The 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award

While I have been awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents for 43 years now, the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award is a new prize that I only introduced in 2020 as a companion piece to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award. The 2020 winner may be found here, the 2021 winner here and the 2022 winner here.

As for why I felt the need to introduce a companion award, depictions of parenthood in popular culture have been undergoing a paradigm shift in the past few years with more positive portrayals of supportive and loving parents and fewer utterly terrible parents. Personally, I believe that this shift is a very good thing, because the reason that I started the Darth Vader Parenthood Award in the first place is because I was annoyed by all the terrible parents in pop culture. For while most real world parents may not be perfect, at least they do their best. Maybe, the conditions that gave rise to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award will eventually cease to exist and we can permanently retire the award.

Warning: Spoilers for lots of things behind the cut!

Therefore, let’s give a big hand to all the good parents in pop culture that we have seen this year. As in the last two years, there were plenty of viable candidates, more than for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award, and selecting the winner was a difficult choice.

So let’s have a brief rundown of the candidates who did not quite make it:

A Marvel character won the 2023 Darth Vader Parenthood Award, but the Marvel Cinematic and TV Universe also continued to yield many positive portrayals of parenthood and indeed the claims that all Marvel heroes have daddy issues no longer hold true, if they ever were. Besides, as I explained yesterday, there is a reason why the Marvel Cinematic and TV Universe focusses so much on parents.

So let’s take a look at the good parents of Marvel.

For some reason, The Marvels is considered the biggest flop of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is unfair, because it’s actually a pretty good film, better than several other recent Marvel offerings. However, The Marvels also marked the return of Kamala Khan’s Pakistani-American parents Yusuf and Muneeba Khan and her brother Aamir and they’re still as lovable and chaotic as ever. And yes, it’s always gratifying to see a positive portrayal of a Muslim family in pop culture, since way too many portrayals of Muslim families in pop culture still serve up the same old hoary clichés of abusive fathers and brothers imprisoning and controlling and sometimes honour-killing their daughters and sisters, while the mothers look on and tacitly approve. Even though we’ve all seen that film (and come to think of it, I’m surprised that the parents of Yasemin didn’t win the 1988 Darth Vader Parenthood Award, but then I clearly disliked Douglas Channing more), seen it several times in fact. Therefore, it’s always good to see loving families who just happen to be Muslim.

The Marvels also delved into the relationship between Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau, since Carol initially was Monica’s honourary aunt and helped Maria parent her (whether there was anything more to the relationship between Carol and Maria remains unsaid) and then buggered off into outer space and only returned when Monica was already an adult and had lost her own mother to cancer. Also, at the end of The Marvels, Monica is reunited with an alternate universe version of her mother, because Multiverses are like that.

Another Marvel parent who debuted in Captain Marvel is the Skrull leader Talos and his daughter G’iah. Talos and G’hia returned in the little seen (and not very good) TV-series Secret Invasion, with the now grown-up G’iah played by Emilia Clarke and estranged from her father.  Their relationship is complicated and then cut short when Talos is killed.

The Ant-Man films have always been among the most family-focussed Marvel offerings. Sadly, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was less focussed on the family banter and interplay, which made the first two Ant-Man films so enjoyable, and more on the Quantum Realm and Kang the Conqueror, who was set to be Marvel‘s next Big Bad, until Kang actor Jonathan Majors was revealed to be a domestic abuser. The movie was also not very good, though it did give us some nice moments between Scott Lang and his now teenaged daughter Cassie as well as Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne and their daughter Hope, just not enough for an award.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 gave us the winner of the 2023 Darth Vader Parenthood Award, but it also gave us Drax and Nebula adopting the genetically modified children the High Evolutionary, undisputed winner of the 2023 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents, created and was about to kill.

Over in the animated corner of the Marvel Multiverse, particularly the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse gave us police officer Jefferson Davis, the unfortunately named (honestly, what were they thinking?) but loving and protective father of Miles Morales.

