DCN continues to look back at some of the greatest Superman stories ever told, this time with 2004’s Superman: Secret Identity. Read more after the jump!
A common theme in recent interviews with the cast and crew of Man of Steel is that the movie approaches Superman as if he actually appeared in our world. While I have no doubt that the filmmakers are equal to the task of achieving that vision, this is a question that was posed and answered back in 2004 by the team of Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen in their modern classic Superman: Secret Identity.
Originally published as a prestige format limited series, Busiek and Immonen tell the tale of a young Midwestern boy named Clark Kent. This Clark is not a strange visitor from another planet, but rather the unfortunate victim of parents thinking naming their child “Clark Kent” would be funny and cute. In this world, Superman is what he is to us–a fictional creation that has become a pop culture icon. And because of this, he is the subject of ridicule in school. His closet is filled with unwanted Superman paraphernalia received as gifts from past birthdays and holidays. After a meteor shower, Clark begins to develop abilities similar to that of the character he has grown to despise: Superman.
Superman: Secret Identity is a fascinating look at how the world would react to a living, breathing Superman. Moreover, it provides insight as to how such a character would, in turn, react to us and our world. This Superman is not confident in, or an ally to, Earth’s governments, but rather a man living in a state of paranoia, in fear for the safety of those he loves. And yet he dons the costume of his namesake and performs feats of heroism, not because he’s seeking glory, but because he feels a sense of responsibility.
Kurt Busiek is one of the greatest storytellers in comics, period. He brings his A-game to this story, and that should really be all you need to know. His script welcomes the reader into the mind of our protagonist. The story follows Clark through life from his teenage years to old age, and Busiek’s writing allows Clark to grow and mature while still maintaining his core voice. For a character that despises the pop culture figure known as Superman, Clark justifies why he dons the costume and acts as he does in a manner that is both interesting and relatable to the reader.
One of the best elements of this story is the romance between Clark and Lois. The way these two are brought together makes complete sense and doesn’t cheapen the story at all. Their relationship is a high point of the script, and acts as a testament to the enduring power of the Superman saga.
Stuart Immonen’s artwork is absolutely beautiful. Providing pencils, inks and colors, Immonen gives what I consider the best work of his career. Designed to emulate the classic art of past artists such as Norman Rockwell, Secret Identity has a unique look that is unlike anything done before or after in comics. The artwork is also a testament to Immonen’s strength as a storyteller. While the story is heavy with prose, it does not bog down the visuals, which are often in contrast to Busiek’s words. Sometimes art complements art, and vice versa. In Superman: Secret Identity, the two elements work together in harmony.
Some may not be a fan of Immonen’s artwork; it’s very stylized compared to his other efforts. The story is very dialogue heavy, which may turn off some readers. However, this isn’t meant to be a normal comic book experience.
Superman: Secret Identity is a strong challenger for the title of “greatest Superman story.” While it may not be bestowed that honor due its unique premise, it offers a fresh spin on a classic character. If you’re a fan of Superman, Busiek’s writing, Immonen’s art, superheroes, comics, or great stories in general, this is a must-read.
Superman: Secret Identity is available in print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local comic store. You can also check it out digitally at Comixology on your iOS, Android, or Windows devices.