For over seventy years Superman has enriched the culture of the world’s people. One of the character’s biggest draws is his alter-ego of Clark Kent. The “man” in Superman, Clark Kent is the average Joe… he just happens to wear tights underneath his suit. There have been many interpretation of him over the years. Which one is best is anybody’s guest, but they are all wildly different.
Pre-Crisis/Movie Clark Kent
Before the revamping of the character during 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths Clark Kent took the “mild” in “mild-mannered reporter” a little too seriously. In leafing through a Superman comic book of the Curt Sawn era one could expect to see Clark pass out from an exhausting car ride, or run screaming for a loose monkey. Naturally, these turncoat tactics were usually a ruse to get away and turn to Superman or a misinterpreted reaction to Kryptonite. That didn’t make them easier to swallow, however. When Lois would go out on a pity date with Clark we were always left wondering why? This must have been especially confusing to children who picked up the comics after watching The Adventures of Superman in which George Reeves’s Clark Kent generally had more screen time than Superman and was more apt to get the big scoop than Lois Lane! Luckily, a little kid named John Byrne saw the show and liked the interpretation. When he got a job at DC Comics he decided to make some changes.
The Byrne Clark Kent
When DC did a hard reboot of the character in 1985 they hired on John Byrne to retell the origin of the Man of Steel. This included several revamps on the Clark Kent character. Gone were the deaths of his adoptive parents the Kents. Also gone was his career as Superboy. In this version, Clark Kent was just plain old Clark Kent until his senior year of high school. Gone also was the wimpy, ineffective Clark. This Clark Kent walked into the Daily Planet and stole Lois Lane’s Superman interview by giving himself the exclusive. This interpretation of Clark Kent was used in pretty much every comic book and Superman work outside of comics throughout the eighties and nineties. Notable users were Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Death of Superman. Before this interpretation ran its course Lois Lane found out who Clark really was and they were married. A couple decades of moving the character forward made many fans long for the good old days, and thus a final interpretation of Clark Kent proved to be the most innovative (and retro) of all.
Clark Kent on Smallville
On The CW drama Smallville Tom Welling plays Clark Kent, teenage superhero who’s recently discovered he’s more than simply a mortal man. The show insisted Clark not appears in costume, fly, or be known as Superman throughout the show’s run. This didn’t mean many comic book elements couldn’t be introduced on the show however. Lex Luthor, as in the silver age comic books, was Clark’s best friend and closest confidant. Instead of Lois Lane, Clark was in love with Lana Lang, the girlfriend of the pre-crisis character Superboy. Many familiar faces have shown up on Smallville such as Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lois Land, The Martian Manhunter, Braniac, Bizarro, and Mr. Mxyzptlk to name a few. The most interesting thing about this interpretation of Clark is his moments of selfishness. Unlike other versions of the character, this Clark Kent is strictly a teenager with all the negatives that suggests. While he is a selfless hero, teenage over-reaction has never been as shocking as when practiced by a superhero.
With all these interpretations of Clark Kent it’s a cinch that any Superman fan can find one they think matches the character best. Different interpretation can be a good thing to. By looking at the prism of Kents presented, one should be able to find the essence of the character lying underneath it all.