As one of the most prominent heroes in the DC Universe, Superman is well known to the citizens of Metropolis. But like any cape and tights-wearing hero, he has a fair share of secrets too -- a secret identity, for starters. He also has a secret marriage to Lois Lane, a secret son named Jonathan, and a secret dog named Krypto. But most of these secrets are fairly harmless. As DC's most positive hero, Superman isn't exactly known for having dark secrets. But beneath the surface, there are some little-known facts about the Man of Steel -- facts that might just make you quiver.
In various different interpretations throughout Superman's history, stories have been written that feature the dark secrets of the Kent family: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jon Kent, Ma and Pa Kent and even little-known ancestors like Jeb and Nate Kent. Each of these characters has their skeletons in the closet, and CBR is on the case to dust them off. From the small pages of Action Comics to the big screen adventures of Superman: The Movie, there are many Kent family secrets to be found. Read on to uncover the 15 dark secrets of the Kent family.
15 PA AND MA KENT ARE UNDER MIND CONTROL
In Superman: The Animated Series, Pa and Ma Kent were often sources of guidance and comfort. Unfortunately, that Kent family love takes a dark turn in the season three episode, “Unity.” Kara (Supergirl) comes back from school to find the house empty. When she finally finds Jonathan and Martha, they’re standing like statues, wearing blank expressions. They tell Kara that they have a special surprise waiting for her.
Pa and Ma take Kara to the Smallville circus, where they find a tent filled with citizens praying… to a giant tentacle monster! Turns out everyone in Smallville is enslaved, including Pa and Ma, who launch tentacles from their mouths to try and capture Kara. Luckily, Kara turns into Supergirl and flies away. “Unity” was a disturbing episode, reminding viewers that even the kindliest Superman characters can possess a dark secret (and tentacles).
14 PA KENT IS AN ILLUSION
In the second issue of DC’s Trinity comics, Superman finds himself face to face with a still alive-and-well Jonathan Kent. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman try to help Jonathan look for his missing son, Clark, who’s still a young boy on the Kent farm. Confused? Turns out, the Trinity are in a mysterious dreamscape, and Superman is experiencing a vision of Jonathan as he appeared years ago.
The vision enables Superman to have a heart-to-heart with Jonathan, but there’s a sinister force at play. As we discover in later issues, the dreamscape is being controlled by the ultra-powerful dream child of Mongul and Poison Ivy. This villainous dream daughter is slowly sucking the life out of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. While Superman is busy chatting with his dream father, he’s actually being permanently power-drained. Turns out this beautiful dream is more of a nightmare.
13 MR. OZ IS REALLY JOR-EL
In writer Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics, a mysterious villain appears wielding a scythe and wearing a green robe. Mr. Oz begins causing disasters around the globe, using the events to try and convince Superman of humanity’s inherent evil. At the end of part one of the “The Oz Effect”, Mr. Oz lowers his green hood and reveals the face of Superman’s father, Jor-El!
What follows is a whirlwind journey through time and space, as Jor-El explains how a mysterious force allowed him to survive Krypton’s explosion and brought him to Earth, where he’s brainwashed to experience only the worst of humanity. Jor-El decides to get Kal-El, Lois and Jon off Earth at any cost. It’s a gripping story which creates a shocking new role for Jor-El. The revelation of Mr. Oz’s true identity will go down in history as one of Superman’s greatest (and darkest) twists.
12 KAL-EL'S HIDDEN SPACESHIP ON THE KENT FARM
In most interpretations of Superman’s origin story, there’s a dark secret hidden on the Kent farm: The spaceship that Kal-El arrived in as a baby. This plot device has appeared in everything from Action Comics to Superman: The Animated Series. But the most powerful version occurred in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie.
The 1978 film features a young Clark drawn to a glowing green light. Clark follows it to the barn, where he finds his lost spaceship, and the glowing green crystal within. The crystal awakened upon his Earth father’s death, and its destiny is to lead him to his real father, Jor-El. Clark spends 12 years with Jor-El, learning his history and embracing his destiny. The green crystal in Superman: The Movie represents a metaphorical journey. Only by discovering his true history can Clark Kent become Superman. The secret spaceship reveals nothing less than Superman’s true destiny.
11 LOIS, CLARK AND JON ARE FROM ANOTHER UNIVERSE
DC’s Convergence brought back the old Superman and Lois Lane into the New 52 continuity. It also saw Lois give birth to their first child, Jonathan. After Convergence, writer Dan Jurgens folded Superman, Lois and Jonathan into the current Superman comics with their own title: Lois and Clark.
