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Perry is famous for being boisterous and loud, as well as being a fairly strict editor. He is known for shouting, "Great Caesar's ghost!" when angry, exasperated or surprised. Perry also dislikes being called "chief" and typically responds by shouting, "Don't call me chief!"--often in response to remarks made by Jimmy Olsen. (At the end of an episode of the TV series, Perry is wearing an Indian feathered headdress when Jimmy calls him "chief." Perry starts to snap, "Don't..." then relents and says, in a calmer voice, "This is one time when you may call me chief!" Perry's other defining trait is a fondness for smoking cigars; in the 1990s Superman comics, however, this practice was mostly discontinued, thanks to a storyline in which Perry undergoes treatment for lung cancer.
Perry White is married to Alice White.
The character of Perry White was created for the radio serial, The Adventures of Superman, and he appeared in the second episode, which aired on February 14, 1940. The character transitioned into the Superman comic book later that year.
Golden and Silver Age history
The earliest Superman comics present Clark Kent and Lois Lane as working for the Daily Star for an editor named George Taylor. However, this was soon changed, with Perry White first appearing as the editor of a newly-renamed Daily Planet in 1940's Superman #7.
In the 1960s and 1970s DC Comics, after the multiverse method of continuity tracking was implemented, the above inconsistency was explained away by declaring that on Earth-One (the Silver Age universe), Perry White is Clark and Lois' employer at the Daily Planet, while on Earth-Two (the Golden Age universe), George Taylor is that world's editor-in-chief of the Daily Star. The Perry White of Earth-Two is a lead reporter for the Daily Star and has "filled in" from time to time, according to a Superman Family tale, as editor while Taylor was away. Superman Family also reveals that the Earth-Two Perry White loses his competition with Clark for the editor-in-chief opening after Taylor retires, however, he remains with the Star in his reporting capacity.
Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Perry begins his career as a freelance reporter for various newspapers, including a Chicago newspaper and Gotham City's Gotham Gazette. He eventually goes to work at the Daily Planet as a reporter, and earns his first Pulitzer Prize by being the first to write about Superboy's extraterrestrial origins thanks to an exclusive interview with the Boy of Steel.
Later still, Perry's reporting skills earn more praise after being the first to discover that Superboy has moved to Metropolis from Smallville (Superboy had intended to keep his move quiet for an undefined period of time, so as not to alert anyone to Superboy and Clark Kent leaving Smallville around the same time).
Finally, during Clark Kent's junior year of college, Perry is promoted to editor-in-chief of the newspaper, after the retirement of the paper's previous editor, the Earth-One version of George Taylor.
In the early 1970s, the Daily Planet is bought by Morgan Edge, president of the media conglomerate Galaxy Communications, with much of Perry's power in running the paper overtaken by Edge. In the months just prior to the Crisis "reboot" in 1985, it is implied that Perry White is beginning to succumb to Alzheimer's disease, manifesting in increased forgetfulness and confusion.
Modern Age history
Post-Crisis, Perry is born in Metropolis's Suicide Slum area, growing up with a father missing after heading off to war overseas. He becomes a copy boy at the Daily Planet, beginning a lifetime career that will take him up the newspapers career ladder. Perry goes to school with Lex Luthor while they are children (Luthor also grows up in Suicide Slum).
After Luthor becomes a successful businessman, he begins diversifying his holdings in his newly-founded LexCorp company, which includes buying the Daily Planet. Luthor soon sells it after deciding to pursue technology and television investments. Turning down an offer from Luthor to become part of Luthor's new television station WLEX, Perry finds an investor who saves the Daily Planet on the condition that Perry is promoted from reporter to editor. The entire episode, not the least of which is what Perry felt as having been forced out of his active writing career, leaves Perry bitter and angry with Luthor.
Perry marries Alice Spencer and has a son, Jerry White. Much later, after Jerry is fully grown, Perry learns that Lex Luthor is Jerrys biological father. Luthor briefly seduces Alice while Perry is overseas reporting on a war and thought to be killed.
Perry White's two greatest moves as editor are hiring Lois Lane and (later) Clark Kent. When she is 15, Lois had impressed Perry with her persistence in trying to get employment at the newspaper (by lying about her age). After Jerry White dies from a gunshot, Perry and Alice grieve for some time, resulting in Perry taking a leave of absence from the Daily Planet.
Later, Perry and Alice adopt an orphaned African-American boy named Keith Robert, who soon has his name changed to Keith Robert White. At about this time, Perry takes another leave of absence for lung cancer treatment, putting Clark Kent in charge as the Planet's temporary editor. After many grueling months of chemotherapy, the cancer goes into remission.