Finally, in the comic corner of the Marvel Universe (yes, Marvel still published comics) we experienced the until now unheard of phenomenon of a former Darth Vader Parenthood Award winner throwing their hat in the ring for the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award. Because fairly late in the year, the comic X-Men Blue Origins #1 retconned the parentage of Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nigthcrawler yet again to reveal that he is the biological child of Raven Darkholme a.k.a. Mystique (which we’ve known since the early 1990s) and Irene Adler a.k.a. Destiny (and yes, it has since been confirmed that she is that Irene Adler, the one who made Sherlock Holmes fall for her, only that Mystique was posing as Holmes). Now the fact that Mystique is bisexual and has been in a longterm relationship with Destiny is not exactly news either, since it has been strongly implied since the 1980s that these two were a couple (and they even had an adopted kid in Rogue), only that the censorship standards of the time meant that the writers couldn’t straight up say it. After all, we knew that Northstar was gay long since before it was officially confirmed, too. Anyway, Kurt has two Mommies and Mystique is not just his mother but also his biological father, since she is a shapshifter after all, which is new. As for why Kurt takes after Mystique rather than Irene, well, Mystique wanted a baby who looks like her. Plus, Kurt and Mystique get along really well these days, which is a far cry from the shitty behaviour towards Kurt and Graydon Creed (remember him?) that earned her a Darth Vader Parenthood Award back in 1994.

As their names are called out, the various Marvel character around the auditorium cheer and stand up. Mystique and Kurt are present as well, sitting next to each other and clearly enjoying themselves. Kurt is wearing a tuxedo and Mystique is wearing a stunning white evening gown.

Mystique and Nightcrawler

Yes, these are my nigh thirty years old ToyBiz figures. Never had the Marvel Legends version and they’re ridiculously expensive by now. Unfortunately, they don’t scale with any version of Keldor I have.

Keldor, who’s still here, since he got drunk with Tyrion Lannister after yesterday’s ceremony and hasn’t yet made it back to Eternia, leaves Tyrion to his ale and sits down next to Mystique and Kurt.

“Excuse me for interrupting, but up to now I had no idea that there were Gar on Earth.”

“Well, I have no idea what a Gar is. My son and I are mutants. Is that what they call people like us where you’re from?”

“A feared and hated minority, mistrusted for merely existing. ‘Gar’ is one of the nicer things they call us.”

“Oh, believe me, I know all about being a feared and hated and mistrusted minority on my world. And you and I, my new friend, should talk. In private, if you take my meaning…”

Mystique gives him a look that’s pure invitation. Keldor smiles in return and we’re pretty sure Evil-Lyn won’t like this. Neither does Kurt, since he tugs on Mystique’s gown.

“Listen, I’ve only just come to terms with the fact that you’re my mother as well as my father. I’ve accepted that you felt the need to give me away and abandon. I’ve accepted that you never felt the need to give Rogue away. Heavens, I’ve accepted that you’ve slept with half the people in this room…”

Mystique looks around the room. “Oh, my sweet summer child, it’s considerably more than that*.”

Kurt blushes furiously, though we have no idea how that’s even possible, considering he’s blue.

“And now go and play with your friends, Kurt, my dear, and let me and – excuse me, what was your name again?”

“Keldor of the House of Miro, soon to be High King of Eternia.”

“It’s a pleasure. I am Raven Darkholme, sometimes of the House of M and sometimes of the House of X, but mostly my own.”

They smile at each other and get up. Mystique waves at Kurt.

“Have fun, Kurt. Mommy will be busy for a few hours.”

As Mystique and Keldor leave together, Tyrion finally wakes from his slumber and notices that his drinking companion is gone. He waves at Kurt.

“Hey, blue fellow there, want to share a cup of ale with me?”

Kurt sighs. “I could sure use one. Parents…”

“Tell me about it, pal.”


After that unexpected interlude of cross-universe interaction, let’s take a look at the DC side of things. DC had several movies out this year as well, though most of them flopped and no one seems to have liked them much. That said, we did have some good parents figures in the DC Cinematic Universe.

Billy Batson and his loveable and chaotic foster family, all of them with superpowers of their own, returned in Shazam: Fury of the Gods, a movie that sadly sank without a trace. Another DC movie that sank without a trace, even less deserved than Shazam: Fury of the Gods, was Blue Beetle, which gave us Jaime Reyes delightful and loving family with parents Rocio and Alberto (who sadly does not survive the film – RIP), grandmother Nana and sister Milagro.