The new world already had a Superman and Lois Lane. This required the whole family, not just Superman, to keep their identities secret. Superman had to grow his beard and don his old black and white suit. Meanwhile, Lois was forced to write news stories under the false alias of Author X. The young Jonathan had to simply keep his head down and attend school without attracting attention. Eventually, the two Supermen would meet face to face. But for this fascinating period, Superman, Lois and Jonathan had no darker secret than their own identities.
10 CLARK KENT IS MR. MXYZPTLK
The new DC Rebirth Superman comics introduced a bizarre element -- an alternate Clark Kent. This wasn’t the New 52 Superman or the Rebirth Superman. This was an entirely new Clark Kent who completely lacked super powers. The identity of this Clark Kent was finally revealed in Superman Reborn. He was actually Mr. Mxyzptlk!
The impish being from the fifth dimension had been imprisoned by Mr. Oz, and awaited Superman’s rescue but he never came. Furious with Superman, Mxy fled the prison on his own and decided to make Superman’s life a living hell by stealing his identity. Mxy purposefully altered his own memories so that he’d genuinely believe he was Clark. This helped make the mystery so confounding, because he so adamantly insisted he truly was Clark Kent. The fake Clark Kent’s dark secret turned out to be one of DC Rebirth’s most inspired creative choices.
9 LOIS LANE IS DEAD
In the beginning of DC Rebirth, Lois Lane received an alter ego of her own. When the New 52 Superman died, his energy flew into both Lois Lane and Lana Lang, giving them Superman’s powers. For the first time, Lois Lane wasn’t the damsel in distress, she was the one doing the saving. Unfortunately, things took a dark turn when the Lois Superwoman died.
After Lois’ death, Lana Lang took over as the sole Superwoman. Meanwhile, Lois’ death became a dark secret for the pre-Flashpoint Lois Lane, who began posing as her younger New 52 incarnation. Lois Lane conducted her own investigations at the Daily Planet while in the guise of her deceased younger self. The complicated secret of the Superwomen and Lois’ death were eventually revealed in Superman: Reborn. But for a few issues, there was no darker secret than Lois Lane posing as her own dead self.
8 CHRIS KENT IS THE SON OF ZOD
Superman: Last Son, written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, featured the son of General Zod, who Superman finds in a crashed pod. When they discover that he’s hiding from his parents, Zod and Ursa, Superman and Lois Lane decide to adopt the boy, naming him Chris Kent. Their ultimate goal is to keep Chris’ true identity hidden, so that Zod won’t be able to find him.
Zod eventually launches an invasion against Earth and he and Ursa manage to claim Chris. But Chris has his own set of Kryptonian powers. Defying Zod and claiming his allegiance to his Earth father, Chris sends Zod back to the Phantom Zone and closes the portal, trapping himself inside. It’s a sad ending for Chris, but Superman swears to never stop looking for him. The dark secret of Chris’ birth didn’t matter -- in Clark and Lois’ eyes, he was still a Kent.
7 CLARK'S ANCESTORS FOUGHT ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE CIVIL WAR
The mini-series The Kents finds Jonathan Kent writing to Clark about his ancestors. The story explores the 19th century Kents, who helped create the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, the Kents’ good deeds were undone when the Kent brothers, Nate and Jeb, had a relationship breakdown that culminated in them fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.
In general, the Kents are good people, and Jonathan, Martha and Clark Kent are the best of the best. But Jeb and his son wound up being the dark family secret no one wanted to remember. The nefarious Jeb believed in slavery and fought for the Confederate army. After the war, Jeb became the leader of a group of bandits, a group which also included his murderous son. Luckily, they both die at the end of The Kents, leaving Nate to carry on the Kent legacy that led to the birth of Jonathan.
6 JONATHAN KENT DOESN'T WANT TO CLARK TO BE SUPERMAN
In most iterations of Superman, Jonathan Kent is a kindly, guiding figure who wants Clark to follow his truest potential. This is not the case in Superman: Birthright -- this Jonathan has a dark secret. In Mark Waid’s reimagining of Superman’s origin, Jonathan is not a strong influence on Clark. In fact, Jonathan actively discourages Clark from becoming Superman.
