Chronology of Clark

A work in progress. The “Chronology of Clark” feature is a novella-length linear retelling of Man of Steel with an eye towards apologetics.  It collaterally explains the underlying motivations, psychology, choices, and actions of the characters in a way which confronts many of the common criticisms and questions with a coherent story that defies their underlying assumptions.

Last updated 9/24/2014

Kansas

Jonathan Kent is a farmer who loves and marries Martha Kent. They want children, but are unable to have any.

One extraordinary day, something alien lands nearby. Something which expands their world beyond the stars. However, the couple doesn’t see alien technology to be exploited or an opportunity to go down in the history books. What they see is a beautiful and innocent child.

“We saw that the moment we laid eyes on you.”

They knew they were destined to love this child as their own and immediately began to care for him. They named him Clark. From the very start, however, there was fear and worry. Jonathan used their farming equipment to move and hide the ship… fearful of its discovery.

“We found you in this. We were sure the government was gonna show up on our doorstep, but… no one ever came.”

Martha watched over her beloved, also worried.

“When you were a baby I used to lay by your crib at night… listening to you breathe. It was hard for you. You struggled. And I worried all the time.”

For years, Clark struggled painfully. The Kent’s hearts ached for their adopted son, but they perpetually worried about Clark being taken from them, whether by his ailing health, by the government, or by his natural parents out there, somewhere, who had given their child another name and sent him here for reasons unknown.

“I’m just… I’m worried they’ll take you away from me.”

Children don’t come with instructions, much less children from the stars, but these new parents did their best not just to be there for Clark, but to unravel the mystery of his origins to the best of their limited abilities. Jonathan knew his son would one day have questions so he prepared himself as best he could. In the early 1980s there was no internet for a rural Kansas farmer. Jonathan took a leap of faith…

“This was in that chamber with you. I took it to a metallurgist at Kansas State. He said whatever it was made from didn’t even… Didn’t even exist on the periodic table. That’s another way of saying… that it’s not from this world, Clark. And neither are you.”

The man of science was astonished by the artifact, he was immediately brimming with questions about the object, its origins, and who had brought it to him and where had it been found. Jonathan grabbed his son’s clue and fled from the metallurgist. He pulled over his truck miles from the university trembling in a cold sweat. Jonathan almost risked losing his son to men of science with their unrelenting questions and unfeeling experiments. Imagining Martha’s heartbreak or Clarks terror at being taken away, experimented upon, or subjected to questions the child couldn’t possibly answer, Jonathan was furious at himself for his carelessness. He tried to regain his composure… he would not bring this fear home to Martha and Clark. This is a mistake he would never repeat. Never again. Jonathan would never return within 100 miles of Manhattan, Kansas for fear of a chance meeting with the metallurgist again.

Age 9

Despite the burden of Clark’s origins, being his parents was pure joy.

Clark’s first puppy. Birthdays. A science fair where every other entry was a volcano, but Clark took the medal because his was executed brilliantly on a large scale… with help from Jonathan. The proud father didn’t dismiss the science fair volcano as a trite experiment, but beamed at Clark’s enthusiasm and bright young mind… Clark wanted to go big and Jonathan was there helping the boy make his dream come true. The farmer wore a shirt and tie to his son’s fair and his wife, as always, captured these moments with her camera. Her precious photo albums… memories of a family. What Clark coming into their lives meant.

They raised him with good values. Took him to church. Taught him to value people over the material.

“It’s only stuff Clark. It can always be replaced.”

“I just wanted to help.”

Early on, the Kents told Clark he was adopted, selected, especially chosen and elected to be loved by them. Whatever insecurities and wounds he might pick up through his life, he was always completely assured in the love of his parents. He was still too young to wonder about his birth parents, but when he did inquire the Kents were as honest as they could be… they didn’t know. The Kents were not trying to hide the truth from Clark as much as they didn’t know what to tell him beyond what little they knew. They didn’t want the questions that tormented them to begin to eat away at him.

The Kents continued to be protective of Clark. Aside from his early breathing problems as a baby, he would have bouts of oversensitivity to noise and light. The Kents were genuinely stunned the first time Clark exhibited extraordinary abilities. They had gone on so long under the guise of normal, they had nearly forgotten Clark’s origins. Despite having no way to know exactly what was going on with their tormented son, they had love and patience and did their best to guide him out of his pain.

