Search for the Hero

 By John McNeil


What's life really like for the middle-aged super-hero with family responsibilities? How does he balance the need to spend time with his son with the demands of his job? There's a surprising answer.

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Clark Kent
Lois Lane
Jor-El, their son
Zar-El, their daughter


(Scene: It is morning in the Superman household. Enter Superman, now in his forties, putting on a bit too much weight around the middle, and in the midst of a mid-life crisis. He is wearing an ordinary T-shirt and his Superman trunks and leggings. He is carrying his cape and "S" top over one arm, while with the other he talks into a cell phone.)
Clark: Yes, Prime Minister, I know it's an emergency. But it's not easy for a super-hero with these new phone boxes. No door. All glass sides. I nearly got arrested last time I tried to change in one. Can't you talk to Telecom about it? (Pause) Doesn't your Kiwi share count for anything these days? (Pause) Okay. I'll be there as quickly as I can. You know my motto, faster than a speeding bullet.
(He closes the cell phone, and looks for somewhere to put it.) I keep asking her for pockets, but do you think Mum will listen. "It'll spoil the line," she says. (Pats stomach.) This is not doing anything to improve it, either. But they work me so hard, do you think I've got time to go to the gym any more? I'm beginning to think a lifestyle move to New Zealand wasn't the best option.
(Surveys his cape.) Look at this! I'll never be ready at this rate. (Calls out) Lois! (Pause) Lois!
Lois: (voice off) What is it, Clark?
Clark: My cape's not ironed. Every time I'm in a hurry it's the same. I can't appear in public with it in this crumpled condition. What will my PR consultants say? To say nothing of my illustrators. I shudder to think what they'll they do to me in the next comic if I go out like this.
Lois: (Entering, in dressing gown) If you'd hang it up properly when you come home, you wouldn't have this problem. (She takes the cape, and goes to the ironing board, begins ironing it. Clark starts to put on his top.) And watch how you put that top on. You keep on stretching the neck.
Clark: You try changing at super speed and see if you can avoid stretching the neck.
Lois: And I'm getting fed up with having to patch bullet holes. Why don't you catch them in your hands like you used to?
Clark: The reflexes are slowing down a bit, I'm afraid. Anyway, the last lot were heat ray holes. (Pause) Have you seen my spectacles?
Lois: If you kept them on a chain like I said.... (Clark looks at her scathingly). Ask Jor-El.
Clark: (Closes his eyes, moves his mouth, but doesn't say anything.)
Lois: What are you doing?
Clark: Sending out a message beyond the range of human hearing.
Lois: Oh, I thought maybe you were feeling constipated.
Jor-El: (Enters at the run, in Superboy suit, minus cape) Did you call, Dad? The message was a bit garbled.
Clark: Can't you fly in like any other child? And where's your cape?
Jor-El: I was pretending to be The Flash.
Clark: I'm not sure all this playing at fantasy is good for you. Have you seen my spectacles?
Jor-El: Um, you mean these ones? (Goes to a sideboard and produces a pair of mangled spectacles.)
Clark: What on earth!? That was my last pair.
Lois: Jor-El, have you been practising heat vision again with your father's glasses on?
Jor-El: Sorry, Mum. I was trying to see if I could make heat vision and X-ray vision work at the same time.
Lois: I shudder to think.
Jor-El: Microwaved the chicken in 10 seconds flat. (Pause) Maybe I should have plucked it first, though.
Lois: Jor-El!!
Jor-El: Just joking. But I'm working at getting the meat well done on the outside and medium rare inside.
Clark: Lois, haven't you finished that cape yet? I've got to go. The Prime Minister's already threatening a Commission of Enquiry into my efficiency levels.
Jor-El: You're not going out again, Dad?
Clark: I have to, honey. The Prime Minister's called again.
Jor-El: But you're always going out. You're never home.
Clark: At least I don't bring my work home, like some men.
Lois: Thanks!! The house is a disaster area most of the time anyway, without you importing any. Which reminds me. When are you going to do something about that mess of a garden?
Clark: Next weekend, I promise.
Lois: You've been saying that for six months, now. Isn't it typical. You'll dig a road tunnel under Cook Strait in 10 minutes but I have to wait all summer to get my garden done.
Jor-El: You can't go out, Dad. You promised to help me with my super computer project this morning.
Clark: Oh honey, I know, but this mission is important.
Jor-El: (Half in tears) More important than me...
Clark: (Torn between two loyalties) How in Krypton do I get into these situations...
Jor-El: (Now crying) I used to think you were a real hero - not because you caught criminals, but because you treated me like I was special.
(Clark goes towards him, but Jor-El turns away.)
Lois: (Goes towards Clark) I can give you another reason why you aren't going out just now.
Clark: (In consternation) What!?
Lois: (Pulls the waistband of his top out.) Look at this stain! There's no way you're appearing in public in that state.
Clark: But the Prime Minister....
Lois: We'll take care of that. (Calls) Zar-El!
Zar-El: (Enters, dressed in Supergirl suit) You called, Mum?
Lois: (Takes off her dressing gown, to reveal a Superwoman suit underneath.) We have work to do. (She pushes Clark towards Jor-El.) And so do you. (Taking Zar-El's elbow, the pair move towards the window.)
Lois and Val-El: Up, up and awaaaaaaaay!

