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Superman: How Clark Kent’s day job is his most under-appreciated asset

Clark Kent’s professional career is an overlooked part of the Superman mythos. Here’s how DC is fixing that.

Superman speaks with Clark Kent
Image credit: DC Comics

As strange as it may sound, Clark Kent is one of the more neglected characters in the DC Universe. Though there are many many stories focused entirely on the exploits of his superhero alter ego Superman, his civilian persona is often left behind. Despite his bumbling appearance in public, Clark is a quite capable investigative journalist, one who has won prestigious awards and is rivaled only by his wife Lois Lane among the best in the country. More than just an extension of his disguise and way to pay the bills, Clark’s professional legacy has received greater prominence in the Dawn of DC initiative, in both Superman and Action Comics.

Action Comics #1057 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Rafa Sandoval, in particular, places its focus squarely on how effective a journalist Clark can be as he conducts an intensive interview with a high-profile subject. Getting down to business, the more timid tendencies Clark is known for are quickly dispensed as he launches into a discussion that has wider implications for Metropolis and the DCU. Here’s a deeper look at this interview, what it says about Clark Kent’s life and career, and how Clark’s professional aspirations have evolved along with the Superman mythos.

Not such a mild-mannered reporter

Clark Kent in the Daily Planet newsroom
Image credit: DC Comics

Ever since Superman liberated Warworld from its tyrannical ruler Mongul and returned to Earth with refugees from the mobile planetoid, the world has seen a resurgence in anti-extraterrestrial xenophobia. This includes the growing entity Blue Earth - which has officially been categorized as a domestic terrorist organization, employing bombings, armed demonstrations, and the proliferation of violence - encouraging extremist dialog. The founder of Blue Earth is Norah Stone, a young firebrand who agrees to give the Daily Planet an exclusive interview, but only if Clark Kent conducts it, apparently given his sterling journalistic reputation.

What follows is a tense cat-and-mouse conversation between Clark and Norah, as Norah vehemently denies any illegality by Blue Earth and distances herself from the group’s convicted criminals. Secretly using his super-powered senses, Clark is able to ascertain whenever Norah is lying during their discussion, pressing forward in his questioning accordingly. Though Clark is successful in completing the interview, with Daily Planet editor-in-chief Lois Lane satisfied with the end result, Blue Earth targets Clark afterwards, well-aware that he’s Superman and the personification of everything they stand against.

The prolific career of Clark Kent

Clark Kent enters the Daily Planet
Image credit: DC Comics

Clark’s journalism career taking the spotlight is something of a rarity for the character, despite journalism being Clark's primary occupation since his debut appearance in 1938’s Action Comics #1 by creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Initially, Clark is a reporter for the Daily Star, before the news organization was quietly rebranded as the Daily Planet in 1940’s Action Comics #23. Though most depictions of Clark’s civilian career show him as a print journalist, he becomes a television news broadcaster in 1971’s Superman #233 by Dennis O’Neil and Curt Swan, with his childhood friend Lana Lang as his co-anchor. This change would be dropped by the late ‘70s, squarely placing Clark back in print.

More than just a reliable reporter, Clark is tremendously successful at his day job and receives several public accolades for his work. 1959’s Action Comics #250 by Bill Finger and Wayne Boring has Clark recognized as Reporter of the Year while the lead story in 2021’s Superman: Red & Blue #3 by Jesse L. Holland and Laura Braga lists Clark as being second only to Lois in receiving professional awards at the Daily Planet. In 1994, author John Francis Moore wrote Superman: Under a Yellow Sun, presented as a novel written by Clark Kent. In the DCU, the novel went on to win Clark a Pulitzer Prize.

Outside of the main DCU continuity, the Kingdom Come universe by Alex Ross and Mark Waid describes Clark as having received two Pulitzers during his time with the Daily Planet. On Earth-2, the universe where the original Superman from the ‘30s and ‘40s comics lived, Clark eventually becomes the editor-in-chief of the Daily Star after his predecessor vacates the position. This career trajectory is retained in the Superman Returns universe, with Clark holding the position when his world is revisited during the 2019 Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Secret identity exposed

Lois Lane rips open Clark Kent's shirt
Image credit: DC Comics

There have been instances in the comic books when Clark’s secret identity as Superman has been exposed to the public, directly impacting his civilian career. During the New 52 era, which rebooted the DCU’s continuity, Lois reveals Superman’s identity to the world after it was obtained by a terrorist syndicate led by Vandal Savage’s son. The revelation, taking place in 2015’s Superman #41 by Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr., caused a major rift between Clark and Lois as he was forced to live a more secluded existence while his friends and former co-workers became social pariahs, mistakenly accused of being complicit in the deception.

Comparatively, 2019’s Superman #18 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado had Superman voluntarily decide to unveil his identity through a press conference in the middle of Metropolis. In order to mitigate the Daily Planet facing legal liability for employing someone who lied about their dual identity for years, editor-in-chief Perry White fires Clark. This unemployment is brief, with Perry immediately offering Clark a job to write for the Daily Planet as Superman, providing the newspaper with his unique perspective on the DCU.

After Superman’s secret identity was restored, this angle to the character was dropped, with Clark back in his usual position as an unassuming reporter for the Daily Planet. But though Lois has since risen to the rank of editor-in-chief, Clark’s professional career usually feels more static on the occasions when it is touched on. This isn’t to say that Lois doesn’t deserve the promotion over Clark, but at least there’s a sense of progression with Lois’ new role that Clark currently lacks.

The neglected career path of Clark Kent

Clark Kent prepares to punch Superman
Image credit: DC Comics

For characters like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, their careers are the focus of their stories, exemplified by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins’ maxi-series Lois Lane: Enemy of the People and Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s twist on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. In contrast, Clark’s career at the Daily Planet is often overlooked, usually depicted with Clark working there briefly before having to leap into action as Superman. Action Comics #1057 remedies this, reminding readers that Clark is strongly committed to being a journalist and well-suited to what he does for the DCU in his regular job.

In a way, Clark’s professional background being an overlooked element of the DCU mirrors Bruce Wayne’s neglected portrayal as a major businessman and philanthropist in Gotham City. Understandably, the heroes’ activities as their costumed alter egos are the more prominent parts of their stories, but there is a lot of untapped narrative potential in seeing how much good the World’s Finest does in their civilian personas. A further exploration of Clark Kent’s investigative journalism career feels more relevant than ever.

On sale now, Action Comics #1057 is written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Rafa Sandoval, colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. The story continues in Action Comics #1058, on sale Oct. 24.

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Sam Stone

Sam Stone: Sam Stone is an entertainment journalist based out of the Washington, D.C. area that has been working in the industry since 2016. Starting out as a columnist for the Image Comics preview magazine Image+, Sam also translated the Eisner Award nominated-Beowulf for the publisher. Sam has since written for CBR, Looper, and Marvel.com, with a penchant for Star Trek, Nintendo, and martial arts movies.


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