Hopefully we all got the chance to say Happy Father's Day to all of the terrific dads out there that are doing the best they can, sometimes under tough circumstances, to raise the next generation of tiny humans. As a father myself, I understand the struggles and hardships that come with parenthood, but also the overwhelming senses of pride and joy that can never — and should never — be taken for granted.
This article is for all of you.
There have been a lot of great fathers in the world. Most of them real. But many of them fictional. Often times, the ideals that one holds dear and strives for are placed into a single individual to guide a story's hero in the most intimate notions of his life. That individual is the hero's father. This article is about the many faces of one of fiction's greatest fathers: Jonathan Kent — the adoptive father of Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman.
The origins of Jonathan Kent are rooted in a vague and often chaotic assemblage of stories, but they often focus on the same details. Jonathan and Martha Kent — though not given those exact names till some time later — were passing by in their car when they see a ship crash. Upon investigating, they find a young boy inside. They raise the boy as their own to one day become the world's greatest hero: Superman.
Below are the top five actors to have portrayed this amazing father in the various media, outside of comics.
Tom Fadden (1952)
One of the first actors to portray the character, Tom Fadden appeared in the first episode of Adventures of Superman as Eben Kent (similarly, the name given to the character in a 1942 novel by George Lowther, titled The Adventures of Superman). There was not much screen time given to the character, as he ended up passing away shortly after his introduction and prior to George Reeves becoming TV's first Man of Steel. However, the short appearance remains an iconic one.
Glenn Ford (1978)
Glenn Ford played Jonathan Kent (officially named Jonathan by now) in Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie. Like Tom Fadden, before him, the actor only appeared briefly as the character before passing away, yet the appearance remains as one of the strongest in Superman's history. Ford's performance was truly one of a guiding light in young Clark Kent's life and helped cement the notion that Superman is who is because of the moral lessons that his adoptive father gave him.
Eddie Jones (1993–1997)
In the comics and in most early forms of other media, Jonathan (or Eben or "Pa") passed away before Clark became Superman. Following the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths story, history was rewritten to allow the character to live and see his son become the Man of Steel with pride.
The early '90s series, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, was one of the first on-screen portrayals of the character in a regular capacity to help guide his adult son through some of the hardest parts of his life. Eddie Jones was there for every episode to help Dean Cain's Clark Kent get through the hardships of balancing his personal life with his responsibilities as Superman. While it was often a more comedic version of the characters, Jones remains as a strong patriarchal character that often dispensed the strongest advice.
Jonathan "Do you love her, son?"
Clark: "Yeah, I do."
Jonathan: "Well, then tell her."
John Schneider (2001–2011)
"Clark Kent, you're here to be a force for good. Not a force for evil."
The former Dukes of Hazzard star was cast as Jonathan Kent in The WB's (later The CW's) Superman prequel series Smallville and would go on to be the longest running and fan-favorite version of the character. John Schneider brought a depth to the character that had previously not been seen as he was guiding young Clark through the toughest phases of his adolescent life and the development of his powers. While Glenn Ford's version of the character also dealt with young Clark, Schneider's would be there for five years to see his son become a man.
John Schneider's Jonathan Kent would be killed off in the Season 5 episode "Reckoning," but would make reappearances throughout the rest of the series to continue guiding Clark when things were at their worst.
Kevin Costner (2013)
Clark: "Can't I just continue pretending I'm your son?"
Jonathan: "You ARE my son!"
The seasoned actor and director of such classics as Dances With Wolves is the most recent to take on the role of Jonathan Kent. While, like many fans of Superman, I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, Costner's portrayal of Jonathan Kent is undeniably the best part. Though a little darker in nature (much like the film itself) Costner's Jonathan Kent was a man doing the best he could with a situation he couldn't understand. The performance had so much love and emotion in it that one could not help but truly see a father who loved his son and wanted him to be the best man he could be. Sometimes love is tough but in the end it pays off.
"You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Because whoever that man is, good character or bad...he's gonna change the world."
And that's it for now, readers. While I would usually close an article with some kind of shameless self promotion to follow me on Twitter, I won't do that today. Because this article wasn't about me. Like I said in the beginning, this one goes out to all of those fathers who are helping to shape those that will, in turn, shape the future of this world.
Happy Father's Day.