Are Jonathan and Martha Kent alive?
Has the continuity of Superman’s parents, which previously had them dead-and-gone for years, changed without any explanation?
And are the effects of Doomsday Clock already being incorporated into the DCU (with changes like the resurrection of Ma and Pa Kent)?
If the latest hints in stories from Brian Michael Bendis are to be believed, Martha and Jonathan Kent just might be alive. Although they haven’t been seen, and there’s been no confirmation, the evidence is pointing in that direction.
And when Newsarama asked Bendis about the evidence, his reply indicated the status of Jonathan and Martha Kent are linked to Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock.
The death of Ma and Pa Kent appeared in Doomsday Clock #1 as a nightmare that Clark experienced, but there was no indication it was being reversed… until now.
First, let’s back up and explain why these two iconic characters should be dead right now.
According to the "New 52" reboot of 2011, Martha and Jon Kent died in a car accident when their adopted Kryptonian son was still in high school.
In this continuity, although Ma and Pa Kent helped form Superman’s values during his childhood on Earth, Clark’s parents did not play a role in his adult life.
Of course, the "New 52" version of Superman’s past was completely changed by 2017’s “Superman: Reborn” storyline.
Thanks to some meddling by Mr. Mxyzptlk, “Superman: Reborn” merged the "New 52" Superman with the post-Crisis Superman to make an all-new, married-with-a-kid version of Clark Kent for DC’s “Rebirth” era.
However, post-“Superman: Reborn” stories maintained the early death of Martha and Jon Kent.
For example, in May 2017’s Action Comics #980 (after “Superman: Reborn”), Superman confronted the graves of both his parents and said that he was sorry he wasn’t there to save Jon and Martha from the car accident.
“I’ve regretted it ever since,” Superman says of their death.
Young Justice Surprises
But that was then. And this is now.
In the last few months, evidence has been emerging that Martha and Jonathan are actually alive.
First was the revelation of Conner Kent’s past in Bendis’ Young Justice title.
In the last few issues of Young Justice, Conner has not only revealed that he was part of a farming family, but he went to Smallville High School within the past several months.
He also convinced his pretend-wife on GemWorld to name her daughter “Martha.” And in his dialogue, he quotes “Pa Kent.”
It sure sounds like Conner Kent lived with Martha and Jonathan Kent within the past few months.
Of course, the continuity of Young Justice is still being explained. But the series suggests that the continuity of the DC universe is morphing around the memories of the young heroes, bringing back their history as a team and somehow inserting them into the current DCU.
If Conner Kent is truly from the main DCU, and everyone remembers him … and if he was living on the Kent farm with Ma and Pa until just a few months ago … doesn’t that mean Ma and Pa Kent would have to be alive past Clark’s high school years?
Meanwhile, in Superman…
The Young Justice revelations might be explained away by suggesting that Conner’s memories were from another Earth or something.
But Bendis’ Superman is definitely set in the current DC Earth, and Clark Kent just said something that also brings the status of Ma and Pa Kent into question.
In Superman #11, as Clark Kent was narrating a battle scene in space, he said:
“…like Ma Kent says, let’s make this into a moment.”
If Ma Kent was dead, wouldn’t Clark use the word “said?”
Clark Kent's a journalist - he knows the correct tenses of verbs, right?
When Newsarama asked Bendis why Clark would speak in the present tense about Ma Kent, he wasn’t able to answer the simple question … are Ma and Pa Kent alive?
“This is a great question. Excellent job, Newsarama,” Bendis said. “I’m very excited you asked me that. I can’t answer that question until all of Doomsday Clock is revealed. Just to be fair, that train had left the station before I was even at DC. So I have full respect for making sure that story gets told the way it needs to get told.”
So…it doesn’t seem like a stretch to guess that, even though Doomsday Clock actually isn’t finished, the effects of its storyline are already being incorporated into the DCU.
It's also an interesting choice of idioms by Bendis given the major DCU continuity break in Doomsday Clock is Dr. Manhattan moving the Green Lantern six inches out of Alan Scott's reach, who is on a train over a collapsing bridge.
Or at least we can conjecture that one possible effect of Doomsday Clock is part of the DCU already — Martha and Jonathan being back alive.