Top 5: Deaths of Jonathan Kent

Jonathan Kent, Clark Kent’s adoptive father, remains one of Superman’s biggest influences in why he does what he does. It was Jonathan and his wife Martha’s homespun, community minded values that started the world’s first hero along on his journey. Sadly, Jonathan’s death seems to be a recurring theme in the various Superman stories.

5. Superman (Vol. 2) #77 (1993)

Shortly after Superman was killed by Doomsday, Jonathan Kent suffered a heart attack. By the time he made it to the hospital, his heart had stopped. In the real world, he was dead for three months due to a hiatus that the Superman line of books went on immediately afterwards. Eventually, Jonathan’s heart was restarted but only after he had helped bring his son’s soul back from purgatory.


4. Superman (Vol. 1) #161 (1963)

After his parents found a buried treasure chest on the beach, a young Clark Kent brought them to the past to discover the treasure’s origins. When the trio returned home and his parents grew sick, Clark blamed the island’s ancient fruit for the malady. His parents’ death, and the guilt he felt because of it, caused Clark to vow never again use his powers. Only after discovering that their deaths were caused by an ancient fever plague still contained in the chest did Clark finally forgive himself.


 3. Superman: The Movie (1978)

Though we’re not given much time with Jonathan Kent in this film, the time that we do get is pretty wonderful. In just one small scene between father and son, we are shown that while he understands Clark’s teenage feelings of the moment, he sees a bigger future for his boy. His collapse just a few moments later makes his final advice to Clark even more poignant.


2. Action Comics (Vol. 1) #870 (2008)

In 2008, Jonathan Kent had been alive in comics for 22 years (save for that brief blip in 1993), his longest streak ever. Sadly, his heart caught up with him after he and Martha narrowly dodged a missile shot by Brainiac in a moment of revenge against Superman. While his mother plead for his help, Clark was distracted by the restoration of the Kryptonian city of Kandor. It was reverie for his ancestral origins that caused Clark to falter when his father needed him most.

1. Smallville, Episode 100 – ‘Reckoning’ (2006)

When Clark made the decision to travel back in time to save Lana Lang, it meant that he wasn’t around to inadvertently save his father. Only after holding his father in his arms as Jonathan died did Clark realize what he’d done. The guilt would haunt him for years. John Schneider’s embodiment of Jonathan Kent over four and a half years was longer than any other actor and his presence on the show was sorely missed. It should be noted that I teared up at his funeral.


  1. The Superman film death of Pa is still full of impact. it is number one for me.


  2. No All Star Superman? Of those twelve outstanding issues, I think that one may be my favorite.

    • I absolutely agree with you!! That issue was simply wonderful.

    • Yes, I got excited when the DVD of this came out because I got my wife to watch it with me. I thought for sure that part was going to be her favorite…and then that issue wasn’t even covered in the movie.

    • a lot of the great stuff from all-star wasn’t covered in the movie adaptation. not a fan of the movie and to be honest, i don’t even know why they bothered. i was so disappointed.

  3. Avatar photo Mickey">Mickey (@GeeksOfChrist) says:

    Glenn Ford FTW

    I don’t even care for the film so much anymore.
    The Smallville scenes are just as powerful though.

  4. Smallville beats All-Star Superman? Superman #161 beats All-Star? Yikes.

  5. Smallville really? I liked it in middle school, but seeing it now can’t believe how corny it is. I agree All Star Superman should be on the list. I think maybe Superman the movie would be my number one, people ignore that film way to much.

  6. Also this is someone’s opinion obviously and their list, but as a fanboy I want to say this is all kinds of jacked up. As an iFanboy i’ll just say it was fun to read regardless, and I look forward to the conversation this will lead to.

  7. The problem with Smallville is that nothing ever happened naturally, it was always the result of some misuse of powers or kryptonite or magic. The death of his father was the same way with all the alternate reality setup and everything. The worse example of this was the split from Lana, where it was because of kryptonite he could never see her again, and not because he chose to be with Lois.

    Compare that stuff with “The Body” when Joyce Summers died. Now that’s how you handle a death on a tv show.

