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Comic Book / Superman: Earth One

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Superman: Earth One is a 2010 graphic novel from DC written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Shane Davis. It is the first installment of DC's Earth One line, an Ultimate Universe of sorts where the DC Universe's most iconic characters are re-imagined for the modern era.

The story focuses on a 21-year-old Clark Kent that moves to the big city of Metropolis per the advice of Ma Kent in order to basically "find himself" and do something with his life. A little more sullen and moody this time around, Clark soon discovers that, when a strange evil rears its head, that he's destined to become something much greater than he realizes, even if he doesn't want it at first.

A second volume to the Superman: Earth One series, where Supes battles Parasite and gets involved in both the local problems of his neighbourhood, and a brewing revolution in South America, was released in November 2012, over two years after the original graphic novel came out. A third volume was released in February 2015, and focused on the American military, increasingly suspicious of Superman's motives, plotting to neutralise him with help from Doctors Alexander and Alexandra Luthor, and a strange visitor from the stars with powers similar to Superman's.


There is a character sheet with more details. Please put character-specific tropes there instead of adding them here.

Superman: Earth One provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Clark at the start of the story — he has contract offers from all of the sports teams & laboratories in Metropolis.
  • Age Lift: In the fact that —in an inversion of most of their incarnations— in this universe Jim Olsen is older than Clark Kent.
  • Alternate Continuity: Done to "freshen up" the character without any serious constraints. It's separate from the main DC Universe.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Major Lee. After the Luthors give a presentation on Superman's possible weaknesses, Alexander refers to her as the only one who wasn't Distracted by the Sexy with his wife. Alexandra comments on his "naivete", while in the background Major Lee is looking at them with a somewhat resentful look on her face.
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  • Beware the Superman: The public displays shades of this towards the end.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane manage to pull this off. Their courage and integrity in the face of Tyrell's attack are what convinces Clark that he wants to spend his life working at the Planet — since he could have easily become a wealthy athlete or scientist if he'd wanted to.
    • However, they have nothing on Lisa who, in Volume Three, rams a truck directly into Zod just before he can kill a severely weakened Superman.
  • Black Helicopters: Invoked by name. Jonathan and Martha get the idea that there's something strange about that baby when a bunch of mysterious men arrive in Black Helicopters to carry off the spacecraft that he arrived in.
  • The Bully: Parasite was one of these as a child. He later graduated to far more troubling, and eventually sociopathic behaviour.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: A whole planet's worth.
  • Canon Foreigner: Tyrell and his entire race, Clark's neighbour Lisa Lasalle, Alexandra Luthor, and Major Lee.
  • The Cape: Clark isn't there yet, but becomes more and more like this trope as the story progresses.
  • Clark Kenting: Clark starts doing this towards the end of the book. There's a page devoted to Clark changing from The Ace to mild-mannered nerd, both by changing his mannerisms & wardrobe.
  • Clark Kent Outfit: With a decidedly hipster spin.
  • The Coats Are Off: ...and the costumes are on.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
  • Coming of Age Story: For Clark.
  • Composite Character: General Zod with Zor-El, given he's Jor-El's brother and hence Superman's uncle.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Clark considers giving this a go. Alexander and Alexandra have already given it a go, and are portrayed as incredibly rich.
  • Da Editor: Perry White manages to maintain this image.
  • Darker and Edgier: In a few ways.
    • Clark is a hell of a lot more brooding and emotional, for one thing.
    • Krypton was intentionally destroyed at the climax of an interplanetary war, for another.
    • The implications of Clark's extra-terrestrial heritage are explored a bit more than usual — Jonathan and Martha are forced to keep him a secret after government agents secretly impound his spaceship in a secret base.
    • Even after he saves Metropolis from Tyrell, most of the citizens seem to openly distrust him—for all his heroism, he's still considered a freakish outsider by most.
  • Decomposite Character: In this universe, the main traits of Lex Luthor are divide in the Luthor couple, Dr. Alexander Luthor and his wife Alexandra, who call themselves Lex Squared Incorporated.
    • Gender Flip: With Alexander dead, Alexandra demands to be henceforth called Lex Luthor.
  • Disturbed Doves: Several of them in the book. What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic??
