~THE KENTS AND THE CLARKS|
The Adventure of the two Martha Hudsons
November 11, 2000.
First, bear in mind this is all---ummm---an analog. The real name is not "Kent" or "Clark", or "Danner" or "Douglas" for that matter. I'll come as close as I can, though.
Trying to untangle the geneaology of the Kent family, from which Jonathan Abednego Kent, Superman's foster-father, sprung, is hard. Especially since Philip Wylie called the family "Danner". No less hard is untangling the family tree of the Clarks, whom Wylie called the "Douglas" family, who were the ancestors of Martha Hudson Clark---or, as Wylie called her, Matilda Douglas Danner.
The first Kent we know of was a colonial-era blacksmith named Ely Kent. He ran a blacksmithing business during the Revolutionary War with Capt. Steven Rogers of the Revolutionary Army. He was a rival for Willa Wayne's affections, and left the business when Willa chose Steven instead.
That rejection, quite frankly, may have been from his---ummm...illigitimate status. He was the son of Philip Kent, who in turn was a bastard of an English Lord and an actress, and Darlene Danner, a barmaid he had slept with one night. John Jakes wrote about Philip's successors in the KENT FAMILY CHRONICLES by his legitimate wife, and Philip, to his credit, never knew about Ely, never knew he had another son. Wylie did a little research and knew that, technically, the Kents should be called the Danners. However, Darlene moved to another city and pretended to be widow Kent and gave the Kent name to her son.
Wylie was using the Danner name, hoping that if Hugo did survive his "death" in South America, he would not want to revive that old scandal by obliterating Wylie. (Which, if you read GLADIATOR or the early Superman stories, you have to admit was a serious possibility. The early Superman was not known for his gentle ways or his respect for law.)
The next Kent is Silas Titus Kent, a farmer. He married Tilly Gardner, from a poor farming family near Arkham, Massachusetts.
Her grandnephew, Nahum Gardner, also, like Johnathan Abednego Kent, had an encounter with something from outer space on his farm. Yet his encounter was with a "colour from outer space" which eventually drained the life from his farm, including his wife Nabby and his sons, Thaddeus and Merwin, in 1882-1883.
The story was chronicled by H.P. Lovecraft in the short story, "The Colour Out of Space".
Silas' son was Capt. Joshua Kent, a fisherman. When the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, he became an owner-operator of a barge there. His wife, Martha Ramsey, was the son of Homer Ramsey. (It's worth noting that Superman once used Homer Ramsey as a pseudonym. Oddly enough, Homer Ramsey was distantly related to Sir William Ramsey, who discovered many of the inert gases---especially the gas krypton. Whereas Joshua's grandson, Jonathan Abednego Kent, discovered a Kryptonian...)
Joshua had three children who survived. One sister, Jane Kent, did rather well for herself, marrying a Randolph Rassendyl, a younger son to the Earl of Burlesdon in England. Randolph's son, Ralph Rassendyl, would be drawn back to his mother's homeland, and become an American representative of a British gun firm...and in turn would become the father of Allard Kent Rassendyl, also known as Kent Allard---the Shadow.
Another sister married a Glenn Nelson. Their son, Josh Nelson, married an Inga Sjarthelm, and their child was Sven Nelson. Sven was the father of Kent Nelson, a fellow JSA member with Superman...better known as Doctor Fate.
A third child, Silas Hiram Kent, was a dreamer, an abolitionist, a tinkerer, an inventor, when he wasn't working on the farm. He married Jessica Gale, sister to Henrietta Gale who was a common-law wife with Carl Corey. (Henrietta was to become the mother of Carl and Henry Gale, and grandmother to Dorothy Gale, whom Frank L. Baum wrote about.) He moved to Kansas to try to bolster its status as a non-slave-holding state before the Cival War. They lived in Kansas for quite a few years, and some of his children stayed there. When he heard of the Gold Rush in Colorado in 1859, though, he wanted to try out his new gold-detecting device. Alas, like many of his devices, it was a flop, and he and his family had to stay in Colorado and eke out a living farming.(So, though the Kents have Kansas roots, Wylie was right and "Hugo" was raised in Colorado. This bit of protective misdirection helps protect the present Kents, who pretend to be Clark's parents.)
