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"There is only one superpower now."

Everyone knows the basic story of Superman. Strange visitor from another world, who can change the course of mighty rivers, and bend steel with his bare hands. He's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But in one universe, instead of fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, he fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, communism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.

Superman: Red Son is a DC Universe Elseworlds story, written by Mark Millar and published in 2003, that dares to imagine what would have happened if the spaceship holding baby Kal-El had landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States, due to a small difference in the Earth's orbit compared to the main DCU. Instead of being adopted by the Kents in Smallville, Kansas, he is raised on a collective farm in Ukraine, where he discovers that he has powers greater than any man, powers he decides to use for the good of his country, and the world.

As an adult, he aligns himself with the government of Josef Stalin, protecting the citizens of the Soviet Union from even the smallest crimes and accidents, eventually succeeding Stalin as the country's leader. When the people of the United States learn of Superman's existence, they're naturally terrified, and the government turns to the smartest man in the country, scientist Lex Luthor (husband of Lois Lane), to combat this newest threat to the American way. Thus begins a superhuman arms race and a legendary battle of power and philosophies between Superman and his archnemesis.

Red Son has gained a reputation as one of the most famous, thoughtful and well-written Elseworld stories, and even regularly features in lists of the greatest Superman stories of all time.

The world of Superman: Red Son is part of the new DC Multiverse as Earth-30, presenting the possibility of Soviet Superman visiting the mainstream continuity, or vice versa.note  It was popular enough to receive a voiced Motion Comic and later a more traditional Animated Adaptation under the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, released in 2020.


Superman: Red Son provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Brainiac. OK, he was already evil, but as it turns out, he was able to evade Superman's attempted reprogramming of him.
  • Alternate History: The Cold War happens very differently when you throw Superman and Lex Luthor into the mix. Also, the Roswell spacecraft was Abin Sur's ship. JFK governs the United States for years, as he wasn't assassinated, he divorces Jacqueline Bouvier and marries Marilyn Monroe, who goes by her name Norma Jean Mortenson as the First Lady.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: Superman and Luthor, freed from the confines of Status Quo Is God, each come to power in their respective countries, advance their technology and standards of living decades ahead of even the modern day and build them up into rival superpowers over the course of the comic.
  • America Takes Over the World: At the end of the comic, not only does President Luthor win, he also manages to use the United States as the basis for his One World Order. By the time he dies centuries later, his utopia's still noticeably American.
  • Anti-Villain: Everyone. Superman may be out to help everyone, but he's doing it by repression. Luthor may be out to make the world a utopia, but he's still just as obsessed with ending Supes as before, and he's only doing it to feed his ego. Batman, the Green Lantern Corps, and Wonder Woman (eventually) are all portrayed as forces antagonistic to Supes but are still fighting to keep Superman's power obsession at bay. The only out-and-out villainous characters are Brainiac and Pyotr.
  • Apocalypse How Class X: at the end of the story the Earth is swallowed up completely by the Sun.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Possibly the most famous in comic history. "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Luthor gets really upset with Superman, because the Superman Two he created had the temerity to beat him at chess.
  • Artistic License Geography:
    • While Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, it wasn't part of Russia at that time. Russia and Ukraine were constituent republics of the USSR. The final page fails to make this distinction with a caption reading "Ukraine, Russia, 1938".
    • Saint Petersburg is called by its current name, whereas it should have been referred to as Leningrad at this point in history.
  • At Least I Admit It:
    • Pyotr cheerfully admits to Batman he would be "a qualified human figurehead" in the aftermath of Superman's death - he also cheerfully goes along with the idea that he would be even worse than Superman once placed in power.
    • When Olson tells Luthor that the surrender of power involved in giving the green lantern ring to Hal Jordan instead of keeping it for himself is out of character, Luthor cheerfully explains he can't use it because "the stupid little trinket's powered by honesty and willpower", and is more suited to "some noble idiot".
  • The Backwards Я: Supes is a Soviet, so surely.
  • Better the Devil You Know: Batman asks why he should kill Superman to have Pyotr in his place, as Pyotr will undoubtedly be a worse dictator. Pyotr points out that at least he's human and will die some day. For all they know, Superman is immortal and his reign could last forever. Considering that he survives to see the end of Earth, itself the counterpart of Krypton, perhaps billions of years in the future, Pyotr turns out to be right.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Batman blows himself up using a bomb he implanted in his body rather than be turned into a Superman robot.
  • Black Comedy:
Superman: Captain Roslov note  was devastated by the old man's death. We all were. He didn't rest until he found the man who poisoned him and had him shot in Red Square in full public view.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: Batman, of all people, is this in this continuity.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Superman does this to dissidents, turning them into "Superman robots" who are forced into being happy and productive. He also reprograms Brainiac to serve his cause. It doesn't take, but Brainiac just rolls with it because Superman is essentially turning Earth into a world that lives by Brainiac's own motto.
