Legend maintains that Superman has been a near perfect person his whole life. Other than a few, brief moody episodes he’s always been portrayed as a humble superhero with concerns for the average peoples’ safety. Rumors had periodically surfaced over the years about a different kind of Superman. Rumors of a troubled, conceited adolescent where he didn’t get along well with his human classmates.
It’s been years since the Man of Steel has actively fought crime and the colorful characters who were his adversaries. Much has been documented about his beginnings here on earth and his aging father, Jor-el, sending Superman away from the destruction of his own planet, Krypton. Superman, as we came to find out, was not impervious to the ravages of time here on earth. He has grown old, now in his 90s, and appears frail with arthritis and other age-related issues.
Bearing super strength and the ability to fly from a very early age would seem to be an immense burden and responsibility for anyone. It is said that he sometimes abused those powers. He had purportedly dominated youth basketball leagues as a child by dunking on his diminutive ten-year old competitors. Many of the parents saw this as sullying the spirit of good sportsmanship. The kids, however, are said to have enjoyed the spectacle. Rumors had also circulated about youthful transgressions about his chasing off bullies, and then simply taking over where the bully had left off. He also allegedly employed his x-ray vision during high school to embarrass disliked teachers or to tease unsuspecting girls. Such talk has typically been quickly discarded due to a lack of credible substantiation. Well, no longer.
Clark Kent [aka Superman] had a friend in college, a fellow Journalism major, who recently passed away. He had diligently maintained diary entries dating back to high school. The points of interest pick up when he met a classmate at Kansas State named Clark Kent. They spent their college years as friends and neighbors. The daughter of Superman’s deceased classmate had discovered the diaries and sold portions pertaining to Kent.
This is not to hint that Superman was a troublemaker, just that despite his squeaky clean image, it has been suggested that the image had been embellished to mask his unflattering behavior. The main discovery made known in the diaries is the speckled path of his growing up, his maturing as a person. More specifically, the single culminating incident that seemed to have changed him for good, once and for all. The incident as recounted in the diary:
Over the course of a week, several instances had occurred and riled up a number of the male neighbors in our apartment building. There had already been tension when Clark pushed it too far. The boys were avid weight lifters and took pride in their developing physiques. Clark, meanwhile, had a naturally muscular build even through he never worked out. He could eat anything and as much as he wanted, yet his body would be nourished and continue to flourish in an impossible way for anyone else, or at least any normal person. The curiosity of his metabolism had run its course, and months into the school year it had became an annoyance. Then Clark rubbed it in their faces to a point of argumentation and animosity. For a week Clark ate only cake and cookies and extravagantly lounged around in the apartment’s common area. The weight lifters would return form the gym session and there’s Clark in the apartment lobby eating a sleeve of Oreos, drinking soda and watching cartoons. Clark seemed to take great pleasure in this tormenting. In the heat of this tension the boys planned an assault. A small package of kryptonite was attained by one of the boys’ uncles. Kryptonite, apparently, is a very soft metal that can be cut into tiny shavings with the right tools. The boys, knowing Clark was engulfed in this mood of shameless pageantry, intended to exploit it.
Thursday evening some female residents of the apartment building had girlfriends visiting. They were flirting with the weight lifters in the lobby and having a good time when Clark, who was also present in the lobby watching tv, started doing one-handed push-ups. I was in the apartment lobby and was a convenient witness to the whole episode. After ten minutes the one handed push-ups became too much, creepy really, and the girls departed. The weight lifters were disappointed and verbally let Clark know of their displeasure.
The next night, Friday, I was in the lobby watching Miami Vice. I watched every Friday, it was a great program and I didn’t have a tv in my room. That’s when the weight lifters showed up with a keg of beer and a tray of brownies. I was later to find out the brownies were liberally laced with kryptonite shavings. Chocolate chips and a thick layer of frosting helped mask the kryptonite. The soft metal shavings are edible, as it turn out, and have the texture of coconut. Also, much like crayons, it is non-toxic if eaten, at least to humans. If one were to assume or be told the brownies contained coconut, it’d be totally believable. In retrospect, it would seem kryptonite isn’t really metal, much in the same way that head cheese isn’t really cheese. Regardless, it was consumed by all. The kryptonite in no way made one want to refrain from indulging in the deliciousness, unless you didn’t like coconut. I consumed two brownie squares and thought they were delicious. I experienced mild intestinal discomfort which I later attributed to the kryptonite.
