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  1. #1
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    Default Do you believe in the "Clark is who I am" quote?



    "Superman is what I can do; Clark is who I am" often seen as a pivotal point of the reinstatement of modern Superman's humanity as central to his character further distancing Superman from the reality and Clark as the truth. But personally for me beneath this all I see is a fairly poor read of the human race from a dull guy who'd rather be doing the easy thing rather than something that requires hard work and dedication.

    One, your name is just a title given to you by your parents and you as a person have no input on what it is. The choosing of the Earth name over the alien or superhero name has become a kind of weird point of fixation for people that really take comfort in the "human" take on Superman but I've always seen the name game as nothing more than semantics. People change their names all the time, choose to go by nicknames, middle names, or last names. Clark had no more control over the name Clark, than he had over Kal-El, and depending on the continuity Superman.

    However what you do is a conscious decision and an outward show of the person you are on the inside. The way I see it what you do IS who you are hence the "Actions speak louder than words," quote. If we were to lay out all the content ever produced of Superman I'm pretty certain the greatest chunk of it would have him in the tights doing the Superman thing.

    I feel like a lot of modern work has been kind of obsessed with trying to make sure Supes doesn't get too uppity, trying to cement the farmboy thing as central and trying to strip him of anything that might seem Super. The Kents are put back in to "keep him humble" despite the fact that the guy has consistently been one of the most humble, respectful, and giving people his entire existence. If the guy so much as attempts to stand up for himself he's seen as a "jock" or a "bully" or some other kind of nonsense like that. We accepted things like the idea that Superman wasn't the first hero and that the golden age character pretty much started things and Superman was more the first of his generation. I can accept that but it seems like once you give up one thing people are constantly pushing for more. Then this new Superman animated looks to be trying to say Martian Manhunter and Batman also predated him along with who knows else. Like wise you've got modern writers trying to say Supergirl is better at the hero gig than him and that his half human son is stronger than he is.

    IDK and it's probably just me but it feels like the general point of humanity in the modern Superman is to handicap him and hold him back.
    Last edited by The World; 05-24-2020 at 02:44 PM.
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  2. #2
    Ultimate Member Sacred Knight's Avatar
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    Not at all no. It served this particularly incarnation of the mythos which was supposed to focus highly on the relationship and Clark over Superman. In the end it also applied fine for the Smallville mythos which I think ended up leaning in this direction as well. IOW, for certain specific projects, sure. Largely though, this should never be a basis of the character of Superman.
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  3. #3
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    As is often the case, Sacred shares my exact opinion.

    The idea that "Clark" is the man and "Superman" is a mask works for very specific versions that limit themselves to one particular element of the Super mythos.

    However, saying "Clark is who I am" is perhaps the most limiting and wrong-headed idea you could possibly have about the Man of Tomorrow (and saying "Superman is who I am" is almost, but not quite, as bad). It turns him into a boring and vanilla blueprint of the superhero construct, stripping him of virtually all his nuance, depth, and innate inner conflict. It ultimately strips him of all the best, outlandish elements in his world, and leaves him as something that is neither relatable nor inspiring and is just.....there, soaking up empty lip service about his importance while delivering nothing note-worthy.
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  4. #4
    (formerly "Superman") JAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The World View Post


    "Superman is what I can do; Clark is who I am" often seen as a pivotal point of the reinstatement of modern Superman's humanity as central to his character further distancing Superman from the reality and Clark as the truth. But personally for me beneath this all I see is a fairly poor read of the human race from a dull guy who'd rather be doing the easy thing rather than something that requires hard work and dedication.

    One, your name is just a title given to you by your parents and you as a person have no input on what it is. The choosing of the Earth name over the alien or superhero name has become a kind of weird point of fixation for people that really take comfort in the "human" take on Superman but I've always seen the name game as nothing more than semantics. People change their names all the time, choose to go by nicknames, middle names, or last names. Clark had no more control over the name Clark, than he had over Kal-El, and depending on the continuity Superman.

    However what you do is a conscious decision and an outward show of the person you are on the inside. The way I see it what you do IS who you are hence the "Actions speak louder than words," quote. If we were to lay out all the content ever produced of Superman I'm pretty certain the greatest chunk of it would have him in the tights doing the Superman thing.

