I thought Clark Kent wrote for the Daily Star or WGBS. When did he work for the Daily Planet?
It happened while he was covering a war in the European nation of Galonia (which as all history buffs will know took place in April 1940). The Daily Star sent him out there but the Daily Planet printed his reports. As it’s unlikely he changed jobs while on a different continent, the obvious conclusion is that rival publishers bought out the Star and renamed it. Hostile takeovers? It’s the American way!
I’m honestly curious about this one and your opinion on it, David. Clark Kent as a newspaper reporter is one of the few parts of the character that seem somewhat intrinsic but slight anachronistic now. I mean he originally became a reporter to help people by breaking relevant news and be close to the action. I’m not trying to diminish newspapers but those aren’t things that have been associated with them for decades. There have been several attempts to modernize it from making him a TV reporter in the 70’s to more recently making him a blogger. They never really seem to fit. What is your take on this part of the character? Do you think there is an equivalent job to what a newspaper reporter was in the late 30’s/early 40’s today? Should it just be left as an anachronistic bit with a bit of a wink and a nudge?
I am currently reading the Adventures of Superman by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez hardcover and Clark Kent is a News anchor at WGBS in that…and through a 21st Century lens it is hard not to see that as Superman being Ron Burgundy.
It’s still a lot of fun though.
That’s a great book. It’s one of the funny things and kind of the lead in to my earlier joke about Superman. Of course it’s iconic that he works for the Daily Planet but during a lot of his more iconic runs, he really wasn’t.
Before you can ask that, the bigger question is, should we modernise him at all? The default setting for Sherlock Holmes is the 1880s, and yes you can do him in a modern setting but everybody knows the “real” Holmes was Victorian London. He doesn’t work as well in the modern world. And maybe neither does Superman. Maybe Superman should be a period piece.
But ok, let’s forget that question and assume we do have to modernise him. I think there is still a necessary role for idealistic reporters today, and I think newspapers are better placed to give us a reasoned, balanced, investigative journalism than 24-hour-rolling-soundbite TV. Do they deliver that? No, maybe not. Most newspapers are in a race to the bottom to reach the lowest-common-denominator advertiser-bait, the same as everything else in modern society. But could they deliver proper, investigative, idealistic, crusading journalism? Yes. Should they aspire to that? Yes. How can we show people what newspapers could aspire to, if they wanted to? Through a Superman story. That’s what Superman stories are for.
Holmes doesn’t work as well now for technical reasons; forensic science is the way that modern police work is done so his approach isn’t as unique. Shows like ‘Elementary’ and ‘Sherlock’ get past that (sometimes) by spending more time on his personality and by keeping him faster than others to make connections.
Superman is an ideal, and I think there’s as much of a place for an idealist now as ever. The more cynical things become, the more he stands out, but in a good way.
I’m not sure if I would want to see Superman become a period piece. That’s tantamount on admitting that he no longer has any relevance. Also, Clark Kent was given that job when he was created not because that job itself was the ideal but because of the role that job filled in the then modern society. I don’t feel any reporting role fill, newspaper, television or internet, fills that role right now. Is there a modern equivalent? If he was created today, what would the equivalent be?
As a counterpoint, newspaper journalism was even more money driven during that day in time. That era is the source of the whole “Yellow Journalism” term.
PS - I moved this to a new topic as it’s something I find interesting and didn’t want to further derail the other topic.
Clark Kent should be a blogger. For Buzzfeed! Always on the Twitters. Totes modern like.
If I recall correctly, the given reason in the comics for a journalism career was that it put Clark Kent right at the centre of the action, giving him the heads up regarding where he needed to be as Superman. Also, there was a certain cachet about being a reporter (like Barry Allen being a Police scientist or Hal Jordan being a Test pilot). In a modern milieu, if you wanted to be at the centre of that sort of information hub you would probably be working at Twitter or one of those news aggregating companies combing social media feeds…
It’s a terrible idea for a job though.
If the next Superman film or comic actually sjowed him doing some investigative journalism I think it would go a long way.
I would happily watch a Spotlight meets Superman Returns movie. Struggling paper, hard working journalists, crusading and idealistic boss. I think you could really make something interesting by putting the focus on that angle.
That’s kind of what I was getting at.
By the same token, I really want to see a Batman film which shows his skills as the World’s Greatest detective.
I dunno. One of the weirdest elements of the Daredevil TV show was the Ben Ulrich part. The investigative reporter feels more like a old TV trope more than a real thing anymore.
It’s about being a proactive superhero, isn’t it? Superman shouldn’t just be a first responder. While Spider-Man spends a few hours every night on patrol, Superman is investigating corrupt businessmen, dirty cops, etc. And then he does something about them before they can seriously endanger anyone.
That’s my kind of Superman anyway.
I guess the crux of my question is, do you want Clark Kent to be an investigative reporter because that is what he’s always been and you feel it’s intrinsic to the character’s history or because it expresses the ideal of the character outside of that previous history?
Except even then Clark Kent was constantly standing up for better reporting. When he was threatened by racketeers who wanted him to squash a story, he laughed at them and wrote it anyway. (Then punted them half way across the city into the harbour.) I think Siegel was well aware of journalism’s shortcomings, and Superman was his answer to that just as it was his answer to crooked politicians, slumlords, arms dealers, etc. And I think (I don’t have quotes for Siegel to back this up) that was as much or more the reason for making Clark a reporter as “putting him at the centre of the action” (though as a writer he must also have found that convenient).
Superman being a news reporter made sense when he was lower powered and going after corrupt union guys and racketeers, but his super-hearing, support network and all that means he doesn’t really need to be out there actively looking for trouble to fight any more. The only real upside to Clark being a reporter is that it allows him to keep his own hours and duck off to be Superman without presenting a problem (samething with Spider-Man as a freelance news photographer, which is why having him be a teacher didn’t work).
Well I think putting him on tv is stupid. Having him speak in such a formal manner to so many people means that surely they’d see the similarities between him and Superman, putting his secret identity under threat.
If you just make him a blogger then you use lose half of the supporting cast. I think until newspapers are totally dead then he can keep the occupation.
It’s a job that won’t put him in the public eye very much, where he can still do good every day.
I can’t think of a decent alternative, that’s for sure.