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Par for the course in a Superman origin story... except in this version, Krypton was intentionally destroyed by its enemies in an interplanetary war.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The climax hinges on one of these.
  • Enfant Terrible: Parasite as a child was a bullying developing psychopath and animal killer.
  • Evil Redhead: Alexandra Luthor, who is far more manipulative and morally ambiguous than her husband Alexander.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: Done to Clark with red sun radiation. Leads to a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Averted. This is not the reason Clark was sent to Earth.
  • Friendless Background: Clark Kent, who was first isolated by his intelligence and alien nature, and subsequently by his deliberate attempts at becoming a non-entity.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Tyrell's race seems to have headed this way with the aid of their mysterious benefactors after the destruction of Krypton.
  • The Generalissimo: Superman leads a revolution against one in volume two.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Tyrell doesn't get much in the way of a personality. He shows up, takes the Earth hostage, and exposes Superman to the world, providing a little exposition before dying unceremoniously. Parasite, conversely, gets a lot of characterisation and development.
  • Genius Bruiser: Clark. In this version, Super Intelligence is officially added to his list of superpowers.
  • Heroic Bystander: Jim Olsen, ace photographer.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Doctor Alexander Luthor suffers this trying to help Superman defeat Zod.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Doctor Alexander Luthor in this timeline, who shows no indications of being a criminal. His wife, Alexandra, on the other hand, is a little more shady. And, turns out, she is the Earth One version of Lex Luthor.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Clark's neighbour Lisa, whom he nevertheless befriends and at one point saves from an abusive client. She returns the favor, saving him from Zod in volume three's final battle.
  • Horror Hunger: Parasite suffers from this, suffering starvation-like symptoms if he doesn't feed on people's life energy.
  • Hot Scientist: Doctor Alexandra Luthor, both a renowned scientist, corporate exec, and busty knockout. Her husband, Doctor Alexander Luthor likely qualifies from the perspective of the female fanbase.
  • Human Aliens: Tyrell's race all look like a cross between David Bowie and Lobo.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Clark would give anything to be just like everybody else, especially in volume one.
  • Idiot Ball: A lampshaded example. At the end of the third volume, in his address to the UN, Superman points out in no uncertain terms that the world's decision to just stand back and let Zod beat Superman to death was an incredibly stupid idea, considering that someone or someone with sufficient power and sufficient lack of morality required to kill him would probably not hesitate to turn on the rest of Earth once the only being that could conceivably stop him had been taken out of the picture.
  • It's Personal: The basis for Superman and Lex Luthor's animosity in this universe. She holds him responsible for her husband's death.
  • Just Between You and Me: Lampshaded and justified. Superman questions why Tyrell would bother telling him the whole story of who he is and why he's there. Turns out Tyrell was keeping Superman's enhanced senses focused on him while his planet-destroying probes got into position.
  • Just Friends: Clark and Lisa settle on being this. They get a Relationship Upgrade in volume three.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Averted.
  • Lady Macbeth: So far Doctor Alexandra Luthor is far more evil and manipulative than her husband, Doctor Alexander Luthor. While Alexandra sees killing Superman as an interesting intellectual exercise, Alexander regards it as unethical and expresses some sympathy for Superman's position. Alexandra has to persuade him sexually to go along with the government, and even then, he's not thrilled about it.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Clark's reaction to having a genocidal alien take his adoptive home hostage.
  • The Men in Black: In this version, Clark's Kryptonian spacecraft gets impounded by a group of these guys.
  • Morality Pet: Parasite's sister Theresa.
  • Morality Chain: Alexander serves as this to his wife Alexandra. Zod effectively cuts that chain in volume three's climax, leading her to fully become Earth One's Lex Luthor.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctors Alexandra and Alexander Luthor. Especially the former.
  • Moral Myopia: Parasite as a child sees nothing wrong with beating on his fellow classmates, but loses it when kids bully his sister.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Lisa from volume two is undoubtedly this. At one point in the book, she invites Clark over and asks him to wait for her to change into something more "comfortable" *cough* *cough*. Several minutes later, she comes back in wearing skimpy negligee and underwear and asks Clark what he thinks. Later on we get a panel where the focus is quite blatantly on her ass in said lingerie. Clark berates God for not letting him have half an hour with Lisa alone....