  • Breaking Speech: Lex manages to squeeze an entire Hannibal Lecture into a single question: "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?"
  • Break the Cutie: Wonder Woman, who loses a piece of herself when she has to break her own lasso to save Superman.
  • Break Them by Talking: Or in this case, Writing. The final step in Luthor's plan to beat Superman is to show him a written message that, in his words, encapsulates everything about Superman that he hates about himself in one sentence.
  • Britain Is Only London: And its most famous landmark gets destroyed during Superman's fight with Superman Two.
  • Broken Aesop: Played with.
    • On one hand, Lex's Armor-Piercing Question is appropriate. Then, he goes to do the exact same thing with Luthorism except this time, Superman doesn't mind only because the only difference between Lex and him is Lex being human. It defeats the point of the utopia since, you can improve a place only if you were born there. It goes on for millions of years to boot. It's heavily implied a single bloodline has been ruling Earth during all this time despite the whole point of fighting against Superman's presence and rule was to preserve the free will of the people and avoid totalitarian rule. So much for democracy and the right to choose its ideology.
    • On the other hand, it shows how hypocritical Luthor is at his core. As usual, no matter how clever his arguments, ultimately Lex is Driven by Envy the same as always, and only doesn't want Superman in charge because he is convinced he should be. Indeed, Luthor is not necessarily intended to be portrayed as much better than Superman. Even though he led to an era of peace and prosperity, it should be noted that Superman was doing the same.
    • While the story is clearly intended as a Take That! to Stalinist communism, a reader could easily conclude that communism and fascism are only superficially similar, because apparently fascism will create a utopia if the dictator is just really, really smart like Lex. Since all real-life tyrants claim to be geniuses (since none dare contradict them), this may not be the best idea to be tossing around.
    • In-universe, Pytor points out that for all his value in Soviet propaganda, Superman is living proof that socialist doctrine is wrong: all men are not created equal.
  • Bullying the Dragon: Luthor sends Brainiac to shrink Stalingrad and then smugly taunts Superman about it to his face, even dropping the glass jar Stalingrad is in to make Superman catch it. He is playing remote chess as he does so.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted. Even a few days after the fact, Pyotr Roslov can no longer remember the names of the future Batman's parents or why he was sent to shoot them, but even decades later he remembers the little boy with the piercing Death Glare with perfect clarity.
  • The Cameo: Superman's Winter Cave includes statues of what look to be Krypto and Darkseid.
  • Cannot Self Terminate:
    • Pyotr has so little agency that he can't even shoot himself in the head with Superman around note .
    • Brainiac mentions as an aside that he has put a mind-control drug in the water supply so the people can't even escape utopia via suicide.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Brainiac. In his first appearance, he is defeated by Superman in less than a minute, but then he is reprogrammed by Superman to serve him. Except he wasn't really reprogrammed at all, but actually manipulating Superman into turning Earth into a world upholding Brainiac's ideals.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Luthor, complete with Chess Motifs and to a lesser extent, Brainiac and Superman.
    • In fact, it becomes personal for Luthor when Superman Two beats him at chess.
  • The Chosen Many: The Green Lantern Marine Corps. For all the good it does them; Superman easily and completely kicks their asses before stealing and destroying their rings.
  • Clark Kenting: Used and lampshaded by Superman at the end, after he survives his apparent death.
  • Colonized Solar System: The Distant Finale says the entire solar system has been colonized by the time Lex Luthor turns 120.
  • Conflict Killer: Inverted. Braniac turns on Superman after the main moral question is resolved.
  • Conveniently Empty Building: Tragically averted during the fight with Bizzarro. After ending up in downtown London, Superman is punched through Big Ben, causing it to collapse, and he mentions that 258 people died immediately, and when he goes through another city block, "a second later. One single second... and the body count tripled."
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: By the climax, Superman has defeated the Green Lantern corps, the Themyscirans, and the entire rogues gallery that Luthor had built over the decades, all in half a dozen pages, and then he gets curb-stomped himself by Luthor's twelve little words.
  • Cure for Cancer: After he takes over, Luthor cures cancer, AIDS, diabetes, blindness, every genetic disorder and even sleep.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Luthor claims that he terminated the contracts of those who helped him create Superman Two to prevent replication, but the art makes it clear he actually murdered them.
  • Deconstruction: The story acts as a rebuttal to the oft repeated criticism that Superman doesn't use his powers to fix the world's problems; using an alternate reality to explore what would happen if Superman actually did try to do this: At the helm of Soviet Russia, Superman almost completely eradicates crime and poverty, spreading this prosperity to most of the rest of the world. However, in the process he becomes a totalitarian dictator that lobotomizes dissidents and reprograms them into obedient drones. As a result, there is no individual liberty under his rule.
    • Moreover the point of the ending is that non-totalitarian utilitarianism is just as destructive of free will as its less subtle counterpart. Luthor's rule, having solved all mankind's problems, is so intolerable that his descendants allow their planet to be destroyed since they have "nothing left to do but die".
