Superman: Secret Indentity

Reviewed: January 31, 2005
By: Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen
Publisher: DC Comics
192 pages, $30.95

In a world where Superman is just a comic book character, a Kansas boy named Kent has parents with a quirky sense of humour. They name him Clark, and thereby set him up for lifetime of teasing, closets full of Superman toys, and not much use for the concept. So imagine his surprise when he suddenly develops a full blown Man of Steel set of superpowers late in his high school years.

He keeps them hidden of course, not wanting to be seen as a freak, but after a time he realizes that there is some good he can do in the world, as long as he does it without getting caught. No public presence at all, though he decides to use the costume so that anyone who does catch a glimpse of him will be dismissed as a kook.

That's the idea behind this graphic novel in four chapters which takes us through the life of an alternate world's Clark Kent, just a normal small town human who has no idea why he can do these things.

Of course the government tries to track him down and contain him, even while denying he exists, and he has to deal with that.

Of course, the jokes continue and his work buddies at the newspaper (not the Daily Planet) set him up with someone named Lois (not Lane), and things progress from love to marriage to children to middle age and a gradual waning of abilities. But it's not a story about that other Clark Kent, and this one's problems seem more down to earth.

Busiek does this sort of thing well. He applied the treatment he uses in his own homage series Astro City to an established character and created something very satisfying. The choice of Immonen, one of the more realistic artists in the business, and one who has worked on the original character before, was perfect for this type of story. The device of telling the whole thing in Clark's own voice was also inspired.

Everyone gets full marks for this book, which is respectful to the mythos of the original character, but treats him in a grown-up way.