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Given that this is a self-contained Imaginary Story that does not have a canonical impact on any Superman series, all spoilers on this page are unmarked. Tread carefully.
See ya, big guy. You'll be missed.

"This is an Imaginary Story (which may never happen, but then again may) about a perfect man who came from the sky and did only good. It tells of his twilight, when the great battles were over and the great miracles long since performed; of how his enemies conspired against him and of that final war in the snowblind wastes beneath the Northern Lights; of the women he loved, and the choice he made between them; of how he broke his most sacred oath, and how finally all the things he had were taken from him save for one. It ends with a wink. It begins in a quiet midwestern town, one summer afternoon in the quiet midwestern future. Away in the big city, people still sometimes glance up hopefully from the sidewalks, glimpsing a distant speck in the sky... but no: It's only a bird, only a plane. Superman died ten years ago. This is an Imaginary Story...

Aren't they all?"

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? was a Superman story arc published in Superman (1939) #423 and Action Comics #583 (September, 1986).

Superman really hit his stride in The Silver Age of Comic Books, which introduced things like multi-colored Kryptonite, Supergirl, Bizarro, and the Fortress of Solitude. Even today, much of what the average person knows about Supes (not counting his death) comes from that period.

Then came the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a mega-event that reset the continuity of every DC title. Thus began the modern, John Byrne era of Superman which strove to be more "realistic". Realizing that Silver Age Superman deserved a Grand Finale, editor Julius Schwartz hired Alan Moore, and Superman ur-artist Curt Swan. The first issue was inked by none other than George Pérez and the second issue was inked by Kurt Schaffenberger (who was also best known for defining the look of Lois Lane, and his work on Shazam! and the Captain Marvel Family tales), and made the last Silver Age tale — an "imaginary story." Published in September, 1986. For Moore, a lifelong Superman fan, specifically the Silver Age Superman, this story was the "final" Superman story. For many writers, it's one of the greatest Superman stories ever written, with Neil Gaiman claiming that the opening is the greatest triple entendre in comics and a goodbye to a Superman that existed in Moore's heart.

Daily Planet reporter Tim Crane comes to interview Lois Elliot (née Lane) on the anniversary of the death of Superman. Lois tells the story in a Whole Episode Flashback.

After Superman's life has settled into an easy groove as all the villains lie low, he spends his time helping NASA with experiments. Of course, the villains then go berserk, attacking Metropolis in increasingly grisly ways. Superman takes his friends to the Fortress of Solitude, pursued by the Kryptonite Man, the Legion of Supervillains, and creepiest of all, an enslaved Lex Luthor, mind-raped and taken over by the remains of Brainiac.

Superman makes his Last Stand, and survives by the skin of his teeth. He defeats Brainiac, but realizes there's one last villain: Mr. Mxyzptlk. Bored after spending 2,000 years as a mischievous imp, Mxyzptlk has decided to try being truly evil. Superman is no match for Mxyzptlk's godlike power, but thanks to a warning from the Legion of Super-Heroes, he's able to kill Mxyzptlk using the Phantom Zone projector. Appalled that he's violated his code against killing, Superman exposes himself to gold kryptonite (permanently robbing himself of all powers) and apparently commits suicide by exposure to the elements.

Back at the Framing Device, Tim Crane thanks Lois for her story, leaves, passing Lois's husband Jordan Elliot. It's revealed that Jordan Elliot is actually Superman and that he's in his retirement, happy to enjoy an ordinary life for once. Jordan, crazy in love with Lois, winks at the audience, enjoys a Happy Ending... and misses the fact that his infant son is exhibiting Super-Strength.

That's the tale. As time went on, the fans rejected the modern era Superman, and the classic Silver Age trappings came back. However, the legacy of this story would continue to endure.