The keg was in the lobby with the tray of brownies sliced into small squares. As Clark walked by the lobby with a box of cinnamon graham crackers he was offered a cup of beer.
“Hey, super boy, we’ve had a rough go lately. Truce,” suggested the ringleader.
“You dicks are certainly enjoying a brief window of decency,” accepting the cup.
The weight lifters were also eating the brownies. I don’t recall them eating multiple squares apiece, but they convincingly conveyed the edibility sufficiently to Clark. He grabbed two brownie squares without asking. From that point on the whole group really seemed to be on good terms. As the evening advanced Miami Vice concluded and we turned the channel to a baseball game. Casual chit chat during the ball game, other friends and neighbors dropping by for a beer and brownie. Clark’s mission appeared clear to me, ‘The more I eat and drink, the less there is for them.’ Two hours later with the keg drained, Clark grabbed the last two brownies, everyone exchanged peaceful enough good byes and he went to his room for the night. It was late the next morning when the gravity of the prior evening’s incident became evident.
Clark and I had neighboring apartment units. I heard him through his wall and he seemed to be having difficulty of some kind. I heard what I assumed was furniture crashing to the floor and a loud moan. He lived by himself so I knew it was Clark. I went to his door, knocked, identified myself, and was told to come in because “Something’s wrong,” he said. That’s when the weight lifters came from around the corner, as if they had staked this out, and raced into the room before I could close the door. They pushed me aside and duct taped him in his enfeebled state. That’s how it began. Then a single eyebrow was shaved clean off. In his fright, a new experience to Clark, he was compliant, not that he could have countered anyway. The pretty curl on his forehead was cut and he was given a Mohawk haircut. Through this he struggled, as reflected in the poor quality of the haircut. The final indignity was when his t-shirt was cut off his torso, he was stripped down to his underpants, then manhandled down the hallway and put in the back of a pickup truck. He was unceremoniously dropped off a mile away in front of the crowded university center. The duct tape had been cut off his hands by then, he was lifted and disgorged by the curb. He got to his feet and started to run, but with his strength lacking the effort quickly deteriorated to a slow jog. Upon his return to the apartment complex his assailants, greeted him at the entrance.
“How does mortality feel, superhero?”
Clark retired to his apartment where he stayed for four days. It took that long for the Kryptonite to vacate his body. During that time he emerged only to go to class. His curtains were drawn shut and he wouldn’t open the door. He shaved his head to rid himself of the Mohawk, but I don’t recall whether he trimmed off the second eyebrow or just left the one. He wore a baseball cap down low over his forehead during this time. As he later told me, his initial thoughts were of anger and revenge. Then he settled on contemplation. He had come to the realization that he’d befouled the responsibility of the powers bestowed within him. He’d behaved like a jerk and needed to do better. As the weeks dripped by the healing process slowly progressed. His adversaries would occasionally offer a ‘Hey’ in passing which Clark sometimes returned.
Meanwhile, the tenants from the larger adjacent apartment complex were encroaching into the allotted parking spaces for our apartment. After a physical altercation broke out between the tenants of the two complexes, it was decided that a tug-of-war competition would take place. The winning complex would be awarded the parking spaces in question. The day of the competition it was visually apparent that the adjacent complex had the muscular advantage. As the boys from our apartment walked to the locale for the tug-of-war, somberly to expectant defeat, it was Clark who broke the silence.
“You have room for one more,” he asked.
The boys exchanged looks at each other, one voluntarily offered, “He can have my spot.”
Clark Kent’s squad won the tug-of-war competition that afternoon. No further mention of the prior assault would arise. His intentions were righted. The rest is legendary.
Superman retired from crime fighting in his late 50s after a mounting number of recurring and nagging injuries. He and his wife of 57 years, Lois Lane Kent, have lived in the same house for over four decades since Lois’ early retirement from the Daily Planet.
[Inspired by an amalgamated collage of college-based memories.]