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  1. #16
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Superman is who is. Period. Other identies came later in story. This story is and should be about superman.

  2. #17
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    I think that line is pretty true to most versions of the character.

    Look, "Superman" is a public persona. A construct. A symbol. Doesn't mean he isn't 'real' or that his ideals or his actions aren't true. But just like a celebrity puts on a face in the public eye, to a certain extent, that's what Clark does when he puts on the suit.

    The question now is who is the man behind the 'Superman' persona - Clark Kent or Kal-El.

    In most versions, I'd say the answer is Clark Kent.

    Not the mild-mannered bumbling mask of 'Clark Kent' that he wears at the Daily Planet in some versions. But the real Clark Kent, who was raised by adoptive parents in Smallville, discovered he had powers far greater than mortal man, and made the decision to use those powers to help people.

    He spent most of his early life believing he was Clark Kent and that's the name he self-identifies with. He usually discovers the name Kal-El and his Kryptonian heritage in his late teens at earliest, or well into his Superman career at latest. The one exception is the Silver Age, where he apparently knew that he was Kal-El right from the start, and even there I seem to recall a story where Superboy claims he didn't actually remember until he gained the power of 'super memory' (Frank Miller has an interesting take on this 'super memory' concept in Year One).

    I once had a long discussion about this on another thread - even if you go back to the Golden Age, Clark Kent is the real person. He's the guy who decides to adopt the persona of Superman to help people. He disguises himself as the 'weakling' Clark to divert suspicion from himself. But deep down he still self-identifies as Clark. He didn't even know about Kal-El until a long time into his career (over a decade in terms of publishing history).

    Of course, in modern interpretations (but even earlier, with George Reeves) the gap between the public Clark and the real Clark has reduced considerably (to the extent that according to Byrne, there was NO gap) which makes Clark appear all the more 'real'.

    That said, over time, as he discovers more about Krypton, he does embrace that identity more, and maybe he associates the Superman persona with it (after all, in many versions, the S symbol is the symbol of the House of El, or a Kryptonian symbol at any rate). But he never stops self-identifying as Clark Kent.

  3. #18
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bat39 View Post
    I think that line is pretty true to most versions of the character.
    Look, "Superman" is a public persona. A construct. A symbol. Doesn't mean he isn't 'real' or that his ideals or his actions aren't true. But just like a celebrity puts on a face in the public eye, to a certain extent, that's what Clark does when he puts on the suit.
    No, it isn't a public persona. It's who he is inside. It's his trueself and deepest instinct. It's his choice everytime he goes out there. He isn't celebrity. I whole heartedly reject that notion. This is'nt the fantastic four. The titular identity being fake or a face he puts on is revolting and spits on the character siegel and shuster built. He doesn't do it for fame, fortune or applauds. He is a champion because he wants to be.

    In goldenage, Superman was still the focused identity. Not clark kent's drama. Superman - the strongman.Lois loved the real superman. She hated clark kent.Clark kent is a cheat, a fraud and a coward.
    Last edited by manwhohaseverything; 05-25-2020 at 12:23 AM.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by manwhohaseverything View Post
    No, it isn't a public persona. It's who he is inside. It's his trueself and deepest instinct. It's his choice everytime he goes out there. He isn't celebrity. I whole heartedly reject that notion. This is'nt the fantastic four. The titular identity being fake or a face he puts on is revolting and spits on the character siegel and shuster built. He doesn't do it for fame, fortune or applauds. He is a champion because he wants to be.

    In goldenage, Superman was still the focused identity. Not clark kent's drama. Superman - the strongman.Lois loved the real superman. She hated clark kent. Clark kent is a cheat, a fraud and a coward.
    Being a 'celebrity' isn't a choice. Once he's out there doing things as Superman he is a public figure. The suit and the name are for him to make an impact.

