For the Man Who Has Everything
is a classic Superman
story by Alan Moore
and Dave Gibbons
that is considered one of the best Superman
stories of all time (if not the
best) as well as one of the best single issue comic book stories ever published. Published in Superman Annual
#11 (1985). It was later adapted
into a popular episode
of Justice League Unlimited
which has been said to be the only official adaptation of his work that Alan Moore actually likes.
The story is a The Final Temptation
type; Superman's mind is trapped in an illusion depicting him living a happy life
on an intact Krypton
. In the illusion, he's married to a former actress and has a large, loving family. Despite previously idyllic representations
in the Canon
, Krypton is presented here as a dystopia teetering on social collapse
. Among other things, Kara is in the hospital after being assaulted by a anti-Phantom Zone
protester. Further compounding the problem is the fact that Kal-El is estranged from his father, Jor-El
. While the character was often portrayed as a heroic visionary in the Silver Age
, the Jor-El the reader sees is a bitter shell, who turned to radical reactionary politics
after wrongly predicting
that Krypton would explode; his wife dying of cancer
might have something to do with it as well.
In reality, Kal-El is Superman, and he's fallen under the spell of an alien plant called the Black Mercy
, which grants a logical extrapolation of his fondest desires
. Superman is discovered by Batman
, Wonder Woman
and Jason Todd as Robin (who was absent from the animated adaptation
), who have come to celebrate Superman's birthday. They run afoul of Mongul, the powerful supervillain who has trapped Superman in the Black Mercy's grasp. Wonder Woman engages Mongul in battle while Batman desperately tries to figure out a way to remove the plant.
As Superman delves deeper into the dream, he slowly comes to the realization that while he feels contentment with his family and his career
(being free from the conflict
inherent with being a superhero), all is not as it seems. Through sheer force of will
(Mongul comments that the sensation is akin to Superman tearing off his own arm
), Kal-El tells his beloved son that he doesn't think he's real
. With this revelation, the illusion is dispelled, and Superman is freed just in time to save his friends
from Mongul. During the ensuing fight, the Black Mercy attaches itself to Batman; we see briefly see images of his idyllic life (which involves his parents never being gunned down in front of him); Jason Todd is able to pry the Black Mercy off using Mongul's special gauntlets. Superman is on the verge of delivering a crushing (perhaps killing) blow to Mongul, but he becomes distracted by the sight of the statues of his parents, which allows Mongul to deliver a stunning counterattack. Mongul is on the verge of killing Superman when Robin attaches the Black Mercy to Mongul. Mongul is instantly seized by the plant and submerged into his own deepest fantasy: he swats the Mercy aside, kills Superman, and then conquers the universe.
The animated version
removes the darker aspects of the original dream world and gives Superman a mostly idyllic life. In the adaptation, he is a Kryptonian farmer with his wife Loana (three guesses as to which two characters she's an amalgamation of — her voice actress is the same as Lois Lane
's, to boot), his son Van-El, and Krypto the pet dog. Jor-El appears as a contented, doting grandfather (if somewhat dismissive of Kal-El's farming lifestyle). Brainiac is a dutiful household A.I.
The only clue that something is wrong are the constant, random earthquakes, and how Jor-El's voice keeps changing...
This was reportedly the only one of two
adaptations of Alan Moore's work that Moore himself likesnote
. Most likely because A.) They asked him first and B.) they kept the spirit of the story while putting their own spin on most of the big plot beats (especially how the Black Mercy dream works). Notably, Alan Moore is notorious for asking to have his name removed from the credits of adaptations of his work
, but his name actually does appear in the credits for this episode.
For the Man Who Has Everything provides examples of the following tropes:
- Arc Words: "He is content."
- Be Careful What You Wish For: And how!
- Beware the Nice Ones: It is rare for Superman to truly unleash on someone with intent to kill. Mongul is lucky to be alive.
- Bloodless Carnage: In the JLU version, Mongul beating the living daylights out of Wonder Woman and not opening a single wound.
- Brick Joke: At the beginning of the comic, Wonder Woman says she got Superman a replica of Kandor made by Themiscyran jewelcrafters and that she hopes he doesn't already have one. At the end, Superman receives this gift — and hastily puts away the Kandor replica he already has.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Some things have a different name on Krypton (at least, the illusory Krypton in Superman's mind) than they do on Earth, from the simpler things ("first-day" instead of birthday, "units" for minutes) to inventions analogous to Earth ones ("holofactor" for television, and "paragondola" which is a floating, wheel-less automobile).
- Casting Gag: The mugger who shoots the Waynes (theoretically Joe Chill) is voiced by Kevin Conroy, who is the voice of Batman.
- Composite Character: Loana (exclusive to the JLU version), Superman's wife in the visions, being a mixture of Lois Lane and Lana Lang, Superman's two love interests in past canon.
- Continuity Cameo: The adaptation includes Krypto and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to "little Zod".
- Continuity Nod: Countless, particularly to the Silver Age. Superman's wife is Lyla Lerrol, who Superman met while time-stranded on Krypton, the various Kryptonian geographical landmarks are callbacks to other Silver Age stories, etc. Alan Moore has stated repeatedly that he is a great fan of the Silver Age Superman, and everything that goes along with him.
- Crapsack World: What Jor-El believes Krypton has become in Superman's dream, so much that it made him wish that Krypton had exploded.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: While Krypton is generally protrayed as a utopian society, the comic book version subverts this heavily. The fact that Kryptonian skies are a sinister red tone (due to Krypton orbiting a red sun) is the reader's first hint of the darkness of the illusion.
- Curse Cut Short: In the JLU episode, Wonder Woman's "Go to hell!" is cut off by her firing the BFG.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?