Alternate version

Clark: Yes, Prime Minister, whatís that?  More trouble with the greens?  Some GE corn has broken through the safety barriers in the Coromandel.  Sounds like itís an emergency. Yes Iíll be there as soon as I can but it might take a while, itís not easy for a superhero with these new phone boxes.  No doors, all glass sides, I nearly got arrested last time I got changed in one. Yes, as quick as I can Ė  you know my motto, faster than a speeding bullet, ÖÖ..
(Closes cellphone, looks for somewhere to put it.)  I keep asking Lois to put some pockets in this outfit but she says itíll spoil the look (pats stomach), this is not doing anything to improve it either.. (picks up his cape).  Look at this, Iíll never be ready at this rate. (Calls out) Lois! Lois!
Lois: What is it Clark?
Clark: My capeís not ironed.  Every time Iím in a hurry itís the same.  I canít appear in public with it in this crumpled condition.  What would my publicist say?  I have a certain standard to maintain you know.
Lois: If you hung it up properly when you came home, you wouldnít have this problem. (starts to iron it) (Clark starts to put superman top on) And watch how you put that top on, youíre stretching the neck.
Clark: You try changing at this speed and see if you can avoid stretching it.
Lois: And another thing and Iím getting fed up with having to patch bullet holes.  Why donít you catch them in your teeth like you used to?
Clark: Iím superman, not Wonderwoman. Now have you seen my glasses?
Lois: Why donít you keep them on a chain round your neck darling?  Then you wouldnít keep losing them.
Clark: (closes his eyes, moves his mouth but says nothing)
Lois: What are you doing?
Clark Sending out a message beyond the range of human hearing.
  (Dogs bark in distance)
Lois: I thought maybe you were constipated.
(Bob enters in superboy suit.)
Bob: Hi Dad, did you call me?  The message was a bit garbled, something about a large banana pizza?
Clark: I must be a bit rusty on the old non-verbal communication.
Bob: Hey Dad, can you mend this? (Holds out a mangled something)
Clark: How on Krypton did it get like that son?
Bob: I was practising my x-ray vision and the death ray when I went cross eyed and ÖÖ   Mum, what are we having for tea?
Lois: Chicken tonight.
Bob: I feel like chicken tonight.  Can I practise my microwave technique.
Lois and Clark:    NO!
Clark: Anyway, I canít hang around here, the Prime minister is waiting for me.
Bob: Can I come with you Dad?
Clark: Not this time son, GM corn is involved and I donít want you put in danger.
Bob: Next time though can I dad?
Clark: Sure son, and keep that cricket ball out so we can play when I get back.
(Clark does a  flying leap off stage).
Bob: Why is it I always have to fly to Australia to get the ball back.  Oh mum, I hope I will be like Dad when I grow up.
Lois: Hmm, Maybe you will son, youíre already a little bit like him.
Bob:  In what way mum?
Lois: Well, you leave the toilet seat up and you can burp the national anthem.
Bob: Mum!
Lois: Seriously Son, I hope you do grow up to be like your Dad.
Bob:  Sometimes I feel like Iím a bit of a freak, other boysí dads are a bit different. They donít wear their undies on the outside.  In fact, they even donít wear tights!
Lois: Donít worry son, Your dad is a superhero and thatís just the way it is.
Bob: Do you know what I love most about Dad?
Lois: The Xray vision?
Bob: No
Lois: The fact that he can fly?
Bob: No
Lois: (reminiscing romantically) His incredible strength?
Bob: No.
Lois: What then?
Bob: Heís never too busy saving the world that he doesnít have time for me, that makes him a superhero in my eyes
Lois: Mine too son, mine too.  Now, time for your flying lesson, go on Ė buzz off.
© Copyright John McNeil 1999, All rights reserved. Alternate version by Gwyn Bedford.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the authors would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. They may be contacted at: or