    Yes, obviously, Superman reflects his values and what he wants to do. But its not like he thinks of himself as 'Superman'. He can think of himself as Kal-El or Clark Kent. And back in the Golden Age, he didn't even know about Kal-El. He thought of himself as Clark Kent since that's the name he was raised under and that's who he believed he was.

    There's a line in one of the early origins - "Early, Clark decided to turn his titanic strength to channels that would benefit mankind". Notice that its Clark who makes that decision. Clark who decides to put on the suit and become Superman.

    I think the key difference is that in the Golden Age, Siegal and Shuster had the reporter Clark Kent pose as a weakling to avoid suspicion, while later interpretations gave us a public Clark who was closer to his real self. Also, Superman has over time become more famed in-universe, more of an icon and a public figure, in line with how celebrity culture has evolved over the last 80 years. So that sort of emphasized 'Clark' being the real identity more. But the fundamentals between the Golden Age and modern interpretations is still the same. There's a guy named Clark Kent who decides to put on a suit and become Superman. And in his civilian persona, he wears glasses to blend in and live a reasonably normal life. The difference is that now as Superman he has to play up being the hero a bit, even if deep down he's just a guy doing the right thing. And he doesn't pretend to be too mild-mannered when he's wearing the glasses anymore.

    The Silver Age/Bronze Age is the outlier a bit with him knowing he's Kal-El since childhood and making Clark Kent more of a false identity right from the start (which is a bit weird, considering that he grew up with the Kents. In the old Superboy stories, did he not think of himself as Clark? Did he not accept Jonathan and Martha as his parents? Was the name they gave him just a good 'secret identity'?)

    PS: If you forgive my saying, so it seems that you're really vitriolic about Clark Kent for some reason.

  5. #20
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bat39 View Post
    Being a 'celebrity' isn't a choice. Once he's out there doing things as Superman he is a public figure. The suit and the name are for him to make an impact.

    Yes, obviously, Superman reflects his values and what he wants to do. But its not like he thinks of himself as 'Superman'. He can think of himself as Kal-El or Clark Kent. And back in the Golden Age, he didn't even know about Kal-El. He thought of himself as Clark Kent since that's the name he was raised under and that's who he believed he was.

    There's a line in one of the early origins - "Early, Clark decided to turn his titanic strength to channels that would benefit mankind". Notice that its Clark who makes that decision. Clark who decides to put on the suit and become Superman.

    I think the key difference is that in the Golden Age, Siegal and Shuster had the reporter Clark Kent pose as a weakling to avoid suspicion, while later interpretations gave us a public Clark who was closer to his real self. Also, Superman has over time become more famed in-universe, more of an icon and a public figure, in line with how celebrity culture has evolved over the last 80 years. So that sort of emphasized 'Clark' being the real identity more. But the fundamentals between the Golden Age and modern interpretations is still the same. There's a guy named Clark Kent who decides to put on a suit and become Superman. And in his civilian persona, he wears glasses to blend in and live a reasonably normal life. The difference is that now as Superman he has to play up being the hero a bit, even if deep down he's just a guy doing the right thing. And he doesn't pretend to be too mild-mannered when he's wearing the glasses anymore.

    The Silver Age/Bronze Age is the outlier a bit with him knowing he's Kal-El since childhood and making Clark Kent more of a false identity right from the start (which is a bit weird, considering that he grew up with the Kents. In the old Superboy stories, did he not think of himself as Clark? Did he not accept Jonathan and Martha as his parents? Was the name they gave him just a good 'secret identity'?)

    PS: If you forgive my saying, so it seems that you're really vitriolic about Clark Kent for some reason.
    Sure, but superman is more infamous than famous in goldenage. He is a vigilante . He is hated by a section, warrented or unwarrented. He is loved by another. He is a controversial figure. It still remains a fact to this day. But, he doesn't put on an act to appease someone or his own savior complex. Superman is the real deal.