The Flash focussed a lot on Barry Allen breaking the Multiverse (yeah, he tends to do that) in order to save the life of his mother Nora and save his father Henry from being wrongfully imprisoned. Now I couldn’t be bothered to watch The Flash, but Henry and Nora are usually portrayed as loving parents.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom reintroduced us to Jason Momoa’s take on Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman who has married Mera and is now father of a little boy named Arthur Jr. The kidnapping of Arthur Jr. and Arthur Sr.’s quest to rescue his son are what sets the plot in motion.

Over in the animated corner of the DC Universe, My Adventures With Superman not only gave us a delightful fresh new take on Clark, Lois and Jimmy, but also reintroduced us to the very characters this award is named for, Jonathan and Martha Kent. And yes, they’re great parents as always. We also get an ambiguous take on General Sam Lane, who has a difficult relationship with his daughter Lois and makes Martha Kent angry, as well as a version of Jor-El who seems to be gunning for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award in a surprising development.

Let’s move away from the DC Universe and visit the Star Trek Universe. Star Trek Picard has featured on the longlist for the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award since its inception, but 2023 was the year that Jean-Luc Picard finally became a father himself, when it was revealed that Beverly Crusher had born his son Jack twentysomething years before, something that Jean-Luc was utterly unaware of. Star Trek Picard turning into The Starfleet Captain’s Secret Baby was certainly unexpected, though in the end Jean-Luc Picard did not win the award against stiff competition.

Over in the Star Wars Universe, Ahsoka gave us the live action debut of Hera Syndulla, Rebellion/New Republic and loving single mom of Jacen, the result of a relationship with the Jedi knigth Kanan Jarrus. Yeah, we always knew Anakin wasn’t the only Jedi who ignored the celibacy oath.

Our inaugural winner in 2020, Din Djarin from The Mandalorian also returned in 2023 and not only continued to be a great Dad to Grogu, but also finally formally adopted Grogu to the Armourer’s exasperated “THIS is a the way”, so Din and Grogu are now officially a family as well.

Din is sitting in the front row in full beskar armour with Grogu on his lap. When their names are mentioned, Grogu waves to the audience.

And I would have been happy to award Din again, except that he already had his bite of the pie (quite literally) back in 2020 and there are so many other deserving parents that I don’t want to double dip.

Upon hearing that there will be no pie this year, Grogu’s ear droop.

Which brings us to the 2023 runner-up, a candidate who emerged very early in the year and remained in the lead for a long time. Indeed, it was a head to head race and a very narrow win. So the runner-up for the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award is…


Joel Miller

Portrayed by Pedro Pascal in the TV series The Last of Us and Troy Baker in the eponymous video game, Joel is the single father of teenager Sarah, when an outbreak of the fungal cordyceps infection causes the zombie apocalypse and a nigh complete breakdown of civilisation. Sarah is killed during the initial outbreak, shot dead by a soldier who mistakes Joel and Sarah for infected, and Joel becomes an embittered survivor and smuggler in a brave and ugly new world.

Fast forward twenty years, when Joel, who has closed himself off against all emotions, suddenly finds himself in charge of ferrying teenager Ellie, who happens to be immune against cordyceps, across a post-apocalyptic America. Joel initially tries to keep his distance, but eventually bonds with Ellie and adopts her as his own. And when he finds out why the rebel group Fireflies really wants Ellie, well let’s just say it doesn’t end well for the Fireflies, because Joel will do everything to protect his girl.

That sort of paternal dedication in the face of the harshest circumstances imaginable deserves an award and therefore, I am proud to declare Joel Miller the runner-up for the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.


As applause erupts in auditorium, Ellie hugs Joel and jumps up and down in her seat, cheering. Joel is a little befuddled by events, until Ellie pushed him towards the stage.

So Joel mounts the stage, clad in jeans, boots, a flannel shirt and fur-lined leather jacket. Ellie is wearing jeans, a flannel shirt and a hoodie, because a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t offer too many options for clothes shopping.

As Joel ascends to the stage, Grogu starts pointing at him and yelling, “Da, da, da”, much to Din Djain’s confusion.

After being presented with Martha Kent’s famous apple pie, Joel delivers the following acceptance speech:

Uhm, thank you. I… I’m not quite sure what I’m even doing here.

Yes, I’m a Dad and I protect my kid, cause that’s what Dads do. I don’t think there’s anything special, let alone award-worthy about that. I’m just a Dad, doing what a Dad does.

