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Comic Book / Superman: Grounded

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Superman: Grounded is a story arc that ran on the flagship Superman comic book in 2010-2011. Originally, it was written by J. Michael Straczynski, who left the book in order to write the graphic novel Superman: Earth One. Chris Roberson took over writing duties and completed the story arc.

Superman: Grounded is — together with The Black Ring and Reign of Doomsday — the Post-Crisis Superman's final storyline in before DC Comics started the New 52, which rebooted their entire line of publications, and the final storyline in the original Superman (Volume 1) comic book.

The arc takes place directly after the events of War of the Supermen, which saw Earth go to war with New Krypton. Believing he has lost contact with the humans he has sworn to protect, Superman decides to walk across the United States in order to reconnect with humanity.

Superman: Grounded contains examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Clark makes the decision to stop being Superman in Superman #713, but a bystander from Portland, Oregon, reminds Clark of the good deeds Superman has done for everyone, inspiring Clark to be Superman again. He gets an extra incentive to return to his superhero work when Jennings takes Lois hostage.
  • Affirmative-Action Legacy: As well as heroes of every ethnic background, Superman sees when he meets the Superman Squad that his Heroic Lineage stretches far beyond conceptions of race and to the limits of mortal understanding.
  • Alliance of Alternates: The Superman Squad is a massive, trans-temporal superhero conglomerate formed of future descendants of Superman and beings who were simply inspired by his example to take up the shield. They decide to intervene in Clark's life despite their general rules against interfering with the timeline in order to inspire him back to the right path.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Kryptonian crystals, which can be used to copy memories from one person and implant them into another person’s mind. When Lisa Jennings finds one, she receives Superman’s feelings of self-doubt and confusion.
  • Armed with Canon: The Straczynski issues seem to take the significance of Superman's walk at face value. The Roberson issues are mostly filled with people telling him it's ridiculous, and eventually reveal that he's not been thinking straight the entire time.
  • Ascended Meme: The flashback on Superman #709 makes a reference to the “Lex Luthor stole forty cakesmeme, revealing that Luthor in his youth was once sent to detention for stealing exactly that number of cakes from the school's bake sale in retribution for not being allowed to enter a fission-powered toaster in the science fair.
  • Author Tract: Superman quotes from Henry Thoreau. Thoreau spent one night in jail as the result of some outspoken, risky opinions. What are Superman's great controversial moral stands in Straczynski’s run? Well, he’s not fond of drug dealers, he’s against illegal immigration unless America gets something out of it, he’s for sweetheart government deals for corporations to jumpstart the economy, and he thinks child abuse is bad.
  • Badass Longcoat: Lisa Jennings wears one in the finale while fighting Superman.
  • Big Bad: Lisa Jennings, a woman who acquired Kryptonian superpowers after coming into contact with a Kryptonian crystal.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The crystal that gave Lisa her powers also implanted Superman’s negative emotions into her mind, which caused her to develop a grudge against Superman.
  • Brawler Lock: Superman and Jennings have a brief one in the finale. Superman ends it by throwing Jennings and himself to a parallel dimension so they can confront each other without endangering innocents.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Dick Grayson appears on the arc as the new Batman, after Bruce Wayne disappeared in Final Crisis. Later, Bruce re-takes the role of Batman with a new Batsuit, after his journey in time.
    • Wonder Woman appears in her new suit and Superman has lost all memory of her. This is a reference to the concurrent Odyssey storyline, also written by J. Michael Straczynski.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: The Superman Squad is said to include a number of truly bizarre members, some simply too weird to even be depicted on-panel. These include Supercilia, a single-celled hero who fights against microscopic biological threats beneath the notice of humans; Superstar, a sentient solar system too large to even fit in the Squad's Fortress of Solidarity; and Superego, a sentient "good idea" that patrols the non-physical realms of consciousness.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lois Lane is taken hostage by Jennings in the finale, but Superman saves her in a matter of seconds.
  • Domestic Abuse: William and his mother suffer physical abuse from his father Vincent. Fortunately, Superman puts a stop to that.
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the best remembered scenes of the arc is when Superman is walking through Philadelphia and goes to help a woman named Felicity Rose, who had lost everything, her mother, her aspirations, and hope for life itself after being stuck in a dead-end job, threatening to jump off the roof of a skyscraper in the process. She angrily screams at Superman to not bring her down by force, since she knows that he's more than capable of doing so. Instead, he stays with her for the rest of the day and well into the night, attempting to console her as best he can, explaining that he too once had a friend who was driven to suicide because she could not imagine one more happy day in her life due to her terminal illness. He then says if she truly believed that she would never have a single happy day in her life again, she could step out into the open air and he would not stop her. But if she believed that was even the slightest chance she could have just one more happy day in her life, he would take her into his arms and bring her down safely. She chooses the latter.