    He doesn't need to think of himself as superman. He thinks of himself as the strongman who is called superman, named clark. Que the big s on his chest.I know he didn't know he was kal-L. That doesn't matter. Every interpretation play to feeds an identity. Goldenage played into feeding the identity of superman. Not kal l or clark kent. How you may ask?

    The stories were entirely about the daring exploits of the strongman vigilante from space. The swashbuckling action hero. The champion of the oppressed. Clark kent was introduced much later in the first issue. Even then he was fake.here is, how that superman worked. Clark was fake. Kal l was the past. Superman was real. Hence, the man of action. Kal l is all about cultures, exploration, the fortress and science. Hence the man of tomorrow. Clark Kent is about human life, job, family.. Etc.Hence, the man of steel.

    Modern interpretation actively denounced what superman is. He is only seen as the farmer from kansas. Well, he isn't much of a farmer in the original take. It was later added on. I hate that lois is seen as the bad guy,When it is clark kent the jackass. i have also come to hate that clark kent has high hi jacked superman books.

  6. #21
    Astonishing Member Soubhagya's Avatar
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    I really like that in Post Crisis. I enjoy the stories there. I admire the humility in the big guy. But even there i feel like he is trying to lie to himself in some way. Its not like he puts on a suit or wears a ring or says some magic words to get his special abilities. Its part of his very being.

    The other way seems more accurate. He disguises as Clark Kent. But that makes him somewhat boring. I feel like the original intent was to have Clark Kent be the guy you identify with. Not unlike Peter Parker. His struggles, mistakes are something common to most people. As Clark Kent, he has a job, has a love interest he can't have and behaves like an 'ordinary' guy. Imagine if its all Superman. Flying around. Saving people. Sitting around in Fortress of Solitude. Its good. But its not Superman.

    So, i tend more towards him being Superman then Clark Kent. But a blanket statement like one identity is the true one, looses something imo.

  7. #22
    Astonishing Member Adekis's Avatar
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    One weird element of the radio show which add credence to manwhohaseverything's argument regarding the Golden Age: in the radio show, Superman is pretty much the same as he is in the Fleischer shorts, novel, and comics, both in the strips and the monthlies, except that he doesn't grow up in an orphanage or get adopted by a kindly couple, but grows to manhood in the rocket, apparently raised by some kind of shipboard AI, considering that he has a lot of functional knowledge.

    And yet! For some reason, even though the previous episode has Jor mention his son aloud as Kal-L or Kal-El, Superman claims not to have any name at all to the first people he meets! For some reason, whatever mechanism he was raised by didn't "think" that his name was important enough to tell him!

    The Golden Age Superman frequently, in various media, thinks almost as an anthropologist, studying humanity from a psychological distance, trying to figure us out, even as he helps us. I really like that idea, and given that element of his character, it would make sense for the Man of Steel to identify with his Krypton name - but he doesn't. He doesn't even know it, as far as I know, in any media at all, until his famous first observational time travel to Krypton in 1949.

    I tend to call Superman "Kal", partially because some Silver Age stories where he clearly carries Krypton with him everywhere, are near and dear to my heart, and because I think many later versions of Superman would identify highly with his heritage, like the ones in the various movie versions, or the New 52. However, I find it difficult to call the Golden Age Superman specifically, or George Reeves, "Kal". I don't mind calling him "Kent" so much as I do modern Superman though. For one thing, "classic Clark" was often "mild-mannered," but he was also often assertive, not unlike his caped self, especially for Reeves, whose Kent often had far more screen-time than Superman.

    For another, the name "Clark Kent" wasn't yet associated with being something of a country bumpkin. Also, in the second story of the newspaper strip, Superman wears a normal human shirt, but no glasses for one panel, still clearly every inch the he-man, and gets described as "Clark Kent." Only in the next strip does "Clark" get redefined as "mild-mannered" and bespectacled. I think there's something in there. If Jerry Siegel can call him "Clark Kent" absent his specs, I can too - but I probably won't. "Superman" does often seem more appropos for that early, definitive take on the character.


