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Comic Book / All-Star Superman

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You should trust him. After all... he's Superman.

"You're much stronger than you think you are."

One of the two titles in the All-Star DC Comics line, and by far the most successful and acclaimed between them. Grant Morrison's 12-issue limited series touches on nearly every corner of the Superman mythos as it tells the story of Superman's final days.

When Lex Luthor finally manages to poison the Man of Tomorrow with an overdose of solar radiation, Superman decides it's time to look back and wrap up his life. There are villains to overcome, answers for the woman he loves, and the Twelve Challenges of Superman to perform, but Lex is still planning something and there is a villain hiding just out of sight...

An Animated Adaptation written by Dwayne McDuffie, All-Star Superman, was released on Feb. 22, 2011 - the day after McDuffie's death.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: One of the astronauts on the Ray Bradbury was genetically engineered to explode.
  • Act of True Love: Jimmy Olsen risks his life by turning himself into Doomsday, risking that the DNA will overwhelm him, to stop a black Kryptonite infected Superman instead of sending his best friend to the Phantom Zone.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Superman's origin is covered in four panels and eight words.
      "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple."
    • Each issue follows a Silver Age Superman story template, ranging from Superman getting new powers, Superdickery clashes with an insanely paranoid Lois (which actually has a reason for Lois to be insane), Lois or other members of Superman's supporting cast receiving his powers, an adventure with Jimmy Olsen, a situation where Superman needs to keep Clark Kenting lest his true identity is discovered, a story back in Superman's youth that involves time-travelers, Bizarro shenanigans, other survivors of Krypton showing up to butt heads with Supes, etc.
  • All There in the Manual: As is often the case with Morrison, interviews are near-essential reading. Part four and part six aren't linked there, so they are here.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Bar-El and Lilo take over the Fortress of Solitude while Supes is in the Underverse and replace the Jor-El and Lara statues with statues of themselves.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome:
    • Leo Quintum is basically a supervillain who uses all that Super Science to help humanity instead of committing crimes.
    • After a team of miniaturized Kandorian citizens unsuccessfully try to heal Superman's cells on a molecular level, the hero sends the same group to heal a group of little cancer patients.
  • Anachronic Order: Issue 10 is presented this way, jumping through different times throughout Superman's day. Three of his twelve challenges are completed during this period: having Kandor's medical scientists cure human diseases, giving Leo Quintum the means to create Superman 2, and creating life on Earth Q.
  • Androcles' Lion: Superman keeps a baby sun-eater as a pet. After he releases it, it comes back to save him when he is battling Solaris, The Tyrant Sun.
  • Anti-Hero: Bar-El and Lilo. While they do use their abilities for good, they are also more than happy to lord their powers over humanity, have nothing but disdain for Superman and spent most of their time on page acting like superpowered bullies.
    • Samson and Atlas skirt the border between this and Unscrupulous Hero, given how they knowingly flirt with Lois in front of Superman while aware that his days are numbered.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: This is Superman's viewpoint. Due to his advanced senses, he can actually see the way the universe works: a vast, intricate mechanism of connections. The universe merely chugs along indifferently, and the only thing that matters are our connections to each other. The only thing in this vast machine worth protecting is life.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: According to Jimmy Olson, P.R.O.J.E.C.T.'s Swiss Bank Account has an infinity symbol in the credit column.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen go through incredible adventures with and because of Superman, yet when he willingly reveals himself as Clark Kent twice during the story line, Lois and Jimmy, along with the rest of the Daily Planet staff still believe it's just a ruse to fool Supes' enemies, and in reality the "real" Kent is hiding somewhere. The fact that Kent is Superman is actually pretty down to earth compared with the other zany stuff they do believe.
  • Artificial Gravity: The bottled city of Kandor has it at eight times Earth's.
  • Artistic License Physics: Superman has replaced the giant key to the Fortress with a normal-sized key made of dwarf star matter, weighing over 500,000 tons. He keeps it under the welcome mat. An object that small, that dense, and that heavy would immediately start breaking through the ice and head straight for the center of the planet the moment he put it down.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: It's suggested this is Superman's final fate, as he becomes a being of "pure energy, pure information." This overlaps with Abstract Apotheosis, as it's heavily implied that this "pure information" is the story and ideals of Superman, which various Morrison stories such as Final Crisis or their Action Comics run have suggested to be unusually powerful and enduring.
  • The Atoner: Robot 7 has its original programming overwritten by Solaris and helps Luthor obtain the Exo-Genes formula. The android would subsequently sacrifice itself to help Superman weaken Solaris, begging for its master's forgiveness before being torn apart.
  • Badass Normal: Lex Luthor has no proper superpowers, but his intellect and cunning make him far more dangerous than Superman's other foes. He has access to top-notch technology and devises a successful scheme to kill the Man of Steel.
  • Barrier Warrior: As a result of the exposure to massive levels of solar radiation, Superman gains the ability to extend his bio-electric field to protect other people.
  • Batman Cold Open: The first issue begins with Superman rescuing astronauts from a spaceship that's about to explode.
  • Belated Happy Ending: The end of DC One Million has Superman reunite with a resurrected Lois Lane, brought back as a super being like himself.
  • Beware the Superman: At the end, Lex Luthor drinks a serum that will give him Superman's powers for 24 hours and intends to be this trope, but he comes to an epiphany: Superman has powers and perceptions far beyond that of humans yet he remains kind because, sorry Brightburn, Homelander, and Omni-Man, having such a perception won't turn you into a raging murderer, it'll make you see that in this cold universe, every life counts.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Superman does not die, but is working away inside the Sun to keep it going; nobody knows how long it will be until he can return, and in the meantime the world is left to get on without him. The final pages implies Dr. Quintum has had a contingency plan to create a second Superperson.
