The Return of Superman’s Secret Identity

By Marc Lax and Steve Younis

Secret Identity

Several years ago comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis changed Superman’s status quo. The world now knew that Clark Kent was Superman. There was an outcry from Superman fandom who felt that losing the secret identity was a bad idea, but it was explained away as the character moving forward. Fans either rolled their eyes and continued reading with caution or stopped reading all together. Many Superman fans chose the latter…

After Bendis’ run on the books ended many fans were wondering if the secret identity would come back? But how? Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson took over the reigns of “Action Comics” and wrote an epic story titled “The Warworld Saga”. Superman and a rag tag team of heroes and some anti-heroes went to Warworld to fight Mongul and save the denizens of the planet. There was so much going on that fans are encouraged to read the books to find out everything Superman and his team went through. But suffice to say it was a grand tale whose repercussions are still being felt. It was a story that could be told without worrying about Superman’s lack of secret identity.

Meanwhile, Tom Taylor became the writer on a new book titled “Superman: Son of Kal-El”. Jon Kent, Clark and Lois’ son, became Superman in his father’s absence. He was given his own arch enemy in Henry Bendix, an evil, corrupt President of a faraway country. Needless to say Jon and his team defeated Bendix, but lurking in the background during all these stories was the one and only Lex Luthor who was manipulating many of these elements from his ivory tower. One member of Superman’s Warworld team was the “villain” Manchester Black, who, as you may recall had his own team called The Elite. Superman felt that Black’s mind control and other abilities could help in the fight against Mongul. When the mission on Warworld appeared to be a lost cause, Manchester Black seemed to retreat back to the shadows. It was later revealed, with Lex Luthor pulling the strings of many of these characters, things were not what they seemed.

This brings us to “Action Comics #1050” and the promised return of Superman’s secret identity. We learn that Manchester Black was working for Luthor all along. Spying on Superman. Trying to get information on Superman and reporting back to Luthor. However, Manchester Black betrayed Luthor much like he betrayed Superman. He came to admire Superman and was no longer interested in helping Luthor. Strapped to a machine with wires attached to his brain, Manchester Black would nevertheless still prove useful to Lex Luthor. Luthor’s machine syphoned all of Black’s power, releasing it as a physic wave that covered the entire earth, causing people around the world to forget that Clark Kent is Superman.

Why would Lex do this? Because he reluctantly admits the world needs Superman! With everything that’s been happening in the DC Universe Luthor tells Superman that his symbol means too much to humanity and must help lead them into the future. But sacrifices must be made. With the world looking up to Superman as a god, humanity must not feel that Superman is one of them. Therefore the world must not know that Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same.

Gathering technology from Warworld, Henry Bendix’s superhuman experiments, and using the power of Manchester Black, Luthor combined these resources to ensure humanity forgets Superman’s secret identity. But that’s not all. Luthot ensures that anyone who finds out the secret identity could die. That was his nefarious plan. That is how the world no longer remembers that Superman and Clark Kent are the same. Of course some of our characters are safe from this. Lois Lane, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Jon and his boyfriend Jay were on the Kent Farm when this all happened. When Clark first revealed that he was Superman to the world Batman put a protective dome over the farm to keep the Kents safe from Superman’s enemies. Luthor’s physic wave did not penetrate the dome, so those who were under its protection still remember Clark Kent is Superman. Most of the Justice League is protected because J’onn J’onnz (Martian Manhunter) put a psychic block on most members to protect them from their enemies.

So with that we launch into a “New Dawn” for Superman. The identity is back! It all starts later this month. “Action Comics #1051” is the start of a format change that will see three new stories included in each issue from writers Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Dan Jurgens, and Leah Williams. Then in “Superman #1” out in February, from writer Joshua Williamson and artist Jamal Campbell, Clark Kent settles back into his life on Earth while iconic and new enemies erupt from the shadows to take him on. Jon Kent will also get to forge his own path and will take on the man responsible for his kidnap and torture, Ultraman, in “Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent #1” by Tom Taylor and Clayton Henry available in March.

It’s an exciting time to be reading Superman comic books!

Superman #1
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January 16, 2023 5:16 pm

The Bendis run killed my enthusiasm for the comics so I was not able to get into the additional storylines and I didn’t see anything from Taylor or the other writers that was able to pull me back in. I will say that I enjoyed the father/son dynamic in the bendis issues, but the clunky dialogue and mishandling of Lois, Jor-el and that god awful Rogol Zaar storyline were terrible. I’m glad things are going back to the status quo. Dan Jurgens has been the only writer in my opinion in the last 10 years who has kept me engaged.… Read more »