And yes, I failed my Sarah and lost her. But then the universe sent me Ellie and gave me a second chance and for that I’m so grateful.

As for the Fireflies, FEDRA and anybody else who wants Ellie, if you want my girl, you have to go through me first, Cause if we have to sacrifice even one kid to save the world, then maybe the world is not worth saving.

Thank you.

Joel accepts the pie from Martha Kent and eyes it sceptically. “Are you sure there’s no cordyceps contamination in there, ma’am. Cause I have a kid and don’t want to endanger her.”

“Young man, I have no idea what a cordyceps is, but I can assure you that this pie is made only with the best purest wheat, eggs, butter, milk and apples from the Kent family farm in Kansas.”

At this moment, Ellie spots the pie and helps herself to a slice. “Mmm, pie.”

Joel sighs. “Well, never mind.”

At this point, Din Djarin and a very excited Grogu walk up to Joel, Ellie and Martha. Grogu is still exclaiming “Da, da, da”, while looking from Din to Joel and back again, very confused.

Din turns to Joel. “Do I know you from somewhere? Cause you look familiar.”

“I don’t know. Maybe from the Boston QZ. Or maybe from…” Joel looks over his shoulder. “…the Fireflies. Or did we meet back in Austin before the evacuation?”

“I have never been to any of those places”, Din says solemnly, “Have you ever been to Nevarro?”

“Is that in Texas? Cause I don’t think so. I like your armour by the way. I’m sure it offers excellent protection against zombie bites.”

“My people never take off their armour, cause this is the way.”

While their Dads are talking, Ellie is digging into the pie and Grogu is helping himself to a slice as well by levitating it into his mouth, which catches the attention of Ellie, who exclaims, “Aren’t you the cutest little thing? Can I hold him?”

Din nods. “Just don’t drop him.”

“And don’t let him bite you”, Joel adds.

Ellie cuddles Grogu, while Din turns to Joel. “So yours is a foundling, too. She seems like a good child.”

Joel nods. “Yes, I found her and kept her. She’s mine now.”

Din nods approvingly. “This is the way.”


After this heartwarming reuniong of loving father played by Pedro Pascal, let’s get on to the  main event, the winner of the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.

I have to say that this is one winner who utterly surprised, because if you would have told me last year that this particular character would win the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award, I would have thought you were crazy.

But occasionally, a piece of pop culture really surprises you and a winner emerges from the left field.

Therefore, I am pleased to present the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award to…


Master Splinter

As voiced by Jackie Chan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and by a succession of other voice actors before him, Splinter is a rat living a lonely and friendless life in the sewers of New York City.

One day, Splinter’s lonely existence is interrupted when he finds four baby turtles in the sewer. Since those baby turtles are the only beings who ever showed Splinter any affection, Splinter decides to adopt them. At the same time, Spinter and his kids also come into contact with mutagenic ooze, which anthropomorphises them.

Over the next fifteen years, Splinter becomes an affectionate father to his four sons whom he names Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael. He raises them in his sewer home, teaches his boys martial arts and introduces them to the joys of pizza, while keeping them safe from a world that isn’t always too friendly inclined towards anthropomorphic mutant rats and turtles.

I have to admit that I never was a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. The original cartoon came out just a little too late for me to be all into it, though I did watch it, and I never saw the comics at all. By the time, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon came out, I was a teenager myself and not only thought that funny animal cartoons were “for little kids”, but had also discovered the X-Men comics, which the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created to parody.

So I spent the next 35 years ignoring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a franchise that exists, but that I have little interest in. Until I chanced to see the trailer for Mutant Mayhem and thought, “This actually looks really good.” And then I watched the actual film and found it a delightful fresh take on the characters.

Mutant Mayhem leans into the family aspect of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a way that few versions of the story have done, at least not that I’m aware of. And Jackie Chan’s performance as the loving but grumpy Dad Splinter was a stand-out.

So to my own surprise, I’m thrilled to name Master Splinter the winner of the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.


Splinter receives hugs from Leo, Ralph, Mickey and Donnie, before he mounts the stage, clad in his familiar pink vest and leaning on his sword cane.

He blinks at the audience from behind his thick glasses, sniffs and delivers the following speech.

Humans. There’s a lot of humans here tonight and I don’t like humans…

He squints and his gaze settles on 2022 runner-up Cringer of the Tiger Tribe.