    But I still like "Kal" in general though.
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  8. #23
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Yeah I've liked other versions for a really long time before the golden age version appealed to me, and that's the interesting thing about it. Clark Kent is a legitimate experience and moniker, but takes up little to no headspace. Kal-L didn't exist... so really he was Superman. And the versions since have altered that in one way or another while also trying to keep true to it.
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  9. #24
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    The problem for me is that "Clark Kent" and "Superman" are just words with no real solid definition.

    Is "Clark" the person he is when he's just around the Kents and Lois?
    Is "Clark" the person who works at the Planet?
    Is "Superman" only the guy who publicly rescues people, interacts with authorities and the press, etc;? Or does it include his interactions with his fellow heroes during downtimes (like League meetings or hanging with Bruce un the Batcave)?

    To me whatever you call him there is a persona who interacts with the Justice League, the Kents (including Lois) and Supergirl. This persona does the things like we saw in the vignettes at the start and end of Lois & Clark - playing every position on a baseball field just for kicks, changing lightbulbs without a step stool, heating up a warm beverage with a quick glance. and other small things. This guy is the full person. You can call him "Clark" because that is what the Kents called him growing up. You can call him "Superman" because there is less effort put into masking this persona when he is in costume. If we call this persona "Bob" rather than either "Superman" or "Clark" I suspect there would be a lot less disagreement about who is the real persona.

    "Clark" is always masking parts of himself to fit in. Even the Post-Crisis take wouldn't openly use his powers, which makes sense but still is a massive part of yourself being hidden. And the Pre-Crisis/Johns' take where Clark is clumsy, less assertive, or outright craven is far from his true self. The character might still think of himself as the boy Jonathan & Martha raised more than the biological son of Jor-El & Lara but that beomes a question of whether "Smallville Clark" or "Metropolis Clark" is what is meant by "Clark is who I am".

    "Superman" in most incarnations is less hidden (except about mentioning specific facts connecting him to his personal life). You can argue that Superman sometimes presents a more publically acceptable persona though. "Clark" might give you his opinions about a public issue easier than "Superman" would because of his fear that Superman's celebrity might exert undue influence or that Superman might be less effective if he had a divisive persons. Or it might be argued that "Superman" has a less complete persona because it only consists of what he shows people during brief interactions while in costume as compared to Clark's more one-on-one widespread interactions with people.
    Last edited by Jon Clark; 05-25-2020 at 09:16 AM.

  10. #25
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Superman had a definiton. He is a strongman vigilante from space. That is pretty strong definition in my mind. It's just none of those things exist in characterisation now.Yes and yes, clark is the person who works at planet(when he does play the idiot) and the guy with ma,pa.As for jl members, it's superman. They are fellow vigilantes. These things overlap because they aren't personalites, but identities.That doesn't mean they are discernable. They can meld together as well. Superman can feed to or three identities at the same time. It depends on a particular act.
    Superman-the vigilante strongman
    Clark kent - the human reporter
    Kal l- the alien explorer/scientist

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by manwhohaseverything View Post
    Superman had a definiton. He is a strongman vigilante from space. That is pretty strong definition in my mind. It's just none of those things exist in characterisation now.Yes and yes, clark is the person who works at planet(when he does play the idiot) and the guy with ma,pa.As for jl members, it's superman. They are fellow vigilantes. These things overlap because they aren't personalites, but identities.That doesn't mean they are discernable. They can meld together as well. Superman can feed to or three identities at the same time. It depends on a particular act.
    Superman-the vigilante strongman
    Clark kent - the human reporter
    Kal l- the alien explorer/scientist
    But those are your definitions. I may or may not agree with them. But when someone argues whether the "true persona" is "Superman" or "Clark Kent" they are arguing based on their definitions.

