Thursday, October 09, 2008

Poor Pa Kent! Killed Off Again!

Let's take a quick break from politics and economics. Too much of that can make your head hurt!

As I was growing up, the Superman mythos was an important part of my childhood. When comic books were from 10 cents to 12 cents each, even my modest allowance of 75 cents a week would buy several comics. I loved the characters of the DC line; Superman the most, but also Batman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern.

The Superman story line and continuity was as familiar as if it were my own life. Jor-El, the leading scientist of the planet Krypton, which revolved around a distant red sun, warned the Science Council that the planet would soon explode. No one believed him, so Jor-El and his wife Lara, placed their baby son, Kal-El, into an experimental rocket and sent him to Earth, where he was adopted by the elderly Jonathan and Martha Kent, who lived on a farm just outside Smallville, U.S.A. The Kent's named the space child Clark, and he had a career as Superboy. After his foster parents died, Clark moved to Metropolis to work for The Daily Planet newspaper. All this was immutable comic book reality. Then came John Byrne.

Byrne was hired away from Marvel Comics to do a total reboot of Superman in 1986. While in some ways the reimagining of the character was a welcome relief to bring about a more interesting and limited version, it was a major change, doing away with such characters as Superboy, Supergirl, Krypto, the bottle city of Kandor. In fact, the entire DC Universe was redone via the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" storyline crossing all DC titles. But two characters came out of the relaunch better than before...Ma and Pa Kent were still alive back in Smallville, and Superman was able to go home for visits.

The 1978 film, Superman, starred Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent, who died of a heart attack. Not even his son's super powers could save him. In the television series, Smallville, Jonathan Kent, as portrayed by John Schneider, has been killed off. So this week, Jonathan is killed off once again in Action Comics #870.

So the moral of the story is, it isn't good to be either Superman's real father, who died on Krypton; nor his Earth father, Jonathan Kent, who is now dead for the fourth time. Much better to be Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.