Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek is one of those tales that takes a sideways view of the current comic book mythos surrounding the Kryptonian and let’s us view a different side of what it is to be Superman.
What if? You’re a small town Kansas farm boy born to a family with the last name of Kent. Your parents, in their warped sense of humor, name you Clark after that other small town Kansas farm boy. What would your life be like?
A series of constant gags and bullying from your classmates. For this Clark Kent, the constant comparison to the comic book character of Superman has been a young boy’s daily dose of hell. All Clark wants to be is a writer but the shadow of the Daily Planet reporter hovers darkly over him. To get away from it all he wanders into the woods and camps out to be alone. Until the evening, in his sleeping bag, he realizes he’s actually floating in the air.
What if, you really did have super powers? What if you could fly and had super strength? What if you really were that comic book hero known as Superman?
Busiek takes the small town farm boy of Clark Kent and brings him into the modern age. When he begins to perform his super hero acts, the military and the government take a serious view of Clark. But not as an ally, but as a potential threat. Knowing that he will have to make a deal with the government to protect his family, he agrees to work as their agent from time to time. As a young writer, Clark struggles to be published and taken seriously. Because of his name, he becomes something of a joke to the industry.
But through it all Clark manages to carve out a career and create a family. This Superman places his wife and children above all else. They are, for him, the greater good. It is a struggle to make this balance but in the end he does the best he can. There are no great super villains here. Just a man with super powers trying to do the right thing.
Busiek does in this book what so many writers of the Superman books seem afraid to do.
He made him human. He made him a son, a husband and a father. He made him a man, not a Superman.