Kal-El, the last son of Krypton
Superman is born on an alien world to a technologically advanced species that resembles humans (Action Comics #1, 1938). Superman’s famous scientist father, Jor-El foresaw the natural cataclysm and calamity that will destroy his planet, Krypton shortly after Kal-El is born.
In the New 52 Continuity, Braniac was invading Krypton which it soon bottled. Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mother took the baby and fled to the city of Kandor and saved their son by sending him to Earth in a small spaceship. Sadly, the spaceship is too small to carry anyone else, so Superman’s parents stay behind and die.
The earliest newspaper strips name the planet “Krypton”, the baby “Kal-L”, and his biological parents “Jor-L” and “Lora” (Episode 1: 16, 1939 to January 28, 1939) their names were changed to “Jor-el”, and “Lara” in a 1942 spinoff novel by George Lowther (1942). The ship lands in the American countryside, where the baby is discovered by the Kents, a farming couple.
Landing on Earth
The Kents name the boy Clark Joseph Kent and raise him in a farming community. A 1947 episode of the radio serial places this unnamed community in Iowa (The Secret Rocket, Original Broadcast Dates: September 29, 1947-October 23, 1947). The spaceship landed in Sutton Field near Smallville in Superboy #2 (June 1949). The 1978 Superman movie placed it in Kansas, as have most Superman stories since. New Adventures of Superboy #22 (Oct. 1981) places it in Maryland.
The Kents instill in Clark that he must conceal his otherworldly origins and use his fantastic powers for good. For his personal privacy and the safety of his loved ones, Clark creates the costumed identity of Superman. He wears eyeglasses to disguise his face and wears his Superman costume underneath his clothes so that he can change at a moment’s notice. Clark avoids violent confrontation, preferring to slip away and change into Superman when danger arises to complete this disguise which makes him suffer occasional ridicule for his seeming cowardice.
Young Clark Kent: before Superboy!
In Action Comics#1 and most stories before 1986, Superman’s powers begin developing in infancy. From 1944 to 1986, DC Comics regularly published stories of Superman’s childhood and adolescent adventures, when he called himself “Superboy”. In Man of Steel #1, Superman’s powers emerged more slowly and he began his superhero career as an adult.
Pete Ross (Superboy #86, January, 1961) and Lana Lang (Superboy, First Series, #10, October, 1950) were Clark Kent’s friends in Smallville and continued to remain friends into their adult lives even at the time Ross became Vice President during Lex Luthor’s Presidency.
Young Clark Kent’s powers manifested during a football game with Pete Ross and a few other teenage boys that resulted to the breaking of Pete’s arm and Clark destroying the football. The next day, while Pete asked him to sign his arm cast and Clark’s power let him see the break in his arm, guilt ridden, Clark run’s away. Clark’s closest friend, Lana Lang follows him. They talk about the day they discovered Clark’s power when he saved her from a combine harvester’s blades and his fear of touching people for he might hurt them, Lana kisses him. But this resulted for his heat vision to be activated and he accidentally burns down the gym.
In the modern continuity, Jon and Martha Kent, after the heat vision incident, reveal how they found Clark as a baby inside a spaceship which they later showed to him. Clark was at first overjoyed turned to rage after seeing the recorded message of his late Kryptonian father, Jor-El that he is Kal-El, the last surviving son of Krypton. He tells Clark that his powers will protect him in the environment of the planet Earth yet he is not one of the Earthlings. As he rages on, the ship is resistant to Clark’s powers and he runs across the field, breaks down crying till Jon Kent embrace him.
They use the materials of the rocket like making him a pair of glasses from the crystals to block Clark’s heat vision and the Superboy makes his costume out of the indestructible blankets found in the ship he came to Earth (Superboy #78, 1960); In Man of Steel #1 (1986), Martha Kent makes the costume from human-manufactured cloth, and it is rendered indestructible by an “aura” that Superman projects.
The “S” on Superman’s chest at first was simply an initial for “Superman”. But in the 1978 movie, Tom Mickiewicz while writing the script made it Superman’s Kryptonian family crest that was carried over into some comic book stories and later movies, such as Man of Steel. In the comic story Superman: Birthright, the crest is described as an old Kryptonian symbol for hope.
Young Clark Kent as Superboy!