    If I think of "Clark" as the person he is with Martha and Jonathan which is also the same person he is with Batman then obviously this is different than if I think of "Clark" as just the human reporter including all the tics he shows at the Planet (spilling his coffee on himself to create an excuse to slip away for an emergency, letting his boss belittle him, ...). The first one is the real character, the second isn't but both are called "Clark".

    If I think of "Superman" as the person who relaxes in his arctic Fortress and swaps stories with Barry Allen about Mid-western life then that is the true character. If I think of "Superman" as just the vigilante strongman with "Clark" the guy he's been since childhood being being who he is with Diana, Hal, and J'onn out of the public eye then "Superman" isn't the real person.

    And is "Kal-El" the name we use for the person he was from the moment he was born with "Clark" and "Superman" being roles he adopted when he wanted to be someone else? Or is "Kal-El" a persona only shown with Kara, Jor-El and other kryptonians which downplays his powers and Earthly traits?

    My point is that from what I see one man's "Clark" is another man's "Kal-El" and another's "Superman/boy"- the person who comes home to Lois after a day saving lives looking for a few moments of just being himself.

  12. #27
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Clark View Post
    But those are your definitions. I may or may not agree with them. But when someone argues whether the "true persona" is "Superman" or "Clark Kent" they are arguing based on their definitions.

    If I think of "Clark" as the person he is with Martha and Jonathan which is also the same person he is with Batman then obviously this is different than if I think of "Clark" as just the human reporter including all the tics he shows at the Planet (spilling his coffee on himself to create an excuse to slip away for an emergency, letting his boss belittle him, ...). The first one is the real character, the second isn't but both are called "Clark".

    If I think of "Superman" as the person who relaxes in his arctic Fortress and swaps stories with Barry Allen about Mid-western life then that is the true character. If I think of "Superman" as just the vigilante strongman with "Clark" the guy he's been since childhood being being who he is with Diana, Hal, and J'onn out of the public eye then "Superman" isn't the real person.

    And is "Kal-El" the name we use for the person he was from the moment he was born with "Clark" and "Superman" being roles he adopted when he wanted to be someone else? Or is "Kal-El" a persona only shown with Kara, Jor-El and other kryptonians which downplays his powers and Earthly traits?

    My point is that from what I see one man's "Clark" is another man's "Kal-El" and another's "Superman/boy"- the person who comes home to Lois after a day saving lives looking for a few moments of just being himself.
    It doesn't matter. What i am arguing for is that the titular identity is superman which is an action character.Anything that undercuts the value of that identity will be bad. So superman being not true identity or something he does will be bad. As said, in my previous post identites can meld and diverge. It depends on what the character and story feed to. Clark with ma would be different from superman with batman if they are talking about their vigilante careers. It would only be clark if the other is just his friend bruce or batman.

    Relaxing in fortress doesn't necessarily play into kal el identity. It only plays into that when kal is collecting archeology samples or conducting research. So yeah! The above would be just be still clark kent talking to barry allen. It would be different if they were exchange notes on some forensics. With diana, darkseid, new gods.. Etc, it's always kal el identity that's at forefront. Why? Because kal el's culture is what they connect to. Not really, you don't become a strongman in a day.He was always a strongman. It's just that identity was given a nmae with superman. So it being a fake is' nt an issue. Goldenage guy used regularly do the strongman training.

    Yes, Kal el is the first identity given to him(in continuity). It's both. That identity gets something to feed on when kal l is relishing in krypton its culture, that side of his family. Legion and pretty much anything alien that connects to that identity feed to that identity.

