Despite being a relatively small farming town in the middle of Kansas, Smallville has introduced many of the most prominent characters in the DC Universe. Obviously the most well-known is Superman, who began his superhero career as Superboy while growing up on his adopted family’s farm just outside of town. However, he’s certainly not the only notable resident. Smallville is also the hometown of two different Presidents of the United States within the DCU. While the most infamous is Lex Luthor, the other is Clark Kent’s childhood best friend: Pete Ross.
Created by Leo Dorfman and George Papp in 1961’s Superboy #86, Pete Ross grew up as friends with Clark and Lana Lang, competing with Clark for Lana’s affections. After Clark revealed his secret identity to Lana before moving from Smallville to Metropolis, Lana married Pete and the two had a son. However, Pete grew to resent Lana, feeling he was constantly in Clark’s shadow. This led the two to eventually divorce. Sometime later, Ross was selected to be Lex Luthor’s running mate for the American presidency owing to their childhood friendship growing up together in Smallville.
Luthor had been eyeing the Office of the President since at least the events of No Man’s Land, in which a massive earthquake devastating Gotham City. Luthor and LexCorp led the rebuilding effort, despite opposition from the current American administration and Bruce Wayne’s own efforts to prevent Luthor from widening his influence into Gotham. While Wayne was successful in largely keeping Luthor out of Gotham, the supervillain’s humanitarian work in rebuilding the ravaged city and his efforts to discredit the current administration won him overwhelming public support. The longtime Superman villain took advantage of this to be elected as the latest President, with Pete as his Vice President, to the visible chagrin of the DCU superhero community.
While President, Luthor carried out many villainous deeds behind-the-scenes while maintaining public support by boosting technological progress through LexCorp and a secret alliance with Darkseid to provide repurposed New God technology. After framing Wayne for murder due to his opposition in LexCorp’s ventures into Gotham, Luthor publicly blamed Superman for an impending Kryptonite meteor large enough to destroy the planet. This would prove unsuccessful, with Luthor’s illicit dealings exposed as he battled against Batman and Superman in a Apokaliptan battle suit while Captain Atom sacrificed himself to destroy the meteor. Ousted from office and on the run, the vacant presidency Luthor had left was taken up by Pete Ross.
The Ross Administration was unable to shake the villainous legacy of its predecessor, and, after a brief amount of time, Pete willingly resigned for the role. While in office, Pete finally learned Clark’s secret from Luthor before the villain was mind-wiped. Ross kept the secret from a recovering Luthor. Following his time as President, Pete quietly returned to Smallville to run the general store while raising his son.
Many of Clark Kent’s childhood friends have continued to play an active role in his life, even after he moved to Metropolis and created the mantle of Superman. Among these is Pete Ross, a figure that has played a major role with both Lex Luthor and Lana Lang, if only for a temporary amount of time. However, his association with the former would lead him to take the most powerful position in the country before letting it go in favor of the quiet life he had grown up with while keeping the secret of his old best friend with him.
Superman's childhood friend Pete Ross once served as President of the United States. Here's how that happened.