  • Determinator: Hal Jordan, who survived four years of torture as a P.O.W. by imagining he was building a place from which to execute all his tormentors. A grim way to prove yourself worthy of being a Green Lantern, but nevertheless.
  • The Dictatorship: Kal-L lands in the Ukraine in the 1920s instead of Kansas, and becomes a Soviet superweapon during the Cold War. After Stalin's death, Superman becomes the new Premier of the Soviet Union, turning what was already a totalitarian dictatorship but barely livable into a prison camp ruled by an all-seeing, all-powerful alien god who thinks free will is quaint.
  • Dirty Old Man: Stalin tries to get it on with Hippolyta at a diplomatic function. Despite her youthful appearance she is Really 700 Years Old so she tells him "Maybe if you were five thousand years older ..."
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Lex Luthor breaks off his engagement and relationship to Lois Lane in order to devote his entire life to beating Superman because... the deformed clone of Superman beat him in chess! This is particularly hilarious because earlier he had explicitly stated "I have no doubts that [Superman] and I would get along if we had been born in the same country."
    • The penalty for lingering more than 90 seconds in front of one of the exhibits in Superman's museum is "rigorous psychological examination".
  • Divided States of America: The Second American Civil War leads to 16 states (including Georgia) successfully seceding, creating a post-civil war Divided States of America. Some time after the initial secession, America is eventually reunited, but it takes President Lex Luthor to do so.
  • Domed Hometown: Stalingrad.
  • Double-Blind What-If:
    • At one point, Luthor remarks that if Superman had landed in America the two of them could have been friends.
    • An in-universe version: Superman mentions that, after a few centuries and a thousand different interpretations his first meeting with Lois in Metropolis, a famous poet would write an alternate history where the two became lovers. His work would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and become the best-selling work of fiction of all time.
  • Downer Ending: the ultimate downer ending, since it turns out that even utopia is so horrible that mankind is Driven to Suicide.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Superman Two sacrifices himself to stop a nuke from blowing up London, foreshadowing Superman's eventual fake suicide.
    • Batman blows himself up rather than be captured and lobotomized.
    • the entire Earth - its leaders deliberately allow it to be destroyed by the Sun because victory is so boring they have "nothing left to do but die".
  • Electric Torture: Luthor has a button rigged so he can deliver electric shocks to the players he beats remotely in chess. Why they continue to play chess with him is not explained.
  • Enemy Mine: Pyotr makes a temporary alliance with Batman to kill Superman, using technology developed by Lex Luthor. Both men make it clear that they'll do their best to kill the other once Superman is out of the way.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Lex Luthor's introduction in the story has him beating multiple opponents in chess, reading Machiavelli, and teaching himself Urdu using a portable tape recorder he designed in the washroom earlier that morning. All at once.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Batman mistakenly thinks Superman is a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist rather than the real thing. He warns Diana Superman is inducing her to harm herself, using her because "all he cares about is power" - his argument falling on deaf ears because he has misdiagnosed the reason Superman is calling on her to sacrifice herself.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • It's never remarked upon, but Superman has his former enemies perform rather degrading tasks when they're brainwashed into Superman robots, such as clean toilets in Bombay and act as janitors in his Fortress.
      • this is likely a case of Values Dissonance - Superman, as a good socialist, likely doesn't consider working-class jobs degrading. Note he was prepared to offer Batman a job in a bank before the latter's suicide. Probably he is merely assigning jobs according to IQ.
    • Lex murders everyone in S.T.A.R. Labs just to conceal the fact that Bizzaro beat him at chess!
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: we first see Luthor bald the day of his inauguration as POTUS, symbolizing his transition from the obscure mad scientist the modern audience is relatively unfamiliar with to his more modern characterization as President Evil.
  • Expy: Pyotr Roslov, the head of the KGB and Stalin's bastard son is an Elseworlds equivalent of Superman's childhood friend Pete Ross, but he is also a parallel to Stalin's eldest son Yakov Dzhugashvili, who Stalin famously let die in a German prison camp, as well as secret police chief Lavrenti Beria, including the possibility that Beria / Pyotr poisoned Stalin.
  • Fallen States of America: By 1978, America is pretty much in the gutter with crime and riots being rampant because of poverty. Wonder Woman suggests it all began with the assassination of Richard Nixon in Dallas back in 1963, and now John F. Kennedy is running the show. He's forced to grant independence to Georgia, with similar pressures being exerted by Detroit and Texas, riots in California, and a White House bombing by communist sympathizers. This escalates into a bitter civil war in 1986, where sixteen states secede from the Union. By 2001, 350 million Americans are on the cusp of starvation before Lex Luthor becomes president and turns things around.
    Luthor: I'm afraid you won't be getting my vote next year, Jack.