In Birthright, Clark discovers his identity without Jonathan’s blessing, and as a result their relationship is extremely strained throughout the series. Jonathan even feels jealous and betrayed over Clark’s decision to pursue his Kryptonian lineage rather than embrace his Kent identity. This is a far cry from the Jonathan we know and love, but it’s in line with the more modern Jonathan we saw in Man of Steel, which was influenced by Birthright. He’s not the Jonathan we know, but he’s still an important formative element in the Superman’s history.
5 SUPERMAN AND LOIS ARE SPLIT IN TWO
Writers Peter. J Tomasi and Dan Jurgens culminated their epic Superman Reborn crossover event with a stunning revelation: the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane and the DC Rebirth Superman and Lois Lane were one and the same! They had originally been whole and had been split in two by some sinister cosmic force.
The younger versions of Superman and Lois were actually their past selves, memories that were stolen from the older Superman and Lois and incarnated in younger bodies. Jonathan discovers this when he meets a Superman and Lois Lane in the fifth dimension who don’t know who he is. Jon convinces both sets of Superman and Lois to unite. They merge back into one whole entity, restoring all the memories they’d lost. Superman was reborn, but the identity of the cosmic entity who split Superman in two would remain a dark secret… at least until Doomsday Clock.
4 JON KENT IS SUPERBOY
It’s tough having super powers. It’s especially tough having super powers when you’re a 10-year old kid. Jon Kent’s greatest secret is that he’s really Superboy, the son of Superman. And he’d love nothing more than to tell the whole world. But he knows he can’t, because then he’d spoil his dad’s secret too. And Jon loves his dad more than anything (but don’t tell his mom that).
For Jonathan, it’s a matter of keeping his powers in check while helping his dad. He learned this the hard way when he accidentally killed his cat the first time he used his powers. But after helping Superman beat the Eradicator, papa Supes officially christened Jonathan, Superboy. Jon often struggles with hiding his super powers, especially from his best friend Kathy. It’s not easy keeping a secret identity. But it’s probably a little easier when your dad is Superman.
3 JONATHAN AND MARTHA KENT ARE DRUG ADDICTS
The 2014 miniseries Forever Evil by Geoff Johns featured a very evil version of Superman called Ultraman. In this world, Jonathan and Martha Kent are trapped in an abusive relationship. Moreover, they’re both drug addicts. This dark version of the Kent family is a far cry from the kindly couple we know and love.
The baby Ultraman crashes into the Kent farm while Jonathan is attempting to stab Martha with a kitchen knife. Instead of the kindly couple taking him in freely, the young Ultraman forces the Kents to become his parents. He holds them hostage for the next seven years. One day, the terrified Kents attempt an escape, and Kal-il promptly murders them and destroys the farm. He keeps the name Clark Kent though. Of all the dark Kent family secrets, this one just might be the most twisted -- it’s a perverse telling of Superman’s origin we’ll never forget.
2 JON KENT'S SUPER POWERS ARE DANGEROUS
In Superman #20, Batman pays a visit to the Kents, informing them that Jon’s abilities are being unnaturally suppressed, and his true powers could be devastating. The reality becomes clear when Jon flies into a rage and kills a large squid alien attacking Hamilton county. An alarmed Superman reminds Jon that they never use their powers to kill. But this is just the beginning: It turns out that Superboy is being manipulated by Manchester Black.
Manchester kidnaps Superboy and brainwashes him. He successfully harnesses Superboy’s powers and morphs him into a dark version of himself, ruled by rage and might. What follows is an epic confrontation between father and son as Superman battles a possessed Superboy. Of course, Superman saves his son in the end. But the dark secret of Jon’s powers leave a lasting impact, demonstrating the terrifying reality of a young Kryptonian’s powers fully unleashed.
1 CLARK KENT IS SUPERMAN
What greater secret is there in the Superman mythos? True, it’s not a particularly dark secret -- after all, Superman is a beacon of hope. But when we consider all the lives that are put in jeopardy because of that secret identity, it becomes more complicated. Kal-El’s secret comes with a lot of responsibility.
As Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jon are the most important people in his life. But as Superman, suddenly everyone on Earth is equally important. Kal-El often has to choose between the needs of his family and the responsibilities of Superman. Sometimes he finds a balance, other times the weight of super-heroing takes a toll. Sometimes Kal-El’s role as Superman puts Lois and Jon in harm’s way -- it’s a complicated life. He’s Clark Kent, and he’s Superman. The dual identity is both Kal’El’s darkest secret and his greatest gift to the world.