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Comic Book / Superman: Secret Origin

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Superman: Secret Origin (2009-2010) was a six-issue retelling of Superman's origin as presented as canonical in the post-Infinite Crisis DCU written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank. Much like the last origin retelling tale, Superman: Birthright, its only real differences are that Secret Origin fits in with the Johns run of Action Comics, the New Krypton storylines and Adventure Comics, and that it takes some cues from Smallville.

After being rendered non-canon by the events of the New 52, the DC Rebirth storyline Superman Reborn restored this story back to continuity.

Tropes found in this series:

  • Abusive Parents: Lois Lane's father General Lane and Lex Luthor's father Lionel Luthor.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: As far as continuity was concerned beforehand, Metallo and Parasite made their debuts sometime after the Crisis. Here, they came about during the early years of Superman's career, much like their Pre-Crisis counterparts.note 
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Pre-Crisis, John Corben was a reporter before becoming Metallo; Post-Crisis, he was a conman; here, he was in the U.S. military, serving under General Lane.
  • Adoption Angst: Clark is horrified when he learns that he's an alien from another planet and flees into the fields above his parent's wishes. When Jonathan manages to catch up to him, Clark says he just want to be his son. The Kents assure him that he is their son.
  • Almighty Janitor: Averted with Rudy Jones.
  • All There in the Manual: You should have a sense of the John's run of Superman stories to fully get all the injokes and such.
  • Arms Dealer: Luthor supplies the U.S. military (and General Lane) with weapons and scientific aid.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Rudy Jones mutates into the Parasite as the result of eating a donut that had been contaminated by spilled chemical waste at LexCorp. After he had been shown to be a greedy and manipulative jackass, it's impossible to feel bad about his plight.
    • John Corben more than earns his fate of having to become the cyborg Metallo to survive as well as his severe beating from Superman due to his lecherous and entitled behavior towards Lois Lane.
    • By the end of the miniseries, Lex Luthor learns that everyone's stopped paying attention to him to instead praise and admire Superman, which he really has coming because of his efforts to punish every news outlet that doesn't speak of him favorably, his petty attempts at discrediting the Man of Steel and convincing everyone that he isn't to be trusted and generally being a narcissistic dirtbag and bully prone to forcing people into letting him have his way and whose humanitarian act is completely insincere.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: This is how Superman manages to defeat Metallo. While Metallo is a Man of Kryptonite with the powers that can easily weaken or injure Superman, his kryptonite heart is also on open display and Superman takes advantage of this by flinging a sewer lid at Metallo, melting that sewer lid into hot molten liquid with his heat vision in mid-air, and once that molten metal hits Metallo, his kryptonite heart is covered up, allowing Superman to dispatch him soon after.
  • Backported Development: Previously, Sam Lane's hatred of aliens had developed after the events of Our Worlds at War, and he got on fine with Superman before that. According to this story, he hated Kryptonians from the moment he learned they existed.
  • Bait-and-Switch Suicide: After a nasty moment with Luthor, Superman comes up to the Daily Planet roof and finds Jimmy Olsen standing on the edge, his head down. Supes flies toward him, shouting, "Don't jump!" — but then it turns out that Jimmy wasn't planning on jumping; he was just saying a final, depressed goodbye to Metropolis before his planned departure.
  • Beware the Superman: Luthor tries to pull this in the later two issues.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Issue 2. Most of Clark's friends have left him alone, except for Lana, but the Legion of Superheroes are Superman's new friends and Krypto arrives to be his companion.
  • Call-Back: This goes roughly hand in hand with the tales of Superman written by Geoff Johns. Also, the bit with the old lady yelling at Clark for looking to the sky is repeated with the old lady saying there's a reason to look up to the sky now with Superman around.
  • Character Development: The entirety of Metropolis stop being a bunch of Jerkasses when they see Superman save them and he tells them to try helping each other instead of fighting over Luthor's lottery.
  • Clark Kenting: As in the Silver Age, Clark's glasses in this continuity come from his spaceship and absorb his heat vision.
