T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
The DC Comics “Truth” storyline, about the revelation of Superman’s secret identity and the reduction of his superpowers, is moving forward, most recently with this week’s Superman #41 by Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr.
Initially, I tried to contain my skepticism about the concept and trust the capable creators behind the four books through which this tale is being told, but it is becoming more and more difficult to regard this post-Convergence reboot as anything but a misfire that squanders the talents of the teams behind this story.
Increasingly, “Truth” rings false.
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One month into “Truth” and DC Comics is presenting readers with less of a cohesive story than a disjointed, awkwardly arranged series of parallel adventures arranged around a common theme. The latest entry in that effort, Yang’s debut on the Superman title, occurs out of chronological order, taking us back to the time before Clark Kent was exposed as the Man of Steel.
Clark, accompanied by Jimmy Olsen, acts on an anonymous tip, and, after Lois Lane becomes involved in the investigation, the Daily Planet reporting team exposes a newly-elected state senator as a secret supplier of high-tech weaponry to criminal gangs and foreign military dictators. Clark’s source proves to be sinister, threatening to expose the superhero’s identity unless the Man of Tomorrow does his bidding. A shootout ensues in which Superman, weakened by the latest use of his super-flare, appears to be wounded by gunfire in a cliffhanger ending.
Critique and Discussion:
While it remains possible that the four creative teams from Action Comics, Batman/Superman, Superman/Wonder Woman, and Superman ultimately will pull “Truth” together in a coherent and comprehensive way, the unfortunate fact is that, for now, DC is overdoing it with the Man of Steel’s present arc.
When first introduced, the new super-flare power was judiciously used to good dramatic effect, but now it has become the same easy creative crutch that kryptonite became in years past; the revealing of Superman’s secret identity to Jimmy produced new storytelling nuances, but the breaking of the news publicly went too far.
Originally, I even tried to give the creative talent behind “Truth” the benefit of the doubt by crediting them with good intentions for making Lois the journalist who got the scoop on Supes’ secret. That assumption on my part led to some productive discussion on Twitter, in which “Shades of Limelight” noted that reporters always must strike an ethical balance between the protection of the innocent and the public’s right to know.
It was noted that since Superman was not abusing his power, exposing him did not serve a greater good and, in fact, endangered the people he maintained a secret identity to protect. Lois Lane, a compassionate as well as passionate journalist, trusts Superman because “he’s proven to her that he is a force for the greater good to help the helpless.”
In the course of the same Twitter exchange, Maya, whose “gateway comic” was an issue of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, concurred with Shades, citing specific evidence in support of the proposition that Lois wouldn’t expose Superman if she could. In the ninth issue of Lois’s solo title, published in May 1959, she was tricked into thinking her suspicions about Clark had been printed in the Planet. Lois confronts her editor, Perry White, insisting: “Even if the evidence had been true, I wouldn’t print the story! I’d die before I’d betray Superman!”
Maya’s position is borne out by even older issues, such as Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #21 and Showcase #9, both released in 1957. In the former, Jimmy attempts to convince Lois he is “a sneak and a traitor” by pretending he is about to unearth the secret of Superman’s true identity, supposedly hidden inside a sealed envelope. Lois refuses to be tricked, incredulously asking, “Jimmy! You aren’t going to open it and betray your pal, Superman, are you?”
In the following month’s issue of Showcase, Lois goes to even greater lengths, repeatedly concealing evidence while thinking, “Superman, you’ll thank me some day for protecting your secret identity so often!”
That is the Lois Lane for whom readers have had respect and affection for three-quarters of a century, but that is not the Lois Lane appearing in “Truth”; the new, but not improved, Lois Lane is, according to Romita, intended to “take what everybody else expects her to do and don’t do it. If she decides to be a bitch, let her be a bitch.” In Romita’s eyes, Lois is “annoying” and her discovery of Clark’s secret “should irritate” her.
This is no way to go about bringing us the 2015 versions of the Superman, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane readers have followed faithfully since 1938. For generations, Lois has entertained her suspicions, Clark has worked to preserve his secret, we have been presented with ruses and misunderstandings and the occasional dream reveal or “imaginary story” supposition, but, ultimately, Superman’s true identity has remained under wraps for going on eight decades.
There is a reason for that, and this deviation from the fundamental assumptions underlying these characters offers, at best, an infinitesimal short-term storytelling gain at an inestimable long-term characterization cost. At this point, unfortunately, it appears clear that what “Truth” has set free is a genie that ought to have remained in a bottle more tightly-capped than that which once contained the city of Kandor.
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.