  • Face Palm: In Superman #713, Superman tells Supergirl and Superboy that he has been wondering whether there must be a Superman... and he realized the answer is "No". And then he takes off his costume. Supergirl finds the situation so stupid that she facepalms hard.
  • Ghibli Hills: Most of the time, Superman finds himself walking across lush grasslands.
  • Grand Finale: To the Pre-Flashpoint Superman and his continuity (along with The Black Ring and Reign of Doomsday).
  • Hate Sink: Vincent is a real piece of work, considering he's an Abusive Parent and a Domestic Abuser all rolled into one. Simply put, there's nothing likable about the guy, and the fact that he slaps his wife over making his coffee taste bad and then slaps his son William and throws him into a basement when he dares to intervene in an effort to stop his father from hurting his mother. Fortunately, Superman shows up in time to send Vincent to the authorities to be arrested and handed a restraining order.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Jennings in the finale. She was a good person to begin with, but her contact with the Kryptonian interrogation crystal is what made her hostile towards Superman. She is brought back to her senses when Superman shatters the crystal and even becomes a member of the Supermen of America.
  • Heroes Unlimited: The Superman Squad is a group of individuals with the same powers as Superman. They even include exotic beings such as a sentient gorilla, a sentient star system and a sentient "good idea".
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Averted. Superman is as popular as ever, but he feels he has become this after the War of the Supermen. He also notes people react with fear and suspicion whenever he visits their homes. In the finale, Jennings reveals she has been tampering with his sight and hearing so he could perceive people's negative comments, when in reality, they have been expressing love and admiration towards the Man of Steel.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Superman does this to a creepy Stalker with a Crush on a waitress.
  • It's All About Me: The woman that slaps Superman in the beginning of Grounded is upset that Superman did not save her husband. Thing is, her husband died of a brain aneurysm, not in the Earth-New Krypton war. She claims Superman could have saved him but Superman was away on New Krypton, attempting to prevent war from breaking out in the first place. If anything, she comes across as selfish and entitled in the middle of an interplanetary tragedy.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Lois wears a hiking outfit in Superman #707 that shows off her cleavage and covers the bare minimum of her legs.
    • Jennings wears a shirt that shows off her breasts and bare midriff in Superman #703.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The scene where Superman attempts to talk a woman out of committing suicide Superman #701 is similar to the famous suicidal teenager scene in All-Star Superman.
    • The question "Must there be a Superman?" was originally posed in Superman #207, in 1972, in the story "Must There Be a Superman?"
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: You can tell Superman is losing faith in himself when he forbids Lois from publishing an important story.
  • Papa Wolf: Superman, of course. Superman #705 depicts him visiting a town in Illinois and is not happy to find out that a boy named William and his mother have been abused by his father. While delivering the abusive father to the police, Superman admits to Lois he felt tempted to tear him apart with his bare hands.
  • The Paragon: Superman, as always. Whenever he visits a city, he helps the locals solve a particular problem they are having.
  • Recycled Premise: A psychologically damaged Superman is trying desperately to get in touch with the people of Earth as well as the planet itself because he thinks he has been spending too much time in space. And his cousin thinks maybe he's losing his mind. This was the premise of a 1976 storyline Krypton No More.
  • Reformed Criminal: Livewire has been on the straight and narrow ever since she helped Superman stop in the Auctioneer in Action Comics.
  • Scenery Porn: Superman walks across some beautiful landscapes in this arc.
  • Super Family Team: The story ends with Superman forming the Supermen of America, composed of several of his closest allies and associates. Later, the Supermen of America become the precursors to the Superman Squad.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Thanks to the Kryptonian crystal, Jennings goes from being a regular human to having the same powers as Superman.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Dick Grayson, of all people, has taken one when he becomes the new Batman after Bruce Wayne’s was lost in time. He tells Superman he shouldn’t become close to the people he protects, otherwise he risks making them targets for his enemies. Remember, this is the same Dick Grayson who is known for being nicer and more socially-adept than Bruce.
    • Ironically, when Clark meets Bruce again, Bruce is actually supportive of his friend and expresses faith Superman will be the hero he once was.
  • Transhuman: Jennings acquires superpowers after exposure to a Kryptonian crystal. She claims she is not a Kryptonian, but she is no longer entirely human, either.
  • Walking the Earth: The premise of the story is Superman walking across America.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Subverted. In Superman #705, Superman deals with an abusive husband and father by delivering him to the authorities, and encouraging the wife and son to denounce him. However, he confesses to Lois he was tempted to tear the man apart with his bare hands; and he later makes sure to threaten the man (who will be charged for his abuse and will receive a restraining order) with consequences if he ever comes near his son and wife again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lois is not happy when Superman forces her not to publish a story that would reveal the illegal activities of a group of workers who have been polluting their local environment to keep their factory running. Superman and Lois only make up in the end.