“My parents taught me to hone my senses, Zod”

Wanting to protect Clark from the fear of others uncovering Clark’s other latent abilities, the Kents inadvertently injured their son with isolation and its stigma.

“His parents won’t even let him play with other kids.”
“I know. What a weirdo.”

Otherwise, he was a sweet, sensitive, mild-mannered kid. Jonathan looked at his caped little boy playing with the dog and smiled at Clark’s uncustomary exuberance… his smile faded a bit as he remembered his son’s great destiny.

“He always believed you were meant for greater things. And that when the day came… your shoulders would be able to bear the weight.”

Jonathan was determined to bear as much of that weight for his son as he could.

Although they sheltered Clark, they didn’t rob him of his education. They wanted him to be a normal child in school with others… but always worried, expecting the call from school. Martha found excuses to be nearby so that her response time to an incident with Clark at school would be nearly instantaneous. When she got the call that day, she had been expecting it, but still not expecting what she had to say… that came from the heart and the time spent together knowing what would reach Clark and help him regain his senses.

“What’s wrong with me, Mom?”

That night, Martha and Jonathan wrestled with telling Clark about his origins, what they had to do, whether they were exposed, or what should happen next. They briefly discussed moving away, changing names, disappearing… but what good would that do if there was going to be another incident? He was just a boy… but he’d have to begin to take responsibility beyond his years. Young children have no filter, no guile, no deception… yet the Kents began to actively guide Clark to recognize he was different and had to hide that difference from the world. Children are also fallible… and so this was a lesson that had to be retaught every time Clark mistakenly gave Smallville a glimpse of his other side.

Meanwhile, Jonathan stumbled in the dark trying to find answers for his son. Aerial survey maps, books on extraterrestrials, newsletters… nothing remotely useful, but it didn’t stop him from trying. Instead of touching up the paint on his truck, Jonathan purchased a set of Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown, only to throw the book against the wall in frustration, rubbing his tired eyes, at their nonsense. The alien autopsy volume enraged him. Jonathan’s studies did nothing to provide answers to Clark, but expanded his understanding of what proof of extraterrestrial life would mean to the world.

Age 13

At thirteen, Clark saved a school bus of his classmates. First, Jonathan and Martha were relieved that Clark wasn’t hurt. Then that no one else was. But then, they started to have that old familiar fear rise up when they started to hear how it was rescued. Martha recalled Clark’s exposure at school. Jonathan remembered the inquisitive metallurgist who promised credit, fame, or fortune. They remembered those first stressful days hiding the ship. They wondered if the national press would catch wind of this, if the town would start to ask questions… and after things settled, only one did: the pushy and confrontational Mrs. Ross.

Her insistence upon the event sent stiffened the hairs on the back of their necks, but her attribution to the Divine allowed a measure of relief… there would be no national press.

It did, however, precipitate the talk that Jonathan had been preparing to have with Clark for years.

“I know you did, but we talked about this. Right? Right? We talked about this. You have…
Clark, you have to keep this side of yourself a secret.”
“What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?”
“Maybe. There’s more at stake here than just our lives, Clark, or the lives of those around us.
When the world… When the world finds out what you can do it’s gonna change everything. Our…
Our beliefs, our notions of…what it means to be human. Everything.
You saw how Pete’s mom reacted, right?
She was scared, Clark.”

Jonathan’s first and foremost concern was Clark’s welfare, but in searching for the answers, he also realized the world wasn’t ready for them. They published dreck like alien autopsies and Mysteries of the Unknown as a diversion… telling a horror story to deal with the emotions and fears of a horror that they never really expected to be… but was. Clark would face those unrelenting questions and be unable to answer to their satisfaction or his own. He would be studied, experimented upon, and that Clark- or his people- would in turn one day judge the Earth.

“Is she right? Did God do this to me? Tell me.”

Jonathan didn’t lie or scapegoat the God his son had been raised to guide his actions by. Jonathan knew he didn’t have all the answers, but he had always done his best, so he disclosed what he knew. What he hoped. Clark’s great destiny:

“You’re the answer, son. You’re the answer to “Are we alone in the universe?”
It’d be a huge burden for anyone to bear. But you’re not just anyone, Clark, and I have to believe that you were…
That you were sent here for a reason.
All these changes that you’re going through, one day…
One day you’re gonna think of them as a blessing. When that day comes… you have to make a choice.
A choice of whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.”