  • False Utopia: In the world Superman creates "Every adult had a job, every child had a hobby, everybody had a full eight hours sleep. Crime didn't exist. Accidents never happened... Almost six billion citizens and hardly anyone ever complained. Even in private." This is because of the frequency with which dissidents are lobotomized by having mind-controlling chips forcibly implanted in their brains. "A totalitarian state can work very well when the leader has super-hearing." Lex's Armor-Piercing Question makes Superman realizes he's no better than Brainiac. "Another alien bullying a less-developed species."
    • Luthor's replacement utopia turns out to be so much this that its inhabitants allow themselves to die. The point of the story is that utopia is inherently false.
  • Fantastic Racism: there's a fair amount of sneering at Superman for being an "alien" from characters for whom this is mostly a pretext for their resentment of his superior power politics.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Superman's origin in Russia is not the main difference between him and his mainstream counterpart, and is arguably just a distraction. The true distinction is that this is a Superman who comes to see the world and its inhabitants as problems that need to be fixed, instead of people that need support to be better. This leads to his ignorance over Pyotr and Wonder Woman's true feelings, and to his world domination.
    • Superman also has another fatal flaw: his conscience, which leaves him vulnerable to Luthor's final attack.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • A "Superman robot" in this continuity, rather than a robotic double for Superman, is someone who has been subjected to mind control and cybernetic implants.
    • Apparently this is the fate of the whole planet under the rule of Luthor and his descendants - the people of Earth allow themselves to be swallowed up by the sun because they have nothing left to live for, but before that they remain stuck in the limbo of materialist utopia for billions of years, unable to move on to something better.
  • Flying Brick: Faster than ten times the speed of thought, more powerful than... well, basically anything, and immortal, not to mention lacking several of his usual weaknesses, this Superman is even more powerful than usual.
  • Forgotten Anniversary: Sort of. Luthor does remember his anniversaries, he just is so busy with his plots against Superman that he can't be bothered to commemorate it. And judging by the state of the table he has set aside for "things from wife", it's been years since the last time that he could be bothered to take the time to even open any of the presents Lois got him for their anniversary (and possibly Christmas and birthdays as well).
  • For Want Of A Nail:
    • Subverted in the sense that this isn't really just what if Superman's rocket landed in the Ukraine instead of Kansas. Certain characters have been relocated as well, such as the Russian Lana Lang, Pete Ross and even Batman. Abin Sur was even the alien at Roswell. And then there's The Reveal that all of it is in one big Stable Time Loop, that Krypton depicted here is actually the future fate of this Earth and that Supes is Luthor's distant descendant! (That's what the L in Kal-L stands for!) It can however be argued that this is how the mainstream characters would have turned out if they were born in such conditions.
    • played straight with Superman's chance meeting with Lana - had he entered Moscow from a different direction en route to Stalin's funeral he would never have become a globe-spanning dictator.
  • Gambit Roulette: Lex Luthor remarks lightly that everything has gone exactly as planned. "One can almost be forgiven for thinking that this had all been worked out to the tenth decimal point forty years ago, eh?" As it happens, he miscalculated Superman's density by a decimal point, and Superman survived (albeit Faking the Dead and Clark Kenting) - something foreshadowed by the fact that Superman Two beat Lex at chess).
  • Free-Love Future: The Distant Finale says the couple becomes the triple.
  • Generation Xerox: Red Supes shares his ancestor's taste for global domination.
  • Genius Bruiser:
    • Superman. When Stalin is poisoned, he quickly goes through several books of medicine for a possible treatment, and later confronts the Superman Two after learning English 10 minutes ago.
    • Superman Two himself is one ironically, having beaten Luthor at chess. He is still incapable of normal grammar.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Fuzzy Bat-hat and all.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Superman's and briefly, Superman Two's character designs use this to striking effect.
  • Godzilla Threshold: "What have we got to lose? Release all those supervillains Luthor created over the years!" Doomsday was set loose on the National Mall in hopes of damage control.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Superman is a Totalitarian Utilitarian, dissenter-brainwashing Knight Templar, but Lex Luthor, despite all he does for his country, is still Lex Luthor, a mad sociopathic manipulative egomaniac. Though Luthor does lead the world in a long Golden Age after Superman has gone, this is probably for his ego as much as anything else. Likewise Batman is a a state-opposed terrorist who has none of his mainline continuity counterpart's respect for life yet raises valid points that Superman does nothing but live up to the grim reality he thought he was saving society from (although Brainiac's influences likely took him further down the path than he would have gone otherwise).
  • Happy Place: Hal Jordan was a former POW in Malaysia, eventually chosen by Lex Luthor to wear the Green Lantern Power Ring because of the elaborate version of this he constructed as a survival mechanism while being tortured. In his, he literally imagined himself building a prison for his captors in real time. The time it would take him to dig a hole or chop down a tree or take a break was imagined in his head until finally after years of real time imagination, he had "constructed" the prison and set about killing each of his captors in what he called the most glorious night of his life.