    • You know that scene with Lana and Clark being separated forever, was one of the best scenes in Smallville. It was raw and emotional and its as if Clark lost a lover, a friend and someone that he could never be with. The whole setup in Smallville made me feel like Lana was his first true love and that Lois Lane was just the 2nd best solution.

  8. I remember the death of Jonathan Kent from Superman 77 in 1993. I was 11 or 12 and that really shook me up. I also remember it involved Jonathan Kent kind of being a badass in Purgatory as he revisited World War II and fought against Nazi demons.

    The death in Superman: The Movie was so sad as he just fell like a puppet with his strings cut. I’ll always remember he just says, “Oh no.”

    Sorry, something in my eye.

  9. I dont care what anyone says. That scene in Smallville is all worth it. The expression on Kristin Kreuk face was worth a million bucks.
    There is a reason why Smallville ran for all ten seasons.

  10. I won’t try to defend Smallville as a series in general, but Jonathan’s death on the show was incredibly moving. It marked as much of a turning point in the direction of the series as it did in Clark’s life.

    I don’t think a lot of these others on the list showed Clark dealing with that pain for very long. Smallville dealt with it heavily for the remainder of that season, and to a lesser extent the rest of the series.

    To this day, every time I watch that episode I know I’m in for some embarassment/tears.

    • Not saying that Smallville shouldn’t be on the list. But when you do a top 5 Jonathan Kent deaths, and you leave All-Star Superman off the list, its just not complete. It’s almost as if the author accidentally overlooked it when writing this article. It’s all good though, fun stuff regardless.

    • Yeah, in fairness I don’t think I read that issue of All-Star Superman. It probably deserved a mention though since so many of you guys are bringing it up.

  11. I think it’s pretty funny that two of these stories involve Supman time traveling, and yet he doesn’t use that ability to save his father’s life.

    • Part of what makes the Smallville storyline have so much lasting impact is that he bears the guilt of knowing that he essentially (granted, unknowingly) chose Lana’s life over his father’s. He’s known for a while that someone close to him would pay the price of bringing Clark himself back to life early that season after his time as a mortal, and when Lana dies, Jor-El tells him he has the ability to take this event back, but that he can only do that once, ever. So he does, but he’s still got the “someone close to you” bit hanging over his head, and now that it’s not Lana, it becomes Jonathan…and he’d already used his one reversal.

      Plus, the origin of Jonathan’s heart trouble was his choice to take power from Jor-El in order to save Clark back in S3, and that was just because of Clark’s self-pitying Red K binge, so the guilt Clark bears in Smallville over his father’s death is massive, multi-layered, and so powerfully portrayed.

      The fact that he then can hardly bring himself to look at Lana makes their entire relationship a sad casualty of his guilt as well–he can’t enjoy being with the woman for whom he sacrificed his father’s life…and of course he can’t tell her anything about it, so she suffers in such confusion and loneliness, giving her character one of the first real arcs she ever got to have.

      QED, I’m in agreement: Smallville wins.

    • @bansidhewall: Word. That was one of the best and most complex (and whose consequences were most long lasting) events in the series.

  12. the best death is from the superman soap opera? ugh….
    i like the rest of them, though.
    all-star superman?

  13. If I was writing this list I would have the same #1-3.

  14. I liked the all-star superman one

  15. Good lord, they would let them come up with ANY whacky explanation in the 60’s!

  16. I never saw the Smallville one, having abandoned the series due to annoying Jor-El holograms and weepy Lana, but I’ll check this out as John Schneider’s a fine actor. The one that means the most to me here is the Silver Age death, as I read it when I was a nipper.

    Fun piece, Jeff!

  17. Damn, I miss Smallville.

  18. This is a good list Jeff but I’m sorry, you gotta be insane not to put the All-Star death in this.

    One of the few moments where I almost cried while reading comic. Morrison nailed it there. (It doesn’t have to be #1 but to not include it is crazy.)

  19. Looks like a good list, watching the Smallville clip for the first time was really touching, because I think JK was cool in that series. #5 and #4 panels are my first time too, but I was looking for the All Star Superman JK death after each scroll.

  20. The Smallville death upset my missus so much she never watched another episode!

    Also – No All-Star Superman?!?! Boo! Shame!