  • Clark Kent Outfit: Lois lampshades this as she analyzes Clark’s whole getup, from the bad suit, the oversized glasses and the seemingly modest and bumbling nature. She then flat out asks him, “You want to be underestimated, don’t you?”
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
    • Gary Frank's Superman is clearly based on Christopher Reeve, to the point of it being a reverse Ink-Suit Actor.
    • The teenage Lex Luthor resembles a young John Glover, who played Lex's father on Smallville.
  • Covert Pervert: When people start asking questions about Superman after his public rescue of Lois Lane, Cat Grant has the audacity to ask Lois how "big" Superman is.
  • Covers Always Lie: In the first issue, Martha and Jonathan are much younger in the interior pages than the cover. Also Clark isn't so young looking.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Jimmy Olsen apparently carries more than one camera.
    Soldier: I thought we confiscated his camera!
    Jimmy Olsen: A good reporter is always prepared! I have a dozen spares! (blinds the soldiers with the camera's flash and escapes)
  • Create Your Own Villain: Luthor inverts this in issues 4-6, as his actions have a hand in the origins of Superman's enemies Parasite and Metallo.
  • Crushing Handshake: Sgt. John Corben does this to Lois Lane's new co-worker to intimidate him, but considering this is Clark Kent, it doesn't work. Considering Clark easily resists the crush with a calm friendly smile really sells how outclassed Corben is.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Averted and subverted. The "Luthor Lottery" as people of Metropolis call it, is where Luthor uses his wealth to change the lives of one lucky person a day. Subverted when It's revealed that Luthor uses it to bribe his way from the authorities and turn Rudy Jones into Parasite solely to fight Superman. It's also pretty clear that the main reason Luthor does it isn't to make a difference in the lives of the people he picks, but because he clearly gets off on being worshipped and adored like some benevolent deity come to Earth to distribute blessings to the masses.
  • Death by Origin Story: Krypton, as always, gets blown up.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Luthor is behind the the Daily Planet's near bankruptcy and attempts to follow through with it in the final issue when his ego is being crumbled.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Clark at the very beginning of the story. Justified seeing that his powers are just beginning to emerge.
  • Dynamic Akimbo: When Superman lets Jimmy take a photo, he initially adopts a "hands-clasped-in-front-of-him" pose, but Jimmy suggests he put his hands on his hips instead, and that's the photo the Planet ends up running.
  • Evil Former Aquaintance: Luthor.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Lois is able to tell the integrity of someone by looking into their eyes.
  • Fat Bastard: Rudy Jones is depicted as being overweight, manipulative and greedy. Even after becoming Parasite, he has a noticeably huge gut.
  • Insufferable Genius: Per usual, Luthor is depicted as a narcissistic prick who considers everyone not as intelligent as he is to be beneath him.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Subverted. See Bait-and-Switch Suicide.
  • I Own This Town: Luthor has a stranglehold over Metropolis and is so used to always getting his way and being venerated by the public that it really gets to him once Superman's arrival and Lois being emboldened towards holding him accountable change that.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Clark, on discovering he's not from Earth.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: To all the post-time skip bad guys.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Clark's high school clothes are similar to the ones he wore in the early years of Smallviille.
    • In issue 3, Superman saves Lois from a falling helicopter much as in the original movie.
    • The LexCorp remote control exoskeleton from issue 3 is a spitting image of the modern battle armor. And it's made of Metallo, a synthetic metal made by LexCorp.
      • In turn, this is likely a mythology gag relating to Superman: The Animated Series, as that series opened up with Superman fighting Corben inside Lex branded power armor. That, in turn, was likely a shout out to the first Metallo, who was a guy in a power suit. Fractal mythology gags!
    • Chloe Sullivan has a signature on Pete Ross' arm cast early in the first issue.
    • Images of Zod, Ursa and Non, Brainiac's ship and Doomsday appear as holograms in issue 1.
