Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Superman: Birthright

Go To
In the beginning...

"For ten thousand orbits, a clump of dirt careened around a red dwarf star. And it accomplished miracles no-one will ever remember."

"Our son. The Last Son of Krypton. Let him never forget."

Superman: Birthright is a 12-issue limited series published by DC Comics, lasting from September, 2003 to September, 2004. Written by Mark Waid and drawn by Lenil Francis Yu, Birthright brought Superman and his origins into the 21st Century. Originally intended to be an alternate continuity, until the events of Infinite Crisis, it was actually retconned into Superman's canon origin, replacing John Byrne's The Man of Steel miniseries. Waid described the project as being an "Ultimate" take on the the Superman mythos. He wanted anyone, be it long-time fans or newcomers, to be able to pick the comic up and enjoy the story. Waid also placed emphasis on making Superman much more relatable and avoiding him being seen as "dull".

Beginning in the familiar setting of the doomed planet Krypton, Kal-El's parents Jor-El and Lara are forced to send their only son against the odds to a galaxy light-years away. The story quickly finds itself following Clark traveling the world to better find his place in it. Soon enough, he is inspired to become a symbol of hope for the people of Earth, assuming two new personas: Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, and the hero Superman.


His arrival is met with both awe and fear, with Superman now fighting to earn the trust of the citizens of Metropolis against modern cynicism and one Lex Luthor.

Tropes found in this series:

