October 22, 2012

Clark Kent quits the "Daily Planet": from newspaper reporter to TV anchor to blogger

Clark Kent quits the "Daily Planet": from newspaper reporter to TV anchor to blogger
Clark Kent as a TV anchor
From “Superman” (vol. 1) #233 (January 1971). Art by Curt Swan.

While I’ve talked about this earlier today on Twitter, I’m finally able to write about it for here. Earlier today, new Superman comic writer Scott Lobdell (the same writer behind the Starfire fiasco) discussed how Clark Kent will be quitting the “Daily Planet.” Annoyed by its lack of attention to journalism versus fluff (and pressure from the Planet’s owners, Galaxy Communications), Clark plans to quit and start a blog of some sort (Lobdell compared it to the Huffington Post or Drudge Report…).

Yes, there’ve been various “Clark Kent gets fired or is forced to quit” stories in the past, plus there’s his lengthy Bronze Age (70s/80s) run as a TV anchor for Galaxy’s WGBS affiliate. Still, all of those didn’t feel quite as questionable as this move does. I suppose I should compare it to the TV anchor run (as I like the Bronze Age Supes, and it’s a comparison coming up often online…).

For the newcomers, back in 1971, DC decided to modernize Clark’s image, and among other methods, had Morgan Edge, president of Galaxy Communications (a fictional media conglomerate) buy the “Daily Planet.” He subsequently moved Galaxy Broadcasting System’s main Metropolis affiliate, WGBS, into the “Planet” building, and made Clark its evening news anchor. Clark stayed at this job through the rest of the 70s and well into the 80s (while still also doing some writing for the “Planet”), and only left the job with the Byrne reboot of Superman in 1986.

My thoughts about the downsides of this blogging move:

  • As a TV news anchor, Clark was still a Galaxy Communications/”Daily Planet” employee, with all the credentials that gives any other journalist. Since the “Daily Planet” is supposed to be comparable to the “New York Times” quality- and stature-wise, it seems like a huge step down for Clark to go start a blog from scratch. On top of that, Galaxy was traditionally akin to CBS in terms of its TV stature. (The “New 52” Galaxy is made to sound more like Fox, but I suppose its stature aspect still stands.) Either way, I’m not sure how Clark expects to routinely get into press conferences, etc. without press credentials. (And no, eavesdropping with super-hearing/telescopic vision doesn’t cut it…). It didn’t go so well for Clark’s fellow comic character/journalist Rick Redfern in “Doonesbury” recently
  • The “Daily Planet” already had an online presence in the 90s and 2000s comics. Some stories in the 2000s in particular show the “Planet” has a heavily visited website (a la the “New York Times”‘s site), plus Clark and Lois had their own blogs/columns both in there and in the usual print version. While yes, newspapers are having problems with the rise of digital media, the biggest ones tied to media conglomerates (a la the “Planet”) seem to be adjusting fairly well. (It’s not like Clark works for the “Smallville Sentinel.”) Since Galaxy probably relies on the “Planet”‘s news aspects heavily or in part for WGBS/Galaxy Broadcasting, they wouldn’t let the paper go under if they could help it. In actuality, the “Planet” (and its extensive news resources) and GBS (which probably owns music stations, cable TV outlets, etc.) would probably be two of the DCU’s biggest online media presences…
  • The “Planet,” unlike the Huffington Post, actually pays its writers. Given Metropolis is probably an expensive place to live, a la New York City or Chicago, and since Clark usually has a fairly nice apartment in the comics, I wonder how Clark plans on paying his rent and other bills (student loans from Metropolis University? Broadband Internet bill?) while starting his own HuffPo-knockoff? Imagine crushing coal into diamonds, digging up sunken treasure, and/or asking Batman for a loan will get old fast…
  • The idea of the Drudge Report as “journalism” in any way is highly questionable, to say the least. It’s the sort of thing Clark (as a Planet reporter or WGBS anchor) would’ve criticized, if anything…
  • Wonder if it’d be easier to try to change the “Planet” from the inside versus running off and starting some would-be online rival?
  • Clark isn’t “stuck behind a desk” most of the time in most depictions… even while he was a news anchor for WGBS, he was still free to come and go fairly often, which is one reason he chose a career as a reporter: so he could freely exit to perform super-deeds as needed, under the excuse of “working on a story.” If anyone’s stuck behind a desk in the “New 52,” it seems to be Lois
  • Clark’s friends and coworkers at the “Planet” were still a big part of his WGBS days, including Lana Lang, who returned to become his co-anchor. Meanwhile, this new gig sees Clark leaving with Cat Grant (of all characters), while still having the “New 52″‘s minimal contact levels with Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Steve, Ron, etc.
  • As others online are pointing out, Clark would be more likely to get let go than quit on his own these days, given some newspapers’ problems these days.

Despite that, yes, the WGBS era had the issue of Clark being high profile (his face visible to Metropolis every night at 6 PM), I enjoyed the TV station setting. (Given it’s a world where nobody can tell Superman is “Clark with glasses,” not sure being on TV every night will tip anyone off…) Meanwhile, between this and the other changes to Clark since the “New 52” (the ugly trunks-less costume, “emo” personality, the ugly hair style, dating Wonder Woman, etc.), I suppose one more change won’t matter… given how uninteresting the “New 52” Superman generally is anyway.

Tags: Clark Kentcomic newsDaily PlanetDC ComicsMediaMorgan EdgeSuperman