Just as this story was Silver Age Superman's "epilogue" following Crisis on Infinite Earths, a similar story has come in the wake of Final Crisis, Batman's Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader? The two stories are similar in presence, but while "Tomorrow" was a tribute to the Silver Age Superman (whose tenure is typically dated to last all the way through The Bronze Age of Comic Books and ended with Crisis on Infinite Earths; the Golden Age Superman, Kal-L would later return in Infinite Crisis), "Caped Crusader", which followed in the death of Bruce Wayne in Final Crisis, is a tribute/epilogue to all versions of the Bruce Wayne Batman, as told by the various versions of his allies and enemies. Both storylines, however, maintain a theme of renewal: "Tomorrow" sees the future of Superman passed onto the next generation, and "Caped Crusader" sees Batman reborn to continue his crusade against injustice.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? provides examples of:

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    A - H 
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: It's set at least ten years into the future and the furniture looks futuristic.
  • Above Good and Evil: Played with. Mxy seems to treat stances on morality with the same weight as what he's having for dinner, in spite of being willing to commit to one for thousands of years.
  • Action Girl: Lana is so desperate to aid Superman against the villains that she bathes in a magic lake inside the Fortress of Solitude to gain superpowers. She is the one who defeats Brainiac by snapping his host's neck, but is killed shortly afterwards when the Legion of Super-Villains remove her powers and electrocutes her.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Lex Luthor spends most of the story in complete agony and finally begs Lana to kill him, which she does.
    • Brainiac spends his final moments reduced to a pathetic crab-like little creature who can't even get close enough to touch Superman as rigor mortis sets in on Luthor's corpse. Even after detaching itself, all it can do is drag itself a few feet before collapsing and shutting down.
    • Bizarro, strangely enough, has never been more terrifying or more pitiable than he is here. In his desperate quest to become Superman's "perfect imperfect duplicate," Bizarro destroys his own planet on purpose (because Krypton was destroyed by accident), comes to Earth as an adult (because Superman came as a baby), kills lots and lots of people (because Superman never kills) and finally, because Superman is alive, kills himself with blue kryptonite. His last words are "Hello, Superman, hello."
  • Alien Geometries: Lois described the true form of Mxyzptlk as having "height, length, breadth, and a couple of other things," reflecting the long-established fact that Mxyzptlk is from the fifth dimension.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Several villains are assembled into an army by Brainiac and try to invade Superman's Fortress of Solitude.
  • And I Must Scream: Luthor's personality is consumed by Brainiac, who starts using his body as a living puppet. Eventually, he musters enough willpower to beg Lana Lang to kill him. She complies.
  • Aside Glance: This being one of the very last Superman stories from the Silver Age, it naturally ends with Supes' signature closing trope.
  • Anyone Can Die: Since it was the swan song of the Silver Age Superman, Alan Moore was given a free hand on who would die. As a result, most of Superman's supporting cast and nearly all of his antagonists (with the exceptions of the Legion of Super-Villains and possibly Toyman, the Prankster and Metallo) perish.
  • Avenging the Villain: The Metallo who appears in this story is the Rodger Corben version, who mentions that he's attacking the Daily Planet to avenge his brother John the original Metallo.
  • Babies Ever After: At end of the story, Superman lives an ordinary life with Lois and his son Jonathan.
  • Back for the Finale: All of Superman's friends and enemies return for what is supposed to be a farewell to the previous continuity following the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot. Superman even lampshades this, in order to ascertain who the true Mastermind is. He figures out it is Mxyzptlk, because he is the only Silver Age villain not to make an appearance yet.note 
    Superman: Bizarro, the Prankster, the Toyman, Metallo, Brainiac, the Kryptonite Man, the Legion of Super-Villains... There's only one name missing, isn't there? ... I know you're there, Mxyzptlk! Come out and show yourself!
