by Benjamin Grose
This being an Elseworlds issue, and me being a Superman fan, I thought it would be a good idea to start a series of articles on some of the Superman Elseworlds stories. A major point in most of these stories is that Kal-El would still become a hero no matter what time, place, or situation he is in. Let's see how different, and how much the same, the Superman in each of these stories is to the one we know and love. I'll give a rating for each story on a scale of 1 to 5:
1 "Is this a Superman story?"
The cover of this story slightly resembles Superman #1 from 1939, but something is different: The figure on the front looks like Batman! The story begins as Kal-El's birthing matrix escapes an exploding Krypton, but instead of landing in Kansas, lands outside Gotham City. He is found by Thomas and Martha Wayne, and is named Bruce. At age 9 he takes a fateful trip to the theater, where his parents are killed by Joe Chill. The bullets fired at Bruce don't hurt him, and in anger he releases a blast of heat from his eyes, burning Joe Chill as he flees. At age 21, Bruce is a recluse. He doesn't want a part of the violent world outside. When Wayne Manor is robbed, the confrontation causes him to remember the events of the night his parents were killed. He wants to know who he is. Alfred shows him the cave where his father kept the rocket. Bruce says he is like the bats in the cave.
He becomes the Batman. He also comes out of seclusion to stop Wayne Enterprises from being taken over from Lex Luthor. Bruce buys the Gotham Gazette, and hires Perry White and Lois Lane from the Daily Planet. Lois wants to keep an eye on Lex in Gotham. She has an encounter with the Batman, and doesn't like what she sees. But Bruce is another story. Luthor reveals that he is a new man, the Joker! He kidnaps Lois, before Batman arrives to stop him. The Joker tells him that he has something else to worry about. Gotham is under attack by army supplied with LexCorp-bought weapons. Batman threatens to kill the Joker, but he can tell that Lois disapproves. He instead takes the Joker to jail, and stops the attack on the city. Lois tells him that he should be a symbol of hope. He says that he doesn't know how. She says that Batman can't, but Bruce Wayne can. He becomes a sign of hope: Superman!
Obviously, Kal-El was more like Batman than Superman in this story. Most of the time he did not act like Superman would, or even Batman would for that matter, threatening to kill the Joker, so this gets a low rating.
The sole survivor of Krypton leaves the dying planet in a small ship. His name is Gar-El. He takes the risk to leave the planet, which has been known to kill all those that have tried. He has studied the planet called Earth, and it's sun, which would give him immense power. He lands on Earth in the year 1768. He asks the witnesses of his arrival to call him The Warlock Royal. He offers King George III his help in "maintaining order." In 1776, he stops the Americans from revolting by hanging their leaders, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others. It is 211 years later, and the Warlock Royal, now called the Sovereign, rules the planet. There is total peace, yet the Sovereign's vulnerable great great grandson Kal feels discontent. He is asked if he would like to help smash the presses of the Daily Planet. They are printing things that oppose the Sovereign. Kal objects to the violence they use against Peregrine White and Lois Lane and goes to speak to the Sovereign about this. He tells him that his order is at the cost of individual liberty. The Sovereign says that he doesn't want humanity to be Kal's undoing, like his father.
A year later, Kal is looking for a man named "L." He is captured by men wearing masks. When awakes in an unknown location, he says he needs to speak with "L." Lois Lane tells him that they don't trust a relative of the Sovereign. He tells them he disagrees with what the Sovereign has done, and they ask him to prove that he is sincere about helping them. They want his help to acquire something that is rumored to be able to hurt the Sovereign. He leads Lois to a dungeon below the palace, to a room with a giant metal door. He says the Kryptonian word for open to enter the room, where there is a lead box. They open it, and the rock inside does not harm Kal. Lois tells him that she is "L," and Kal goes to see the Sovereign. Kal argues that he has made Earth into what Krypton was, cold and cruel. The Sovereign's guards shoot him through a window. The Sovereign becomes angry and burns the guards. He discovers that Kal had brought Kryptonite, yet did not use it. He realizes that Kal was right, and he understood this planet more than the Sovereign ever could. He takes Kal's body to bury him in the sun, and flies off into space. Lois tells them they can make it a great future, one worthy of the brave young man who died for it.
This is a great example of Superman's character. He fought for something not because he had to, but because it was right. This gets the highest rating.
Part 1: The Longest Night
It was 10 years ago when the Malazza-Rem invaded Earth. Everyone called them "The Horde." They weren't expecting resistance. For a time, it looked like the heroes of Earth were going to win. It was then that the Horde's leader Kryll'n made the decree: 1,000 civilians would be killed for every sighting of a meta-human, 5,000 if they raised a fist. They started with Coast City. Green Lantern led the effort to take back the city, but not before the Horde killed seven million people, including reporter Lois Lane. The world turned against those that protected them. During another attempt by a resistance force organized by Lex Luthor, he is killed and his body is thrown onto the street. It is ordered left there as an example, and no one resisted again. And now, 9 years later, the Horde has complete control of the planet. Councillor Lana Lang, Director of Human Relations for the Horde is visiting a slum in Metropolis. She stops a Horde soldier from killing resistance leader Jimmy Olsen. When they are alone, she tells him some news: she knows where Superman is!