One of Perry's proudest moments is attending the wedding of Lois and Clark. He sits in the front row beside Lois's parents (Lois considers him as close a relative as her own family).
As the paper continues to struggle, the Planet's owner Franklin Stern sells the paper to Lex Luthor. Luthor, acting out of pure malice, dismantles the paper. He fires everyone except Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and two others who are relocated to Lexcom, Lex's new Internet-based news company. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, Lex sells on the Planet to Bruce Wayne for $1 (thanks to a secret deal with Lois Lane). White is hired back as editor-in-chief, and the entire former staff are hired back as well. Though Perry's knowledge of Clark's alter ego is uncertain, it is known that he has found a dusty suit of his star reporter's clothes in a supply closet, including his passport. For this reason, Perry may well suspect that Clark and Superman are the same person, but due to his personal admiration for both Clark and Superman, he has never confided this suspicion or knowledge to anybody. Bruce Wayne believes that because of White's superior skill as a reporter, he knows that Clark is Superman ("Perry White is too good of a reporter not to have discovered Clark's identity, but he acts otherwise. It reminds me of Commissioner Gordon back home..." -Batman: Hush).
Perry's editorship keeps the Daily Planet as one of the few newspapers that dare to heavily criticize Luthor (even after Luthor's successful election as President of the United States).
Because of the changes in Superman's history in recent years, including 2003-2004's miniseries Birthright, much is not certain about Perry's history. The history of Jerry White and whereabouts of Perry's adopted son Keith are more or less up in the air.
In other media
- John Hamilton played Perry White on the TV series Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. In at least one episode, it is revealed that Perry has served a term as mayor of Metropolis before becoming editor-in-chief on the Planet.
- In the four Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, Perry White was played by actor Jackie Cooper. In the commentary track for Superman, Donner reveals that Cooper got the job because he had a passport, so he could arrive in a few hours from the call after Keenan Wynn who was origninally cast suffered a heart attack.
- Lane Smith played Perry White on the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In the series, his exclamation "Great Caesar's ghost!" was replaced with "Great shades of Elvis!", and the comics briefly followed suit. In a subplot that carried over many episodes, Perry is portrayed as having marital difficulties with Alice due to his dedication to the paper. The couple later reunite just before the series finale.
- In the Smallville episode "Perry", Perry White was portrayed by Michael McKean. In this, he is a former Daily Planet reporter who gets reduced to tabloid television after attempting to expose Lionel Luthor's corrupt dealings. He attempts to regain some of his old reputation by exposing Clark's powers, but his plan backfires when sunspot activity temporarily nullifies Clark's abilities. It's later implied in "Gone" that Perry is working his way back up with an article on Lionel's conviction.
- In Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, Perry White was originally going to be portrayed by Hugh Laurie. But when it was determined that there would be a schedule conflict involving Laurie's TV series House (which is incidentally, executive produced by Singer), Laurie was forced to drop out and Frank Langella stepped in to play Perry White. In this movie, Perry has a nephew, Richard White, who is engaged to Lois and serves as a father figure to her son Jason, although it is implied over the course of the film that Jason's biological father is Superman himself.
- Perry White's only video game appearances are Superman for the NES and Superman: Shadow of Apokolips for the GameCube and PlayStation 2.
- Perry White's nephew, T. J. White, is a supporting character in the Superboy television series.
Comparisons to J. Jonah Jameson
Because of several factors in White's life — his profession, some of his personal habits, and the fact that one of the stars of his staff is secretly a costumed superhero — J. Jonah Jameson, the aggressive editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle newspaper featured in Marvel Comics' Spider-Man stories, has often been compared to Perry White. However, compared to Jameson, White is a much more easy-going man (despite White's gruff demeanor and his high devotion to his newspaper); additionally, White also displays a great deal more affection for his city's primary superhero than Jameson does for Spider-Man.
Notably, the two of them do tend to agree on one central characteristic: a certain distrust for people who wear masks. Since Superman does not wear a mask and Spider-Man does, they can be considered as having divergent conflicts beyond that point.
In the Marvel vs DC crossover, Jameson is (temporarily) in charge of the Daily Planet. He ignores the Planet's "no smoking" policy. Later, Perry White returns and he and Jonah confront the Kingpin after he buys the Daily Planet, with Spider-Man and Superboy tackling the Kingpin after he throws Perry off to one side when Perry and Jameson try to stand up to him.