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Despite having a strict no-killing policy, Superman uses the Phantom Zone projector to banish Mxyzptlk, knowing that he'll try to go back to the Fifth Dimension and tear himself in half.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Mr. Mxyzptlk is the Trope Codifier here, as he proves to be a serious threat in spite of his reputation as a ludicrous nuisance.
  • Big Bad: Mxyzptlk turns out to be behind all the conflict.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Brainiac and the League of Supervillains in particular want very much to be Superman's greatest foe, but in the end look rather pathetic (Brainiac ditching Luthor's corpse and desperately trying to reach Superman in the midst of a total system failure, the League running back to the future with their tails between their legs to avoid Superman's wrath).
  • Big "NO!": From Superman as he discovers the corpse of Pete Ross in the bigger package that was sent to him by Toyman and the Prankster that arrived at the WGBS studios.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For the whole Superman mythos. Pete Ross, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen, Krypto, Lex Luthor, and Supergirl are all dead and Superman chooses to retire and nullify his own powers after he's forced to use the Phantom Zone projector to destroy Mr. Mxyzptlk. But Clark and Lois have survived and can finally be together and all of the supervillains have been either killed, captured, or driven away. The future sequences show that Superman has left his mark and made the world a better place, while his son will presumably go on to be the hero of future generations.
  • Body Horror: The new Brainiac-Luthor "team" involves the former forcibly possessing the latter in such a way that Braniac is in full control whilst Luthor is fully conscious.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Lois' new husband at the end is strongly implied to be a depowered Superman.
  • Brown Note: Lois says that just looking at Mxyzptlk's true form gave her a headache.
  • Buffy Speak: Lightning Lord calls the Brainiac-controlled Luthor the "Luthor-Brainiac thing."
  • The Cameo:
    • There's a damaged statue of Lori the mermaid in the fortress of Solitude.
    • The heroes trying to help Superman include Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow and Hawkman. None have that significant role to play since they were all locked out.
    • Bronze Age creations Superwoman and Vartox can also be spotted trying to break through the force field to help Superman.
  • Canon Immigrant: Jonathan would become the son of Clark and Lois 30 years after this story was published as the new Superboy.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Mxyzptlk, but Played for Drama. By his own admission he consciously chose to be pure evil out of sheer boredom, and the entire story showcases exactly how dangerous a pure evil Reality Warper can be.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Earth's superheroes were too late and too weak to help Superman in his final battle.
  • Characterization Marches On: This was the first time Superman openly admitted I Just Want to Be Normal. John Byrne's Superman depicted Clark Kent as the "real" persona, instead of being a facade Superman used when he wasn't fighting crime.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The trophy the Legion gives Superman — is actually a clue as to what he needs to do to beat the Big Bad.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Mxyzptlk orchestrates several events to get Superman's enemies to attack the Man of Steel with greater ferocity than before.
    • Brainiac controls the middle of the comic as the visible Big Bad and orchestrates a siege around the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Clark Kenting: Tim Crane doesn't seem to recognize Clark Kent nor Superman behind Mr. Elliot's mustache and nutmeg brown hair with gray temples.
  • Color-Coded Secret Identity: When Jordan first appears, he is wearing a blue jacket—the same as Superman’s signature blue (though no red). When he appears again at the end, he is wearing a gold shirt, like the gold Kryptonite that took away Superman’s powers.
  • Continuity Porn: For the Silver Age. It's astounding how much Alan Moore manages to squeeze into one story while still keeping it gripping and tense. For example, the source of Jimmy and Lana's powers were obscure even in 1985, and the Kryptonite Man was a minor villain who had appeared in a handful of issues, most notably in issues of Superboy as the Kryptonite Kid in the '60s and '70s.