There’s also a cat and I don’t like cats, cause cats and rats are natural enemies…

His gaze falls upon Grogu.

And then there’s that little green critter and I have no idea what that even is. And…

Splinter’s gaze falls on Kurt Wagner, who’s getting drunk with Tyrion Lannister, and on Keldor and Mystique, who are getting very cozy with each other.

…there are blue people, too, and I have no idea what those are either.

Anyway, that has been my life for as long as I can remember. Hiding in the sewers, far from the light and living on what the humans throw away. And humans throw away a lot of things, cause humans are stupid. They throw away art books, video tapes of the master Jackie Chan, pizza. But the very best thing that the humans ever threw away were my four boys, Leo, Donnie, Mickey and Ralph…

The four turtle brothers gaze adoringly at their Dad.

Humans did not want you, because humans are stupid. But the four of you are the best thing that ever happened to me. Before I found you, I was alone, but you completely me. Together, we became a family.

But there comes a time, when a father needs to let his sons swim or rather fly. You were curious about the world outside our sewer and eventually I knew I had to let you go and explore the world. I taught you all you need to survive up there, so go an thrive, my boys. Go and be heroes.

And humans, don’t you dare harm my boys or you’ll answer to me. Thank you.

Splinter is presented with a pie by Martha Kent and before he can as much as say “thank you”, Leo, Mickey, Ralph and Donnie storm the stage to hug him, but they are soon distracted by the pie.

“Wow, this is like… sweet pizza.”

They heartily dig into the pie and start to demolish it, while Splinter sighs.

Master Splinter and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Master Splinter and his boys and the pie.

The 2021 winner Duncan a.k.a. Man-at-Arms walks up to Splinter and says, “I recently had the honour to meet your boys and fight alongside them**. They’re very good lads. You must be very proud.”

Splinter squints at him from behind his glasses. “Ah yes, Duncan. The boys told me all about you. And about your daughter… Teela, isn’t it?  Mickey and Ralph were very impressed by her.”

Duncan smiles. “She does tend to have that effect.”

They are interrupted by Cringer – and note that this is the older, wiser Cringer from the CGI He-Man animated series – who nuzzles Duncan in the side and exclaims, “Duncan, is that really you?”


“So that’s what you’ll grow up into. Impressive.”

“What do you mean, ‘will grow up into’? So you haven’t always known me as an adult?”

Cringer shakes his head. “No, in my universe, you’re sixteen years old.”

Duncan presses his palm against his forehead. “In that case, I sincerely apologise for everything.”

Splinter talks to Duncan and Cringer, while the Teenage Mutant Nija Turtle prepare to demolish the pie.

Both pies are gone by now, having fed Ellie, Grogu and four very hungry turtle brothers, so Martha Kent, clad in her Sunday Best, walks up to Splinter, Duncan, Cringer, Joel and Din with a spare pie.

“Young people are always so hungry. Just like my, Clarke. So here, gentlemen, have a spare pie to enjoy.”

Duncan takes a slice, followed by a slightly sceptical Splinter and Joel, while Din places a slice in his bag.

Meanwhile, Leo, Ralph, Donnie and Mickey have started chatting up Ellie and they clearly have a lot to talk about.


And that’s it for the 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award. Who’ll win next year? You’ll find out in this space.

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I just gave them an award and wrote acceptance speeches for them. All characters and properties are copyright and trademark their respective owners.

*Yes, in my head Mystique is still the 1980s and 1990s version who slept with half the Marvel Universe of any gender. Live with it.

**In the Turtles of Grayskull crossover between Masters of the Universe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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2 Responses to The 2023 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award

  1. Fraser says:

    Loved Blue Beetle, particularly Nana (“Death to the imperialists!”).
    Flash (2023) did a lot of stuff that the TV show had already done better and nothing that the TV show hadn’t done better.

    • Cora says:

      Blue Beetle was massively underrated and really did not deserve to bomb as much as it did. It was a fun movie and if the DCU would have turned out more films like Blue Beetle or Shazam or Aquaman and less Superman versus Batman: Dawn of Justice, it would have done better.

      The Flash was definitely hampered by the fact that the TV show already told that story and did it better and was not saddled with a star who has massive issues. I think a lot of people also resented how the DC Cinematic Universe pretended that the very popular and good TV shows did not exist.

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