Hiram had...quite a few children.
Jonathan Abednego Kent became a farmer, but like his father, he was always interested in science. (Wylie exagerrated this trait of his to make him into the biochemical genuis Abedengo Danner, which also served the different origin he invented for "Hugo Danner".) He was also somewhat frail for a farmer, although Wylie exagerrated that aspect of his, also. Jonathan married Martha Matilda Hudson Clark, but they had no children, save for their adopted son, Clark.
Jonathan was born in 1844. He was fifty when he found his adopted son, "elderly" by an earlier generations' standards, but still able to live long enough to see his son grown.
Hiram had two other, older sons, Nate and Jeb, who fought on opposite sides of the Cival War. Nate, who became a Kansas sheriff, was to become the ancestor of Jonathan Kent II, about which more later. Another son was George Kent, who like his grandfather Joshua got interested in the sea, and became a merchant marine.
Nate had several sons. One, named Harold Kent, took over the farm after Jonathan Abednego Kent died. Another moved back east, and became a New York police official. He married Guineveve Stacy, who was aunt to police chief George Stacy, and greataunt to Gwen Stacy, whom Peter Parker loved. He had two children...
Both followed in his footsteps...sort of. His son, Harvey Kent, became a fighting District Attorney. Unfortunately, acid was thrown into his face by a gangster,and half of his face was hideously scarred. He fought The Batman in the fifties, under the pseudonym "Two-Face", making a fetish of the number two. He was later helped by plastic surgery---but an explosion ruined his face a second time. (Perhaps feeling they were leaving too many clues, later stories changed his name to Harvey DENT, not Kent...but the original stories had Kent.)
His sister, Susan Kent, fell in love with Jim Barr, also known as the crimefighter Bulletman (who first encountered Captain Nazi, who later fought Captain Marvel and caused Captain Marvel Jr. to exist.) and for a while aided him in his work as Bulletman---as Bulletgirl.
The brother who stayed on the farm, Harold Kent, had two sons. (Harold married a Joanna Joad, who was an aunt to the Tom Joad whose heroic struggles on account of migrant farm workers was chronicled in John Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH.) One, named Harry Kent, died in a thresher on the farm, but the other, Jonathan Kent II, was a World War II veteren, a fan of science fiction, and a born farmer.
He married Martha Ross Clark, and their child, Clark, was a football star and voted "most likely to succeed" by his high school. He decided to travel the world after high school, and died, tragically, far from home. Superman assumed his identity.
Matha Ross Clark was the daughter of Ethan Clark and Elaine Ross. Elaine Ross married Ethan early, with the consent of their parents, when she was fifteen years old. In turn, her father, Pete Ross, got her mother pregnant when she was fifteen years old, and Pete, being the good guy he is, did the right thing and married the girl. Pete Ross discovered "Clark Kent"'s secret---his amazing leaping abilities and strength---when he woke up during a camping trip and saw Clark leap off to secretely help authorities with some escaped circus animals. After that, since he trusted Clark, he secretely helped cover Clark from anyone discovering just how different he was. (Pete Ross was cousin to "Thunderbolt" Ross who was the enemy of the Incredible Hulk and his sister World War II secret agent Betty Ross, who appeared in the Captain America stories.)
Ethan was the son of Matthew Clark, brother to the woman Siegel called alternately Mary or Martha Hudson Clark---and who Philip Wylie called Matilda Douglas. (Obviously, her real name did start with a "Ma"---appropriate, don't you think? It might have been Marilyn, Marie, or some other "Ma" name.) Mary/Martha/Matilda was a bit more religious than her husband, Jonathan Abednego Kent, and a bit tougher in some ways, but she was not the religious fanatic or domineering matriarch portrayed by Wylie---those were exagerrations.