  • Creator Cameo: Curt Swan, Jenette Kahn, and Julie Schwartz are all on the cover of Action Comics #583, waving goodbye to Superman.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • The death of Mr Mxyzptlk, whose humanoid Energy Being form is torn in half on panel, as he screams in pain and horror.
    • Lana Lang is fried by electricity from Lightning Lord.
  • Darker and Edgier: Invoked by Lois when Mxyzptlk appears.
    Lois: He didn't look funny anymore.
  • Dead Guy Junior: After retiring from superheroics, Superman takes the name Jordan Elliot, which is clearly based on his dead father Jor-El.
  • Dead Sidekick: Supergirl gets killed prior to the story, and Pete Ross, Jimmy Olsen and Krypto get killed in the course of it.
  • Death Faked for You: Lois Lane makes everybody believe that Superman walked into the snowbound Arctic wastelands and got frozen to death, so that he can start a new anonymous life.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Superman is spared the pain of choosing between Lois and Lana when Lana meets her unfortunate end at the hands of Lightning Lord. At least it was a Heroic Sacrifice, but still...
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: Said verbatim by Mxyzptlk when he reveals his true monstrous form.
    Mxyzptlk: Did you honestly believe a fifth-dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat?
  • Dirty Coward: The Legion of Supervillains come from the future because there was going to be a great victory that day. Naturally they only fight when they are sure they will win and when they get scared they flee back to their time period.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Luthor/Brainiac fusion is set up as the main threat before Mxzyptlk is revealed to be behind everything.
  • Distant Finale: Is considered the canon ending for the silver age Superman and is set over ten years into the future.
  • Double Meaning: "This is an Imaginary Story... Aren't they all?", which can be taken several ways:
    • This is a What If? story, which DC used occasionally during the Golden and Silver Ages for Filler issues, and identified as "imaginary stories" to distinguish them from stories set in the (arguably loose, especially in the Golden Age) "official" series continuity. (The concept would later be revived at DC under the Elseworlds imprint.
    • This is a canonical ending to the original Superman tales before John Byrne's reboot.
    • All comic books are imaginary stories, so this non-continuity story is no less valid than any in-continuity story.
  • The Dreaded: Superman wonders, "Well, if the nuisances from my past are coming back as killers... what happens when the killers come back?" Lois knows he means Luthor and Brainiac, the most dangerous of his foes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Superman may have lost many of his friends and allies, but all of his enemies are now either dead, imprisoned, or have made the wise decision to leave him alone. In addition, he gets to settle down and start a family with Lois under a new identity.
  • End of an Era: The entire point of the comic, and it's clear by Lois' narration that the era was winding down even before the events of the story. It starts with Superman returning to Earth after spending quite some time exploring space, as there's just not as much need for him anymore. Most of his old enemies have been defeated or gone underground, including Lex Luthor, Braniac had been destroyed (and would have stayed that way had Luthor not sought his remains out in the Arctic), the bizarre adventures of the Silver Age have stopped, and Parasite and Terra-Man have killed each other.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • The Legion's gift to Superman, and what the trophy is holding, turns out to be a clue on how Superman can win the final battle.
    • Superman's realization that Mxyzptlk must be the mastermind, as he is the only villain not to appear yet.
  • Evil Gloating: When he finally appears, Mr. Mxyzptlk gloats about killing Superman and proceeds to chase after him and Lois... instead of merely wishing Superman out of existence.
    Mr. Mxyzptlk: "Now, two thousand years later, I'm bored again. I need a change. Starting with your death, I shall spend the next two millennia being evil! After that, who knows? Perhaps I'll try being guilty for a while. Did you honestly believe a fifth-dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat? Would you like to see how I really look?"
  • Evil Plan: Mr. Mxyzptlk manipulates all Superman's villains into simultaneously attacking the Man of Tomorrow and his friends because he's grown bored of being a harmless trickster, and he wants to try to be evil for at least one thousand years.