  • Absent Aliens: Kryptonians haven't discovered any evidence of alien life. Jor-El only finds Earth minutes before Krypton explodes.
  • Abusive Parents: Luthor's father believed he had the next "Einstein" on his hands and was completely ruthless in pushing his son to his creative limits.
  • Alien Invasion: Luthor fakes one.
  • Alternate Continuity: Intended to be this but was then made canon, then went back to being this when Infinite Crisis retconned Superman's origins.
    • What made it particularly problematic as canon was that it showed Superman over a decade younger but in a completely contemporary setting with up to date technology. At best, you could infer that there's been some sort of Modern Stasis over the last decade of DC continuity.note 
  • Advertisement:
  • Aura Vision: One of Superman's many types of vision is the ability to see a distinct energy source around living creatures. It fades when they die. Seeing them "empty" like this disturbs Clark and prompts him to become a vegetarian.
  • Bad Boss/Jerkass: Mr. Galloway.
  • Beware the Superman: Luthor and elements of the media fuel this sentiment in Metropolis.
  • Big Bad: Lex Luthor, who else?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Superman just barely sees his birth parents for the first time and learns his birth-name, but Luthor's sub-space communicator is destroyed before he even knows if his message to them made it. Luckily, it did, and Jor-El and Lara see that their beloved son has survived and accept their fate in relief.
  • Bullet Catch: Superman shoots an illegal arms dealer and catches the bullet just before it hits him so he'll know what it's like when someone shoots you.
  • Canon Immigrant: This is the first comic where Lex's father looks like Lionel from Smallville.
  • Canon Welding: Was originally intended as an an Alternate Continuity but DC decided to make it canon and replace The Man of Steel.note 
  • Cartridges in Flight: In a scene where Superman watches bullets fly towards him, the artist was sure to include dimpled primers and manufacturer's stamps on the bottom of the projectiles. Those go on the bottom of the cartridge, not the bullet itself.
  • Child Prodigy: Lex, who we see in his Teen Genius years during flashbacks.
  • Clark Kenting: Martha and Clark go into detail on his new "disguise". Never wears clothes that show off his physique, unkempt hair, his mannerisms and Martha even lampshades the fact the glasses aren't there so much to hide his face as to tone down his "unique" eye color.
    • It takes him some time to fully get into the groove of it though. Martha advised him to keep his voice softer and higher, but at first he makes himself too soft, with multiple characters telling him he needs to speak up. However, he eventually gets so good at it that he starts getting ignored at the office, with the cleaning crew not even noticing he's still there.
  • Continuity Nod: Wayne-Tech and Kord Technologies are mentioned as competing with LexCorp.
  • Covers Always Lie: Issue 10 featured the corpse of Superman on its front in all its creepy detail. Not that it actually happens to Superman, considering there's another 2 issues to go.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Krypton is portrayed this way.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: All Lex ever wanted was to converse with an alien life-form, but when the moment finally occurs, he's so far gone that Superman sees him as a monster and Lex is more concerned with his bruised ego.
  • Death by Origin Story: Jor-El and Lara.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Such is Lex's ego, he takes Superman's public shunning of him as a deeply personal slight. Despite the fact Superman was completely justified in his actions given Lex's direct involvement in the gunships going berserk. So Lex goes out of his way to destroy Superman in typical supervillain fashion.
    • It's related to the The Dark Side Will Make You Forget example above. All Lex wanted was to talk to an alien, which he believed would be the only being intelligent enough for him to relate to. But when he meets an actual alien, he's not supremely intelligent, but supremely compassionate - and is disgusted by the immoral Lex. This rejection of his cherished intellect is what drives him.
  • The Dragon: "Van-Gar" to Luthor.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Apparently Lex finds a great deal of humour in informing Superman that his homeworld is gone and that he is all that's left of his people. He even takes a picture of his face so he can capture the moment.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Superman and Lex Luthor.
  • Evil Former Friend: Lex was once a childhood friend to Clark.
  • Heavyworlder: Goes back to the explanation of that Superman gets powers because of Earth's lower gravity as well as its yellow sun.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: It's made very clear that Jor-El and Lara aren't sure if they'll be able to get their son to an inhabitable planet. They intended that the computer on Kal-El's spaceship might find one but then Jor-El discovered Earth just before he launched the rocket. We also see that the ship had just barely enough fuel to reach Earth.
  • Foreshadowing: As Luthor is trying to communicate with Krypton, a voice in the background exclaims: "Such a Lovely daughter, Allura!" Allura In-Ze is the mother of Kara Zor-El alias Supergirl, who was restored to the main universe a few months later. It must be mentioned that Mark Waid is a big Supergirl fan.
  • Human Aliens: Kryptonians. Lex goes into detail about how he was able to deduce the kind of alien environment that would create a being that was identical to a human in outward appearance and yet would possess extraordinary powers on our world. Though he secretly has significant inside information.
  • Insufferable Genius: Lex, from a very young age.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Lex's entire backstory and path to villainy is centered on how he had no one to relate to and was perpetually shunned due to his abnormally high intelligence. Along with his lack of social graces.
  • It Was with You All Along: Luthor's greatest goal is to talk to an alien. Unbeknownst to them both, his best friend Clark Kent is a Human Alien. Lex moves away from Smallville before Clark learns of his heritage, and when they meet again as adults, Lex doesn't want to acknowledge his hometown and Superman is too pissed at Lex's shady business practices to want to talk to him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Superman fires a gun point blank at an arms dealer who illegally sold to a school shooter. He catches the bullet before it hits but it lets the guy know exactly what kind of trauma children received because of his actions.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Averted. It's implied the same piece of kryponite that Kal-El's ship inadvertently took with him to Earth is the only one Lex has in his possession. Though Luthor certainly uses that one rock to devastating effect.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Kebile is surrounded by the media after one of the terrorists quickly pointed at him as the one who told him to kill Kobe, out of fear of Clark's sudden super-strength. Kebile was later forced to resign.
  • Last of His Kind: Superman is the last living Kryptonian. Though he is unaware this is the case. Lex delights in revealing this to him.
  • Made of Indestructium: The rocket that brought Superman to Earth is also indestructible under a yellow sun.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • A panel references the cover of Action Comics #1.
    • References to Superman: The Movie include Superman calling Lex a "diseased maniac" and Galloway sarcastically proclaiming "You will believe a man can fly!".
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: The residents of Smallville thought of Lex Luthor as a weirdo and as an adult he won't even admit that he lived there.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Infamously gave Superman the ability to see auras around living creatures.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Lex Luthor developed a kryptonite powered wormhole that allowed him to see into Krypton's past and eventually communicate with the natives.
  • Panacea: Luthor discovers a universal cure for every disease while researching Krypton.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Averted. Superman is a vegetarian.
  • Small Universe After All: Luthor says that Krypton is in the Andromeda Galaxy.
  • Stock Star Systems: As mentioned above, Krypton is said to be in the Andromeda Galaxy.
  • Subspace Ansible: The wormhole that Luthor uses to communicate with Krypton.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Superman's traditional rule is explored through "soul vision". Clark can now perceive auras in living humans and other animals. He grows up vegetarian since plants don't have auras and he feels profound sadness when such auras fade away.
  • Translator Microbes: Luthor uses a "Subspace Translator" to understand the kryptonians he views through his wormhole. He eventually uses it in reverse to make his human mooks sound like kryptonian invaders.
  • Virtuous Vegetarianism: Implicit. Clark is vegetarian because he can see an animal's "life force", and his compassion for other living creatures — human or not — underlines the fact that he's the greatest superhero in the world.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lana Lang is noted to have disappeared from Smallville at some point before the beginning of the story. That element never comes up again, and the only other appearance she makes is during a flashback to when they were in high school.
  • X-Ray Vision: One of Superman's many types of vision is of course X-Ray based.