Superman: Legacy is the next cinematic take on DC’s Man of Steel, and it seems to be pulling from some of his most wholesome and iconic incarnations. These include not only the well-known All-Star Superman, but also Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman for All Seasons. The latter once was a pivotal part of the hero’s story, and it points to an element that needs to be reflected in the upcoming DC Universe movie.
For part of his history, Clark Kent’s parents Jonathan and Martha were dead by the time he became Superman. This wasn’t the case after 1986, however, with Superman for All Seasons being a perfect example of this. Not only would adapting this change reflect Superman’s more modern stories, but also differentiate it from previous movies with the character.
Ma and Pa Kent Have a Varied History In DC Comics
The characters who’ve collectively become known Ma and Pa Kent debuted in Superman #1 and were created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (like Superman himself). Initially, the only one named was Martha, who was originally called Mary. Early adaptations of the hero and his family waxed and waned between “Eben and Sarah Kent” and “Eben and Martha Kent.” The Golden Age of Comics later decided on John and Mary Kent, whereas their names transitioned to Jonathan and Martha as DC began to enter the Silver Age. Superman #53 established that Mary’s maiden name was Clark, inspiring the name for the baby that she and her husband find and subsequently adopt.
In the Golden Age, the Kents were fairly old already when they find the infant Kal-El, with both having died by the time Clark entered adulthood. This was a bit more common in that era, which is likely why things were changed somewhat for the Silver Age. There, they were briefly younger than usual due to a strange alien serum, one of the many ridiculous plot elements of that time period’s Superboy and Superman comics. They met their end due to a disease contracted while in the Caribbean, with the mournful high school graduate Clark thereafter going on to college.
The Kents Have Continued to Change
Things changed a lot for the Kents after Crisis on Infinite Earths. This event rebooted the DC Universe in the comics, with many characters’ developments and status quos changing drastically. An example was Superman, whose new history was established by writer/artist John Byrne. Now, the Kents were a bit younger when they found Clark as a baby, not to mention alive and well long into their son’s adulthood and career as Superman. Not only did Byrne’s work on the character showcase this, but as did Superman for All Seasons, which was essentially an addendum to the Byrne era. There, the parents of the young Clark Kent were his anchor to the world, with the Kents being much more than mere plot devices from his early days. They remained a firm part of Superman’s supporting cast until the 2008 Geoff Johns storyline “Brainiac,” where Jonathan suffered a fatal heart attack (evoking his fate in the iconic 1978 film Superman: The Movie).
The New 52 had both of them die in a car crash before Clark ever became Superman, which was revealed as a change made by Watchmen character Doctor Manhattan as he manipulated the DC Universe’s history. Following the storyline Doomsday Clock, however, said changes were undone, with Ma and Pa Kent being present in Superman’s world once more. Sadly, a lot of the hero’s modern adaptations haven’t taken advantage of this, though James Gunn’s DC Universe has the chance to change that.
Superman: Legacy Is Inspired By One of the Hero’s Best Stories
One of the inspirations for Superman: Legacy would seem to be Superman for All Seasons, if one of James Gunn’s recent tweets is anything to go by. In many ways, it’s almost antithetical to the movie’s other main influence – All-Star Superman. That book was a modern celebration of Superman’s Silver Age comics, many of which had some incredibly strange idiosyncrasies. On the other hand, Superman for All Seasons reflected the numerous changes made by John Byrne to the character’s mythos, many of which were firmly incongruous with the Silver Age. Among them were the new “evil tycoon” take on Lex Luthor and the fact that Ma and Pa Kent were alive.
Nevertheless, elements from both stories can easily be combined given the intended themes of Superman: Legacy. The movie is meant to establish a more wholesome, somewhat traditional take on Superman compared to the one seen in the DC Extended Universe. That shared universe notably had a much darker Last Son of Krypton, matching the overall fairly serious tone of the many movies. 2013’s Man of Steel also had a controversial scene in which Jonathan Kent sacrificed himself by allowing a tornado to kill him instead of have son expose his powers to save him. It was one of many elements from the movie that proved contentious, and it wasn’t the only modern Superman adaptation to kill Clark’s dad.
The DCU Can Make a Change For The Better
The CW TV series Smallville killed off John Schneider’s Jonathan Kent in its fifth season via heart attack, evoking the classic Richard Donner Superman movies. The more recent series Superman & Lois did the same thing, with both having Pa Kent die before his son ever becomes Superman. So far, it seems that only the animated series My Adventures of Superman is the only one to keep Pa Kent around beyond Clark’s youth. This was a major part of the show’s themes, which emphasized Superman’s family and supporting cast. That’s exactly what Superman: Legacy needs, especially since it seeks to give Superman a more wholesome and optimistic tone compared to the DCEU.
Having Clark go back to his parents in Smallville and even evoke some of the scenes from Superman for All Seasons are an easy way to make that happen. On top of that, it’d instantly establish to more casual moviegoers that this is a new continuity that’s unrelated to the so-called “Snyderverse” and how it handled Pa Kent. More importantly, the “dead parents” trope among superheroes has become somewhat overdone, especially since modern comics and adaptations have saddled heroes like The Flash with it. Superman shouldn’t be defined by such tragedy, and by giving him a big happy family to go home to, it’ll be obvious where he learned to fight for truth, justice and the American way.
Superman: Legacy flies into theaters on July 11, 2025.
Superman: Legacy is drawing inspiration from Superman for All Seasons, and a key element that it must adapt from the story is Ma and Pa Kent. Read More