  • The Everyman: Jordan Elliot, to Superman's utter delight, is as normal and unremarkable as any other person.
  • Exact Words:
    • Lois says she never saw Superman again after the events at the Fortress of Solitude.note 
    • When the time-traveling Supergirl from the past asks where her present-day self isnote , Superman tells her that she's "in the past."
  • Faking the Dead: Superman's greatest trick is telling the whole world that he's dead.
  • First Girl Wins: Although chronologically, Lana Lang is the first girl in the comics timeline though Lois Lane was always the first girl in the Superman stories. Superman tells Perry White that Lana was always the girl of his youth, but Lois was his one true love and the person he cared for as an adult.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Lois tells the story in a Whole Episode Flashback.
  • Foreshadowing: There are two hints to Jordan Elliot's true identity: his son's name is Jonathan, much like Clark's adoptive father; and his own fake name is a tribute to his Kryptonian father: JORdan ELliot.
  • Forgot About His Powers:
    • The Kristin Wells version of Superwoman is one of the heroes trying to break down the forcefield around the Fortress of Solitude — even though she's capable of teleporting and walking through walls, and therefore should have no problem getting through it. For that matter, walking through walls is Martian Manhunter's power too. Of course it's later justified when it turns out Mr. Mxyzptlk was maintaining the forcefield with his own sorcery, presumably canceling out any powers that could have breached it.
    • Krypto and Superman have heat vision that could be used to fight the Kryptonite Man from a distance, yet they never even try, leading to Krypto's death.
  • For the Evulz: Mxyzptlk enacts his scheme because he has decided that he's going to try being evil now.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: For the Silver-Age Superman, and in Alan Moore's opinion, Superman period. As he noted in later interviews and as confirmed by Neil Gaiman, Moore wrote this fully with the intention of it being the "last Superman story."
  • Genre Blind: Both Brainiac and Mr. Mxyzptlk take the future information of Superman vanishing after battling his greatest foe as proof of their ensured victory. Neither of them stops to think why the name of said foe isn't recorded as well, particularly considering how they both present a significant ego and would very much want to make their victory known and that the only explanation was for said foe not to have left enough traces to be recognizable.
  • Genre Throwback: The cover of the first part is much like a very Silver Age Superman story that makes promises of such outrageous things that there is no way they could ever actually happen but the reader just has to buy it anyway... Except they all do!
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Perry White and his wife Alice, who were estranged from each other at the beginning of the story, are among Superman's other friends who are sequestered in the Fortress of Solitude, to protect them from his enemies. An explosion causes a huge chunk of debris to fall from the ceiling, and would have splattered Alice if Perry hadn't pushed her out of harm's way. The couple swiftly make up, and also resolve to retire to Alice's room in the Fortress, to "make up for lost time".
  • Go Out with a Smile: The last thing Superman does before neutralizing his pwoers and walking into the Arctic is give Lois a smile.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Krypto tears out Kryptonite Man's throat, but all that is shown is a splash of green blood and Krypto biting down with a "SNOPF!"
  • Grand Finale: This story serves as the final ending for Silver Age Superman, as it has many of his greatest enemies defeated for good and concludes with him earning his happy ending.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Krypto manages to kill the Kryptonite Man before he can reach Superman, but is fatally poisoned in the process.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Luthor’s search for Brainiac in order to study his alien technology results in Brainiac instead taking control of Luthor.
    Brainiac: Greetings, Lex Luthor. Your body, mind, and vocal cords all now belong to me. I welcome you to the new Brainiac-Luthor team.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Mr. Mxyzptlk's true form is an Energy Being of incomprehensible shape, though he is presented to the reader as a humanoid purple and black monster.
    Mxyzptlk: Did you honestly believe a fifth-dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat?

