The secret is out. In Superman No. 43, released in comic book stores and digitally today, the audience finally discovers what made Lois Lane reveal Superman’s secret identity to the world. It was a choice made in the heat of the moment, but one that changed everything for the Man of Steel — as DC’s other Superman comics have been revealing.
The new Superman issue, written by Gene Luen Yang with art by John Romita Jr., continues a storyline in which Lane has finally discovered Clark Kent’s secret as the result of his being blackmailed by a criminal organization — Hordr — that has also uncovered his dual identity.
At first telling Clark, “I’m not willing to brutalize you for answers, not even in print. I’ve decided to keep your secret,” Lane later posts an image of Clark Kent mid-transformation in an attempt to save him from further blackmail. “They don’t have anything on you anymore,” she explains. “You’re free.” (Clark disagrees; “You had no right!” he exclaims afterwards, before trying to go on the run from the authorities at issue’s end. “I would’ve figured it out!”)
The fallout of Lane’s revelation has been playing out across DC Entertainment’s Superman line since June; in Superman/Wonder Woman, close friends of Clark Kent have been kidnapped by authorities attempting to discover how much about his double life they knew about, and whether there’s more to the Strange Visitor From Another Planet than they suspected — a plan doomed to failure by the simple fact that kidnapping Superman’s loved ones is a very, very bad idea — while Action Comics explores the idea that those who knew Kent have been inspired by his example to stand up for their beliefs, even to the point of civil protest. (“You’re all Superman now,” he tells them in this month’s issue, Action Comics No. 43.)
Glimpses have been seen of how the revelation has affected other well-known characters: The relationship between Clark and Lois is understandably strained, with neither backing down from their actions. “I just want you to recognize that we both did what we thought we had to do,” Lois tells Clark in Batman/Superman No. 21. “And we’re both paying the price. But you’ve never had a better friend than me.”
Perry White, Clark’s boss at the Daily Planet, meanwhile complains of feeling betrayed — “My whole life’s been dedicated to presenting the truth to the public — striving for it, uncovering it from the darkest places — and there I was, front and center using my own damn paper to sell the lie,” he says in Superman/Wonder Woman No. 20 — while Lex Luthor … well, he’s not convinced that Superman is really Clark Kent, when it comes down to it. “You have to understand how … disappointing this is for me,” he tells Clark in Batman/Superman No. 21. “You’re not really Superman, are you? What’s your game, Kent? Where’s Superman gone?”
The game, as Luthor puts it, will continue to play out across DC’s multiple Superman comics for some time. Even if this particular genie is somehow put back in its bottle — Marvel has revealed Spider-Man’s identity in the past, only to have a demon reset history and undo it all, after all — Superman will likely never be the same again; having pointed out the contradictions and awkward truths in the Clark Kent secret identity so clearly (“How [can] someone who seems so honest and good … be so … so not?!” as Lois puts it in Superman No. 42), it might be impossible to return to the tradition unscathed moving forwards.
That’s a good thing, ultimately; it pushes those responsible for the character’s stories in new directions and away from simply repeating the past. Today, the very idea of a mild-mannered reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper feels anachronistic in a world that’s moving toward TV and online news sources, after all. Wherever Superman ends up going from here, it’s possible that he can once again become the embodiment of one of the character’s many nicknames from his long history, and go from being a fond memory to becoming a true Man of Tomorrow.