    I feel like a lot of modern work has been kind of obsessed with trying to make sure Supes doesn't get too uppity, trying to cement the farmboy thing as central and trying to strip him of anything that might seem Super. The Kents are put back in to "keep him humble" despite the fact that the guy has consistently been one of the most humble, respectful, and giving people his entire existence. If the guy so much as attempts to stand up for himself he's seen as a "jock" or a "bully" or some other kind of nonsense like that. We accepted things like the idea that Superman wasn't the first hero and that the golden age character pretty much started things and Superman was more the first of his generation. I can accept that but it seems like once you give up one thing people are constantly pushing for more. Then this new Superman animated looks to be trying to say Martian Manhunter and Batman also predated him along with who knows else. Like wise you've got modern writers trying to say Supergirl is better at the hero gig than him and that his half human son is stronger than he is.

    IDK and it's probably just me but it feels like the general point of humanity in the modern Superman is to handicap him and hold him back.
    It depends on the interpretation and context. We don't have control over our names, but for many it's an internal identifier since early childhood. If you've lived your life for 20+ years as "Bob" and then someone says "actually your name was "Bill," you're not going to internalize "Bill" right away, if at all. Over time, that can change (and did, at least in the Post-Crisis comics), but unless your life up to that point has been terrible or makes you want to remove or distance from that internal identifier, it'll still be your default (at least at first).

    In the context of Lois, there's the aspect of Superman-as-celebrity; in that way, it's easy to be impressed by Superman: power, muscle, etc. So in that context, Lois falling in love with Clark as a person and not just Superman for what he can do absolutely cements Clark as "who he is."

    That being said, however... Superman is also seen/known as Kal-El. And as he learns more about his Kryptonian culture and grows into it, that will absolutely change things on how he sees himself. The longer he spends as Superman, he'll find more things about Superman that are more true to his nature than when he's Clark - so that initial line will blur over time in that way, as well.

    So... imo, it's quite the complicated question.
    Last edited by JAK; 05-24-2020 at 03:19 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Writers are good at turning a phrase, which can sound good to us, even if it actually has no meaning. Oscar Wilde was very good at this and would often invert a saying, so it had as much a ring of truth back to front as it had front to back.

    If you examine Clark's utterance it hasn't really a lot of meaning. We think it sounds good and so we give Superman credit for saying something that's apparently brilliant.

    But suppose Superman is an existentialist, then he might say that a man is judged by his actions not his intentions. So, existentially speaking, if what we do in life is the thing that defines us than surely what Superman does defines him.
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  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Riv86672's Avatar
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    Superman is what he does. Clark is who he is.

    That doesnt mean he doesnt identify as Kryptonian, and wont always be a hero or anything, but, Superman is a uniform he puts on/identity he takes on, to help mankind.
    For some ppl, their job becomes their whole identity, for some it doesnt. Clark is the latter.
    We've all seen retirees of one type or another that are the former. Military guys who still get buzz cuts, walk w. a stick up their asses, go outside and run the flag up the pole and salute, treat their families like recruits. Cops who open up cop bars just to be around active duty cops and hear cop stories. Sports guys who stay in the business in some other aspect just to be a part of the game, or old broken down Gotham vigilantes who lurk in their caves monitoring the City via cameras or drones, and keep conscripting underage kids to fight on their befalf/live vicariously through.
    Then you have guys who retire and take up hobbies, or part time jobs in other fields, become house spouses so their significant others can get out and stuff.
    When Clark retires, he's going back to the farm, he's going to write books, he's going to support Lois if she wants to go into public office or run the Daily Planet etc.

  7. #7
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    There really shouldn’t be that much difference between the two personas the way there is for Bruce and Batman.

    Having said that, I’d prefer that Clark have an interesting enough and relatable personality that the “man” part of “Superman” is an attraction. I’ve never been a fan of the Kill Bill analogy for Clark, and there are an awful lot of old stories that make the Clark identity more of trolling job by Clark than a personality, and frankly, that kind of makes him an asshole. The guy should have enough human empathy and sincerity to pull off the talk-them-down-from-the-edge moment whether wherein the glasses or the shield, and with it coming off as more human than god-like.
    Last edited by godisawesome; 05-24-2020 at 04:15 PM.
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  8. #8
    Incredible Member Gaius's Avatar
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    No, I tend to view the various personas ("Clark", "Superman", "Kal-El", etc) as all just the same person who acts differently depending on the situation he's in or who he's around. Like how people in real life act differently around their parents versus, say, their friends.