    I - N 
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Luthor gains enough control to beg Lana to kill him to stop Brainiac. She complies.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Clark, er, Jordan got his wish. Jordan mocks Superman in the beginning of the story, proclaiming that the ordinary working Joe is the real hero, then when teased by Lois about really enjoying his life, Jordan remarks that Superman was deluded into thinking the world couldn't go on without him.
  • Ironic Echo: An immediate example. When Mxyzptlk tells Superman, “Time to die,” Superman repeats the same words right back to him and then shoots him with the Phantom Zone cannon.
  • Karma Houdini: The Legion of Super-Villains, opportunistic assholes that they are, travel back in time to take part in "the assured destruction of Superman". In the course of the conflict, Cosmic King depowers Lana Lang, rendering her helpless, and Lightning Lord fries her to a crisp. All because she tried to defend her beloved friend. Later, Lightning Lord has the sheer BALLS to not only taunt Superman about this, but simultaneously threatens to do the same to Lois Lane. Clark understandably is not amused by this, and unleashes a beam of heat vision that burns Lightning Lord's arm. His partner, Saturn Queen, sees in Superman's mind the intent to kill, and all three choose discretion as the better part of valor, fleeing back to their own time. Despite killing the hero's childhood friend and former love interest, these three cowardly bastards escape scot free, with no comeuppance, unlike every other villain in this story.
  • Killed Offscreen: Lois mentions the Parasite and Terra-Man killed each other in a fight.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: Several of Superman's heroic allies come to help him in the final battle, but are kept out by a Force Field until it's all over.
  • Long Last Look: Superman gives Lois one right before walking into the Gold Kryptonite room.
  • Manly Tears: Superman, the world1s greatest superhero, sobs at the end of Superman #423.
  • Meaningful Rename: Jordan Elliot, the identity adopted by Clark after losing his powers, is a reference to his biological father, who is called Jor-El.
  • Mercy Kill: Lana puts Lex out of his misery at his pleading.
  • Metaphorically True:
    • Lois isn't lying when she says she never saw Superman ever again after he walked into the Gold Kryptonite room. When he came out, he didn't have his powers and no longer called himself by his superhero alias.
    • Previously, Supergirl had travelled to the distant future. This version of the character comes back in this story and asks where her present self is, as she knows that it's impossible to time travel to an era where she already exists. Superman tells her that the Supergirl of his own time is "in the past", as he can't bring himself to tell her that she is about to die.
  • More than Three Dimensions: Lois, in her narration, struggles to describe Mxyzptlk's reveal of his true form:
    Lois: It had height, length, breadth, and a couple of other things. [...] Looking at it made my head hurt.
  • Mutual Kill:
    • The Parasite and Terra-Man, two of Superman's most persistent Silver Age foes do not appear in the story. During Lois' exposition opening about what things were like during Superman's final days, she mentions that the two had ended up killing each other in a massive fallout.
    • Krypto attacks Kryptonite Man, who screams that Krypto will die if he continues to attack. Krypto doesn't care and bites down his throat, fatally poisoning himself in the process.
  • The Needless: Mxy, by his own admission, spent the first 2,000 years of his existence doing nothing at all, not even breathing.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: According to the older Supergirl, if you travel back to a time period where your past self is present, you become a ghost. Since the modern Supergirl died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, this doesn't happen, forcing Superman to make up an excuse.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Superman can now see radio waves and track them to their source.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The flashback is set a few years into the future with nothing futuristic bar Super Science that would appear in a modern day Superman comic anyway.
  • Not Quite Dead: Brainiac survived the loss of his body and sought to take over someone else's. In particular, Luthor's.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain:
    • Toyman and Prankster, as their names imply, are fairly jokey antagonists who don't pose a serious threat to Superman. Due to Mxyzptlk's messing with reality though, they are the ones who murder Pete Ross and out Superman's secret identity.
    • Bizarro, Superman's developmentally disabled clone, destroys Bizarro World on purpose and goes on a killing spree to try and carry being Superman's opposite to its logical extreme.
    • Mxyzptlk, who up to this point was just a prankster who used his reality warping powers to annoy Superman, turns out to be why all of the other villains have become worse than they were before. He is revealed to be the Big Bad, causing all of the story's events after growing bored and randomly deciding to be evil.