  • Bizarro Universe: The square Bizarro World is a shapeshifting planetary parasite from a higher-gravity dimension that grows inhabitants to appear more like the world it's feeding on, albeit with polar opposite traits from the originals. These include Bizarro versions of the Justice League: A Flash who moves extremely slow, a Green Lantern who can't think of anything to make with his ring, a Wonder Woman who was turned from a goddess into a clay statue. Bizarro Batman himself is dead, as his parents shot him dead. Then there's a Bizarro Bizarro named Zibarro, who is the Only Sane Man on the planet.
  • Black Comedy: When Bizarro calls for the Unjustice League, he asks why Bizarro Batman hasn't shown up. Bizarro Green Lantern responds that Bizarro Batman was shot by his own parents, a darkly humorous inversion of how Batman's standard origin is becoming a vigilante after his parents were shot in front of him. Bizarro Wonder Woman now being a clay statue also counts.
  • Body Horror:
    • Overexposure to solar radiation causes Superman's cells to enter apoptosis. The hero describes the process as millions of minuscule fireworks under his skin, and the reader later gets to witness the phenomenon up close, as the miniaturized Kandorians try in vain to prevent his cells from bursting.
    • One of the members of the Ray Bradbury expedition was genetically engineered to explode on Luthor's command. The process involves the man mutating into a tumorous mass that inflates until it bursts.
    • Parasite is a mysterious purple creature that can grow stronger by feeding on other beings' life force. Upon absorbing Superman's energy, it inflates until it becomes a giant blob with a mouth.
    • The Bizarro parasite mutates any creature it comes into contact with to create beings as twisted as itself. Allie becomes a monster with pale, slimy skin; and Superman later reveals he has captured many transformed animals for his zoo, some of which are a giraffe with an abnormally long snout and fish with wings.
  • Breaking Speech: Played straight at first, during Luthor's interview with Clark. In the beginning, Lex seems to try to erode Kent's self-worth by pointing out how insignificant he, and by extension everybody, is compared to Superman and that Lois will never notice him because of this. Then, it gets subverted when Lex tries to protect Clark during the prison riot and admits to have always liked Kent, precisely because how flawed and human he is.
    Luthor: I've always liked you Kent. You're humble, modest, uncoordinated: Human. You're everything he's not.
  • Broken Ace: Superman himself. This is him in one of his most powerful and competent incarnations, unbeatable in a straight fight, incredibly intelligent, and unshakably moral. But he's also constantly haunted by the specter of his impending death, he's incredibly melancholic about the few failures he does have on his record, and he's so thoroughly dedicated himself to the Neverending Battle that the woman he loves more than anything no longer trusts him.
  • Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: Clark gets chased by Parasite while interviewing Luthor in jail and has to let Luthor defend him while secretly using his powers.
  • The Bus Came Back: Nasthalthia "Nasty" Luthor was a Supergirl villain who bedeviled the Girl of Steel during her Adventure Comics run and then faded into comic limbo until Morrison brought her back for this story after 34 years.
  • Butt-Monkey: Steve Lombard. His new car gets destroyed by Krull, his hairpiece is set on fire by Bar-El, Superman loudly reveals to his coworkers that he's immune to the Bizarro virus because he takes "performance pills", and on and on.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Bar-El and Lilo, Krypton's first astronauts, survived the destruction of their planet, and wind up coming to Earth to conquer it.
  • Canon Foreigner: In a comic fully dedicated to Superman's history, adding an entirely new character, Leo Quintum, is a little odd. Still, Quintum's infinite bank account and absurd experiments allow for many of the comic's Silver Age-esque sci-fi stories to get off the ground.
  • Canon Welding: The appearance of Kal Kent and Solaris ties this comic to DC One Million (a crossover series plotted by Morrison), which is nominally in different continuity. Even though DC One Million was released years before All-Star Superman, it actually provides a conclusion for the events of the latter series, as we get to see Superman return from the Sun. All-Star Superman also gives us the origin of the infant universe Qwewq, who was an important character in Morrison's Seven Soldiers.
  • Cardboard Prison: Lex uses a sonic device to drill a tunnel out of his cell for Clarke, but he ''chooses not to use it himself.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Lex Luthor is a subversion — he identifies himself as a born dictator and all that, but truly does seem to believe that the world would be better off under his absolute rule and without reliance on Superman.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Steve Lombard's first lines are hitting on Lois.
  • Cerebus Call-Back: Space clouds were a common plot device during the Silver Age, that either transmuted kryptonite or transmuted people into living kryptonite. Here it's used tragically as Bar-El and Lilo passed through one on transit to Earth, and it slowly transmuted their bodily minerals into kryptonite.
  • Chekhov's Armoury:
    • In chapter 2, Clark presents Lois with the Exo-Genes, a serum that gives her Superman's powers for 24 hours, so that the two can have the perfect date. The concoction wouldn't play any further role until the eleventh chapter, in which Lex Luthor steals the formula and uses his newfound powers to escape from death row.
    • Superman's pet Sun Eater is introduced in chapter 2 and makes a brief cameo in chapter 7. The creature would play an important role later on in the battle against Solaris, attempting to defend his friend from the Tyrant Sun. Its death fuels Superman with rage, granting him the strength to finally defeat the villain.
    • As Clark shows Lois the Fortress of Solitude's many wonders, he casually remarks that Robot 7 needs repairs. This seemingly throw-away line turns out to be plot-critical later, as it's revealed that Solaris had corrupted said robot's A.I. in order to steal the Exo-Genes formula to Luthor. Robot 7 would ultimately sacrifice itself in the battle against Solaris to atone for its actions while brainwashed.
    • The "How to Mix the Perfect Cocktail" book Luthor is reading in issue 10 foreshadows him drinking the Exo-Genes in the following issue, enabling him to escape from prison.
