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Comic Book / The Death of Clark Kent

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The Death of Clark Kent is a Superman storyline released in 1995. It was part of a series of Milestone Celebrations done at the same time due to these titles hitting issue #100 at the same time; those other titles being Wonder Woman (which saw Diana regain her heroic title), Green Arrow (which saw Conner Hawke become the second Green Arrow just in time for Oliver Queen to perish) The Flash (which introduced the Speed Force) and Justice League America (which was part of a multi-part story with Guy Gardner: Warrior) This story also concluded a storyline that was started during the Zero Month issues of the Superman comics following Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!.

The villain known as Conduit has harbored a massive grudge towards Clark Kent since they were in high school, but now, learning of Clark's identity as Superman, he takes his revenge scheme further. Attacking those he loves, he pushes Superman to the limits. Can our hero come out on top once more?

This comic contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Dad: Kenny's dad emotionally abused him for coming in second to Clark.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Superman pities Conduit for the emotional abuse that pushed him towards his unstable state.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Conduit sets off explosions in Metropolis, sets Clark Kent's apartment on fire, and blows up the Kent farmhouse in his effort to hurt and infuriate his old rival.
  • Battle Strip: Superman goes shirtless before his hand-to-hand duel with Conduit.
  • Catchphrase: Conduit continually uses the words, "I know."
  • Character Name Alias: While in hiding and working as a lumberjack, Clark goes by the name "Wayne Jordan."
  • Dead Man's Switch: After Kenny Braverman dies, a mechanism is set off that tries to kill Jimmy Olsen, and if possible, Superman along with him.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Kenny was irradiated by Kryptonite when Clark's shuttle flew over his pregnant mother. His frequent bouts of poor health prevented him from excelling to quite the same degree as Clark.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: One of Conduit's victims was Judith "Mac" McGivers, a woman who was beginning to bond with Clark and knew his secret.
  • Due to the Dead: Despite everything Conduit had been doing to him, when he dies, Superman wraps Conduit's body in his cape and takes him back to his father.
  • Finger in the Mail: In a story that followed the saga, Clark receives a letter from Conduit (a fierce enemy of his who died in the previous arc) saying, "The Golden Gopher was mine!" that also contains a lock of Jimmy Olsen's hair. This instantly sends Clark flying off to the address indicated by the note, which was what Conduit wanted as he had set up a Dead Man's Switch to kill Jimmy after his death (and, if possible, Superman as well).
  • Foil: Kenny Braverman to Clark, even gaining his powers from exposure to the radiation from Clark's ship passing overhead.
  • Forced to Watch: In a story after the conclusion of the saga, Superman finds a death trap surrounded by television screens, which Conduit had presumably set up so Supes would be able to see the captive (Jimmy Olsen) die in spite of everything he could do. It didn't work.
  • Forgotten Friend, New Foe: Conduit may have started this as a trend in comic books. An old schoolmate who always felt overshadowed by Clark growing up (with an emotionally abusive father not helping matters), his grudge turns murderous when he figures out the truth and assumes Clark was only better because of his powers.
  • Freudian Excuse: Conduit's father's emotional abuse of him made him the unstable person he is today. Clark himself speculated that Conduit might not have turned out so bad if it wasn't for his father. This is further emphasized by how the supervillain built an army of robots resembling his father, literally for no other reason than to cheer him on as he fought Superman.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: When she finds Clark at last and he tells her he's not going back to his secret identity, Lois tells him that she's "looking for Clark Kent and still hasn't found him." Then she storms off, thinking that the nearby town had better have a good flavor of ice cream.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Conduit had the power of Energy Absorption, among others. After Clark defeated him with his superior fighting skill, he tried to absorb the electricity powering the arena, but overloaded and died.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: When Lois expresses shock at the intensity of Superman's anger towards Conduit, he explains the importance of Clark and the parts of his life where he can't obtain a greater-than-usual advantage because of his powers. (For instance, he wants to have a crack at writing the great American novel.)
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: As one might expect, Clark takes each apparent death very hard, to the point where, even after Conduit took his Secret Identity to the grave with him, he still (initially) refused to go back to being Clark Kent for fear of what could happen to his social circle if this experience repeats itself.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Conduit got himself killed during his last confrontation with Clark and stayed that way.
    • Averted with many other people in the arc. Superman thinks that Conduit killed Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and his parents, all of whom escape unharmed.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Martha Kent says Lois was "like a daughter to [her]" when lamenting her apparent death.
