Superman: Exile is a Superman storyline that ran through 1987.
During The Supergirl Saga, Superman was forced to break his one rule and execute three Kryptonian criminals. Despite Superman's best attempts, he couldn't put the act behind him - having attacked Brainiac in rage, scared out of his wits by his own mortality and being haunted by terrible nightmares wouldn't let him. Ultimately, during the Dominator invasion, Superman began sleepwalking—or rather sleep-vigilanting—as Gangbuster. Rattled by this revelation, Superman was going crazy and he couldn't trust himself anymore. After a few preparations, Superman made the decision to exile himself from Earth to protect the planet from his unpredictability. However, doing so would lead to a number of revelations for the Man of Steel, in particular his past.
This story would mark a number of first appearances, including the Post-Crisis first appearances of Mongul and Warworld, the first appearance of the alien warrior Dragga and the first appearance of the Kryptonian artifact the Eradicator. Part of this story would be adapted in the Justice League two-parter "Warworld!"
This storyline provides examples of:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Brainiac's powers evolve greatly during his Convenient Coma caused by the Gene Bomb.
- Book-Ends: The first part of the storyline was called "Superman in Exile". The final part was titled "Superman on Earth".
- The Exile: Superman, natch. He does so out of fear of his own sanity.
- Four Lines, All Waiting: Good grief, this story has them. Between Supes' time in space, the Intergang attacks, Matrix wandering Metropolis. There's even a sidestory where Luthor tries to get STAR Labs.
- Hallucinations: Superman experiences these when his oxygen supply is damaged during his flight through space.
- He Knows Too Much: Morgan Edge has Intergang put out a hit on Clark Kent after information about the group gets out before he left. They end up murdering some poor schmoe breaking in the same time the hitmen did and it's Matrix's appearance as Clark does everyone calm down. At least until Edge's boss, Darkseid, takes matters into his own hands.
- He's Back: Superman's return to Earth is celebrated by many. Even Luthor realizes that a world without Superman is quite boring.
- Mark of Shame: Unlike the animated Dragga, who carves out Superman's shield on his chest to remind him of who refused to give him a warrior's death, the comic version of Dragga finds and wears Superman's shirt instead.
- Mr. Exposition: The Cleric provides this for Superman when he reveals some of Krypton's past, even revealing just why Superman was the only Kryptonian able to escape the planet's destruction.
- My God, What Have I Done?: All the Cleric
- My Greatest Failure: Superman and the execution of the Kryptonian criminals, the Cleric with causing the deaths of thousands of Kryptonians unwittingly.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Basically applies; the man who broke into Clark's apartment and was killed by Intergang forces in his place was small-time private detective Matt Stockton, hired by former LexCorp scientist Amanda McCoy, who looked enough like Clark to pass for him in a dimly-lit apartment while he was wearing a heavy coat and jacket.
- Powered Armor: Jose Delgado dons one in the style of Gangbuster as part of his recovery.
- Space Whale: What Superman finds himself inside during one of his jumps through hyperspace, as he notices what appears to be a section of space without stars full of floating corpses.
- Take a Third Option: At one point Superman and the Cleric talk about whether he could have done something other than kill the Kryptonian criminals. Superman reflects that he could have just left them to die on that now-dead Earth, or he could have taken them back to his own universe, but in the second case he couldn't imagine how they could be convicted in any court given the unprecedented nature of their crimes, and in both cases Superman couldn't be sure they wouldn't be able to find some way to restore their powers and come after him again.
- Time-Passage Beard: Superman grows one during his time in space, which he shaves off near the end of the story arc with the help of the Eradicator device.
- Xanatos Gambit: Luthor pulls one of these in the "Hostile Takeover" storyline in order to obtain STAR's psionics labs
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The Cleric basically gives Superman this speech to help him get over his grief at the deaths of the Kryptonian criminals, assuring Superman that his only sins were in the cause of justice and he genuinely had no other choice but to kill in that case.