  • The Chessmaster: It wouldn't be Lex Luthor without this trope. The entire series is his plan, building up to him gaining the power of Superman and taking over once the solar energy overdose finishes Superman off. Two problems with that: one, the energy overdose isn't killing Superman, but causing him to transcend mortality; two, having Superman's powers gives you Superman's perspective on the world, and that makes Luthor realize how pointless his entire scheme is.
  • Clark Kenting: Concept sketches Frank Quitely drew for this series show how he pulls it off in this series. This series is probably the most believable Superman comics storynote  in terms of people not being able to tell Clark is Superman. It also explores the subject with his paramour. Lois refuses to believe they're the same person even after being told, partly because she doesn't want to believe that some part of Clark truly represents who Superman is and partly because it means he's either lying to her now or has been lying to her for years.
  • Clone by Conversion: The new Bizarros can convert other people into Bizarros by touching them.
  • Clone Degeneration: Inverted where one in every five billion Bizarros is a perfect human/Kryptonian duplicate.
  • Close on Title: Issues 3, 7, 8, 9, and 10 only show the title on the last page.
  • Color-Coded Speech: When Superman is exposed to black kryptonite, his speech bubbles shift along the greyscale from white to black depending on how evil he is at any given moment.
  • Composite Character: Being Kryptonian villains who have to be put into the Phantom Zone to save their lives, Bar-El and Lilo are a cross between the normal Phantom Zone criminals and Mon-El.
  • Condescending Compassion: Lex has a pretty big Pet the Dog moment with Clark Kent, going out of the way to "save" his life when she's clearly in mortal danger and even expressing sympathy that Kent could never quite get Lois Lane's attention. .... Then he explains that the reason he likes him is that Clark Kent is everything Superman isn't; flawed, flabby, clumsy, and modest (which, to Luthor, means unremarkable). Clark's modesty means he calmly absorbs all of Luthor's unsubtle insults and his belief in seeing the good in everyone means that he continuously appeals to his intellect in the hopes that he'll be a better person. All of this taken together mean that Clark is the perfect figure to bolster Luthor's fragile ego.
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: The Parasite is being moved while Clark interviews Luthor, and Clark now has so much power that just being in the same room as him lets the Parasite burst out of his restraints. Clark then has to protect Luthor from the rioting prisoners and subdue Parasite without revealing his identity.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of issue 5 shows Clark and Lex in jail together, both clad in prison jumpsuits. The actual issue has Clark going to prison in his normal suit to interview Lex.
  • Cradle To Grave Character: The story begins with a brief summary of Superman's birth and childhood before jumping into the main story: how Superman spent the last days before his death.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Downplayed; Jimmy Olsen (transformed into Doomsday) cradles Superman as he recovers from black Kryptonite exposure.
  • Crapsack World: The Bizarro World is a dark dimension where communication is near impossible due to the bizarre syntax of its natives. While most of the inhabitants are too far gone to really suffer, the Bizarro version of Bizarro is actually sane enough to realize how miserable the place is.
  • Creator Cameo: In the artificial Q universe where a copy of Earth is speeding through its own history, there's a moment where it's Cleveland in 1937 and a young Joe Shuster is preparing to draw a new character "that will change everything..."
  • Crying Wolf: The reason Lois doesn't believe Superman when he tells her he's Clark Kent. He's spent years playing cat-and-mouse with her on his identity, and resorted to robots, Batman in disguise, and hypnotism, and it's not like any of the methods he uses to "prove" his identity couldn't easily be faked by someone with his knowledge and resources. She can't believe he'd just flat-out reveal it to her, and thinks it has to be some kind of trick or Zany Scheme - especially since he refuses to let anyone know he's dying, so there's no apparent motive for it.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: There are constant references to adventures Superman has had in the past including ones with Batman and the Justice League.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Superman points out that Luthor could have solved a lot of humanity's problems already if he didn't focus on killing Superman.
  • Cutting the Knot: How Superman solves the classic Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object logic problem:
    Superman: They surrender.
    Ultra-Sphinx: Answer... acceptable.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Lex's niece Nasthalthia reportedly wants to conquer the world some day and is more than willing to guide any of Lex's prisoners down whatever molten lava river Luthor's managed to construct that time of day.
  • Death of Personality: Agatha tells Jimmy that Doomsday will "overwhelm his mind" if he isn't careful.
  • Deface of the Moon:
    • Jimmy writes "I Love Lucy" on the Moon before his big date with Lucy Lane. Fortunately, it's a "short-term, cosmetic alteration" - so presumably P.R.O.J.E.C.T. can turn it back afterwards.
    • Bar-El and Lilo also carelessly damage the moon while fighting Superman and then tape up the crack they made using various Earth bridges.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Luthor's blase attitude toward his death sentence is really disturbing to those around him.
  • Ditzy Genius: As part of the Adaptation Distillation, Jimmy Olsen combines his lack of common sense from the Silver Age with the hidden genius one would need to be Superman's Young Pal.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Superman's cells' self-destructiveness is a parallel to cancer.
  • Dramatic Unmask: At the end of Issue 6, the Unknown Superman of 4500 AD takes off his bandages and reveals himself as the present day Superman, who has travelled to the past to visit Jonathan Kent in his final days before his fatal heart attack.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Injustice League have a base at Bizarroworld's frozen core.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Chronovore is a floating mass of arms, jaws, and eyes that eats time off people's lives.
  • Eldritch Location: The Bizarros' homeword, which is a parasitic infraverse that produced flawed copies of the world it tries to devour
  • Emo Teen: One of the people Superman saves is a suicidal teenager, who is depicted wearing black clothes, piercings and multiple leather accessories. This is a more serious and sympathetic instance than most examples, as Reagan's suicide attempt is taken dead seriously.