Clark Small is called to his living quarters in the mid-western farm blocks. His "brother" is there to see him, as well as Councillor Lang to "monitor" their reunion. They tell him that Lois is alive, and the Horde is using her as a bargaining chip in case Superman attacks again. Clark says he can't help them but Superman can! As they escape, "injured" Councillor Lang calls the guard and tells him it was a meta-human trick. Superman and Jimmy go to find others who could help. Wonder Woman soon finds them. She leads them to Texas to find the rumored "Shadow Warrior" the Horde fears. They arrive just as he destroys an oil refinery guarded by the Horde. He is Batman. He is angry with them for abandoning Earth while he kept on fighting, and refuses to follow. They visit what was once Coast City. They find Hal Jordan and save him from Horde warriors, with the "help" of someone calling himself Superboy. Batman takes out one they miss, and agrees to help. Green Lantern sends the impulsive Superboy almost into orbit so he won't make their presence known. They go to Portland, Oregon to enlist a reluctant Wally West. They find Superboy again, after he has fought more Horde warriors. He lets one escape. The Horde will soon know of them. They head to Metropolis' resistance base. Lex Luthor's mind is revealed to still live in Metallo's kryptonite-powered body, calling himself Metallex. He offers to join them. They accept, needing all the help they can get. Together they are the Super Seven!
Lana visits Superman at the resistance base. The heroes are training for their confrontation with the Horde. Earth's only hope lies in less than 100 resistance fighters. Metallex doesn't trust the Councillor. He says they can begin planning their attack. Superman tells him not until they find Lois. Lana says she can arrange a reunion with her tomorrow night outside the old Daily Planet building. As they come out of hiding to meet Lana and presumably Lois, she tells them that it's not safe. Horde warriors appear all around them. Superman says they can't afford to lose. He asks Jimmy to take care of Lana. When Superman is gone, she hits Jimmy with her gun. One of the warriors asks her if she is all right. She tells him to pretend to attack her. Jimmy recovers and threatens to shoot her as Wonder Woman arrives. He would rather have Superman think she died in battle than to know she betrayed him. She transports away and Jimmy can't bring himself to fire. A warrior fires at Jimmy, but Diana jumps in the way. Green Lantern tries to stop him, but it's too late. As she dies, Diana tells them she knew it would happen, but had to help them fight.
Kryll'n raises the shield around Metropolis. He announces that at dawn, every man, woman, and child will die. The people of Metropolis begin to attack the heroes. They flee to the resistance base to plan for their next attack. Batman secretly asks Superboy if he was interested in a little "excursion." He volunteers, and Batman gases him. Batman disguises himself as a Horde warrior and takes the unconscious Superboy to the Horde base. They believe his "captive" to be Superman. They transport him to the main ship. He wakes Superboy. They see a map of where Lois might be, but Batman tells him that's not their mission. Batman tells him to divert the aliens while he plants the bombs. Batman is attacked by the Horde. As they are about to kill him, he rips his suit and presses a button on his armored chest. The massive ship falls on the city, killing 37,000 people instantly, but now there was a chance to save 2,000,000. Kryll'n sends the remaining warriors to kill the rest of the city. Wally sacrifices himself to save Hal in the battle.
Superboy takes Superman to where Lois should be. It was a ruse that Kryll'n devised to flush out Earth's last heroes. He is there with Lana. She is angry that he was not interested in her in the last few weeks. Kryll'n has no use for her anymore and fires at her. Superman and Superboy attack him, and he then reveals he has "killed" Metallex and removed his power source: Kryptonite! Superboy is not affected by it, and attacks Kryll'n. He hits Superboy with his energy beams. Just as he is about to finish him off, Metallex's emergency power comes on and he stabs him with what's left of his arm. It is too late to save Superman. Lana is dying and tells Superboy one way to save Superman. Meanwhile Green Lantern and the last of the resistance are fighting off the Horde. They hear a voice from above. Superman is carrying Kryll'n's body and announces to the remaining warriors that he is dead. In the Horde, this causes fear. In the humans, hope. Everything changed. One month later, Superboy is adjusting to his new role as Superman. Metallex has been rebuilt. Green Lantern meets them on a roof to say goodbye. He is going to find any other meta-humans to form a new Justice League. Lex tells Superman to not let the power go to his head, and not to forget who killed Superman once before. There were still aliens on Earth who became "little kings." The fight was just beginning. A Never-Ending Battle for a new generation of heroes!
Despite being a Superman story, this didn't have a lot of Superman in it! Superman didn't do much to help the resistance that someone else couldn't do. But he didn't do much that was way out of character either, besides hiding for 10 years, but most of them did that. So this one is in the middle.
Kal-El in the jungle,
Kryptonians on Earth,
A Super-Knight in shining armor,
And the end of the world!
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Benjamin Grose.
The scanned covers are © 1999 DC Comics.