Clark Kent is always nice. My Adventures With Superman makes him complex

As a comic book mythology, Superman is pretty much set in stone. He is the last son of the doomed planet of Krypton and was raised by a few hard-working farmers in Smallville. From there, he moved to Metropolis to become a reporter and use his extraordinary powers for the good of mankind. With such a foundation, it becomes easy to take his character for granted. Even when we remember the most revered onscreen view of the character (that of Christopher Reeve in the 1978 Richard Donner original movie), we usually focus on Superman, just being a good guy kind of guy as his most attractive quality. Why wouldn’t we like him? He is nice.

But just “being a good guy” doesn’t make for an interesting character, something even Reeve knew when he imbued the Man of Steel with a sassy sense of charm. And it’s something the makers are behind My adventures with Superman, the new cartoon on Adult Swim and streaming on Max, seem to know it too. Making a Superman is easy; the blueprint has been laid out for almost 90 years. Creating a Superman who’s a really great character is a bit more difficult.

The series is set in Clark Kent’s formative years – he is a new intern at the Daily Planet with his friend Jimmy Olsen. (In the series, they still live in the same room in their twenties, a reflection of the dismal pay inherent even in fictional media industries. In this essay I will…) He grows accustomed to life in Metropolis and also to life as a man who wants to help people while wearing a primary colored suit. On his way to his first day on the job, he encounters Lois Lane, a fateful blow and also a meet-cute who will affect their entire relationship. Their connection is one of the most energetic aspects of the show, and it’s where the vibrant take on the Superman character begins.

Image: WarnerMedia

Lois Lane’s budding relationship with Clark Kent/Superman has taken different forms over the years. In the 1978 film, Lois was curious about Clark, but immediately fell in love with Superman. In the DC Animated Universe, which has since eclipsed every other attempt at superhero animation, Lois became confused by Clark’s unfailing lovability and fascinated by Superman, the “Nietzschean fantasy ideal wrapped in a red cape.” Inevitably, she comes to love both sides, but My adventures with Superman chooses to skip past the won’t-they-will-them and makes it clear from the start: these two kids are in love with each other.

Superman dealing with his newfound emotions regarding Lois makes him much more human. This take on Clark can be quite bizarre – he breaks alarm clocks and rips off door handles, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s masterpiece reimagined in pure himbo style. His awkwardness is only amplified now that he has to try and impress a cute girl, which gives him a fun dichotomy to play with. His drive to save the world? That is perhaps his most natural instinct. His desire to start a relationship? That is the complicated part.

Clark Kent smiled awkwardly

Image: WarnerMedia

Superman flies and carries Lois Lane over Metropolis

Image: WarnerMedia

It’s clear from the start that the show is anime-inspired, from the action sequences (fast and well choreographed, they remind me of some Naruto Shippuden battles) to the character expressions. Lois and Clark are constantly blushing and shy when interacting with each other, an anime staple. It’s really hard to think of another Clark Kent (other than maybe the one in Smallville) that has been so devoted to the little pleasures of puppy love. It makes his character extremely easy to search for, whether it’s in these scenarios or when he goes into battle later on.

That’s not to say that Clark is only defined by his aw-shucks smiles and heroics. It’s clear that even as he works through the show’s various overarching plots (“Where did I come from and where do all these villains come from?” are the main two), he’s pretty curious as both a hero and journalist. He’s not quite the friendly genius found in Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman comics, but he’ll get there. And while he is often the most stable of his friends, he still slips up in his friendships and his emotional responses. Eventually he will come to inspire the world, but at the moment he is often a little distressed when others do not adhere to what he considers important.

General, My adventures with Superman has a Clark Kent offering interest beyond his standard devotion to derring-do. A lot of it has to do with his age and his need to learn to be the Superman he’s going to be (his best cartoon compatriot is The spectacular Spider-Man, a series built under the mantra of “the education of Peter Parker”), but it’s a well-rounded and thoughtful approach. We already believe that a human can fly. What is much more concerning is whether he can flirt.