- Mongul breaks Wonder Woman's arm and mops the floor with her, then gets Superman in a death grip. He finally gets taken out by Robin, who cleverly uses the Black Mercy as a weapon. A rare Big Damn Heroes moment for Jason Todd.
- The animated version has only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman present, and it's Diana who gets in the final shot with the Black Mercy.
- Dream Apocalypse: "You're my son and I'll always love you, but I don't think you're real..." And once you wake up, all those you loved who were not real will be gone, of course.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good
- The animated version shows this with Mongul's speculating that the Black Mercy is showing Superman as ruler of the universe; in reality, Superman's having a dream of living a peaceful, quiet life with loving family in Krypton.
- In the comic, it's implied at the end that Mongul is perfectly content with the fantasy of bloody conquest the Black Mercy is giving him. Whereas Superman is able to break free because, being a hero, he was able to comprehend something wrong with the fantasy he was given.
- Faux Affably Evil: "I understand that your society makes distinctions based on age and gender. Perhaps you can tell me which one of you it would be polite to kill first."
- Fridge Logic: In-universe, this is what ruins the idyllic illusion.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Mongul is defeated by the very plant he used to immobilize Superman.
- Hurl It into the Sun: Or a Black Hole. You know, whatever.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Batman actually says this.
- Just Friends: Superman and Wonder Woman, according to Wonder Woman. Then Moore tosses in the Ship Tease noted below.
- Karma Houdini / Karmic Death: Mongul's fate. Death being figurative here, of course. Depending on if Mongul's dream turns sour or if he's dissatisfied with it, he got exactly what he wanted and was satisfied with it. In the JLU episode, Batman bitterly states that whatever he sees is "too good for him".
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The Black Mercy.
- Meaningful Name: Batman (Wonder Woman in the animated version) bred a new rose as a gift for Superman, calling it "The Krypton". It's ruined at the end of the story. Superman is aware of the irony and meaning.
Batman: Well, I'm afraid it got stepped on, and... Well, frankly, it's dead.
Superman: Don't worry about it, Bruce. Perhaps it's for the best.
- And Superman's wife Loana. See Composite Character above.
- Mythology Gag: Many, but the most affecting is that Brainiac still shrunk Kandor in Superman's fantasy and took it away. At the end of his dream, Kal-El visits the Kandor Crater with his son.
- The story might have been influenced by another comic, "Superman's Secret Afterlife" from 1979, where the hero was also trapped in an illusionary alternate life by some of his enemies, also using an alien creature.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Unlike the comic version, in the animated version we never actually get to see what it is that Mongul sees in his fantasy. And yet, it is so much worse...
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A very brief version in the animated adaptation, in which Superman overpowers Mongul, who previously had the upper hand, while falling through several floors in thick smoke.
- Off with His Head!: In Mongul's dream, he rips Superman's head off, puts it in a pike and parades it as he conquers Earth.
- Playing Possum: Wonder Woman in the DCAU version.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Mongul makes a number of blatantly sexist remarks toward Wonder Woman in both adaptations, which is ironic since at least in the comic he speaks of gender distinctions as something he's only heard about.
- Kick the Dog: General consensus seems to be that he's doing it just to be a prick.
- Precision F-Strike:
Mongul: Oh, dear. Is that a neural impacter? I didn't know they were still making those. I'd advise you to try the plasma disruptor. It's more of a woman's weapon.
Wonder Woman: Go to Hell!
- Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Wonder Woman, who quickly realizes that the only thing she gains by beating on Mongul is blistered hands.
- Punctuated Pounding: After Superman gives him a face full of heat vision.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning. "Burn!"◊
- Rule of Three: The narration of the comic includes three uses of the phrase, "He is content", which is also the same number of people who become affected by the Black Mercy.
- Say My Name: In the comic, after Robin ripped the Black Mercy off, Superman screamed Mongul's name so loud that he knocked Robin over.
- Scream Discretion Shot: In the animated version, Wonder Woman wonders what Mongul's dreaming about, the camera zooms in on his smiling face — to the sounds of horrific screaming. As noted above in Nothing Is Scarier, this arguably makes it more horrifying.
- Self-Serving Memory: In the animated version. Amusingly, Mongul tries to accuse Superman of that:
Mongul: I suppose Superman told you about our previous encounter.
Batman: You mean how he humiliated you?
Mongul: A... jaundiced account.
- Skyward Scream: In the original story.
- Ship Tease: Alan Moore has Superman and Wonder Woman having a long kiss on the mouth, with this exchange:
Superman: Mmmm. Why don't we do that more often?
- Stripperific: In the comic version, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman are making small talk outside the Fortress in the Arctic snow. Robin lampshades Wonder Woman's outfit when she suggests they (specifically, Batman and Robin who are not endowed with superpowers like she is) get inside to avoid the cold with, "Before us two freeze? Dressed like that?" Batman merely replies with "Think clean thoughts, chum."
- Superhero Trophy Shelf: The story takes place partially at the Fortress of Solitude, which is the Trope Namer.
- Suplex Finisher: Wonder Woman to Mongul in the JLU version. Though not a finisher move — it barely fazes him.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Superman is stopped from doing so when he sees his parents' statues. Mongul Lampshades this.
- Title Drop: In the adaptation, this is Batman's explanation for giving Superman cash.
Batman: What do you get for the man who has everything?
- Unstoppable Rage: Superman when he wakes from his dream and realizes what Mongul's done to him.
- Word of God: J.M. Dematteis, writer of the animated adaptation:
I don't think he'd be happier on Krypton. It's just that Superman never really knew Krypton and had a profound longing to experience that part of his history. Krypton is part of him but Earth, I think, is a bigger part.