  • Empowered Badass Normal:
    • Jimmy Olsen does more useful and heroic things than in some of his appearances even as a normal human, but then he becomes Doomsday to take on a black-Kryptonite-affected Superman and he wins without seriously harming either of them.
    • Luthor temporarily gains Superman's powers at the end.
  • Energy Beings: The series features a brief appearance by things that look like energy beings, but it turns out they actually have some physical presence. Their energy patterns are contained inside some kind of biogenic crystaline structure filled with a conductive gas. In layman's terms, they're living neon signs.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Clark says that Luthor has the intellect to work alongside Superman in making the world a better place, but the villain simply rebuts his claim by stating that he was born a dictator. Subverted come the final chapter, as Luthor obtaining Superman's powers causes him to see the world the same way the hero does, finally enabling him to understand his morals and develop interest in helping mankind.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Subverted. Krypto's spooked by the new farmhands, but they are actually Superman's descendants, who came from the future to protect the past from the Chronovore.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Black Kryptonite-Superman gets credit for beating up Doomsday and stopping its mad rampage... which is the opposite of what actually happened.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve:
    • Superman has various alien animals kept in the Fortress of Solitude and even adds a zoo of Bizarro animals following the cubic planet's invasion.
    • The Superman Squad take the Chronovore to a celestial zoo at their headquarters.
  • Fiction 500: Leo Quintum is described by Jimmy Olson as a "zillionaire" and, considering that his company apparently has literally infinite money, that's probably accurate.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Superman seems to be doing this before the black Kryptonite completely overcomes him — he describes how he's being affected and says, "Jim, I need help."
  • Fluffy Tamer: Superman befriends a baby Sun Eater, which he acknowledges to be one of the most dangerous creatures in the universe, given its potential to destroy entire solar systems.
  • Foot Popping: Lois, when Superman kisses her.
  • Friend to All Children: Superman regularly visits dying children in the hospital and even flies a bus full of them to Egypt to see the pyramids.
  • From Shame, Heroism: Having weilded Superman's power briefly, Lex Luthor sees the beauty and interconnected nature of everything . As he loses the power, he quietly surrenders, and provides the world with the means of recreating Superman as he sits on death row, accepting his punishment for his past crimes.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Jimmy Olsen at one point fights Superman in the nude after becoming Doomsday.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The D.N.A. P.R.O.J.E.C.T. - at one point, Jimmy asks what "P.R.O.J.E.C.T." stands for, and the scene immediately ends before the answer is revealed.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Clark gets a chill down his spine when he shakes hands with the Unknown Superman of A.D. 4500, who is actually his future self.
  • Genius Bruiser: A major unique element of the story is the restoration of Superman as this, after years of stories treating him as Dumb Muscle. Almost none of the story's problems are solved by conventional strength or brawling skill; Superman tends to do his work through charisma, technical knowledge, making use of limited resources, and outplanning his opponent. This culminates in his Ironic Echo to Luthor: "Brain beats brawn, every time!"
  • Genius Loci: The Bizarro planet is alive and intelligent.
  • God Is Good: Superman is technically our God, since Earth-Q, which he created life on with a nano-optical transfusion of pure solar energy", is heavily implied to be the real world, and he's as good as it gets. Though the traditional concept of God exists in this universe, since Jonathan states he prayed to the Big Man for a son, and Clark is seen giving Jonathan's eulogy in a church.
  • Godzilla Threshold: P.R.O.J.E.C.T. developed three anti-Superman weapons with Superman's assistance. The first weapon is Kryptonite powered, the second weapon is a giant satellite Phantom Zone cannon, and the third is a stem-cell accelerator known as "Doomsday". The events of the story rendered Superman immune to Green K, so the Kryptonite weapon sees no use. Meanwhile, Jimmy did not want to send Superman to the Phantom Zone, so he ends up utilizing Doomsday to become an unstoppable killing machine, despite Agatha warning him that Doomsday is too unstable and dangerous to ever use without a hypnotic trigger to restore his mind. (Jimmy did activate a hypnotic trigger: his signal watch.)
  • Going to Give It More Energy: Luthor poisons Superman by giving him too much solar radiation, which in smaller doses heals and empowers him. Turns out he's wrong; it's actually causing Superman to become something greater, which is also wreaking havoc on his physical body.
  • Golden Super Mode: The leader of the Superman Squad is completely gold. He's implied to be the same future Superman from DC One Million.
  • Good Counterpart: Leo Quintum to Lex Luthor. Both of them are infinitely wealthy corporate CEOs and scientific geniuses with a taste for the dramatic and an obsession with bringing human science into the next era. The difference is that Quintum genuinely cares about the betterment of mankind, and he isn't ashamed to look to Superman for help.
  • Goths Have It Hard: Regan is clearly a goth, and is about to commit suicide before Superman manages to talk her out of it.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture:
    • Jimmy Olsen makes a "short-term, cosmetic alteration" to the moon to get back in his girl's good graces.
    • Superman himself alters Lois's gene expression with "exogenes" giving her temporary powers so she can spend a day with super powers. He also salvages and restores the Titanic for dinner, takes Lois to Atlantis, makes out with her on the Moon and wins arm wrestling matches with Atlas and Samson at the same time to "win" her affections as she'd requested.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: At the end of "The Superman-Olsen War", Jimmy laments that this is the coolest "what-I-spent-my-day-doing" story ever and he can't tell anyone. No one except some of the P.R.O.J.E.C.T. staff, Jimmy, and Superman himself know.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: As always, Lex Luthor, and he makes it clear that it's his motivation for killing Superman.
    Luthor: Three months ago, I looked in the mirror at those nasty little spiderwebs of lines around my eyes, and I realized something. I'm getting older and he isn't. So, if I want to die happy, it's time to get serious about killing Superman, don't you think?