    I find it's Batman equivalent "Bruce is the mask, Batman is real person" far more damaging to that character.

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    He is Clark Kent raised by the Kents in Smallville to be humble, kind, and brave but the bumbling cowardly Clark Kent is a persona he created once he has to live a double life to drive more contrast between Superman and Clark Kent.

    You can say for me he has 3 identity, the first 2 is for the public, the last one is for friends and families
    Superman the hero, symbol, leader and public speaker
    Clark Kent the bumbling coward
    The real Clark Kent who is humble but not timid, neither bumbling nor macho

    The real one can show up at any time, not limited by the costume. He can wear Superman costume and act like that around Batman and the others, then in his reporter work clothes in front of Jimmy, Perry, and Lois once he considers them family.

  10. #10
    Extraordinary Member SiegePerilous02's Avatar
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    The "one identity is just a mask, the other is my true face" thing is very damaging to both Superman and Batman. Both of Kal-El's personas, Superman and reporter Clark Kent, are acts that have a basis in truth. But neither one is a true representation of the whole. The real person is a mixture of both.

    This goes double for Batman. If Bruce Wayne isn't real, why should we even care? Both his public "Brucie" face and Batman persona are performances based on the true balanced individual beneath. Oddly enough, Bruce almost consistently lets at least two people (Alfred and Dick) in early on and is relaxed enough to show them his true self. Clark, for being the "nicer" one, has more of an issue letting the walls down, and Bruce is a family man. Lois, Perry and Jimmy are his equivalent to Dick and Alfred, and he hangs out with them in both identities and still doesn't let them in on the truth without a lot of time passing. Kara's arrival just sort of forces the issue with him, but it's like prying teeth for everyone else that isn't his Bro4Life Bruce Wayne.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member DochaDocha's Avatar
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    That little saying works in the context of Lois & Clark but shouldn't be extended to all of Superman. The love story is the focus of the show, so they can (and should) take some poetic license on how to tell the Superman story. I liked the show well enough for what it was, but I wish that saying was quickly forgotten once the show went off the air.

  12. #12
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    The quote itself, I think, is really about as relevant to the larger mythos as Shuster University. But the idea of Clark being an actual person in the story is probably one of the more misunderstood points about the character. It's not about Superman being a fake identity.

    Quote Originally Posted by The World View Post
    But personally for me beneath this all I see is a fairly poor read of the human race from a dull guy who'd rather be doing the easy thing rather than something that requires hard work and dedication.
    The thing is that growing up with the knowledge and choice of being "normal" means that it takes more work and desire to be Superman.
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  13. #13
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    I think people make too big a deal about it. He was raised on Earth. His attachment to his human life isn't that big a deal and doesn't affect his ability to be Superman.
    Now listen to me, Clark! This great strength of yours--you've got to hide it from people or they'll be scared of you!

  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Adekis's Avatar
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    I think Clark/Kal/Superman's relationship with his own identity is really simple to grasp and kind of hard to put into words.

    Clark Kent is someone he truly identifies with and as, but it's also kind of like he's pretending to be himself, without powers, without his alien heritage. Because of that, he's always going to be a little more guarded as Clark Kent. Clark is who he is, Superman is what he can do - when you consider that Superman is a very action oriented person and "what he does" defines his life to a large extent. But Kal-El is also who he is, he truly identifies with his birth-heritage, just as he identifies with the culture that raised him. In the Silver Age, he always quietly carried Krypton's ghost with him, a melancholy which simmered under the surface but could always potentially break loose. I think that's a very important element to the character.

    He was born Kal-El, he was raised Clark Kent, he acts as Superman to protect his new world from the fate that his birthworld suffered. All three are just different names for the same guy. There's no "I'm not really Superman," and there's no "I'm not really Clark Kent," either. And there's sure as hell no "I'm not really Kal-El." Kal is Clark. As Jerry Siegel put it, they're "one and the same!"
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  15. #15
    Savior of the Universe Flash Gordon's Avatar
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    "Clark Kent" is a facade.

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