Perry White is a fictional character who appears in the Superman comics and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Metropolis newspaper the Daily Planet.
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.
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 underwent treatment for lung cancer.
Like Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, Perry is also known for being an acquaintance of Superman.
Perry White is married to Alice White.
Golden and Silver Age
The earliest Superman comics presented 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 was Clark and Lois' employer at the Daily Planet, while on Earth-Two (the Golden Age universe), George Taylor was that world's editor-in-chief of the Daily Star. The Perry White of Earth-Two was a lead reporter for the Daily Star and had "filled in" from time to time, according to a Superman Family tale, as editor while Taylor was away. Superman Family also revealed that the Earth-Two Perry White lost his competition with Clark for the editor-in-chief opening after Taylor retired, however, he remained with the Star in his reporting capacity.
Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Perry began his career as a freelance reporter for various newspapers, including a Chicago newspaper and Gotham City's Gotham Gazette. He eventually went to work at the Daily Planet as a reporter, and earned 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 earned more praise after being the first to discover that Superboy had 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 was 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 was 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 was implied that Perry White was beginning to succumb to Alzheimer's disease, manifested in increased forgetfulness and confusion.
With writer John Byrne's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths revamp of Supermans origin in the Man of Steel miniseries and his subsequent Superman comics, Perry's history was fleshed out more fully.
Post-Crisis, Perry was born in Metropolis's Suicide Slum area, growing up with a father missing after heading off to war overseas. He became a copy boy at the Daily Planet, beginning a lifetime career that would take him up the newspapers career ladder. Perry went to school with Lex Luthor when they were children (Luthor also grew up in Suicide Slum).
After Luthor became a successful businessman, Luthor began diversifying his holdings in his newly-founded LexCorp company, which included buying the Daily Planet. Luthor soon sold 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 found an investor who saved the Daily Planet on the condition that Perry was promoted from reporter to editor. The entire episode, not the least of which was what Perry felt was having been forced out of his active writing career, left Perry bitter and angry with Luthor.
Perry married Alice Spencer and had a son, Jerry White. Much later, after Jerry was fully grown, Perry would learn that Lex Luthor was Jerrys biological father. Luthor had briefly seduced Alice while Perry was overseas reporting on a war and thought to be killed.
Perry White's two greatest moves as editor would be to hire Lois Lane and (later) Clark Kent. When she was 15, Lois had impressed Perry with her persistence in trying to get employment at the newspaper (by lying about her age). After Jerry White died from a gunshot, Perry and Alice grieved for some time, resulting in Perry taking a leave of absence from the Daily Planet.
Later, Perry and Alice adopted an orphaned African-American boy named Keith Robert, who soon had his named changed to Keith Robert White. At about this time, Perry took 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 went into remission.
One of Perry's proudest moments was to attend the wedding of Lois and Clark. He sat in the front row beside Lois's parents (Lois considering him as close a relative as her own family).
As the paper continued to struggle, the Planet's owner Franklin Stern sold the paper to Lex Luthor. Luthor, acting out of pure malice, dismantled the paper. He fired everyone except Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and two others who were relocated to Lexcom, Lex's new Internet-based news company. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, Lex sold the Planet to Bruce Wayne for $1 (thanks to a secret deal with Lois Lane). White was hired back as editor-in-chief, and the entire former staff was 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 has kept the Daily Planet as one of the few newspapers that dared 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.
Pierre Watkin played Perry White in the serials starring Kirk Alyn.
John Hamilton played Perry White on the TV series Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. In at least one episode, it was revealed that Perry had 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 was portrayed as having marital difficulties with Alice due to his dedication to the paper. The couple later reunited just before the series finale.
In Superman: The Animated Series, Perry White was voiced by George Dzundza.
In the Smallville episode "Perry", Perry White was portrayed by Michael McKean. In this, he was a former Daily Planet reporter reduced to tabloid television after attempting to expose Lionel Luthor's corrupt dealings. 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.
Perry White's only video game appearances are Superman for the NES and Superman: Shadow of Apokolips for the GameCube and PlayStation 2.
In Superman: Doomsday Perry White is voiced by Ray Wise.
In the 2013 blockbuster film Man of Steel, Perry was portrayed by actor Laurence Fishburne.
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 agree on one central charateristic. 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.