Yes, it’s been a little while since our last Super Here For… column, but it’s a new year and we have a new Man of Steel, and it seemed like the right time to bring it back. (And yes, I realize that technically 2022 isn’t so new anymore and Jon Kent has been Superman for months. Let’s just pretend I’ve been trapped in the Phantom Zone—or 2021, which was pretty much the same thing—and leave it at that.)
If you don’t follow all the weekly ins and outs of the DC Universe, I think the first question you’re likely to ask when you hear there’s a new Superman is why? Superman has been going strong for over eighty years. That’s at least five different generations of readers who have grown up reading and watching the adventures of Kal-El from Krypton. Millions of people the world over see him as a heroic ideal—the definitive superhero. You don’t get more iconic than Superman, so why change that?
Well, you don’t. Let’s not forget that Kal-El is still very much in the picture. But with the original Man of Steel currently off world, it’s fallen to his son, Jon Kent, to take up the mantle and serve as the Superman of Earth in his place, and there are some strong reasons as to why this is very good news for the character and for Superman fans worldwide.
Eighty years of comics is quite a legacy. It means that the vast majority of people living today have never lived in a world without Superman. He was there for us the day we were born and he’ll be there long after we’re gone. While it’s not technically true to say that Superman is eternal—it sure feels like it from our limited perspective. But for things to endure, they have to evolve.
If you have any doubt about that, just look at the men and women who create the Man of Steel’s comics. Once upon a time, all artists worked manually, lettering was done by hand, coloring was completed with dye or markers and every single page needed to be physically delivered to the publisher. Today, if you came to DC (or any other comics publisher out there) and said you wanted to hand-letter and manually color your comic, and that on top of that, you refused to email them digital files, they’d likely show you the door.
Change is a part of life. Even when you don’t have the longevity of Superman.
Now, all this said, Kal-El has done an amazing job keeping up with the times. He’s come a long way since those early days of taking down common gangsters. However, even the best of us can benefit from a youthful perspective and that’s where Jon Kent comes in.
The minute Clark Kent and Lois Lane became parents, their story became one of legacy. Superman, who never had a superhero sidekick like most of his fellow Justice Leaguers, finally had someone to which he could pass the torch eventually. Jon is someone who shares Superman’s heroic beliefs and ideas, but brings a younger, more of-the-moment perspective to justice.
It should come as no surprise to anyone with a window or an internet connection that the problems of today are a lot different than they were in 1938, or even in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s when some of the most acclaimed and popular Superman storylines first saw print. Where once the world’s biggest fears were the twin specters of fascism and nuclear annihilation—which, to be clear, are still very much present—the problems of today are more complex and challenging. They can’t be tackled directly. Put another way, you can’t heat vision global warming or freeze breath misinformation. For Superman to effectively take on threats like these, it’s going to take a lot of outside the box thinking.
So, if a fresh perspective is needed, then it’s probably a good thing that we have an all-new Superman to provide it. And considering that he was directly raised and mentored by the original Man of Steel and his equally idealistic wife, we can rest assured that the heart and soul of what that iconic S represents is still intact.
He may be a new Superman, but he is still Superman.
Now, this isn’t to say that Jon won’t make mistakes and occasionally find himself overwhelmed. We’ve certainly seen that happen more than once already. It’s going to be a while before he’s truly able to fill those red boots on his own, and that may not even be in the cards. His dad shows no signs of retiring (though recent announcements suggest something a lot more ominous). But I’m excited to see Jon come into his own, representing truth, justice and a better tomorrow in his own unique way.
In future columns, we’ll discuss how he’s doing that, along with how serious the threats he’s facing truly are. Trust me, the giant kaiju are actually the easy part. But for now, let’s just say that with Jon lighting up the pages of Superman’s flagship title while his father thrills in the pages of Action Comics, there’s a lot of reasons for Superman fans to feel excited and hopeful about this new year. And after the stress of these past couple years, when was the last time any of us have felt that?
Keep up with Jon Kent’s adventures as the world’s new Superman in the pages of Superman: Son of Kal-El, available monthly in print and on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, writes our monthly Superman column, “Super Here For…”, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our recurring television column. Follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Tim Beedle and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.