  • He Knows Too Much: Luthor murders the entire staff of S.T.A.R. Labs to ensure the Superman Two can never be duplicated.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Superman Two sacrifices himself to prevent a nuclear weapon from obliterating the United Kingdom.
    • Subverted with Superman, who pushes Brainiac's ship into deep space nd is presumed to be killed when it self-destructs. However, it's revealed he has survived.
  • Historical Domain Character: Josef Stalin, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon (who is mentioned in passing).
  • History Repeats: On a cosmic scale. The Reveal at the end of the last issue is that Earth becomes the Krypton of this universe and Lex Luthor's distant descendant is actually Red Son Superman himself.
  • Hobbes Was Right: subverted, a totalitarian dictator forcing people to restrain their base instincts seems to be the best the world can hope for until Luthor gets elected POTUS.
  • Hypocrite: Luthor's Armor-Piercing Question could be applied just as readily to himself as to Superman except Luthor doesn't care about the principle he's pushing.
  • Ignored Epiphany: On the part of Pyotr. His heart to heart with Superman, complete with Drowning My Sorrows and attempted suicide sure didn't change him, did it?
  • Infallible Narrator: Superman is telling the entire story from some future point, and doesn't miss one detail. Justified by his super memory.
  • Informed Ability: the comic illustrates how being strong and fast can help you beat people. It even illustrates how being smart can help you beat people. It completely handwaves the question of how being smart could enable Superman and Luthor to solve all the world's economic and social problems, and (strangely given the philosophical darkness of the work) it lands the comic squarely in Rousseau Was Right territory.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Green Lantern and Superman's entire Rogues Gallery end up existing in this world in much the same way as they do in our own, with only the circumstances of their creation changing. Notably, in this universe Superman's enemies are only "villains" in that he won all his fights against them and they are portrayed as such in the USSR, when in fact they are really US government-mandated Super Soldiers created by Luthor to fight Superman.
  • It's All About Me: Luthor. He becomes maniacally obsessed with beating Superman, not because of ideological differences, Patriotic Fervor, or even Fantastic Racism, but because he can't tolerate the idea that someone might actually be as smart as he is.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Luthor delivers electric shocks to the players he beats remotely in chess.
    • Pyotr humiliates and threatens to kill his limo driver who turns out to be a Batman for daring to make conversation with him.
      Limo Driver: What do you think, sir?
      Pyotr: I think a NOBODY like YOU doesn't NEED to be convinced, moron. Now SHUT UP and get me to the THEATRE before I have you SHOT for INSOLENCE.
  • Knight Templar: Superman. As if becoming absolute dictator of the Soviet Union isn't enough, the final chapter involves him launching an all-out invasion of the United States. It turns out that Brainiac is an even bigger Knight Templar however. In the end, Brainiac is defeated, and the USA is saved.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Batman uses red sun radiation to block Superman's powers, but kryptonite itself is noticeably absent throughout the comic; in the end it's implied that this is because instead of a separate planet that explodes and becomes kryptonite, Krypton is actually Earth in the far future. However, kryptonite is given a Shout-Out of sorts when Brainiac nearly kills Superman with a green beam of energy.
  • Legacy Character: Batman inspires other Batmen over the years.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: The Global Soviet Union rules over the whole world, save the Divided States of America. Despite people all over the world living in a socialist utopia, the Americans remain independent, living in a war-torn country, to avoid being ruled over by Superman.
  • Monumental Damage: Big Ben gets taken out after Superman Two punches Superman through it.
  • Mock Surprise Reaction: Luthor's exaggerated fake surprise facial expression as he pretends to be shocked at the fact that Brainiac had a self-destruct mechanism.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Superman, after reading Luthor's letter: "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?"
  • My Greatest Failure: Superman considers failing to restore Stalingrad to size after being shrunk by Brainiac as the black spot of his career.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • This isn't the first time Lex Luthor becomes President of the United States.
    • The shot of Superman handing the balloon back to the little American boy is an homage to the cover of Superman #1.
    • When Brainiac and Superman are discussing the political situation in America, an image of people rioting appears on the page. The image is very similar to the cover of Action Comics #1, where Superman first appeared, featuring the same man fleeing, except here it was from ordinary rioters instead of Superman lifting up a car.
    • Stalingrad and the Winter Palace are the story's versions of the bottle city of Kandor and the Fortress of Solitude.
    • Krypton actually being Earth in the future mirrors Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel's original origin story in 1934 for the first newspaper comics, where he came from the future and sent by his father, the last man on Earth, to the past. [1] [2]
    • The Soviet propaganda about Superman mimics the intro of The Adventures of Superman.
    • "What's going on? What's he doing?" "Something wonderful, Jimmy."
    • The very first time we see Lois she looks exactly as she does in the Superman Theatrical Cartoons.
