On the fifth page of Superman #1, Superman himself says to a woman, “I thought you might be interested in learning I know that you killed Jack Kennedy.” She killed him, according to Superman’s theory, for “two-timing her,” which is perhaps a plausible motive, given Kennedy’s reputation as a womanizer; surely Superman’s theory is no stupider than anything Oliver Stone has come up with. Except that Superman makes his accusation in 1939. How could anyone kill Jack Kennedy over twenty years before he died? Who would even know about Kennedy’s death in 1939?
Well, Superman would, of course. He can travel back and forth through time, for one thing, and, even if he couldn’t, he built a chronoscope when he was Superboy, and could look into the future to see who was getting shot then. But even if he knew of the Kennedy assassination, what would make Superman blame a woman who, in the absence of time-traveling capabilities, must have been innocent?
Wild accusations, frame ups, a woman hogtied and left for the police — it sounds, frankly, like Superman has a guilty conscience. The fact that he has orchestrated the whole things so that the framing of an innocent woman seems like heroics is surely an attempt to soothe conscience’s pangs. There’s never been a doubt that Superman could have killed President Kennedy. After all, Superman has the means and opportunity to commit any crime in history, be it the Brinks job or torching Rome. No one but Superman, perhaps, could get the magic bullet to make all the twists and turns it made. But Superman, the “man who has everything” (as Alan Moore once said), generally lacks a motive.
In Action Comics #309, Superman is presented with a dilemma: He has to appear on a television program, with all of his friends, including Clark Kent. Lois has a gadget to detect robots, so Superman can’t have the usual robot duplicate take Clark’s place, and Batman is on the program as well, so he can’t step in to double for Clark. In this extremity Superman turns to someone new to disguise himself as Clark Kent, even though this means revealing his secret identity to another. And in the story’s last two panels, it is revealed that the man Superman has trusted with his identity is President Kennedy.
“I’ll guard your secret identity as I guard the secrets of our nation,” Kennedy promises, but how well Superman trusted him can be seen by how long the president lived with this secret. Action Comics #309 is cover dated February 1964. In the ’60s, comics were usually dated three months in advance of their release. This means that Action Comics #309 was released, and presumably the events depicted therein took place, sometime in November 1963 — the same month Kennedy died. No one can be allowed to know Superman’s secret identity.
“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” people used to ask each other. Superman’s answer, apparently, is: at Dealey Plaza, traveling faster than the human eye, or Zapruder film, could follow.