Superman Speaks His Truth

The Man of Steel will go through changes in December that will ripple through the DC universe. (Approach with caution, comic-book fans, because — Great Krypton! — there are spoilers ahead.) When Issue No. 18 of Superman arrives in stores on Dec. 11, the hero will be going public about his alter ego.

Superman has been around since 1938, so it is hard to imagine something that has not been done, including revealing his secret identity. In 1991, he told Lois Lane, which seemed fair since she and Clark Kent were engaged. In 2015, Lois wrote a front-page Daily Planet story that revealed Superman’s secret. Comic-book shenanigans later erased that knowledge from the general population of the DC universe.

“On some level, this is what DC brought me here for,” said Brian Michael Bendis, who is writing Superman and Action Comics, among other DC books. He was referring to his departure from Marvel, DC Comics’ rival, in 2017. He began working on the Superman titles last year, juggling space adventures, the inner workings of the Daily Planet, and how Lois and Clark related to their son, Jonathan, in his preteen to teenage years. “I didn’t want to stir things up right away,” he said. “I had to earn my place.”

What’s the catch?

Comic-book fans are cynical about these types of events. Preview information about Superman No. 18 noted that the hero would reveal his identity, but it was met with little fanfare on comics news sites or social media, possibly because readers assume the developments will be temporary. Newsarama, a comics news site, noted in an article last month that the 2015 story covered similar ground. But another site, Bleeding Cool, predicted a sharp twist of events.

“Let me lean into this a little bit because I’m with you on that,” Bendis said in a telephone interview, when asked about fan skepticism. “I don’t do fake-out stories.” If anything, he added, some fans familiar with his work might be worried about long-term ramifications: “I did a story where Daredevil was outed — a different kind of outing — but that was his reality for 15 years.” (When Daredevil’s identity was revealed to the public, it caused a lot of grief for his alter ego, Matt Murdock.)

Superman’s being honest about his identity, Bendis said, will bring him closer to being “the best version of himself.” It also opens up areas of exploration, he said: “We wanted to do this because behind it is 1,000 brand-new Superman stories that have never been told.”

How long will this last?

Bendis said that he and some of his fellow DC Comics writers, including Matt Fraction and Greg Rucka, are already hundreds of story pages in. Two special Superman issues coming in January will begin to show how far-reaching this event is.

Who else will Superman’s news affect?

A long-held belief behind secret identities is that the heroes are protecting their loved ones. Superman’s decision has implications for him, his family, his workplace and the heroes and villains of the DC universe.

“Everybody who’s ever been in contact with him is going to have a completely different perspective and reaction to this,” Bendis said. “Some heroes are going to be thrilled, some heroes are going to be livid, some villains are going to change their ways.” (That’s right: Superman’s news will inspire an enemy to switch sides.)

Is this because of Lois?

When Bendis took over Superman, he came up with a story involving an ill-timed photograph of Lois, who is married to Clark, kissing Superman. The public gave Superman a pass, but had a lot of scorn for Lois, considering her unfaithful.

“I had another destination in mind, but this was a better solution,” Bendis said of that subplot. The ruckus over the photograph, he said, caused Superman to wonder, Who was he lying to protect? Who did not already know that Lois was an important part of his life?

Can Clark still work as a reporter?

Which journalist would not like to have super hearing to better listen in on public conversations and telescopic vision to observe a scene? And while most people will trust Clark to play by the rules, the more suspicious members of the public — we are looking at you, Lex Luthor — will assume he will use his X-ray vision to access information no other reporter could.

“Excellent question,” Bendis said. “And I promise you that is the first thing that Greg Rucka stormed up to me with when we started working on this.” Answers will start to arrive in January.

George Gustines is a senior editor. He began writing about the comic book industry in 2002. @georgegustines Facebook

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