    • Like Pre-Crisis Earth-Three, we have a Lex Luthor and a Lois Lane who are a married couple.
    • Just like in the Golden Age, Superman's family name is L instead of El. There's a reason for it here.
  • Narrator: Superman, narrating the story from after the events of it. Millions, if not billions, of years after it, as it happens.
  • Noble Demon: Lex Luthor. Everything he did was to prove his superiority over Superman, but that still doesn't change the fact that he did so by being a more merciful leader. Downplayed in that he's not necessarily better, just more subtle in his methods. The point of the ending is that Luthor kills Earth's free will just as effectively as Superman did, by solving all its problems so that his descendants have "nothing left to do but die" and actually let themselves be killed because victory is so boring.
  • Noodle Incident: At one point, Luthor can be seen inspecting a brain inside a jar that appears to be labelled "Einstein."
    • Doubles as a historical allusion, since the real Einstein's brain was removed and preserved shortly after his death in 1955, albeit in cubic centimeters rather than as a unit. Oddly, it also disappeared for over twenty years before being rediscovered in 1978... in the personal effects of the pathologist who removed it.
  • No Poverty: Superman manages to eliminate poverty in his Global Soviet Union. Later Luthor achieves this as well, turning the US from a penniless state on the brink of collapse to a thriving state within a year.
  • Not Brainwashed: Brainiac, due to his Level 12 intellect.
  • Not My Driver: How does Batman secretly meet with a high official of the government he's opposing? By posing as the man's driver and kidnapping him, of course.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    Brainiac: Don't die calling me a MONSTER, Superman. It is IMPORTANT that you realize you and I are EXACTLY the same kind of creatures.
    Lois Lane: Superman might be a nut with a Messiah complex, but don't you think we're in danger of just replacing one demagogue with another?
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Luthor causes considerable collateral damage as he sends superpowered beings to attack Superman in the name of saving the world from despotism - except his real motivations are far pettier.
  • Obliviously Evil: What makes the comic so disturbing is that Superman is a monster, yet his personality is barely any different from his mainstream incarnation. He believes turning dissidents into zombie-like Superman Robots and creating an Orwellian state is justified if it makes an efficient Orwellian state. note 
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Batman subduing Wonder Woman, as well as Superman's entire off-screen history with his rogues gallery (here reimagined as CIA assassination attempts) and then taking them all at once in the final issue.
  • One of the Boys: Diana has these personality characteristics despite living on Themiscyra (and Superman lampshades her as being one).
  • One World Government: In the Distant Finale, politicians have been done away with and Lex Luthor has set up a one world government composed of artists, writers philosophers and scientists.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Batman sports a joker smile so you know how Ax-Crazy he is.
    • In this timeline, Batman considered Superman a serious enough threat that he was even willing to make a temporary alliance with the man who killed his parents just to try to take down Superman.
  • Patricide: Pyotr is implied to have had Stalin assassinated due to Stalin's intensive favoritism towards Superman and his over-all abusive tendencies considering Stalin threatened to have Pyotr killed for standing against him.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: in his own mind, Hal Jordan builds his own concentration camp where he can torture and kill his captors.
  • Pet the Dog: Stalin, of all people, isn't bothered that Superman keeps ducking out of his grand parade, pointing out to a party apparatchik that what's he really supposed to do, just stand and grin while he can hear people screaming and dying?
  • The Power of Language: Luthor insists that while his various science experiments are all well and good, he will defeat Superman through the power of his words. he is right. Brainiac and Lois both foreshadow this.
  • Power Perversion Potential: when America learns of the existence of Superman the panicked people line their houses with lead because they're afraid Superman will watch them on the toilet.
  • Powered by a Black Hole: Brainiac's ship is powered by six miniature black holes. He prime's them to go off when he's defeated so Superman has to make a Heroic Sacrifice and fly the ship away from Earth.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Luthor becomes president and saves America from the brink of total collapse in the 1970s, drastically improving technology, living conditions, employment, health, and overall elevating it back to superpower status in the face of the global Soviet Union, giving him a 100% approval rating from US populace. But he doesn't give a rat's ass about any of that and hates the people; Luthor did it all so he would have an easier platform with which to finally bring down Superman.
  • President Evil: Superman and Luthor eventually take on this role.
  • President Superhero: The Soviet-raised Superman becomes Premier of the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin. He uses his powers to both fight crime and improve the living standard of every citizen in the expanding Soviet state, but also eliminates all free will.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: After Lex finally defeats Superman and Brainiac, becoming the leader of the Earth under one single power, he has an unprecedented and statistically impossible 101% approval rating. Although it's suggested that it might be a computer error... maybe.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Thanks to Luthor's work, human lifespan increases to an average of 800 years in his Global United States. Luthor himself lives until the cusp of the 4th millennium, with Lois, his son and Superman surviving him. It's also implied that Superman lives until the year 5 billion CE.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Superman and Superman Two, respectively, in an inversion of their usual relationship. Hightlighted by Superman Two's use of freeze vision.
