Jun. 6th, 2007

The Secret

Jun. 6th, 2007 09:23 am
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Alex sat in his living room with two photocopies. One was from a recent article about Superman, the other from a group photo taken of the staff of the Daily Planet. The quality of neither was that good, and the face he was looking for in the second photo was not that large. So at first, he couldn't entirely see the resemblance between Clark Kent and Superman.

But then he drew a pair of large glasses and additional hair on the picture of Superman. And there it was...Superman really did look like Clark Kent. And according to Allie, to a 10 year old psychic whose powers and whose discretion about those powers both needed fine tuning, there was a good reason for that.

Even though he had no intention of going public with such knowledge - first off, you don't do that to Superman, and secondly he had no real proof that would stand up to even the lowest journalistic standard - he had to look into the matter. His curiosity wouldn't let him stand still, would it? So he spend the day at the main branch of the library, looking at microfilm of the Daily Planet, looking at whatever reference sources he could find in that underfunded place.

The pieces did come together, if you knew where to look. Clark Kent's first byline ran just days after Superman's public debut. Kent seemed to have a few Superman stories that requires his presence on the scene (though not many). Kent and Supes were about the same height. And if you were going to hide your life as the world's greatest hero, where better than under facade of a bumbling and decidedly unheroic reporter?

Just the fact that Superman had another face was a big deal. Knox had assumed, pretty much like everyone else, that Superman arrived on Earth from his lost world shortly before he started his heroic career. And that he was always Superman, with no other identity or concerns (not that being Superman didn't come with the weight of the world attached). But if he was also Clark Kent, he was here a lot longer. It was a matter of public record - as indicated in Who's Who in American Journalism - that Clark was raised in Smallville, Kansas. In other words, he grew up on Earth (much as his counterpart from Chloe's world is). It meant that so much everyone thought they knew about Superman was wrong. (It also explained why Supes sounded like a Kansas farmboy sometimes.)

Was this a betrayal of the public trust? Surely Superman can't keep secrets, can he? Knox didn't think that was so. Everyone was entitled to not be in the public eye every second of every minute. Superman must have needed that refuge. And Superman has surely earned it, too.

More troubling was that Kent clearly had an advantage over other reporters. Which mght be why there weren't all that many Superman stories with his byline. In both his lives, the Man of Steel stood for integrity. There was no way he couldn't strive for it even when those lives met. But wasn't there something else Superman could do that wouldn't create that conflict of interest? The only conclusion Knox reached was that maybe Kent felt the same calling. That even Superman really wanted to report the truth as much as he wanted to represent it.

Lane...did Lane know? She's worked with Kent for years, and certainly knows Supes as well as anyone. Surely she could see the similarities in their faces. She was the best, after all. But if she knew...would that count as an unfair advantage? Would that merely be having the granddaddy of sources to protect, an insider to make Deep Throat seem insignificant? Or was their some kind of arrangement where she kept quiet and he didn't steal her stories? Knox wouldn't put it past Lane.

Or maybe, without a 10 year old psychic to tell the truth, even Lois Lane wouldn't see it. We don't want out heroes to be so limited, so meek and mild, even when we aren't looking. They have to be perfect. All the time.

It was a lot to absorb. Alex Knox knew the biggest secret of the 20th century now. He might be able to tell one or two trusted friends in the Bar. But that was it. You don't tug on Superman's cape.

And yet...suppose it wouldn't be a poke at Superman to do this. Suppose it wouldn't end Clark Kent's career, or expose him to further revenge at the hands of enemies like Luthor who might come after him while he slept (he does sleep, doesn't he?). Could he ever go public with this?

He remembered The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, that late Western with the Duke and Jimmy Stewart. He never cared for it much, since Stewart was too old for the part, and since the Duke was verging on self-parody, but mainly because of how it ended. Of how a reporter, after hearing the truth about the protagonist's life, said "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend." In Knox's estimation, the legend was never the fact. A reporter told the truth, always. But now he understood. The fact that that Superman was also Clark Kent. The fact was that the Man of Steel was a clumsy reporter with a high voice and ridiculous glasses. The legend was that Superman was the person everyone wanted to be. The legend was the fact, wasn't it?

Alex Knox filed away the photocopies and his notes in a drawer in his bedroom. Maybe someday they might be of some use. Today, they were merely facts.


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November 2011


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