  • Man of Kryptonite: Kenny Braverman, aka "Conduit" a former classmate of Clark's who could emit Kryptonite radiation, and wore a special suit to channel it. And for a double whammy, he realized that Clark was Superman.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Conduit's recreation of Smallville from his high school years is full of robotic recreations of its citizens that are all programmed to idolize their creator Kenny Braverman and to hate Clark Kent/Superman, going so far as to even attack him with built-in weapons. There was also a robotic recreation of Lois Lane that tried to squeeze Superman to death with a hug. The Smallville high school sports stadium is mostly populated with hard-wired clones of Mr. Braverman, to give his son the adulation that the real Mr. Braverman would never give him.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Lois takes a quick stop at a gas station to refill her car while on her search for Superman. Right at that moment, Jonathan and Martha show up nearby while being transported by a Californian resident, still under the belief that Lois died from one of Conduit's bombs, and fail to notice her as she drives off.
  • Off with His Head!: Superman's fight with Metallo in this story arc ends with him kicking the robot's head off his new body, since Metallo was now equipped with a geo-magnet that prevented Superman from doing any damage to him. To overcome that, Superman caught Metallo as the robot was making a leap towards him and prevented him from touching any ground while he was being held up by the Man of Steel.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Lois Lane steals a policeman's radio phone using this technique when she was on the run in Metropolis, and uses the phone to get in touch with "Terrible" Turpin.
  • Portal Cut: Superman in dealing with Warp causes the foe's body to be separated in half by stranding each half by the two teleportation portals he uses. His parents when seeing this fear this might happen if Warp turns his teleportation power off.
  • Powered Armor: Conduit's armour protects him from attacks and allows him to fly.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Kenny. Childhood Friends with the hero - check. Been here all along - check. Becomes a Big Bad (Conduit) - check. Drives our hero to the brink of madness - check. Tries to kill our hero - check.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Ron Troupe attempts to comfort Perry over Lois and Jimmy's apparent deaths in the destruction caused by Conduit. Perry calmly remarks that he's not counting them dead until later, as they have a tendency to turn up when they're supposed to have been lost.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Conduit systematically stalks everybody connected to Clark Kent to punish him for being preferred by Conduit's own father. He then tries to kill Supes, so it's revenge by proxy, then regular revenge.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Conduit. He considered Clark Kent his rival in high school; now as an adult, he hopes to kill Clark's public identity of Superman.
  • Sadistic Choice: Conduit's tape informs Superman that he set off the timer on a bomb ticking in Smallville. He can either fly away and save Smallville or stay and try to figure a way to defeat the seemingly insurmountable Death Trap in which Conduit put Jimmy Olsen. Superman flies away at superspeed, then returns. It still took several excruciating minutes before Jimmy had a "Eureka!" Moment which let Superman save him.
  • Screw the Rules, They Broke Them First!: Superman and Conduit on the faux Smallville High School football field decide that they would fight each other fairly without each other using their powers. However, when Superman has Conduit pinned in a headlock that he couldn't break out of by his own natural abilities, Conduit uses his Kryptonite radiation to get Superman off him. Realizing that Conduit wasn't going to play by the rules, Superman follows suit.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Conduit calls Superman "Clarkie" on a number of occasions and calls Jimmy (who he kidnaps and nearly murders in an attempt to hurt Superman / Clark) "Red".
  • That Man Is Dead: At Superman's lowest point, not only does he dump his Clark Kent identity, but he also tears off and incinerates his costume to proclaim Superman dead, too.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Superman says he'd like to kill Conduit, but he ultimately doesn't.
  • Time Travel: Assumed to be the case when Superman inexplicably appears in the town of Smallville during his high school years...until it is revealed that it was a robotic recreation of Smallville from that time period in the present day.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: Conduit hated Clark due to an extreme case of Why Are You Not My Son?; so extreme that his dad continued comparing him to Clark while standing over his grave...right next to Superman, who snapped that he became the man he was because of his parents, and Kenny might have turned out better with a halfway-decent father.
  • Video Will: Conduit leaves a recording for Superman in addition to the Dead Man's Switch.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Conduit's father always considered Clark Kent better than his own son. Conduit's drive to impress his father is manifested when he creates a large number of robotic doubles of him to cheer him on during his fight with Superman.
  • Why Are You Not My Son?: This was the Freudian Excuse of Kenny Braverman / Conduit, who was convinced Clark was always one step ahead of him as teens because his powers had already manifested. Superman was pretty disgusted to find Kenny's dad still disparaging him after his death.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of Conduit's first attacks comes near to blowing up Perry White's car while he and his adoptive son are inside. Even after his death, some schoolchildren nearly become casualties of Conduit's explosives.
  • You Did Everything You Could: Jimmy Olsen gives a talk like this to Superman when it looks like the Man of Tomorrow will not be able to save him from one of Conduit's deathtraps. Subverted in that he survived.
    Jimmy: Superman? It... i-it's okay, pal. You've saved my life so many times; I wouldn't have had the years I had if not for you! But even a hero can lose, sometimes... It-it's not your fault.