Comic Book: For the Man Who Has Everything

For the Man Who Has Everything is a classic Superman story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; it was published in Superman Annual #11 (1985). it is widely 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. The story was later adapted into a popular episode of Justice League Unlimited, which is believed to be the only official adaptation of his work that Alan Moore actually likes.

The story works around the idea of The Final Temptation: Superman's mind is trapped in an illusion of 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. However, Krypton is shown to have changed since the time it would have been destroyed, turning from the idyllic representations in the Canon to a dystopia teetering on social collapse. Amongst other things, Kara is in the hospital after being assaulted by a anti-Phantom Zone protester. Further compounding the problem is Kal-El's estrangement from his father, Jor-El; while the latter was often portrayed as a heroic visionary in the Silver Age, this Jor-El is a bitter shell who turned to radical reactionary politics after wrongly predicting Krypton's self-destruction (his wife dying of cancer might have something to do with it, too).

In reality, Superman has fallen under the spell of an alien plant called the Black Mercy, which grants a logical extrapolation of its victim's fondest desires. Superman is discovered by Batman, Wonder Woman, and Robin (Jason Todd), who have come to the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman's birthday. They run afoul of Mongul, the powerful supervillain who trapped Superman in the Black Mercy's grasp; while Wonder Woman engages Mongul in battle, Batman desperately tries to figure out a way to remove the plant.

While Superman feels contentment with his family and his career (being free from the conflict inherent with being a superhero), he realizes all is not as it seems as the dream deepens. 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 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 idea of an idyllic life (which involves his parents never being gunned down in front of him). Jason Todd manages to pry the Black Mercy off of Batman using Mongul's special gauntlets.

As Superman prepares to deliver a crushing (perhaps killing) blow to Mongul, he is 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, who is instantly seized by the plant and submerged into his own deepest fantasy: he swats the Mercy aside, kills Superman, and conquers the universe.

The animated version removes the darker aspects of the original dream world and gives Superman a mostly idyllic life. In this 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 a pet dog named Krypto. Jor-El appears as a contented, doting grandfather (who is somewhat dismissive of Kal-El's farming lifestyle), and his bitterness at his false prediction is reduced to a single line about how his reputation took years to salvage. Brainiac even appears as a dutiful household A.I. The only clues something is amiss are a constant stream of random earthquakes and Jor-El's voice continually changing. Jason Todd is also absent from this adaptation; Batman instead escapes from the Mercy's dream with Wonder Woman's help, and Wonder Woman is the one who puts the plant on Mongul.

As stated above, the Justice League Unlimited episode is reportedly the only official adaptation of Alan Moore's work which Moore himself likesnote . This is most likely because the show’s staff asked him for permission to adapt it and stayed true to the story's spirit while putting their own spin on most of the big plot beats (such as how the Black Mercy dream works). Moore is notorious for asking to have his name removed from the credits of adaptations of his work, but his name does appears in the credits for this episode.

For the Man Who Has Everything provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adapted Out: Jason Todd doesn't appear in the JLU adaptation, as he was never introduced in the DCAU. Similarly, Tim Drake, who held the title at the time the story was set, did not appear because he was Exiled from Continuity as with all other Batman-related characters aside from Batman himself.
  • Arc Words: "He is content."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Averted in the animated version, however, where Krypton really is a paradise — making it all the more painful for Superman to reject it.
  • 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. Played straight in the JLU version.
  • Curse Cut Short: In the JLU episode, Wonder Woman's "Go to hell!" is cut off by her firing the BFG.
  • Decapitation Presentation: In Mongul's fantasy, he rips Superman's head off and puts it on a pike, taking it everywhere he conquers.
  • 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 both versions, 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."
  • The Final Temptation: What the Black Mercy gives its victims, as shown in the case of Superman, Batman, and (in the comic book) Mongul.
  • 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 Justice League Unlimited 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"[1] 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 (though we do hear small snippets of it). 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.
    Mongul: You... insufferable... little... speck... You HURT me. YOU! (pound) HURT! (pound) ME!
  • Putting on the Reich: The Sons of Rao in the comic.
  • 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.
    Superman: MONGUL!
  • 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?
    Wonder Woman: I don't know. Too predictable?
  • Straw Conservative: In the comic, Jor-El becomes one of these after his predictions of Krypton's fate don't come true.
  • Stripperific: In the comic, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman are making small talk outside the Fortress in the Arctic snow. When Wonder Woman suggests they (specifically, Batman and Robin who are not endowed with superpowers like she is) get inside to avoid the cold, Robin comments on how little she's wearing compared to them: "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.

Alternative Title(s):

For The Man Who Has Everything