Over the years, a lot of theories have been floated about superheroes, but one of the most polarizing is the one about which face is the TRUE face.  Most of the time, this argument is about Batman (FYI: Bruce Wayne is the real face, Batman is the mask, but Bruce himself thinks differently), but it’s more interesting when applied to the character of Superman.  Is the real hero Clark Kent, the nice young man from Kansas whose parents instilled in him a sense of justice and truth?  Or Kal-El, the alien whose people now live only through his example?  Or is Superman, the two-fisted embodiment of goodness and the prototypical superhero, the most important facet?  It’s a hard question to answer, with no real wrong response, leading to today’s rocketed-from-a-dead-planet query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is in the camp that says Clark is the driving force of his heroism, asking: Which aspect of the Superman character is the real hero – Clark Kent, Kal-El or Superman?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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3 Comments

  1. November 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    I always thought it was Clark, and that has been a view I’ve seen in various alternate versions of the character. He is very much a product of his upbringing, his adoptive parents and the values they instilled in him. We’ve seen alternate versions that were less than heroic because they were raised by other less than honorable people (such as “Superman: The Dark Side” where he was raised on Apokolips), and others where he was raised by similar people with their own values and beliefs that he takes very seriously (such as Red Son where he was raised in Russia, or The Nail where he was raised by the Amish).

    Sometimes we still see him go bad even with the Kents upbringing (such as “Justice Lords” Superman), but for the most part, it is that good wholesome farm boy and the values he holds that really make him Superman.

    • November 11, 2016 at 5:42 pm — Reply

      I agree. His powers enable him to be Superman, but Clark would be a hero in some way with or without his powers.

  2. Toric
    November 12, 2016 at 6:58 am — Reply

    I’m gonna go with Kal-El this time around. Superman was based on Moses, but that metaphor kinda breaks down when you remember that Moses learned his people were the oppressed slaves, and Clark learned his people were utterly extinct. Superman gets mad props for 1: Not letting this knowledge break his spirit, B: Adopting Earth the way the Kents adopted him, and Gamma: Honoring his dead race with the symbol on his chest.

    Clark Kent is the original persona, and Superman is a cultivated persona, but any time he acts as Kal-El he’s taking on the mantle of the entire Kryptonian race, which is pretty darn heroic.

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