Bumbling geek Clark Kent has been reinvented as a Navy SEAL???
Great Caesar’s Ghost!
Yup, that’s the all the news that’s fit to print, and no, it won’t be Clark Kent reporting it from the Daily Planet, not this run anyway.
Superman’s alter ego, who usually trips over his own feet and stutters in front of Lois Lane, is headed to BUD/S training - and this time he’s a lady’s man. That’s right; Seal Beach is about to have a new recruit on Coronado Island. And he’s an E-1, no less.
A low rank for a SEAL recruit, but one thing is certain, it’s unlikely Seaman Kent will be ringing any brass bells.
This is all part of the new DC alternate universe origin story of Superman hitting newsstands June 18.
From an American patriotic view, this sure beats “Superman: Red Son,” the last alternate origin story that had intergalactic infant Kal-El’s ship landing in Russia. Superman as a Navy Seal sure beats Superman being raised as a Russki communist, right?
“Superman: Year One," Volume 1, by Frank Miller will be released via DC’s Black Label which is where they launch their limited original series ― the perfect place for an alternate origin story of a beloved superhero.
The three-volume DC Black Label comic series will retell the story of Clark Kent from his Krypton infancy to his final realization as a superhero ― and the retelling now involves boot camp at Naval Recruit Training Great Lakes and Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training at Naval Special Warfare Command. Fans say they are delighted that the three volumes are long by comic standards, 65 pages each. Volume 2 which features Clark Kent’s arrival at Navy boot camp and SEAL training is scheduled for an August release.
“Writing it was an absolute joy," said Miller in an interview with Military Times. “At first, I was a bit intimidated, but I just dove in, and then he started talking to me. There were so many opportunities."
Miller describes Kent's enlisting in the military as a natural progression in the character's development. He thought it would be fun to see Kent going through the paces in boot camp.
“His father tells him if you’re going to protect the world, you need to get to know it," Miller said. “It seemed natural, a kid from Kansas who joins the military. It’s fun, seeing him lifting weights in boot camp that feel like air to him."
Volumes No. 1 and 2 are both presented as an expanded coming of age story. Miller describes his take on the superhero's origin story as one of filling in the significant gaps, “showing the twists and turns that Clark Kent traverses to eventually become Superman.”
What does the SEAL community think of Miller’s twist?
“I don’t know how you can be mild-mannered Clark Kent if you’re a Navy SEAL," former U.S. Special Operations Command honcho Adm. William H. McRaven (ret.), a Navy SEAL veteran, told Military Times in an email.
McRaven knows a thing or two about super endeavors.
In his previous job leading Joint Special Operations Command, McRaven helped plan the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“I’m flattered,” he said, "that DC would consider having Superman’s secret identity be a Navy SEAL.”
A Different Clark Kent
This version of Superman, or more aptly Clark Kent, is not mild-mannered, at all. He is straining at the restrictions of his passive Kent upbringing. Miller describes him as being every kid in high school. The kid who sits quietly, secretly wanting to show people what he could really do, if only given the chance.
A childhood of being instructed to hold back and hide his abilities from others seems to chafe this Clark Kent. His rebellious streak also causes more than a little trouble during his military training. He spends more time cleaning toilets and garbage cans with his toothbrush than he does sleeping at Great Lakes.
Recent comic fans will tell you that Superman with an edge is the new norm. And most of this narrative can be attributed to teen angst, but this is still not the Superman of the 40s and 50s. It is also not the Superman of the movies. The great American hero is usually portrayed as reluctant and humble, a character who prefers to be seen as bumbling, forced to do battle for the greater good, but would prefer not to.
Do not confuse those versions with the new comic Superman.
Kent, as reimagined by Miller, is a young man who is champing at the bit to use his superior strength and powers. This Kent wants to kick ass and take names. He is frustrated and wants others to acknowledge his superior abilities and strengths. He is also not above exposing his powers to win the favors of several love interests.
From high school to boot camp, this Clark Kent is a barely contained showoff. He wins the football game by dragging several players across the field. He has a perfect sharp-shooter score in basic training and holds the lead position in his SEAL training class.
Miller explains that this is Kent learning, that there are consequences to his choices. That people can and will be unhappy with him. This is not a particularly likable young man. He is only 18 and still figuring out his alien life on Earth. He’s seeking adventure. He’s seeking love. He’s looking for his place in the world and he’s exploring his powers. It’s in the third volume of the Miller series that he becomes a man, Superman, the caped crusader of old ― or perhaps new.
Miller's Relationship with Superman
Despite rumors to the contrary, author Miller says he does not dislike the Man of Steel.
“Superman is the first superhero I fell in love with when I was 5 years old,” he said. "I like Superman. Batman doesn’t like Superman.”
Miller describes his introduction to Superman as watching the original cartoons created during the World War II era.
“They were the Superman cartoons from the brothers Fleischer. They produced reels shown before the movies from the war dept. They were the most beautiful cartoons you’ll ever find in your life. Especially those set in the Asian theater” of operations, said Miller.
It was the Fleischers who created the tag line: faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Superman’s early detour into the Navy is obviously an homage to Miller’s fondness of the military and he is quick to share his family’s history of service. "Both my parents served in World War II, my father was in the Army Air Corps, and my mother was an Army nurse," said Miller.
Admiration for the military aside, Miller has some learning to do.
In the unfinished previews submitted for review, Miller initially had Kent’s Navy RTC instructors referring to sailors as soldiers, and screaming “you’re in the U.S. Army” during SEAL training. Miller chuckled good-naturedly at the errors and admitted that they were an example of his simply not having a grasp of military jargon. Corrections will be made before publication and Miller, who paused for a moment after being informed of the errors, then became euphoric.
“Any editions that were printed with errors will be collector’s editions,” he said with a sardonic laugh.
The Navy and Press Respond
This fresh take on Kent as a service member has current and former military members buzzing, some pro, some con.
"I've always been a big fan of Superman. I was happy to hear Frank Miller is rewriting Clark Kent's origin story as a SEAL,' said Vice Admiral Robert Sharp, the newly appointed head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. "I've always considered them true superheroes,"
McRaven also knows a thing or two about the newspaper business. In 1977, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism.
“I love the juxtaposition of the journalist and Superman — although I know a lot of journalists who are pretty damn courageous and heroic,” he said. “I prefer the classical rendition.”
Kent as SEAL played even less well in the Military Times newsroom, where some Superman purists found any changes to the original origin story a bridge too far. Dismayed shouts of "Great Caesar's ghost!" were heard at the very idea of Clark Kent might rebuff his job at the Daily Planet for the military.
McRaven and fans of the original origin story, can rest easy. Miller says Clark Kent will eventually end up as a reporter at the Daily Planet.
He will also eventually end up romancing Lois Lane, and alludes to Superman and Wonder Woman knocking super-boots in a third volume superhero sexcapade. This comes after a surprise romance ― er sex ― under the sea with a mermaid princess. That particular storyline evokes less of Disney’s sweet Ariel and more of an ode to twisted Greek mythology with the added touch of a trident-wielding Oedipus Rex. Fans of action sequences will also find an epic underwater battle that invokes the unleashing of Scandinavian folklore’s favorite mythical sea monster, the Kraken.
But while Miller dives deep into the world of fantasy, he also captures a reality troubling the special operations community. Problems among commandos have been so rife, Tony Thomas, a former SOCOM commander issued a memo chiding the force over poor discipline.
Miller’s Clark Kent, the SEAL, is so insubordinate he’s brought to mast.
If you want to know what happens next, buy the comic.