  • Guile Hero: Superman, who is portrayed being every bit as smart as he is strong, using his Clark Kent identity to pass off his attempts to save people as lucky bumbling. He even outwits Luthor.
  • Gypsy Curse: Jimmy Olsen believes he was cursed with bad luck after refusing to kiss the queen of the Gypsies. It's never stated whether this has any basis in fact, but considering all the insane things that happen to him on a monthly basis, it wouldn't be surprising. It was only "bad luck until the next full moon", which, of course, covers the events of that issue.
  • Hand Blast: Implied to be one of Superman's new powers when he puts his hand on a table and burns his logo onto it.
  • Heaven Above: Pa Kent's description of how he prayed to God for a son is put against a page-wide panel dominated by the starry night sky.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Luthor's fate in his battle with Superman: when he juices up with superpowers, he goes full-on Smug Super, casting aside his gadgets as unneeded and ignoring any strategy outside of straight-up brawling. This allows him to be Out-Gambitted by Superman, who uses his own technology and scientific knowledge to stop Luthor in his tracks and negate his powers completely. "Brain beats brawn every time." after all.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Jimmy can use his signal watch to hack the grid in seconds and shut down the Daily Planet's elevators.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Leo Quintum, as part of his "Good Counterpart to Lex Luthor" shtick.
  • Hope Bringer: Superman, of course. In one of the most powerful comic book pages, even when he's dying and needs to perform miraculous feats, he takes the time to give hope to a girl about to commit suicide. Out of universe, Morrison intended this book to be a real-life Hope Bringer, as the world seems so hopeless and it seems we cannot trust any of our idols, a celebration of what Superman should really represent is what people need.
    Morrison: "Somewhere, in our darkest night, we made up the story of a man who will never let us down and that seemed worth investigating."
  • Humans Are Flawed: Jor-El holds no delusions that humanity won't stumble and fall while trying to live to Superman's ideals, but is certain that eventually "they will join [him] in the sun".
  • Humongous Mecha: Superman saves Lois from one called Mechano Man, piloted by an old man with Alzheimer's. It's treated like a minor annoyance and Lois said she let it catch her to get Supes' attention.
  • Ignored Aesop: Subverted. Luthor — who had just undergone a case of Sudden Humility after duplicating Superman's Super Senses — instantly snaps back to his old self after the powers fade. However, the ending suggests that this was just an overreaction, and the lessons stuck with him once he calmed down.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Superman creates Earth-Q with the sole purpose of existing as a universe where he didn't exist. While this is figuratively true, the idea of Superman is born regardless of a lack of Krypton and reaches its apex when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster compress all of said idea and its many interpretations throughout Earth-Q's history into a rather familiar-looking superhero Shuster draws onto paper.
  • I Owe You My Life: Jimmy tells Agatha that Superman has rescued him repeatedly before Taking a Third Option to save his friend.
  • Jerkass: Bar-El and Lilo are so apathetic to collateral damage that they break the moon.
  • Kill Sat: P.R.O.J.E.C.T. has a Phantom Zone gun that can be fired from the Moon if Superman goes rogue.
  • King in the Mountain: Superman is presumed dead at the end of the comics, though Lois is sure that he has survived and is instead keeping the Sun stable. She turns out to be correct, as a single panel depicts him working inside the star.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Luthor runs on a treadmill and uses a dumbbell when Clark is interviewing him.
  • Kryptonite-Proof Suit: Superman dons a "solarsuit" to fly into space and fight Solaris after the latter turns the sun red.
  • Kryptonite Ring: Superman helped Leo Quintum make three, including a Kryptonite weapon, a Phantom Zone Kill Sat and a super serum that can temporarily turn a person into Doomsday.
  • Lack of Imagination: The Bizarro World is home to many twisted creatures that behave in the exact opposite manner that their Earth counterparts would. Its version of the Green Lantern has a nose ring that can create any object he wishes, but since he lacks the real hero's imagination, he is completely unable to use it.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Luthor lampshades the irony that Clark Kent has saved him from electrocution, after the reporting of Kent's newspaper has condemned him to the electric chair.
  • Landfill Beyond the Stars: Bizarro World is mostly covered in piles of garbage.
  • Leet Lingo: Superman receives a message from a scientist in the 24th century, a descendant of one of the many people Superman has saved who wanted to thank him personally; his future form of English is depicted as this.
  • Legacy Character: Set up at the end with the "Superman 2" project but shown earlier in the series with the Supermen of Time.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded with Leo Quintum who is described as having "365 rainbow coats, all identical!"
  • Living Dinosaurs: The third issue features sentient, evolved dinosaurs who live in the depths of the Earth. Lois herself comments how impressive they are.
  • Made of Indestructium: The leader of the Superman Squad presents Superman with an indestructible flower from New Krypton.
  • Man of Kryptonite: Bar-El and Lilo are this to themselves due to minerals in their own bodies converting to kryptonite.
  • Mechanical Abomination: Solaris is a living computer slightly smaller than our Earth capable of thought. It feeds on suns by "poisoning" them and turning them into blue suns.
  • Mortality Grey Area: Atlas and Samson steal the Ultrasphinx's jewels and present them to Lois Lane. In retaliation, the monster traps the woman in a state of quantum uncertainty, in which she is neither alive nor dead. It then poses an enigma to Superman, telling him that, if his answer is satisfactory, the conundrum will be undone and Lois will return to life. However, if he fails to answer, her death will be permanent.
  • Mundanger: What kills Jonathan Kent? A supervillain? A monster or an Eldritch Abomination? No, it's a heart attack. This adds a level of tragedy, as Superman is more powerful than he's ever been, yet he couldn't save his Pa from something so relatively pedestrian.
  • Nanomachines: Rare non-machine example. The released Kandorians can heal anything on a human but sadly not Superman.