    • Alexandra Luthor also serves this purpose in volume two, in the bedroom scene with her husband Lex.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Parasite refuses to accept that his sister's death was his fault, instead choosing to blame Superman for it.
    • Dr. Alexandra Luthor also blames Superman for the death of her significant other rather than consider that maybe her own actions might have contributed to what happened.
  • Nice Guy: Clark is one under his somewhat unhappy surface. So, surprisingly enough, is Alexander Luthor.
  • The Nondescript: Clark made a deliberate attempt at turning himself into one of these from the tenth grade on out. He got a "C" in every class, participated in no extracurricular activities, and made no friends, effectively becoming a ghost who no-one in his classes remembers.
  • Oh, Crap!: At the end of the third volume, the various representatives of the United Nations look a bit apprehensive when Superman shows up to give them a piece of his mind over being abandoned to the mercy of Zod.
  • Power Nullifier: Red sun radiation takes over for Kryptonite. Technically, the weakness exists in the mainstream continuity as well, but Kryptonite was always more convenient. Sort-of. Obviously it would be difficult for any of his enemies to utilize this weakness.
    • Volume 3 introduces Kryptonite to the setting.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Played with at the end of Volume 3. Superman angrily lambasts the assembled representatives of the United Nations after they either conspire to assassinate him or decide to look the other way and chews them out over it. But in doing so he acknowledges that his own actions in the previous volume were reckless and he can understand why they were so frightened of him, and so promises to try and be better from that point on. He also points out that anything — visitor from the stars or not — that has the strength, power and lack of morality required to kill him in cold blood will probably not stop with him, so it's probably a good idea to keep him around.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Leads right into a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown after Superman finally loses patience with Tyrell.
  • La Résistance: Superman aids a revolutionary army during volume two. This comes back to bite him in volume three.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Here, General Zod is Jor-El's brother and hence Superman's uncle.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The Daily Planet's depiction is heavily rooted in the current state of the newspaper industry. At the beginning, Perry White openly complains about the blogosphere ruining the integrity and quality of the news, and makes it clear that the paper may soon go out of business. In the end, getting exclusive coverage of Superman's battle with Tyrell is the one thing that saves the Planet from completely folding.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Clark's friendship with Lisa has shades of this, as do Alexandra and Alexander Luthor.
  • Secret-Keeper: Lisa becomes this to Clark, when she stumbles onto finding out he's Superman.
  • Sequel Hook: Just who proposed the destruction of Krypton to Tyrell's people, and why they did is never explained. Until volume three, where it's revealed Zod-El did out of revenge.
  • Serial Killer: Raymond Jensen, alias The Parasite, was one of these long before he became The Parasite.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Doctor Alexander Luthor
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Lois name-drops the 1981 fabricated news-story scandal of former Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Clark delivers one of these to the villain out of sheer boredom with his speech.
  • That Man Is Dead: During volume three's epilogue, Alexandra declares that Zod didn't just kill Alexander in the volume's climax, but also Alexandra. And from that point forward she is simply Lex Luthor.
  • The Sociopath: Ray Jensen, alias The Parasite, is a psychopath who began by torturing small animals, graduating to killing homeless men, and eventually became one of the most prolific serial killers of his time. He's superficially charming and charismatic, short-tempered and prone to mood swings, and otherwise hits all the criteria. He does have a soft spot for his sister, though.
  • Super Intelligence: Superman has it in this version.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Averted thus far. While he hasn't actually infringed on another hero's territory yet, Clark has refused to keep his superheroing isolated in Metropolis, becoming involved in a South American revolution among other things.
  • Teach Him Anger: Good going there, Tyrell.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Averted. Though it may not exactly have been on purpose. Still, Supes doesn't even TRY to save Tyrell and doesn't seem at all sad about it.
  • Token Minority: The Kryptonian.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: No Tyrell, you are not the hero of this story.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Clark's apartment is in this part of town.