  • Red Scare: In Soviet Russia, Superman scares Americans.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Kal-L is the last descendant of Lex Luthor sent back through time, as it was Lex's progeny that ensured that the Earth would become Krypton in the future. Superman was fighting his great-something grandfather the whole time.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Superman initially resists the idea of being elevated to leader, noting (correctly, but unsuccessfully) that putting him in charge because of his inborn advantages is utterly contrary to socialist principles. This later changes as he slips into believing he knows what's best for humanity.
  • The Resenter:
  • Rogues Gallery: What Luthor creates under CIA contract to kill Superman. Parasite, Livewire, Atomic Skull and Doomsday all appear, termed super-criminals in Soviet propaganda despite apparently being soldiers. Superman Two is the only one to really feature in the story though.
  • Rousseau Was Right: it turns out that people can live in a utopia, without a dictator, and that all their social conflict and other problems were merely the result of maladaptive social inputs, which can be completely overcome by the right elected leader. this state of affairs turns out to be just as unbearable as Hobbes Was Right.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: Other than the examples mentioned above, Tony Benn is seemingly a senior figure in the British government after it becomes a communist country.
  • Russia Takes Over the World: The Soviet Union expands into a global empire under Superman's Big-Brother style leadership, who creates a totalitarian "utopia" to protect humanity from itself. After Superman's "death" it is replaced by Lex Luthor's Global United States.
  • Secret Identity: Superman's given name is mentioned as being a "state secret", but it doesn't come up much because he never uses a Secret Identity, spending all his time as Superman until the end. We never even find out what his real name is.
  • Second American Civil War: The USA experiences a second civil war, with 16 "prodigal states" (including Georgia) successfully seceding.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Brainiac has one, complete with a public countdown conveniently just long enough for Superman to fly it into space.
  • Shipper on Deck: Josef Stalin ships Superman and Wonder Woman.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Luthor attempts a face-to-face Hannibal Lecture to Superman, but Brainiac restrains him. Too bad Lex already thought of that.
  • The Sleepless: In the distant finale, Luthor invents a pill that means people no longer need to sleep.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Superman, Brainiac, and especially Luthor (who is first seen playing fourteen games of chess at once while reading The Prince and teaching himself Urdu on a tape recorder he designed that morning). It acts a recurring motif throughout the story. Funnily enough, in spite of his typical portrayal, Superman Two is skilled enough at chess to beat Luthor at it.
  • Smug Snake: Pyotr Roslov believes he can take on Batman despite being completely outclassed.
  • Soviet Superscience: Thanks to Superman, the USSR makes remarkable technological advances and becomes the sole dominant economy in the world.
  • Stable Time Loop: Albeit a very, very long one; Lex Luthor's leadership leads Earth to become Krypton in the future, then his descendants (whose last name has atrophied from Luthor to Luth to L) send their son Kal-L back in time to prevent that from happening, unknowingly ensuring that Lex would fight against Kal-L to ensure he gains leadership over Earth to begin with.
  • Stylistic Suck: Not the miniseries itself, of course, but the first few pages are deliberately written in the style of a bad Silver Age comic... then Superman saves Metropolis from a Sputnik-turned-meteor. Which, as you should have guessed, is in the country he's at war with.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Apparently every single member of Luthor's bloodline has the same super-intelligence and ambitions as Luthor himself, ruling mankind in an unbroken chain for millions of years and culminating in him creating Superman himself as his own descendant that would end up back in 1938 in a Stable Time Loop.
  • Super-Senses: Played with. A totalitarian state can be very effective if its leader has X-ray vision and super hearing. Before he becomes leader, it's mentioned that he doesn't stick around watching parades by Stalin's side when he knows someone needs help hundreds of miles away.
  • Super Supremacist: Zigzagged Trope. At first Superman subverts it when he refuses to become the new premier of the Soviet Union after Stalin's death because ruling on the basis of his innate superpowers is directly contrary to the communist ideal of equality. He later recants when he decides that he could use his powers to protect and improve humanity, but he gradually becomes a totalitarian dictator and his promised utopia a Crapsaccharine World. When Brainiac turns on Superman after apparently being reprogrammed to help him with his new order, Superman acknowledges that he's no better, just another powerful alien bullying a weaker species. He decides to fake his own death and let mankind decide its own fate.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Brainiac prevents Lex from talking to Superman, stating that someone of Lex's intelligence is able to talk Superman into committing suicide within fourteen minutes. Actually, it takes Luthor only one single sentence to completely shatter Superman's values.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Surprisingly, Superman still sticks by this policy despite his different values, though for different reasons: He could take over the world in 10 seconds if he used brute force, but he wants other countries to join him willingly because of the success of his economy and government. Not that he isn't fond of brainwashing his enemies.
    • Averted with Batman, who's now a ruthless terrorist.