  • Narcissist: Luthor has drawn on eyebrows and his whole vendetta against Superman boils down to Lex feeling upstaged by Supes.
  • Narm: Invoked in-story by Lex Luthor to discredit Clark, The Daily Planet, and the entire U.S. penitentiary system. "And then the inimitable Lex Luthor opened up the floor and shook hands with a baboon in a Superman suit."
  • National Anthem: The Bizarro Anthem is a parody of "The Star-Spangled Banner":
    No say, am no see by am night's early dark!
    How shamefully quiet by am morning's first fading!
    Thin stripes and dull stars through the comfortable peace,
    Under trenches no watch, am so cravenly hanging!
    By no rocket's blue shade am no shells dead down there,
    Gave no proof all day long that the flag was unwhere!
    No say does am spar-strangled shroud hang limply!
    Under land of no free! Am us home cowardleeee!
  • Nerves of Steel: Be it a prison riot, energy draining Humanoid Abomination which threatens to gut him, death sentence, or Superman, Luthor isn't impressed. Clark Kent even lampshades this, by pointing out during their interview in death row, that Luthor doesn't act like a man facing impending doom.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Superman spontaneously develops the superpower of biolectric field projection (creating an energy net) to drag Quintum's probe away from the sun. Justified, considering the huge power boost Supes got from the sun. It's an homage to all the times it happened to Superman in the Silver Age.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Young Clark says these exact words after Jonathan Kent's funeral and he prepares to leave for Metropolis.
  • Noodle Implements: In the first issue, Lex Luthor is remote controlling a monster. For some reason, he's also holding a baseball bat. According to the writer, this was meant to convey Luthor's stance as someone whose mind just operates at a different level than everyone else's, and that, to Luthor, holding the bat was an integral part of the plan.
  • Noodle Incident: Nasty plans to marry her zombie boyfriend on a comet that will kill them and all humanity. Lex doesn't bat an eye.
  • Nu Speling: An extreme example where Supes opens a reverse time capsule (as in sent from the future) from "solar automated systems". Among other changes, the "@" symbol has replaced the word "at" and the idea that Solaris is on his way barely gets across to the reader.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Clark Kent "accidentally" saving people with his "klutziness" is a Running Gag.
  • Offing the Offspring: Played for Black Comedy during the Bizarro World arc. According to Bizarro Green Lantern, Bizarro Batman was shot dead by his parents.
  • One Hero, Hold the Weaksauce: Downplayed. After the first chapter, Superman is no longer affected by green Kryptonite. However, other forms of radiation still debilitate him: red sun rays leave him powerless, and black kryptonite inverts his traits, making him progressively eviler, dumber and weaker.
  • One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: Superman has gotten so strong that he effortlessly breaks Sampson and Atlas' arms while arm-wrestling them both at the same time.
  • Only Sane Man: An extreme case with Zibarro, the only one out of billions on Bizarro World who is sane.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Actually averted this time: Quitely's Clark can contort his muscles to where he looks more fat than ripped. Thus, nobody would suspect the flabby Clark is really the mighty Superman. He also wears oversized clothes to help the illusion (which has since been imported to the mainstream character).
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Klyzyzk Klzntplkz's fake backstory is that he was a circus strongman called the Pint Sized Powerhouse.
  • Planet Eater: Leo Quintum says the Bizarro planet is a gigantic organism that mimics other worlds before invading and consuming them.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Luthor can leave his cell any time he likes, as he demonstrates to Clark Kent.
  • Powerful, but Incompetent: Bizarro Green Lantern has a ring that can create any object he imagines; but he can't use it, since his mind is always blank.
  • Power Nullifier: Red sun radiation completely shuts off Superman's powers.
    • In chapter 8, Superman is left trapped in the Underverse, as the dimension's red sun makes him unable to fly back to his home world.
    • In chapter 11, Solaris taints the Sun so it only emits red radiation. Thankfully, the hero has created a special suit to protect himself from it, and flies into space to confront the villain.
  • The Power of the Sun:
    • Played with. Yellow sun radiation is the source of all of Superman's incredible abilities. However, it is now overloading his cells and killing him.
    • Supes uses Bizarro World's seas to reflect sunlight and kill all the Bizarros attacking Metropolis.
  • Powers as Programs:
    • Superman has developed Exo-Genes, a concoction that grants his powers to whoever drinks it.
    • The Doomsday project consists of a unique lineage of stem cells that transforms whoever is injected with it into a hulking abomination. However, it will also overwhelm the person's mind, unless a hypnotic trigger snaps them back to normal.
  • Prisoner's Last Meal: Lex Luthor is sentenced to death for his crimes against humanity. His last meal before being sent to the electric chair is what he calls the "last perfect cocktail", which he is allowed to mix himself. The drink turns out to be his way out of prison, as it contained a mutagen that granted him superpowers.
  • Psychological Projection: Many of Luthor's critiques of Superman as a brute who relies entirely on his inherited powers seem rather funny when Luthor gains his own powers (by stealing the formula), and proceeds to immediately give all his old equipment to Nasthalthia because he doesn't need it anymore, before fighting Superman using no tactics besides raw strength. It seems like they're based less on the actual man, and more on what Luthor himself would be if he had that kind of power.
  • Reconstruction:
    • After several separate attempts to limit Superman's power and morally challenge him, All-Star Superman is a celebration of how awesome Supes can be when absurdly powerful and morally strong.
    • In an interview with Wired, Morrison explicitly stated that this comic is meant to be one to Beware the Superman Deconstructions. At the end, Luthor, who plans on playing that trope straight, comes to a realization: despite what Brightburn, Homelander, Omni-Man, the Plutonian, or Miracleman would tell you, having Superman's powers won't make you believe humans are servants at best or toys at worst, it will make you see how valuable life is in this indifferent universe, making you value humanity more.
