It’s May, which means Mother’s Day is coming up (in North America, at least)! This month, we’ll be spotlighting the mothers of comics: the good, the bad, and the crazy.
Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Superman v1 #1 (Summer 1939)
Created By: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Jonathan and Martha Kent were just your average, everyday, salt-of-the-earth Kansas farmers, until a rocket crashed into their property and changed their lives. When they found a beautiful baby boy inside the rocket, Martha, who had longed for a child for years, insisted on keeping him. Luckily, a major snowstorm swept through Smallville, keeping them stranded at home for months, and allowing the Kents to pass their foundling off as their own: Clark Kent.
As little Clark (Martha’s maiden name) grew, he began to display superpowers. In order to protect Clark and allow him to live a normal life, his parents taught him to hide his powers. When he reached adulthood, Clark decided to take on a new identity as Superman; Martha sewed him a costume out of the Kryptonian blanket he’d been wrapped in as a baby, and helped him come up with a disguise for Clark (yes, a pair of glasses counts as a disguise. I guess).
Since then, Jonathan and Martha have been crucial members of Clark’s support network as he juggles his dual lives. When Clark brought them an alternate dimension Supergirl named Matrix, the Kents took her in and cared for her like a daughter. Later, they took in Clark’s half-clone and their sort-of grandson Conner Kent (Superboy). Soon after, Conner died in Infinite Crisis, and Jonathan died of a heart attack. Despite this, Martha remained independent, sending Clark off to New Krypton rather than be a burden on him. Luckily, first Krypto, Clark’s dog, and then a resurrected Conner moved in with her, easing her loneliness and grief.
So What’s So Great About Her?
The way the Superman mythos works, Martha Kent is required to be the greatest mother in the world. It’s that simple. Superman is the best dude in the world, and he learned it from his parents, so Martha is the best mom in the world (and Jonathan is the best dad, but this blog is about the ladies. Sorry, Pa).
This could easily mean that Martha is nothing but an elderly Donna Reed figure, sewing up Superman’s cape and baking him pies and letting the men do the talking. The awesome thing is that she’s anything but. Yes, she does sew up his cape when he needs it (though she also taught him to sew), and yes, she does bake a mean apple pie, but she’s also smart and practical and unwilling to put up with any nonsense from her husband, her son, or the host of superpowered teenagers the latter keeps dropping on her doorstep. She’s battled a Black Lantern, and helped Jimmy Olsen trick a crew of partying aliens off of Earth. In her Birthright incarnation, she’s tech-savvy, studying UFOs and keeping up with Clark via encrypted email; on Lois and Clark, she had a host of non-farm-related interests, including modern art and sculpting, and used them to save the day on more than one occasion.
Furthermore, she doesn’t fall into any hackneyed mother-in-law stereotypes. She loves Lois like a daughter and is always there with either advice or a kick in the pants, depending on what Lois needs. Awesomely, she also has a really close relationship with Lana, Clark’s ex-girlfriend. Martha Kent blows the myth of female competition right out of the water, which is great to see after so many years of Clark being fought over by women.
Superman has been a cultural icon for over 70 years now. He’s honest and true and brave and dependable, and it ain’t because of a pair of red booty shorts and cape. Superman’s a hero because he learned it from his mom. Way to go, Martha.
Martha Kent has appeared in countless Superman-related comics and other media, but here are a few of her greatest hits:
Superman v1 #1 (as Mary Kent)
Superman v1 #53 (as Mary Kent)
Superboy v1 #12
New Adventures of Superboy #1
Superman v1 #161
The Man of Steel
The World of Smallville
Superman: Secret Origin
Superman: New Krypton Special
Blackest Night: Superman #1-3