Superman comics #13 opens with the man from krypton literally carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders (bench pressing 5.972 sextillion metric tons as a science experiment fort his friend Dr. Veritas) and ends with him battling a dragon on the streets of Metropolis and sparring with his cousin Supergirl.
So it’s a little funny that so much attention has been paid to the decidedly non-galactic circumstance of Clark Kent quitting his job. The mild mannered reporter has a run-in with Morgan Edge, owner of the Galaxy Broadcasting conglomerate which publishes the Daily Planet.
Journalists with integrity getting fed up with the desperate dumbing down of newspapers is a fairly common event these days, not exactly on par with a mythological beast on an urban rampage. But Clark Kent’s exit speech, delivered after he’s scolded for searching city housing records for story ideas rather than chasing obvious celebrity stories really does stand alongside his alter ego’s derring- do as another sort of heroism.
It is a stirring speech, one that should be tacked onto the bulletin boards of journalists’ cubicles throughout the world:
You want to have a conversation about the truth, Mr. Edge? The truth is that somewhere along the way, the business of news became the news.
Growing up in Smallville, I believed that journalism was an ideal, as worthy and important as being a cop or fireman—a teacher or a doctor. I was taught to believe you could use words to change the course of rivers—that even the darkest secrets would fall under the harsh light of the sun.
But facts have been replaced by opinions. Information has been replaced by entertainment. Reporters have become stenographers.
I can’t be the only one who is sick at the thought of what passes for news today. I am not the only one who believes in the power of the press—the fact that we need to stand up for the truth. For justice. And yeah—I’m not ashamed to say it—the American Way!
Clark Kent leaving his job at the Daily Planet made the national news. Kent blew up at Morgan Edge (the owner of Galaxy Broadcasting, the corporation which owns the Planet’s print and online editions) when Edge chastised him for fishing for news stories (“researching housing code violations) when he should be out covering the exploits of Superman. Irony!
Why am I mentioning this now, when all the media which found it fit to print reported Kent’s unemployment weeks ago? Well, call me crazy, but I’m a diehard comic book reader, and I wanted to stay tuned for the next issue. Would this anger be sustained? Would Clark Kent’s distress become the central theme of the series.
In a word, no. Superman #14 came, and while his job situation is far from an afterthought, it’s limited to a jumbled conversation with Lois Lane regarding her love life, Clark’s squalid living situation, and a surprise appearance from Supergirl. Then Superman has to go save the world from the intergalactic demon known as H’el, and petty concerns such as the future of American journalism are forgotten.
I had reason to be hopeful, and still do, because Superman has been on an introspective, purpose-finding kick for a while now. In an extraordinary year-long series last year, the Man of Steel chose to walk cross-country rather than leap it in a single bound, on a journey of self-discovery that may have involved alien conspiracies and supervillains but was mostly about sense of self and moral direction. Also last year, Superman renounced his American citizenship. He’s really been asking questions about the state of contemporary society and politics.
I hope more outbursts are on the way. And, having seen a lot of good journalists blow up at their bosses, stride out of their offices and never find a decent job in the field again. There just aren’t that many reporting gigs to be had. Clark Kent doesn’t really have a problem filling up his leisure time and making a difference, but I do hope he gets back to writing a lot. Even if it’s just a diary of his many recent self-exploratory odysseys. And I hope Superman finds time between his planet-hopping fisticuffs to keep centered around great issues like communication and media.
One question he might want to explore: If the Daily Planet has descended to celebrity-driven claptrap, isn’t the “Look! Up in the sky!” guy with the red cape somewhat culpable concerning that sensationalistic drive?