  • Recursive Reality: Superman creates Earth-Q, a world without Superman. Within Earth-Q, we see Nietzsche invent the concept of "the superman" and then we see an artist, Joe Shuster, drawing the Golden Age Superman, saying "This is it. This is the big one. Third time's the charm..."
  • Rapid Aging: The Chronovore ages anything it touches. However, this translates into accelerating organisms across their personal timelines, which means cows don't grow old and die, but they are turned into burgers.
  • Remember the New Guy?: The cast is completely familiar with Leo Quintum, but he's one of the few characters created specifically for this comic.
  • Riddling Sphinx: One shows up during Issue 3, and Superman must answer the Unanswerable Question in order to save Lois's life.
  • Right Makes Might: This is implied to be the case with Superman. When he is under the effect of Black Kryptonite, Jimmy notes that the bigger a Jerkass he becomes, the more his powers seem to wane.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: Nasthalthia, aka "Nasty", was originally a Supergirl villain.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Morrison states in an interview that the series is built on this. Steve Lombard has a good heart, and even Lex Luthor might change, if only he could see the world the way Superman sees it.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The whole series is 12 issues and in those issues Superman's story is following a sun's path throughout the sky. By the middle of the series he's entering his "winter" phase and we finally see Metropolis at night. In the end of episode 5, Lex's sidekick and niece rows a boat with Clark in it out of the prison where Lex is. It is heavily based on the Greek conception of the dead being ferried to the underworld on the River Styx by Death.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper:
    • Unbeknownst to Supes, Lana Lang and Pete Ross worked out that he was Clark quite early into his career.
    • It's implied Jonathan Kent worked out that his farmhands were from the future when he asks them if things work out alright for Clark.
    • It's never explicitly stated, but there are a few moments which can be read as implying Jimmy Olsen knows Clark Kent is Superman. Morrison said in a 2008 Newsarama interview that they believe Jimmy figured it out long ago, but never told anyone because he trusts that Superman has good reasons for whatever he does.
  • Shock and Awe: One of Supes' new powers, he uses it to blast a Bizarro with lightning.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Atlas and Samson also fight evil in downtown New York City (albeit in the form of gangsters, not dinosaur-men) in the 1970 Arnold Schwarzenegger Old Shame Hercules in New York.
    • Quintum's spaceship, the Ray Bradbury, which Quintum flies into the sun for a scientific mission in the first scene of the book. It's a reference to several Bradbury short stories, "The Golden Apples of the Sun" and "The Rocket Man", and the latter of which ends with an astronaut's spaceship falling into the sun.
    • There's a mess of these to old Silver Age and Bronze Age stories, practically to Continuity Porn levels. Morrison's seeming favorite is the scene where the Kandorians fly from Superman's outstretched hand, a clear visual reference to Superman #125, a boyhood favorite of Morrison where Superman gained the power to shoot a tiny version of himself from his hand.
  • Silly Simian: While serving his life sentence, Lex Luthor allows himself to be interviewed by the pro-Superman newspaper The Daily Planet so he can do something so ridiculous, they'll be discredited for reporting on it: He gives a handshake to a baboon dressed in a Superman costume.
  • Smug Super: Both Bar-El and Lilo are classic "Superman, but if he was an asshole" archetypes, though they become more pitiful near the end of their chapter. To a lesser degree, Samson and Atlas take the Boisterous Bruiser thing too far.
  • Son of an Ape: Lilo suggests moving the Apes out of Metropolis and building the capitol of New Krypton.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder in a sense. One is hopeful and idealistic, the other is dark and cynical. One has a hero who treats everyone with respect or, at worst, disappointment; the other's treats everyone as inferior and always tries to intimidate. One regrets treating his sidekick cruelly (while he was being affected by something inverting his personality), the other has no qualms about abusing a child (while he's completely himself). One sticks to a character's singular mythos; the other brings in the rest of the DC Universe. One is at the end of the character's life; the other is shortly after the start of its protagonist's career. Both also act as prequels to Grant Morrison and Frank Miller's self-created continuities, DC One Million and The Dark Knight Returns. And on a meta level: One series is iconic and beloved; the other is iconic for all the wrong reasons.
  • Spiteful Spit: Luthor spits on the glass at Superman when he visits him in prison and challenges him to use his remaining time to help humanity.
  • Square-Cube Law: Quintum specifies that the size of his Voyager Titans isn't a problem in zero gravity.
  • Stable Time Loop: The Daily Planet article headlined "Superman Dead", which Samson shows to Superman before Clark Kent wrote it. This gets a lampshade in the final issue, with Lois pointing out that it's not even an accurate headline, but they had to run it to close the loop.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Clark Kent only musters the courage to admit his secret identity to Lois Lane after he discovers his days are numbered. This cuts their relationship short, which only gets shorter when Superman gets caught up in completing all twelve of his legendary labors.
  • Star Killing: The Tyrant Sun threatens to destroy the Milky Way's sun, forcing earthlings to either revere him as a god or die in the darkness.
  • Stealth Prequel: To DC One Million, explaining how that timeline's Superman came to be what he is.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Superman ends up inside the sun at the end of the comic, having turned into an energy being - he's all star now.
    • By repairing the sun, Superman is literally saving the day.
  • The Stoic: When Superman is told he'll die, his reaction is to request that his doctor tell nobody, followed by immediately setting out to do what he can with the time he has left, i.e help people. He does get a Not So Stoic moment later on, when he's under the influence of Black Kryptonite and fighting Doomsday!Jimmy — Near the end of the fight, Superman really thinks Jimmy is going to kill him, and he breaks down in tears saying he "doesn't want to die", and that he's scared. It's this heartwrenching display that helps Jimmy revert back to normal.