There was at least one other brother, because in GLADIATOR, it was said that "Hugo Danner" was named for a "maternal uncle". Siegel never said where Clark was named for, that bit about his being named for his mother's family was never confirmed by Siegel. If I might suggest a compromise, I suggest that Superman's name is really Hugo Clark Kent---named for his maternal uncle, Hugo Clark---but like many of us, he dropped the first name as being too confusing in family gatherings, and rarely use his first name in normal conversation.
Martha (I'll stick with that name, okay?), Hugo and Matthew's father was named Douglas Clark. He married a Thomasina Daly, daughter of Tom Daly. (Superman once used Tom Daly as a pseudonym for himself in an early Siegel story.) Tom Daly was an Irish immigrant, and a grandnephew was Marcus Daly (1841-1900) who helped establish Montana's copper-mining industry.
Thomasina was Douglas' second wife. He was a preacher and had been a missionary, and had gone to England for a while in his youth, and his first wife was Regina Jeeves. Their first child was named Martha, for Douglas' mother. Regina, unfortunately, died in childbirth with their second child. The Jeeves were a family of maids, butlers, and gentlemen gentlemen's for the upper class, and put up a fierce fight to keep little Martha in England rather than abandoned to the "wilds" of America. Douglas agreed to leave Martha with Regina's sister and their family.
The English Martha Clark grew up to marry a man named Hudson, a respectable tradesman in Peckham who died when she was 25 years old. She became a landlady, and her most famous renter was Sherlock Holmes. She was ten to fifteen years his senior, and there was never any romantic bond between them, despite Manly Wade Wellman's speculations. (Her husband was a cousin of the Hudson in the "Gloria Scott" adventure, however.) Nor was Reginald Jeeves, Holmes and Mrs. Hudson's son, although he did hear of a relationship between Jeeves and Mrs. Hudson which led to his speculation. Jeeves was the son of Mrs. Hudson's first cousin.
(Whether Jeeves had any Holmesian genes might be answered by whether the Squire Holmes' had any maids named Jeeves who worked for Dr. Siger Holmes or Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's grandfather...)
Besides, as anyone who has read C. Northcote Parkinson's JEEVES can attest, Bertie Wooster's bulging-browed valet had no such skeleton in his closet in his immediate family.
Douglas Clark couldn't resist naming his second female child Martha also, after his beloved mother, since he would probably never see his little girl again. So you have two half-sisters named Martha Clark and both sides of the Atlantic, playing a maternal or at least caretaker role to two of the greatest heroes in the world---Sherlock Holmes and Superman. (Siegel found out that Superman's foster-mother was half-sister to Martha Hudson, Sherlock Holmes' landlady, and couldn't resist hinting at that by giving her Martha Hudson as a maiden name in SUPERMAN'S RETURN TO KRYPTON.)
Douglas Clark was the son of Adrian Clark and Martha Douglas. Martha was part of the same Douglas family that would produce Lloyd Cassell Douglas (1877-1951), a Protestant minister and novelist who wrote THE ROBE, MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, and THE BIG FISHERMAN. Adrian was a farmer and a part-time preacher.
Adrian was the son of George Clark and Alicia Digby. She was the daughter of William Digby, another name that Superman once assumed as an alias in a Siegel-written story. (It's not known if William was also an ancestor for Ralph Digby, the Elongated Man.) William was related to Admiral Digby, who worked under Admiral Rodney.
George was an innkeeper in New England.
George was the son of Luke Clark, a preacher and Conventioneer. He went preaching to the "heathen Indians" and came away with an Indian bride. (Some remarked on Mary/Martha/Matilda's Indian looks when younger.) Luke Clark was the descendent of Micah Clarke, of whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about in the novel of the same name. Over the years they dropped the ending "-e" on the name.
It's true that Kal-El/Hugo Danner/Clark Kent/Superman was not related to either of his foster parents. Yet we can see that, just from their heritage, these two were uniquely suited to raise such a superhuman and instill a strong sense of morals and virtue into him.
Those interested with comments, suggestions, things I have forgotten, things I
messed up, contact me at...
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Speculations Copyright © Al Schroeder. "Superman", of course, is currently owned by DC Comics/Warner Communications. All other characters copyrighted by their respective owners.