This is Foggy Ruins of TIme, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of “Seinfeld” will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).
Today, we look at the inspiration for the Clark Kent part of Superman’s status quo.
Here’s something that is often forgotten about the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) is that the Superman feature in Action Comics #1 was based on a rejected Superman comic strip that National Comics’ editors just cut and paste into a story. As a result, the first Superman story sort of starts off abruptly. A year later, when the story was reprinted in Superman #1, Siegel and Shuster would produce new material to fit the Action Comics #1 material into a more cohesive narrative.
In any event, outside of the first page (which shows Clark Kent doing some super feats as part of the whole “demonstrating Superman’s powers” routine), the first time that we ever see Clark Kent is when we see him looking to make sure that Superman’s name has been kept out of the papers…
We learn that he has an easy way of doing so when we discover that Superman’s alter ego of Clark Kent is a newspaper reporter, who has actually been specifically assigned to cover Superman, so he can make sure that he keeps himself out of the papers too much (just like Peter Parker and his whole “selling photos he took of himself, including the occasional faked photo, it shows that Clark doesn’t exactly have the strictest journalistic ethics.
Anyhow, up until this point, Clark Kent seems like a pretty upstanding guy, right? We don’t know anything really about him but he seems like he can handle himself. He’s just a basic disguise for Superman.
However, we then see the first sign that the Clark Kent disguise is more than just a pair of glasses, but rather an entire fake personality that he affects to differentiate himself from Superman as much as he can…
Okay, so that’s the comic book origin of the Superman/Clark Kent disguise. Now, what’s the real life inspiration for the Clark Kent persona?
Read on to see how the films of Harold Lloyd were where Siegel and Shuster got the inspiration for Clark Kent…
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