Clark saves Lionel Luthor from falling off a cliff as Superboy and usually staying out of sight, mostly out of embarrassment about his uniform.
Lana tries to console Clark over the fact that most of the kids are not hanging out with him, or that he’s pushing them away. But when Lana kisses him on the cheek his eyes begin to flare, and carelessly tells Lana that he only wants to be friends, and sends her off upset as well. Despite their ups and downs, Lana Lang becomes Clark Kent’s high school sweetheart and manage to have a serious relationship.
He soon meets the three members of the Legion of Superheroes, and brings him into to and fro the future and present. Clark occasionally traveled between this future and his own native time, before permanently returning to his own native time. So as not to pollute the timeline, Saturn Girl would erase his memories of his visits and Clark mostly remembers these events as vague dream-like memories.
Smallville to Metropolis
After graduating High school, Clark travelled the world for a few years to learn different cultures, languages and customs and secretly help people when he could. He spent time in Paris and Australia. Soon Clark returned to Smallville and openly used his costumed superhero identity of Superman.
Clark would formally enter into college and eventually moved to Metropolis to attend Metropolis University. Part time work as a cook, he used his powers to also fight crime, neither making his presence known to anyone or wear a super costume yet. Clark, while in College met Lori Lemaris (“The Girl in Superman’s Past!” from Superman #129, May 1959), and the two became briefly involved till Clark discovers her secret as a mermaid.
Clark was hired by the Daily Planet after graduating with a degree in journalism after only two years, and eventually meets and has a competitive battle with Lois Lane.
Superman as Clark Kent
In the earliest stories, Clark works as a newspaper journalist for The Daily Star, but the second episode of the radio serial changed this to the Daily Planet (Action Comics #23, April 1940). In comics from the early 1970s, Clark worked as a television journalist, an attempt to modernize the character. However, the producers chose for the 1978 movie to make Clark a newspaper journalist again because that was how most of the public thought of him.
In Superman: “Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow”, Superman first appeared in Metropolis able to leap great distances and strength to hurl trucks, wearing only a blue t-shirt with an S-shield, a pair of jeans and red cape. As his powers increased, General Lane and Lex Luthor began to enact a plan to imprison him. Here, he was given the name Superman by Lois Lane and the Daily Planet. Other than Lois Lane, Clark also meets in Ron Troupe, Steve Lombard, Cat Grant, and Jimmy Olsen, the whipping boy and Perry White as the Chief of the Daily Planet and Clark’s boss.
Superman’s personality is rough and aggressive in the original Siegel and Shuster stories, he often attacks and terrorizes wife beaters, profiteers, lynch mobs, and gangsters in a rough manner and with a looser moral code than audiences today might be used to. In the comics of the 1930s, Superman is unconcerned about the harm his strength may cause.
He tosses villainous characters in such a manner that fatalities would presumably occur, although these are seldom shown explicitly on the page. Superman was also considered a vigilante by the authorities in his first appearances, as he demolished a slum so that the government would create better housing conditions for the poor and was fired upon by the National Guard.
However in late 1940 new editor Whitney Ellsworth instituted a code of conduct for his characters to follow, banning Superman from ever killing. Superman’s character was softened and given a sense of compassion for human and by 1942 Superman was working side-by-side with the police.
Superman’s commitment to operating within the law has been an example to many citizens and other heroes, but has stirred resentment and criticism among others. He follows to an unwavering moral code instilled in him by his adoptive parents. Superman is commonly seen as a brave and kind-hearted hero with a strong sense of justice, morality, and righteousness.
He can be rather unyielding in this trait, causing tensions in the superhero community. This was most notable with Wonder Woman, one of his closest friends, after she killed Maxwell Lord (The OMAC Project, 2005). Booster Gold had an initial icy
Superman is very protective of Earth and especially of Clark Kent’s family and friends having lost his home world of Krypton. Combined with the pressure of using his powers responsibly and loss of Krypton, Jor-El and Lara, caused Superman to feel lonely on Earth, despite having his friends and parents. Batman observes in Superman/Batman #3 (December 2003, under writer Jeph Loeb);
“It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then … he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.”
Batman scolds Superman in Infinite Crisis #1 (December 2005, writer Geoff Johns) for identifying with humanity too much and failing to provide the strong leadership that super humans need.