Yes, I could phrase that differently, but I refuse to.

§ June 14th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 11 Comments

So just as a brief follow-up to the Secret Identity talk over the past week, I wanted to mention the time Superman exposed himself to Jimmy.

Yes, like with Lois, there were plenty of times in the past where Jimmy found out the secret, but it was undone or the memory was wiped or whatever by the end of the story and all is good. But post-reboot, cheats like that were mostly avoided and when stuff happened, consequences were had and continued on through future stories.

Aside from the inherent “cheats” of reboots/relaunches themself, which is how the next situation is resolved. In Superman #38 (2015), well in the midst of the New 52 reimagining of the character, Superman’s need for a confidante has him decide to let his best pal Jimmy in on his double identity:

Like the reveal to Lois, this was a long time coming. Also like Lois, this was shortly after a reboot of the character, so the “finally, after so-and-so many years” is muted somewhat. This ain’t Silver Age Jimmy finding out, it’s Nu-Jimmy, part of the semi-ill-defined New 52 era. It should be an exciting development, but…it’s not the real Superman, if you know what I mean. Plus, that costume, yuck.

I know I’m opening up a can of worms with the “real Superman” comment, as there may still be people out there holding a grudge over the 1986 reboot supplanting the Silver Age Man of Steel. And despite the huge sales early on, there was some resistance to Byrne’s new version of Superman, how he didn’t have the, I don’t know, inherent authoritative qualities vis-à-vis his position in the DC Universe. As time has gone on, though, especially with the readable, competent work put into the franchise over the decades, we ended up with a character that is that Superman.

Then in 2011, with the New 52 line-wide initiative from DC, which ranged from “almost no change at all” to “forget everything you knew before!” in its impact on the books, we got essentially a new relaunched version of Superman. If it wasn’t clear what was and what wasn’t part of the character’s new continuity, don’t feel bad, even the people who worked on the book weren’t quite sure. (George Pérez, who was writing the relaunched Superman title, famously had complained he couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether or not Ma and Pa Kent were still alive.)

Not to say there wasn’t good work in the relaunch (Grant Morrison’s Action run, set during Superman’s earlier years, remains solid), but this was a new version of the character, seemingly distinct from the version given us by the 1986 reboot.

Thus, going back to the topic at hand, this is why the Jimmy revelation isn’t quite as impactful as one would like. Also, not long afterwards in the New 52 run, Superman’s identity gets exposed to the world (resulting in a storyline that, as I recall, was actually pretty good), so Jimmy being the only one with the secret doesn’t last terribly long anyway.

And then all that is more or less undone with, as I said before, a “cheat,” as DC’s next publishing initiative, “Rebirth,” eventually does away with the New 52 version of Superman and reinstalls the 1986 reboot version. Complete with Lois still knowing Clark’s secret, the two of them being married, and oh yeah, they have a kid now. It’s a complicated sequence of events reintegrating the post-Crisis Superman into the post-Flashpoint/New 52 Rebirth era (phew!) of the DC Universe, but they manage it somehow and everything is about as “back to normal” as can be expected.

Then Brian Michael Bendis comes along and redoes the whole “Superman reveals his secret to the world” story, but maybe I can address that at a later date.

Just as an addendum, I wanted to point out this panel in #12, the final installment, of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, a series that exists as its own thing and outside the regular DC Universe continuity. In this issue, Superman has supposedly disguised himself as Clark Kent in an attempt to get one over on Lex Luthor. Anyway, stuff happens, and Jimmy brings out a spare costume, saying this:

That little bit of hesitation before the word “disguise” always read to me as Jimmy realizing full well that Clark Kent is Superman, but is keeping up the pretense for his best pal. Nothing more is really said about it, since as noted this is the last issue, and maybe I was just stating the obvious here, but I liked that little touch. If, in fact, that’s what’s happening. I like that it’s open to interpretation.

11 Responses to “Yes, I could phrase that differently, but I refuse to.”

  • Remco says:

    If you’re paging Dr Freud anyway, ask him what’s with Jimmy’s hand seemingly on that huge column, and the water bottle spilling…

  • Thom H. says:

    @Remco: LOL

    Also, between the awful New 52 costume and JRJr’s extra-skinny interpretation of Superman, I’m not a fan of that panel.

  • Daniel T says:

    Your interpretation of the ASS* panel is reasonable and probably correct, but I’ve been reading through The Silver Age Superman Omnibus and the writers then bafflingly used lots of “er”s “uh”s and “ah”s in their dialogue.

    *Yes, I could phrase that differently, but I refuse to.

  • Matthew Murray says:

    That Superman panel with him revealing his identity to Jimmy Olsen looks so weird. The costume, the hair, the fact that it looks like he was drawn with trunks and they weren’t coloured. So strange.

    Also I find the order of the text in that panel from All Star Superman weirdly confusing. Like, I guess it goes right-to-left? But it seems to flow very oddly. Maybe it makes more sense in context.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I feel like late-period JR JR art is approaching a Harvey Kurtzman style…

  • LouReedRichards says:

    Good call Sean! I was sitting here trying to think of which artist’s style that smooth shoulder and elbow on Jimmy reminded me of. I think you nailed it with Kurtzman. I’m sure I’ll see it when I look at his other recent (last 20 years!) works.

    Like a lot of people I’m not a huge fan of the style JRjr’s art has evolved into, but I’m all for an artist to keep changing and evolving.

    I’ll always have his and Williamson’s jaw-droppingly brilliant run on Daredevil.

  • Dave White says:

    Pretty sure the weird trunks are probably due to a desire to showcase muscle definition conflicting with an order not to draw attention to his crotch. In the end it just makes it look like Supes is wearing depends.

  • Aaron says:

    I’m a sucker for when Batman writers hint at, but refuse to say, that Gordon knows or suspects that Bruce Wayne is the Batman, so I enjoyed it in All-Star.

    As for the reveal on top, I fully expect the next scene is a Venture Bros homage where Supes tells Jimmy it’s a speed suit and to never call it a jumpsuit.

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    I love that moment in All Star Superman. It reminds me of a scene in Superman For All Seasons 4. Clark had returned to Smallville after Lex humiliated him. There’s a tornado, and Clark changes to Superman to save the town. In the aftermath, an older adult addressing a crowd(a preacher, maybe?) says “It was… fortunate that Superman happened to be in the area.” To me, that pause could be an admission that the people of Smallville know Clark is Superman, and keep up the pretense for his sake.

    It’s the subtlest piece of writing Jeph Loeb’s ever done.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    “I know I’m opening up a can of worms with the “real Superman” comment”

    It shouldn’t be. It’s not quite this simple, but with the Doctor Manhattan stuff, DC basically turned the entire New 52 era into a line-wide, five year Age of Apocalypse.

    Now the extent to which that’s true various for individual characters. DC explicitly killed off the New 52 Superman, revealed that the Pre-Flashpoint Superman was still around, and then through crossover shenanigans, blended the (still dead) New 52 Superman’s history with that of the Pre-Flashpoint Superman.

    My long-winded point, is that if there’s one New 52 version you can definitely say isn’t the real version, it’s Superman.

    And Lilth from Teen Titans is probably #2 on that list.

  • Snark Shark says:

    That first panel looks… WRONG.

    “I’ll always have his and Williamson’s jaw-droppingly brilliant run on Daredevil.”

    yeah, that stuff looked great!

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