  • Time Bomb:
    • Brainiac's self destruct mechanism is rigged to announce a countdown to detonation so whoever it's trying to kill can dispose of it.
    • Metaphorically Luthor's manila envelope.
  • Translation Convention: A lot of Soviet terminology is adapted for Western comprehension. For example, Piotr refers to himself as chief of police and not militia, and KGB insignia are rendered in Latin rather than Cyrillic.
  • Unconfession: Pyotr tells Superman that he's done something terrible, but Superman flies off because he's just got word that Stalin has been poisoned...
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • The relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman is one of best friends, but there are enough hints to let the reader know Diana wants more than that. Superman, however, is shown to be utterly clueless about it, something he later sadly reflects upon.
    • There's also this between Superman and Lois. The first time the two see each other there's an immediate and powerful spark of attraction, but their being on opposite sides and Lois's marriage to Lex prevents them from acting on it.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Supes' mindset in a nutshell. He brainwashes dissidents by lobotomizing them and is willing to go to war with another country but it's because he wants to unite the world under his (Brainiac-molded) ideals. Lex eventually calls him out on this with a certain letter, only to incorporate several aspects of Superman's Utopia into his own.
    Superman: Success is only measured in results.
  • Victory Is Boring: the ultimate fate of the Earth after Luthor solves all mankind's problems. The point of the story is that utopia is inherently false because victory is boring.
  • Villain Protagonist: Superman, as raised in Cold War era Ukraine.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: it turns out that Luthor, Brainiac and Superman are identical except in this aspect: Superman is sufficiently ashamed of infringing on free will that he stands down when he's made to realize that he's doing that, whereas Luthor and Brainiac have no such qualms.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Most of Superman's Rogues Gallery, if they even get panels, show up for a few seconds and then are put down. Some of them just show up in the Superman museum in a cameo.
  • We Have Become Complacent: Lex manages to creates a one-world government of scientists, writers and artists, colonizes the solar system, develop technology to allow people to physically set foot in the afterlife, and makes humanity the most advanced race in the universe. But, millions of years in the future, Earth is about to be consumed by its growing red sun and the leaders of mankind there along with the populace are too prideful and apathetic to care about it and as Jor-L puts it: "Have nothing left to do but die." Jor-L sends his son back in time to make sure humanity never becomes "this cold complacent lot", ironically setting the stage for it to become exactly that via Stable Time Loop.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: In the Distant Finale, Lex Luthor has cured Cancer, AIDS, Diabetes, blindness and every inherited illness. Also the average person lives to be 800.
  • Wham Line: When Superman invades the USA, he is tricked into reading Luthor's letter, which contains a single sentence: "Why don't you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?" Reminded of his failure to save Stalingrad and aware that his actions have made him as much of a monster as Brainiac, Superman breaks down crying and gives up on his dream to conquer America.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite the final pages detailing Luthor's numerous scientific accomplishments, it's never revealed if he tried to return Stalingrad to normal or do anything to save its inhabitants. Similarly, the fates of those who were brainwashed and converted into Superman Robots is never disclosed.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: the lobotomy of humans is treated as such an outrage in the work thst it merits the overthrow of utopia, but the lobotomy of Brainiac is apparently just fine.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Perry White has this reaction to Soviet propaganda about Superman. It doubles as a Take That!, since said propaganda mimics the introduction of The Adventures of Superman.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
    • The citizens of London demand to know why Superman is trying to talk Superman Two to death instead of just killing him, since their fight has already caused hundreds of deaths worth of collateral damage. Justified, as Superman's approach causes the monster to sacrifice himself to save London from a nuclear weapon.
    • Superman has opportunity and justification for shooting Luthor, or at least lobotomizing him, since Luthor has committed crimes against the Soviet Union (eg sending supervillains to attack the soviet world and conspiring with Brainiac to shrink Stalingrad, a crime for which Brainiac has been lobotomized).
    • Batman foolishly tries to hold Superman captive rather than killing him.
    • For that matter Superman hears Batman order his computer to attack Superman in thirty seconds' time, and Superman stands around and talks to Batman instead of disabling him.
  • Woman Scorned: Wonder Woman chooses to side with Lex and the Americans against Superman during his invasion strictly because she's still enraged at him for not only rebuffing her feelings, but convincing her to destroy her own lasso to save him against Batman which permanently crippled her.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math:
    • Kal-L's ship lands in Ukraine in 1938, yet the story begins in the early 1950s... Superman would be 14-15 at most.
    • Sputnik-2, which weighs 5000 pounds/about 2268 kilograms, hitting the ground at 100 meters per second wouldn't be nearly enough to wipe out an entire city.
    • Superman says Sputnik-2 has an "acceleration factor of 100 meters per second" even though meters per second are units of velocity, not acceleration.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Batman organization, a group of people who decided to follow the example of the deceased terrorist Batman who caused upheaval in the name of preserving human free will in Superman's totalitarian regime.

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