It’s long been unclear who is the worse reporter: Clark Kent, who lies to his readers daily by not mentioning that he’s the guy he is always writing about, or Lois Lane, whose ability to recognize Kent’s true identity is kryptonited by a pair of glasses.
Well, at least they won’t have those problems anymore.
In today’s newest issue (#43) of the lead Superman comic, Lois Lane decides to tell the world the Superman is Clark Kent. She figured it out in last month’s issue, because she saw Clark beat up some ninjas or something... and noticed that he was wearing a Superman uniform under his shirt and tie.
While these events appear to suggest that Superman is either stupid or thinks Lois Lane is stupid, at least they led us to a moment where this pair of characters—who I’ve loved reading since the mid-80s Man of Steel comics reboot—might finally get their shit together in terms of journalism. Alas, in today’s new issue she initially tells Superman that “I’ve decided to keep your secret.”
There is an arguable justification for a supposedly top investigative reporter like Lois Lane to decide to sit on such a big scoop. If you think of Superman as the equivalent of a CIA agent or undercover cop, and if you believe he’s consistently doing good—which is the whole point of the Superman character and how his actions are meant to be judged—then outing his real identity could endanger his family. Then again, if a top newspaper reporter is repeatedly lying to his readers with the glaring omission of mentioning that he’s Superman, the public should know.
The ethics of outing Superman’s secret identity can be debated. Hell, this would have been a great debate to see in the comics, the best journalism argument we’d have had in a Superman comic since 1987’s Adventures of Superman #428, in which Perry White anguishes and initially resists publishing a lie in the Daily Planet even when he knows it’ll save his kidnapped son (what a great issue; amazing I remember it all these years later).
For better or worse, though, today’s Superman comic isn’t about the Clark-Superman secret-identity journalism dilemma. It’s about an evil hacker called Hordr-Root who blackmails Superman with all this secret identity stuff.
This guy captures Superman and wants to siphon off his powers and use them for some sort of evil. If Superman refuses, he’ll deliver the ultimate spoiler and probably not precede it with any bold text. Yes, yes, true villainy.
Lois Lane witnesses this and decides, well, this is a reason to tell the world the truth. Can’t let Superman get used like this!
Superman, not surprisingly, is pissed. But, hey, it isn’t Lois Lane who decided that he should live a lie and try to be two public figures at once.
This is all... pretty weak. It’s too bad. Writer Gene Luen Yang and artists John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and Scott Hanna are all good at what they do. Here, though, they’re trying to tell the most ridiculous of stories. At least it is part of a tradition of terrible handlings of the Superman-Clark revelation. You have the noxious bit in the Superman II movie in which Superman kisses Lois Lane to make her forget, because she just can’t handle knowing the secret. You have the hilarity of the last time Lois found out in the comics, back in the 90s, when Clark revealed it well after they got engaged (she didn’t stay mad very long).
Hell, the only good handling of the revelation of the Clark-Superman secret that I can recall from 30 or so years of reading Superman comics is from John Byrne’s 1986 Superman #2, in which Lex Luthor’s best computer crunches the data gathered by his best scientists and spies and reveals that Superman is Clark Kent but refuses to believe it. Luthor cannot fathom that a man as powerful as Superman would lower himself to pose as a newspaper reporter. Great, great stuff.
I guess the only question now is how they’re eventually going to undo this. Everything gets rolled back in comics, eventually. Except for Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing and Peter Parker’s uncle staying dead. My bet is on Lois and Clark co-writing a story in which they tell their readers it was all a ruse. I wouldn’t put it past them.