    Look, you are also conflating an issue. I never said anything about a true identity from Clark's perspective. I am talking from a readers perspective. In story there is not true or false identity accept for the act he does.But for readers an identity or voice must be there as an anchor. You are pointing to the overlaps and using perspective as to say it doesn't matter. It matters. perspectives drive story and attracts readers.Overlaps do not mean there aren't separations. Story focuses attest to that. Stories need a focus for the same reason it needs a protagonist. We as creature are designed to focus on one thing.
    Goldenage was about unadulterated superman.
    Silverage was about kal el.
    Modernage is about clark kent.
    That doesn't mean other identites didn't exist. It just mean others played a support. Superman being a support in his book for clark or kal is very bizarre in my opinion.Superman is who is or he should be. Why? Because superman is the titular identity. Therefore does not make any sense to have him be support. It would be like having harry potter be about hermoine granger.

  13. #28
    Extraordinary Member Zero Hunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by manwhohaseverything View Post
    Superman had a definiton. He is a strongman vigilante from space. That is pretty strong definition in my mind. It's just none of those things exist in characterisation now.Yes and yes, clark is the person who works at planet(when he does play the idiot) and the guy with ma,pa.As for jl members, it's superman. They are fellow vigilantes. These things overlap because they aren't personalites, but identities.That doesn't mean they are discernable. They can meld together as well. Superman can feed to or three identities at the same time. It depends on a particular act.
    Superman-the vigilante strongman
    Clark kent - the human reporter
    Kal l- the alien explorer/scientist
    You are looking at this threw your well known golden age bias. That version of the character is not modern Superman. If he had not evolved and changed with the times Superman would have probably faded out decades ago. If he was portrayed now like he was in the Golden age he would be seen as an anti hero breaking the law to enforce "his"brand of justice. That simple black and white version from the golden age would not work anymore. The version most people know these days is the one where he IS Clark Kent. He grew up a fairly normal kid who just happened to develop superpowers. He did not arrive on Earth with his personality already formed.

  14. #29
    Extraordinary Member SiegePerilous02's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zero Hunter View Post
    You are looking at this threw your well known golden age bias. That version of the character is not modern Superman. If he had not evolved and changed with the times Superman would have probably faded out decades ago. If he was portrayed now like he was in the Golden age he would be seen as an anti hero breaking the law to enforce "his"brand of justice. That simple black and white version from the golden age would not work anymore. The version most people know these days is the one where he IS Clark Kent. He grew up a fairly normal kid who just happened to develop superpowers. He did not arrive on Earth with his personality already formed.
    Except developing super powers when he was a kid wouldn't lead to him being a normal kid. He shouldn't be normal, he is an "other" passing as one of us, and knowing this while going on crazy adventures as a kid is a key development. It's why his bonds with Pete Ross and the Legion of Superheroes are so important.

    There were other versions between the Golden Age and now. I don't think "he's a normal guy who just happens to have super powers" has ever been beneficial to him or effectively combated the "he's boring because his life is too perfect" mentality we see towards him.

  15. #30
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zero Hunter View Post
    You are looking at this threw your well known golden age bias. That version of the character is not modern Superman. If he had not evolved and changed with the times Superman would have probably faded out decades ago. If he was portrayed now like he was in the Golden age he would be seen as an anti hero breaking the law to enforce "his"brand of justice. That simple black and white version from the golden age would not work anymore. The version most people know these days is the one where he IS Clark Kent. He grew up a fairly normal kid who just happened to develop superpowers. He did not arrive on Earth with his personality already formed.
    I have a bias.That doesn't mean i am wrong. We live in a world where ironman, batman, spiderman, captains America... Etc all embrace exceptionalism. Rejection of it doesn't make the character any more relevant.And naive farmboy gimmick doesn't invite exceptionalism. It rejects it wholeheartedly.

    Moreover, if goldenage was simple black and white. Than i would say current setting is just melodramatic soap opera black and white. Complexity arises from simplicity. It doesn't arise because something is dramatic. I can say " i accidently punched someone" or i can say " gasp!!! Oh my god!!!! I punched someone". The latter and former has same complexity. Finally, superman is the granddady of exceptionalism atleast in this genre.
    Last edited by manwhohaseverything; 05-25-2020 at 01:08 PM.

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