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Superman: Jonathan Kent

Half Kryptonian, half earthling, Jonathan Samuel Kent is the first child of Clark Kent (Kal-El/ Superman) and Lois Lane. He’s named after both his earthly grandfathers, farmer Jonathan Kent and Army General Sam Lane. As is often the case with characters in superhero comics, Jonathan Kent’s history is a little complicated thanks to changes in continuity and the comicbook version of SORAS (soap opera rapid aging syndrome).

The super condensed version: Jonathan was born on the planet Telos during a cataclysm that threatened the entirety of the multiverse. Superman (and Lois) had been abducted by a crazed Vril Dox to fight other heroes Dox had kidnaped from other universes. The event was Convergence and on a practical level the comics published during the summer of 2015 were designed to give DC editorial time to move company headquarters from New York City to Burbank. Convergence was also the means in which DC left behind much of Nu52 continuity in favor of starting a new continuity branded as “Rebirth”. The Superman: Lois & Clark mini series showed some of Jonathan’s childhood and his developing powers. After a year’s worth of appearances in Superman and Action comics, Jonathan and his parents are folded into DCs (then) current (Rebirth) continuity in the Superman Reborn story which merged the Nu52 and post Crisis versions of Superman and Lois that in turn gave Jonathan a new origin. In this new reality, Lois and Clark become parents not long after they married; this happening after the (post Crisis) death of Superman.

The Super Sons idea and stories appeared first in World’s Finest #154 (December, 1965) courtesy of Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan. Hamilton and Swan’s collaboration would become inspiration for other creators from Bob Haney to Denny O’Neil to Byrne before writer Peter Tomasi updated the concept by using young Jonathan and Damien Wayne. DC touted the pairing who debuted in their own Super Sons comic as “best frenemies forever” that will save the world “if they don’t kill each other first.”

Jonathan and Damien’s friendship was interrupted by another change to the Superman mythos that occured in Doomsday Clock when Jor-El is revealed to have not died in Krypton’s explosion. After traumatic events he was reunited with son Kal, Lois, and grandson Jonathan. Then current Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis devised a plot in which to age Jon approximately seven years while relatively little time passed on Earth. This involved Jor-El taking Jon on an intergalactic trip that turns into a nightmarish reality when their ship is pulled into a black hole and Jon finds himself on Earth 3, home of the Crime Syndicate, and is imprisoned inside a volcano by Ultraman, that world’s villainous version of Superman. Bendis returned Jon to Earth (and the Super Sons friendship resumed) before then sending him into the future where he joined the Legion of Super Heroes. In this setting Jon marveled at much of the 31st century Earth and the United Planets; learned of events that hadn’t yet happened, in particular one with conflicting accounts involving his father; and he and Saturn Girl shared a kiss and perhaps the fumblings of a potential relationship that didn’t develop further before the series stopped.

It should also be mentioned Bendis created a new origin for the United Planets. In the aftermath of an intense fight with Rogol Zaar, various parties come together to discuss ways to avoid war in the future. Jonathan suggests the idea that peace can be kept by creating a galactic style United Nations. This revision recalls the pivotal story in Adventure #247 in which the foundation between the Silver Age Superboy and Legion is created. Jonathan’s idea became the reason for the Legion traveling through time to the 21st century to invite Jon to join the Legion, thus reestablishing the connection that was removed from contintuity as part of the Crisis On Infinite Earths event.

As part of DCs Future State plans Jonathan is being prepared to step into a greater role, possibly his father’s. This change has been a focal point of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s scripts for his Action storyline leading up to War World with Jonathan accompanying his father for a space battle with alien forces while Jonathan expresses concern for his parent’s health and mortality. Concurrently, Tom Taylor is creating a fuller character backdrop on Earth for Jon as a young adult trying to attend Metropolis college using the alter ego of Finn Collins which was created with the help of Oracle and Batman. The Collins cover is blown the first day of the semester when an attack is launched on students. The incident provides a reason for an otherwise passing acquaintance between Jon and fellow student Jay Nakamura to see each other. The nature of their interest initially appears to be friendship though it rapidly changes from their meeting in issue #1 to two issues later when at his father’s suggestion Jon flies Jay to a family dinner on the Kent family farm. The extended scene over issues #3 and 4 reads very much like bringing a boyfriend home to meet the family.

Jon is ambushed in a rather surprising and indirect way by Henry Bendix, the dictator of the island nation of Gamorra from which Jay has escaped, and his powers are temporarily amplified, but it comes at the potential cost of causing harm, death, and destruction if extreme caution isn’t practiced, as well as the very real cost of becoming exhausted as the amplification begins to fluctuate. Worn out and drained, Jon collapses into a deep nine hour sleep on Jay’s sofa. The combination of factors over the previous issues, furtive glances, Jon’s internal monologs, the Kent family dinner (especially at his father’s suggestion) and the subsequent destruction of the Kent home, seeing Jay’s enthusiastic geeky and then shy reactions to meeting Lois, and the realization that Jay can take care of himself thanks to having his own power set, accumulates so that Jon feels emotionally safe with and cared for by Jay. John’s concern for his dad’s safety as Superman leaves Earth to defeat Mongul and rescue War World prisoners weighs heavily too. The vulnerability sparks a feeling in Jon, leading to a kiss with Jay who’s rather pleased by the intimacy. Future issues will reveal how this relationship unfolds.

Critics are quick to point out Jon’s kiss with Saturn Girl as proof that the character is straight; as if gays and lesbians haven’t ever kissed an opposite sexed person, especially when they are in denial or conflicted about their emotions and thoughts; as if a person might appear straight for any length of time in their lives before falling in love or having sex and then identifying as bisexual or pansexual. Tom Taylor’s decision on how Jon identifies sexually remains to be seen. Considering that Taylor is fashioning Jon’s stories to reflect the concerns, attitudes, and experiences of young adults in the real world it won’t surprise me if Taylor has Jon rejecting any and all labels.

Jon’s powers and vulnerabilties appear to be the same as his father’s and cousin Supergirl though the powers and his control of them may fluctuate while still in development.

Jonathan’s first appearance as a newborn happened in Convergence: Superman #2 (July, 2015). Superman #2 (vol. 4 September, 2016) marks the first time Jon appears in a Superman styled costume which was exchanged for a Kryptonian costume in the The Unity Saga: The House of El in 2019.

Looking for a much more detailed profile that includes highlights of stories over the span of Jonathan’s appearances? Check out this one.

Read Jay Nakamura’s profile here.

Created by Dan Jurgens. Significant contributions were made to the character by Peter Tomasi, Brian Michael Bendis, Tom Taylor, and Jorge Jimenez.

Art by John Timms and Hi Fi.

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