“Real-world” takes on superheroes come with substantial risk—extracting all the wonder and escapist fun right out of the story. But when done properly, as in Superman: Secret Identity, the opposite occurs, and it’s like we’re reading about a flying man for the first time…because in the world of this story, it’s unprecedented.
The miniseries takes place in a world just like ours, one in which Superman is nothing more than a fictional character. The protagonist has the misfortune of being named Clark Kent, and boy, does he never hear the end of it. Then one night, for no apparent reason, he suddenly has all of Superman’s powers. Now…what to do with them?
Writer Kurt Busiek is a master of grounded superhero stories that feel all the more magical because of their earthy roots. Similarly, artist Stuart Immonen displays a rough-hewn style that looks relatively “normal” and down-to-earth, which only serves to heighten the grandeur when Clark takes to the sky or performs some other extraordinary feat.
The story feels like it’s occurring in our world, and its characters look and sound like people who would fit right in with life as we know it. There’s just one super-powered person added to it.
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Superman: Secret Identity (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 12 and up