    • Luthor and Clark go to school together, and his father is named Lionel. Also the sometimes canon story of Luthor murdering his or one of his parents is present.
    • The very different depictions of Kryptonian clothing in the Golden and Silver Age comics, in the Christopher Reeve movies, and in John Byrne's The Man of Steel are all referenced for this origin's version of Krypton.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The big fights between Superman and Rudy Jones (Parasite) in issue 4 and John Corbin (Metallo) in issue 6. Lots of property damage ensues, including a tank in 6... but a less-cynical Metropolis apparently agrees with Superman that the Army had no business starting a firefight on the streets of Metropolis.
  • No Sympathy: Lana does this to Clark in issue 2 when she tries to start a relationship with him.
  • Only Friend: At least in a certain area. When he's leaving after his chat with Jimmy Olsen on the roof, Superman says it would be a shame if Jimmy left town because he'd lose the only friend he's made since coming to Metropolis.
  • Patricide: It is heavily implied that Luthor killed his own father.
  • Reverse Psychology: Lightning Lad diffuses Brainiac 5's arguments about the dangers of letting Superboy travel to their time by claiming no one could possibly figure out a way to ensure they could do it safely, stating it's impossible. When Brainy replies that nothing is impossible, Garth announces he's holding him to that and expects the 12th level genius to figure out a way to avoid damaging the time stream.
  • Self-Proclaimed Love Interest: John Corben wants to think he's Lois's boyfriend, instead coming across as a Stalker with a Crush. He keeps sending her flowers which she immediately throws out, doesn't understand why she does after reexplaining they only went out once, is contemptuous of her career and thinks he knows what's best for her, and grabs her when starts ignoring him. Thankfully, Lois (and Clark) refuse to accept any of his behavior.
  • Shipper on Deck: General Lane wants Lois to give up her career and marry John Corben, but not because he cares about her marrying a good man, but because he sees Corben as the son he never had.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Sam Lane and John Corben have no respect for Lois's career, repeatedly telling her she can't change the world as a journalist. She disagrees.
  • So Proud of You: Jimmy laments to Superman of his "Well Done, Son" Guy status with his family, and how they didn't expect much of him when he left for Metropolis. This causes Superman to remember when he left Smallville and the exchange he had with his parents.
    Clark Kent: I'll make you proud.
    Jonathan Kent: You already do.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Sam Lane and John Corben both try to invoke this trope with Lois, being dismissive of her career and insisting it's in her "best wishes" to marry Corben, have kids, and settle down as an army wife. Lois is not appreciative that they won't take a hint.
  • Time Skip: Issue 3 takes place on Clark's first day in Metropolis after issue 2 ends with Clark still in school.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Yes, Rudy, eat a donut that just fell into a strange bio chemical. You're lucky you only got mutated horribly from doing that.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The Establishing Character Moment of Clark's arrival in Metropolis has him accidentally bump into a rude older woman who makes a confused, snide remark about his idealistic nature. By the end of the last issue, another new arrival to Metropolis bumps into the same woman, who is now far nicer and polite. This is an indicator about Superman's effect on Metropolis.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Luthor, per usual. This story has him offer a "Luthor Lottery" were one lucky Metropolis citizen can get their dreams come true through Luthor's money.
  • Villainous Glutton: Rudy Jones is established to have been a greedy glutton before he became the Parasite, with his Establishing Character Moment having him presumably lie about skipping breakfast to manipulate Clark into giving him his lunch. Incidentally, he ends up becoming the Parasite because he ate a donut after he dropped it onto the floor and it got exposed to some spilled chemical waste, with his transformation warping his insatiable appetite into a desire to drain everyone's life energy.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Gal: Lois has a less than desirable relationship with her father. While she honestly doesn't care if Sam approves of her career as a journalist, she still wishes he would back off and stop insisting he knows what's best for her.
  • You Are Not Alone: Young Clark is despondent about his powers, feeling that they isolate him. The Legion of Superheroes are quick to show that not only will he not be so alone anymore when he grows up, but he'll embody this trope for future generations of superheroes.