A Clark Kent Comic: A Teenage Superman Story
A Clark Kent Comic: A Teenage Superman Story
Ben Matsuya drew this young Clark Kent comic as a textless portfolio piece for 2018’s Comic-Con.
Superman has long been an influential character for the Matsuya Brothers. This piece is meant to evoke the awkward experience of high school as a young Superman undergoes superhuman changes in his body. His Smallville story parallels that with the discovery of one's own talents, strengths, and independence as we go from child to teenager to adult. The lines and facial expressions that Ben commits to each panel provides you with a sense of what you can expect with his style and storytelling. Even though Clark Kent is destined to become the world's greatest hero, he is all too human, and we can relate to his experiences of growing up.
Clark Kent of Smallville: A Short Comic
A Smallville Synopsis
Before there was Lex Luthor, Perry White, the Superman Family or the Fortress of Solitude, there was Clark Kent in high school. You remember high school, right? That sense of angst, awkwardness, and simultaneous awe and fear in the changes of your own body - it sounds worse than the Phantom Zone! It's a time where a smile from a crush or the confidence of a best friend (not mutually exclusive) is what gets us through those crushingly brutal years.
Clark's best friend Pete Ross is attracting quite the attention as he shows off his cast. Clark is a hulking, clumsy, gentle giant. Insecure of himself, he doesn't yet have the confidence of his future Man of Steel alter ego. There is one girl though who notices him: the girl next door and his best friend, Lana Lang. But Clark IS changing, and when he can't control his X-Ray Vision, he see's through everyone in his graduating class. Frustrated, he storms out of the hall looking for some solace.
As Clark makes his escape, Lana tracks him down by their favorite tree. There she reminds him that he's not alone. Clark's secret is one they've kept since they were young. "Remember that time we were playing hide and go seek in the cornfield?" We flashback to a time where Clark joyfully embraced his developing superpowers.
Stories of Superman often gets criticized due to the physical strength and powers of the character. People expect a hero to use his brute strength, heat vision, and flight to resolve every dramatic conflict. However, Superman is most interesting when we emphasize Clark. We can all relate to unrequited love, fear for your family's safety, weighing responsibilities and careers. Perhaps he is most different in his moral code of restraint and discipline - something the DC Universe films fundamentally misunderstand. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster knew what it meant to be immigrants and different when they created Superman for action comics in 1938. What is Superman revealing about each of us? Maybe it's time for DC Comics to take that cue and go back to basics.
A Superman Comic Sample
Ben Matsuya conceived and created a wordless five pages, where the art could speak for itself in this portfolio piece. His Clark is a corn-fed Kansas boy; his body has become a big unwieldy mismatch for his meek and humble spirit. You get the sense that Clark doesn't yet know what to do with his sheer mass. Like many of us, Clark feels like an outsider. Check out how Ben conveys Clark's alienation, disorientation. In the first page, see how Clark continuously shuttles off to the side of the frames, while Pete basks in attention. It’s Lana who crouches down and makes a connection with him which sets the balance of their relationship - this is someone he can see eye to eye with. As a comic book writer, Ben takes your directions to realize your story and create the relationships between characters and place.
Suddenly, Clark's X-Ray vision is unintentionally activated. Like a scene from Carrie, or a bad high school memory, Clark is embarrassed, and frustrated by his developing powers. His classmates become skeletons. His own powers frightening him, this story suddenly turns into a body horror. This is a nightmare, forcing him to flee in disarray. Ben forces a much deeper black/white contrast and stages the angles to make Clark shrink into the background. When your story needs a real impact or a shift in tone, we are thinking about how to best wow your readers.
The fourth page immediately pivots back to a quieter moment. Lana approaches a distraught Clark. She can empathize with his feelings and understands his struggle. Note the softer shadows and lines. As Lana comforts Clark, we understand so much of their relationship in a couple of sweet scenes. When you send us a script, we'll consider how each panel best conveys the character's emotions and tells your story. Comics are a visual medium; we want to see the feelings throughout each character's entire being. Lana is soft, self-assured, and confident. She glides through the pages as a steady force - the girl next door. Pete is more of a showboat, puffed up like Justin Bieber, he serves as a contrast to the much huskier, but self-conscious Clark. The physicality of each character should inform the audience of their goals, dreams, and themes.
But most of all, check out those reactions. Clark's face, Lana's face, and Pete's face conveys the story with no words. The director John Ford said "the greatest landscape is the human face" and through comics, the readers should be able to see what is going on internally with each character, externally. Ben's philosophy is that you should know what the characters are feeling without reading the dialogue. There is a complementary synthesis of what you see and read.
On the last three panels of the last page, we see Clark dive in front of the rotor blades of a tractor trailer to save Lana. In just those three panels, you can see the contrast in his attitude. A young Clark is confident and reveling in his developing, newfound superpowers - in much the same way as we were all much more fearless as children. The Clark of the last panel is very different from the Clark of the first panel. The last panel has a young, bold, child, ready to immediately reveal his secret identity to the world. However it's so important to note that the teenage Clark - who feels like he CAN'T FIT IN - is essential to creating the compassion for the marginalized and the underdog. No one is fit to the lead the Justice League without needing a little saving themselves.
This Superman portfolio piece demonstrates the kind of composition and cinematic thoughtfulness Ben Matsuya brings to the direction of each scene, sequence, and page. In five, very economic, pages Ben takes you through a diverse range of styles and emotions, while telling a clear short story. It's also what you can expect from a final product if you decide to contract only illustrations and lines with us. For a color sample, please check out our Cryowulf page; Ben's use of color has been praised by readers and critics alike.
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