adherence to the source material. Everything from the Superman mythos was included to some degree or another.
In the two-part episode “The Main Man”, Lois Lane asks Clark Kent how he gets all of the scoops on Superman. He tells her that he is actually Superman, and he puts on the Clark Kent persona so he can get close to the stories… and she doesn’t believe him.
5. He Was Once Asked To Play Superman In A Movie
In Superman #196, a movie about Superman is being produced in Metropolis, called The Super-Saga. When the lead actress meets Clark Kent, she takes off his glasses (with a blatant disregard for his super-hypnosis), and says that he should play Superman, because he looks just like him!
The lead actress in the film is a woman named Lyrica Lloyd, who must have some clout with the movie studios if she can hire a random reporter to be in the lead role in the new Superman movie. The story focuses on Clark Kent pretending to be Superman in a movie, and having to do a lot of expensive stunts, despite his lack of training.
As the filming progresses, Clark begins to fall more and more in love with Lyrica. There is only one problem, however, she is dying from a mysterious (and unnamed) jungle disease that she caught on the set of her last movie. She drops dead by the end of the issue, but like Brandon Lee in The Crow, they have enough material to make a complete cut of the movie.
4. Lois Lane Almost Knew His Identity From The Start
Not every hero chooses to hide their secret identity from their loved ones. The Blue Beetle, for example, told his wife early on about his superhero career. There was no need for lies or subterfuge. She accepted that he was doing what he thought was right, and she supported him as best she could.
A similar situation almost happened with Superman. In 1940, Jerry Siegal pitched a story called “The K-Metal from Krypton”. The story featured a precursor to Kryptonite (the eponymous “K-Metal”), that robs Superman of his powers for a short time. Unfortunately for Siegal, the story was rejected. The reason for this is because “The K-Metal from Krypton” would also be the story where Lois Lane discovered Superman’s secret identity.
At the end of the story, Lois Lane not only figures out that Clark Kent is Superman, but also that he is in love with her. Superman tells her that the reason he has a secret identity at all is so he can better help mankind. For the good of humanity, Lois Lane not only decides to keep his secret, but to also help him when she could.
This story was rejected because it would have created a whole new status quo. The story has since been recreated online, and can be read here.
3. Official Porn Exists Of Him
One sad fact about the American comics industry is that most of its creators have been screwed out of money. There are many stories about legends like Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Len Wein, and Steve Gerber being abused by companies like Marvel and DC. The issues tend to come up over ownership rights, and most creators usually receive very little money for coming up with some of the most iconic characters of all time.
No one had it worse than Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman. They sold the rights to the character for 130 dollars, and spent the rest of their lives in court trying to get more.
When Joe Shuster ran out of money, he was forced to take any jobs offered to him. An underground fetish comic called Nights of Horror offered him work. They paid him to draw S&M themed pictures, some of which included designs that were clearly meant to be Clark Kent and Lois Lane. All of these were collected into a book called Secret Identity: The Fetish Art Of Superman’s Joe Shuster.
2. DC Recalled A Book Where He Was Put In A Microwave As A Baby
Due to the sheer amount of editing that goes into an average comic book released by a major publisher, it is very rare that a comic needs to be recalled. Many sets of eyes look over a comic before it is shipped, meaning that any controversial content is usually spotted a mile off.
It seems that a lot of people where sleeping at the wheel in the DC Comics office, as they had to recall a book that showed an infant Clark Kent climbing into a microwave.
Elseworlds 80-Page Giant was a graphic novel filled with bizarre, non-canon stories set in the DC Comics universe. One of the stories had a scene that forced DC’s president, Paul Levitz, to recall and destroy the entire print run (although a few copies did leak out). This story was “Letitia Lerner, Superman’s Babysitter“.
Jonathon and Martha Kent decide to go out for the evening. They hire a babysitter named Letitia Lerner to look after their baby. The Kent’s neglect to mention that their infant is also the last son of Krypton, and leave Letitia to learn exactly what that means… as the baby destroys the apartment with his super-powers.
The scene that forced the recall depicted baby Clark Kent getting into the microwave, which then switches itself on. Luckily, he is Kryptonian, and is unharmed. The Kent’s are so impressed by Letitia Lerner that they ask her to babysit again in the future… despite the fact that she let their baby climb into a microwave.
1. When He Quit His Job At The Daily Planet, It Made Real Life News
It’s funny how real life can sometimes be influenced by comic books. Things like the electronic tagging bracelet being inspired by a Spider-Man comic, or Elvis Presley taking his iconic hairstyle from Captain Marvel Jr.
In 2012, Clark Kent quit his job at the Daily Planet newspaper in order to become an online blogger. He complains to his editor, Perry White, that the Planet was no longer reporting on “real news”, and that they were too busy focusing on reality stars and pop culture. When he realized that things weren’t going to change, he walked out.
The real life news media were seemingly oblivious to the point of the storyline, and actually published it as a real news story. The Telegraph, the BBC, the Daily Mail, and USA Today published articles about Superman leaving his job. Clark Kent left the Daily Planet because he was sick of reporting on things that weren’t news. Meanwhile, the real life news networks actually wrote stories about a fictional character leaving his job (in an act that was almost certainly temporary), and released it out into the world.
(Editor’s note: He’s Superman.)