The deep sense of morals and values that Superman embodies comes from one place: his upbringing by Johnathan and Martha Kent. These Smallville residents took a baby they found in a rocket ship and elevated him to be the world’s greatest superhero, their teachings being the true power behind the cape. Unfortunately, like in real life, Superman is often forced to say goodbye to the only parents he’s ever really known.
Although some versions of the character are blessed with parents who live long enough into his adulthood and career as Superman, other Superman continuities have the Man of Steel burying the people who made him what he was. It’s actually the norm for him, and it’s happened in multiple comic book universes. The Action Comic Annual 2022 (by Simon Spurrier, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Dale Eaglesham, Ian Churchill, Lee Loughridge and Dave Sharpe) had Martha battling cancer, but luckily she survived this life-threatening disease. So, here are all the times Clark Kent actually had to bury his parents in the comics.
Clark Kent’s Golden Age Parents Died Before He Became Superman
Although Superman made his debut in action comics #1 in a story by Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster, his parents wouldn’t do the same until a year later in Superman #1 (by Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster). These adoptive parents were both initially unnamed, with the mother being titled “Mary Kent”. They wouldn’t just take Clark (named Mary) home, instead taking him to a children’s home first. Subsequently, they officially adopt him, teaching him everything about their small town, salt of the land routes.
The couple apparently died of old age just before Clark became an adult, which, to be fair, was common at the time. Their deaths don’t matter much either, though Pa Kent tells his son to become “a Superman” as he breathes his last.
The Silver Age killed the Kents in the weirdest way
The Silver Age would eventually give the Kents the names Jonathan and Martha (originally spelled the somewhat odd Martha). He also saw them featured prominently in the super boy comics showing Clark’s early life in Smallville. They would initially be drawn younger than usual, though this is, strangely enough, due to the effects of an alien serum. Equally odd was how the two were ultimately killed off in this new continuity.
After Clark graduates from high school, his mother and father take a tropical vacation. To spoil their fun in the sun, they contract a rare island disease, which eventually kills them. After coming to terms with their deaths, Superboy eventually leaves Smallville and heads to Metropolis.
Post-Crisis DC Only Killed Jonathan Kent, Not Martha
John Byrne changed the Superman mythos quite a bit, with a huge change being how he handled the Kents. Much younger than those originally portrayed when they find Clark, they will live long into adulthood, remaining loyal to the cast members as he becomes Superman. Jonathan would have a brief bout with death in the form of a heart attack that occurred after Clark’s own death at the hands of Doomsday.
The spirit of his son, however, sent him back to the land of the living, where he himself will soon return. Jonathan would eventually meet his end in the script Brainiacwhere a heart attack actually did. This is a reference to superman: the movie, where Glenn Ford’s Pa Kent died in this manner. Martha, however, would remain alive for the rest of the post-Crisis comics.
The New 52 killed the Kents in a car accident
During the New 52, DC Comics continuity was heavily altered. Some of the biggest changes affected Superman, who was a little more edgy and more like his rambunctious Golden Age incarnation than before. A similarity to this older version of was that his parents died before he became an adult. A drunk driver killed Jonathan and Martha Kent in an accident, however Apocalyptic clock (by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh) developed on this premise. There he showed that Pa Kent survived momentarily, wanting to be taken to his farm to die. Thus, Clark had to grow up and become Superman, completely without the tutelage of his parents.
The decision to kill off the Kents was incredibly controversial among fans, many of whom had grown up with the comics or adaptations inspired by John Byrne’s reboot. It was also seen as part of Superman’s ill-conceived overall overhaul at that time, which attempted to make him somewhat darker, more tragic, and less “lame” than previous versions. Luckily for him, DC Rebirth would reverse those changes, bringing Jonathan and Martha back into Clark’s adult life with Lois and her son Jon.