Despite the fear, the worry, Jonathan always had hope. He had faith that Clark was here for a purpose, that these trials would mean something, and that Clark would- one day- of his own volition, stand proud. That the hiding would be done and all their care would be justified.

“Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
“You are my son. But somewhere out there you’ve… You have another father too, who gave you another name.
And he sent you here for a reason, Clark. And even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself…
…to find out what that reason is.”

Caught up in the promise of things to come, Jonathan instills in Clark the same hope that kept him going, the belief that the answers and purpose would be there. If that was a false hope, it would inadvertently stand as a curse… the frustration of the unanswered eating away at Clark as it did Jonathan… but if it was a genuine hope, it could fuel the forging of great character, strength, persistence, and belief even if all reason points to a bleak outcome.

Age 17

Now that the truth was out, Clark spent the next 4 years playing it safe.

For Jonathan, the talk was cathartic. He no longer dreaded the day he had to tell Clark. A great weight had lifted, almost such that Jonathan forgot that ultimately, Clark didn’t have any answers, at least none beyond what Jonathan could give. Jonathan could now openly explain the need for secrecy to Clark. As he was a young man now, he could take on that responsibility. Jonathan began being candid with Clark and reminding him of his destiny.

Did they hurt you?
You know they can’t.
That’s not what I meant. I meant, are you all right?
I wanted to hit that kid. I really wanted to hit him so bad.

They could be open and honest about Clark’s powers and feelings. Jonathan cared about how Clark heart may have been hurt, and their relationship was such that Clark could be honest about wanting vengeance, something he was raised to know was wrong.

“I know you did. I mean…part of me even wanted you to, but then what?”

Jonathan replies by admitting something he knew was wrong too, admitting that some part wished he had struck back. Father and son were transparent with one another. Jonathan foresaw the man Clark was going to become.

“Make you feel any better? You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Because…whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s…
He’s gonna change the world.”

For Clark, he was closer to his parents with this transparency, but also wrestling with patience. He understood the need for safety and secrecy… at least he thought he did.

“My father believed that if the world found out who I really was… …they’d reject me… …out of fear.
“he was convinced that I had to wait. That the world was not ready.”

But where were his promised answers? When would he live up to his great destiny? How was he realizing any of it playing it safe? How was he going to change the world farming in Kansas?

“I’m tired of safe. I just wanna do something useful with my life.”

Clark wanted to live up to all the promise and ambition his parents had instilled into him. It is not that they didn’t believe he was going to have a great destiny worthy of great hope and great dreams…

“He always believed you were meant for greater things.”

But Jonathan didn’t know what to do…

“So farming, feeding people. That’s not useful … Our family’s been farming for five generations.”

Jonathan was only equipped to farm and did his best from that perspective, but he starts off as defensive based on his own frustration at his own inadequacy. Clark, however, was frustrated after 4 years of nothing since his great revelation. In 1997, Clark would have had access to the internet and a world beyond Kansas.

“Your family, not mine. I don’t even know why I’m listening to you. You’re not my dad.
You’re just some guy who found me in a field.”

A 17 year old teenager says the most hurtful thing he can possibly say to his adoptive father… and immediately regrets it. It is so out of character and cruel, Martha calls him out on it. It shows the level of Clark’s frustration after the transparency they shared above. Jonathan, however, doesn’t escalate any further and recognizes his son is wounded… speaking from hurt, rather than intent to injure.

“It’s all right, Martha. He’s right. Clark has a point. We’re not your parents. But we’ve been doing the best we can.
And we’ve been making this up as we go along, so maybe… Maybe our best isn’t good enough anymore.”

Jonathan realizes he has been stalling for time. Clark is on the cusp of full adulthood. It is reasonable for a man to want to set out on his own, particularly one with as great a destiny as Clark’s. Jonathan has only done what he knew to do, keep Clark safe, on the farm, but recognizing his own short comings, Jonathan is amenable to talking about the next step, beyond his best.

“Look, Dad…”

Clark immediately rescinds he accusation that Jonathan isn’t his dad… no, he’s “Dad.” He says it apologetically and earnestly, seeing his father humble himself to admit his best isn’t enough anymore. But they are interrupted.

“Hold on.”

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