Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #185 by Drew Barth

Running the News Room      

Comics have a strange relationship with reality. Some aspects feel grounded while others seem absurd at first, but eventually make perfect sense in the context of their fictional world—like Jimmy Olsen having a stable job for so long. But then that’s connected the grounded aspect in the form of Perry White. While Perry has been around since the 40s, there’s not been much celebration for him. He’s been consistent in the same way the Daily Planet has been in the DC Universe: always there, always chugging away, always acting like an anchor for Metropolis that keeps it from seeming too fictional. But now we have a one-shot in the form of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen’s Boss Perry White to finally acknowledge the editor-in-chief we’ve grown to love.

Perry White is a compilation in the same vein as many of the anniversary issues DC has been putting out over the past few years—the exception being that this is mostly past material collected into a single issue. Some of these stories include shorts from the 70s where Perry receives cigars that grant him superpowers or the origin story of his working for the Daily Planet as told to his grandchildren. There’s him and Wildcat sitting down for a drink as they reminisce on the past and their worries for their children. And for a few silent panels, we get the moment Clark Kent shows Perry the Superman suit for the first time. Coupled with stories from Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Nathan Fairbairn, and Clayton Cowles, this one-shot becomes a love letter to this singular figure in the DC Universe and their strange kind of realism.

While not as expansive as some of the 80th anniversary compilation counterparts, Perry White still showcases what made Perry such an endearing character on the same level as J. Jonah Jameson: old newspaper men that gave our heroes stable jobs outside of their super-selves. But while JJJ is the screaming face with a heart of gold, Perry has always been more subdued. Like the Daily Planet itself, he’s always in the background, just existing, keeping things grounded for the rest of Metropolis while Superman does something super. He smokes, he drinks, he has grandchildren, and he has more ink under his nails than any other character. But then that’s what makes him so much more real. 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen’s Boss Perry White is an oddity: a couple short stories on a character who’s older than Green Lantern (Alan Scott or the entire Corps), but has always just been in the background. Being in the background might be best for a newspaper man like Perry. His axiom is that it’s a journalist’s job to cover the story, not be the story. But he does deserve to be the story, even if it’s just this one time. 

Get excited. Get print media. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.