  • Sudden Humility: Lex Luthor got empowered with abilities like Superman's for a day. While he at first reveled in the power and used it to terrorize Metropolis, at some point, the Super Senses began to kick in, and Luthor suddenly gained a newfound perspective and started to Go Sane From The Revelation. For the first time, he understood the wonder of the world that never mattered to him and the enormous weight that was on Superman's shoulders every day of his life.
  • Superdickery: The practice of misleading the audience with ordinarily heroic characters appearing to engage in crueler behavior than normal through scenes taken out of context is referenced with a lot of the covers.
    • The second issue has Lois about to shoot Superman with a Kryptonite gun.
    • The fourth issue, which is called "The Superman/Olsen War!" and has a cover which depicts the Man of Steel attempting to kill his best pal.
    • Issue five shows Clark Kent in prison with Lex Luthor.
  • Superpower Silly Putty: Overlaps with Composite Character. As Grant Morrison said, it's a continuation of the Silver Age, complete with Jimmy Olsen undergoing this. His transformation? Doomsday. Yes, that Doomsday.
  • Superpowered Date: Superman and Lois's date, with the variation that Lois gets temporary superpowers as well.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Superman under the influence of black kryptonite is an inversion. While Black K Superman does behave immorally, he also grows steadily weaker and dumber over time. He also turns out to be something of a Dirty Coward, who actually quakes in fear when faced with something that can actually stand up to him. Presumably, this is due to black kryptonite inverting everything about what Superman is and not just his sense or morality. According to the writer, Superman's superpowers come from the light, so it stands to reason a dark Superman would slowly lose them.
  • Super Serum: Superman invents, and Lex Luthor steals, a serum that can give a human superpowers for 24 hours.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Faced with the choice of letting a black-Kryptonite-influenced Superman rampage or watching him sent to the Phantom Zone, Jimmy Olsen decides on a third option — turning himself into Doomsday and fighting Superman to a standstill.
    • When Superman can't find a way to enlarge the people of Kandor and doesn't want to leave them tiny, he releases the tiny Kryptonians to live on Mars.
  • Taken for Granite: Bizarro Wonder Woman was turned into a clay statue as a baby.
  • Taking You with Me: Luthor isn't dying any time soon, but the realization that he's aging normally and Superman isn't is what spurs him to try to kill Superman once and for all in the opening.
  • Tempting Fate: Superman brags to Lois on her birthday that no one on the planet except him can lift the key that unlocks the door to his fortress of solitude. Naturally, later on when he comes back from a 2-month abssnce from the planet two Kryptonians have come to Earth and taken up residence in the fortress of solitude, and one of them tells Superman he shouldn't have left his key lying around to be used.
  • Time Dilation: Superman shoots the now superpowered Lex Luthor with a gravity gun that makes him dense enough to warp time and make his powers run out quicker.
  • Time for Plan B: In Issue 8, Zibarro is about to light the rocket that will allow Superman to escape the Underverse, but the match goes out. Superman, undeterred, responds, " 'Plan A'..." and proceeds to taunt Super-Bizarro into throwing the rocket back to Earth.
  • Time Police: The Superman Squad is composed of Supes' descendants who protect the structure of spacetime.
  • Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: The Ultra-Sphinx riddles Superman with this question. Superman's answer? "They surrender."
    Ultra-Sphinx: Answer... acceptable.
  • Unwitting Muggle Friend: Lois Lane doesn't know Superman's secret identity.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: Growing up on a farm raised by the nicest couple on Earth gave Clark Kent lesson he would put into practice every day as Superman.
    Clark: [H]e showed me by example how to be tough and how to be kind and how to dream of a better world. Thanks, Pa. Those are lessons I'll never forget.
  • The Virus: The Bizarros from Bizarro-Home convert anyone they touch into a Bizarro version of themselves.
  • Weakened by the Light: The Bizarros are hurt by yellow sunlight so attack Earth's night-side.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We see Krypto in the Smallville flashback but his status in the present is unknown.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Inverted. When Lex gains Superman powers at the climax, it is implied that anybody with Superman's power would naturally become an altruist. To the point that in the end Luthor cries because he can finally see the world in the way Superman always has.
  • The Wonka: Leo Quintum is an eccentric philanthropist with an unbelievably gaudy fashion sense (he rivals Jimmy Olsen as the worst-dressed man in Metropolis, officially) and literally has infinite wealth that allows him to fund whatever barmy experiments he can dream up.
  • World Shapes: The Bizarro planet is cube-shaped.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Lois Lane refuses to believe that Clark Kent is Superman, assuming it's just another example of Superdickery.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Two months pass on Earth while Superman's in the Underverse. Seems to be only a few hours from Superman's perspective.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • Superman famously saves a teenage girl from committing suicide.
      Superman: It's never as bad as it seems. You're much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.
    • Before he escapes from the Underverse, Superman assuages Zibarro's pain from his isolation from the other Bizarros by arguing that he's literally living proof that Bizarro World is growing smarter and capable of perceiving beauty in things most people take for granted. His poems aren't half-bad either, so Superman immortalizes them in super-laminate once he gets the chance to on Earth. The last time we see Zibarro, he's waving goodbye with a peaceful smile on his face.
    • Throughout the book, Leo Quintum repeatedly mentions that he's hoping to redeem himself for an unspecified number of sins in the past. Even after Leo points out he might not be entirely trustworthy for it, Superman entrusts him with the secret to combine human and Kryptonian genomes anyways. And you should trust his judgement, he is Superman, after all.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Bar-El and Lilo don't mind being sent to the Phantom Zone to save them, because they'll be together.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Superman says that Luthor could have solved some major problems if he hadn't been so focused on beating Superman. He then challenges him to help humanity in the last few weeks before he gets executed. Luthor just spits on the glass between them. This is identified in the foreword of the collected edition by fellow comic writer Mark Waid as being his favorite moment of the series.