Fan News

Home for the Holidays: Kal-El Returns to His Families

Home for the Holidays: Kal-El Returns to His Families

By Tim Beedle Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

It’s a great time for Superman fans, with the Man of Steel soaring into movies, TV, animation and comics. To help us stay on top of it, writer Tim Beedle shares what's grabbed his attention and why in this monthly Superman column.

SPOILER ALERT: The following column contains spoilers from this week's Superman: Son of Kal-El #18. We suggest reading it after you've finished with the issue.
 

It’s the holiday season—a time for snow, shopping, carols, cookies, ugly sweaters, even uglier traffic, eggnog, festive lights and gathering with family. It’s this last one I’ve found myself thinking about lately as more and more of my social circle begins heading home to see siblings and parents. Hopefully, no matter where you find yourselves, you’ll soon be following suit. Our families may drive us nuts on occasion, but the holidays tend to have a way of making that seem unimportant and smoothing over whatever grievances may have come up over the year. It’s a time of joy and togetherness. Of remembering those who are most important in your life.

For Jon Kent and Lois Lane, the reunion with their missing loved one—Kal-El—came a few months ago. But I have to wonder…what if Kal-El hadn’t returned this year? What if his mission on Warworld lasted just a little longer. What would that have meant to his families?

Oh yes, Superman has more than one family.

Obviously, there’s his biological family of Lois and Jon. I’d imagine they feel a lot like any family feels who’s missing a core member. In Superman: Son of Kal-El #16, Lois laments not having Clark around to warm up her coffee when it gets cold. Fortunately, as he’s been doing a lot lately, her son fills in for his father, warming it up for her. Speaking of Jon, he talks continuously about how he misses his dad and questions his ability to take over for him as Superman. Jon’s done a phenomenal job, but those are obviously some big shoes to fill and considering everything else that’s happening in the DC Universe at the moment, the comparisons between Jon and his father happen pretty frequently, including from people that Jon likely respects. (You’ve all been reading Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, right?)

Fortunately, the pressure isn’t all on Jon, as he’s not the only person with Kryptonian heritage still on Earth. There’s also Kara and Conner, whom along with the human members of the Superman Family—John Henry Irons, Natasha Irons and Kong Kenan—have tried help fill the void left by Kal-El’s absence. (Okay, technically, Nat’s been with him on Warworld, but her uncle’s been helping from Earth.) All of them are competent, gifted heroes who are capable of great things. They can more than make up for Superman’s absence, especially when they work together. But being a part of the Superman Family when the original Man of Steel is missing has to be strange. People define them by their relationship to Superman. Who are they when he’s not around? It’s like being a member of Queen after Freddy Mercury passed or The Doors after losing Jim Morrison—you are still a member of the band, but does the band still matter?

Then there’s the Justice League. The Justice League isn’t defined by its relationship to Superman, and in fact, there have been times when Kal-El wasn’t a part of it. But Superman being off world for so long still has an effect. All of the current members of the League have a relationship with him. They all consider Kal-El a friend—part of their superhero family. So yes, they can operate effectively and garner intergalactic respect without him, but on an individual level, they’ve got to be worried. They know better than anyone the dangers of what they do, which means they’re going to be most clear-eyed about the possibility of Kal-El never returning home. That’s some pretty serious emotional weight to carry as they’re putting their own lives on the line.

Superman has other families as well. He has his work family at the Daily Planet, his Smallville family, including his parents, his Warworld family—heck, I’d even argue that the world at large is one of his families. He’s a hero to us all, which means we all have a relationship with him. In each case, his absence is going to be felt and leave his family feeling incomplete. And when an incomplete family lacks hope, then bad things can happen.

For example, look at Luis Rojas—or Red Sin, as he’s taken to calling himself. Luis’s parents died in a LexCorp explosion and they’re not coming back. His grief is real and it’s clear that in this week’s Superman: Son of Kal-El #18, Jon Kent truly feels for him, despite Luis’ hatred of him and his father. I’d imagine this has a lot to do with the fact that Jon’s father seemed lost until just recently, but the difference is that Jon’s dad came back. That’s not possible with Luis, and in choosing to focus on anger, blame and hatred rather than allowing himself to grieve their loss, Luis has left himself open to being exploited by a truly immoral new father figure—Lex Luthor.

We all need family. Without it, we feel alone and incomplete. The Superman stories we’ve gotten this year have been a good reminder of that. I think we can all celebrate Kal-El’s return to his family as we come together with all of ours this holiday season. But if I can say one last thing as I wrap up this year’s final Super Here For… column, it’s to take a page from Jon Kent and think about those people we know who can’t be with family right now and who might be sad or angry about it. If you can reach out to those people, be there for them and remind them that they’re not alone, please do that. I know it’s not always easy, but selflessness never is. Otherwise, everyone would be a superhero.

There are plenty of Lex Luthors in the world. This holiday season, we need more Jon Kents.


 

Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, writes our monthly Superman column, "Super Here For...", and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our recurring television column. Follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Tim Beedle and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.