    O - Z 
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Mr. Mxyzptlk's reaction to Superman holding the Phantom Zone Projector is one of pure terror, which is why he attempts a Villain: Exit, Stage Left by saying his name backwards to go back to the fifth dimension. It gets him murdered by Superman.
    • The Legion of Supervillains are understandably horrified when Superman is enraged by discovering that Lightning Lord killed Lana Lang and opt to escape his wrath by fleeing back to the future.
  • One-Winged Angel: Mxy assumes his true form in the Final Battle ("Did you honestly believe a fifth-dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat?" laughs the villain.) and being five dimensional, cannot be fully comprehended by earthlings; as Lois puts it, "I can't describe what Mxyzptlk then became. He had height, width, depth, and a couple of other things, too."
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Sillier villains like Bizarro, Toyman and The Prankster killing people twigs Superman into realising that something strange is going on.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: A variation.
    Hooker: I could break your heart for $50.
    Metallo: [rips open shirt to reveal a grappling hook where his heart should be] I doubt it.
  • Oxymoronic Being: Brutally deconstructed. For all his "backwards" ways of doing things, Bizarro wasn't completely opposite to Superman as everyone claimed, just a flawed form of him with a contrarian morality that lived in a copy of Earth with many details deliberately reversed; as Lois mentions, the Silver Age version never managed to actually hurt anyone before he settled on Bizarro World for good. When Mxyzptlk compels him to become a true antithesis of his foe — a living being who never kills and found an adoptive world in Earth, the planet he came to as a baby — Bizarro destroys his adoptive world, comes to Earth (his true planet of origin) as an adult, murders dozens of people, and commits suicide.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Downplayed; after she and Jimmy Olsen give themselves superpowers in an attempt to help the beleaguered Man of Tomorrow, Lana makes a short but impassioned speech about their mutual affection for Supes. She is still in love with him, despite knowing that he's fallen in love with Lois, but she knows Jimmy is Superman's friend. It doesn't keep her from lumping him in with the declaration:
    Lana: Let's get out there, wreck that force screen, and get him out of this mess. We're only second stringers, Jimmy, but we'll show 'em... Nobody loved him better than us. NOBODY!
  • Portal Cut: Mr. Mxyzptlk is split in half when he tries to teleport at the same time as Superman sends him into the Phantom Zone.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Brainiac resorts to taking over Luthor's body. Also deconstructed, because while it works fine while Luthor's alive, when Lana kills him, eventually rigor mortis sets in and Brainiac shuts down after ejecting from Luthor's body.
  • Reality Warper: The reason why Mxy becomes Superman's most dangerous foe, he more or less triggers Random Events Plot that upset the Silver Age status-quo, with harmless villains like the Toyman and the Prankster getting gritty violent reboots, Bizarro becoming an Omnicidal Maniac, Superman's identity exposed in a random manner and of course the coalition of villains that lay siege at the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Superman's reaction to finding out about Lana's murder is to fire up his heat vision and try to kill her assassins.
    Superman: YOU HURT LANA?!
  • Revenge: The main motive for the attack of the Metallos and Brainiac is to get even with Superman beating them so many times in the past.
  • Sand In My Eyes: Before parting ways with Superman for the last time, Saturn Girl says that “some 20th century virus” is causing her eyes to water.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Saturn Queen and company decide to cut and run when Superman gets lethally angry.
  • Secret Message Wink: Jordan's wink to the reader at the very end, which he gives just as Jonathan shows his first sign of super strength, makes it clear that he's the de-powered and retired Superman.
  • The Siege: Superman's last battle was even referred to by Lois as The Siege of the Fortress of Solitude: Superman's last stand.
  • Superpowers For A Day: Lana and Jimmy use devices in Superman's Fortress to give themselves temporary super powers to help Superman.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Lois' son squeezes a lump of coal until it becomes a diamond, implying that his father is Superman in disguise.
  • Teleport Gun: Superman kills Mxyzptlk with the Phantom Zone projector, which fires a beam that transports the victim to the eponymous zone. Since Mxysptlk was warping away at the exact same time, this results in him being torn in half.
  • That Man Is Dead: Jordan buries his former superhero identity through Self-Deprecation.
    Jordan: Superman was overrated. Too wrapped up in himself. Thought the world couldn't get along without him.
  • There Was a Door: Superman flies through the wall of the base of Toyman and Prankster. Since they had just murdered one of his oldest friends you cannot blame him for wanting to find them as soon as possible.
  • These Hands Have Killed: After unleashing the Phantom Zone projector to destroy Mxyzptlk, Lois comforts Superman and points out that it's a clear Godzilla Threshold and that there really was no other way. But Superman still feels the gravity of what he did, noting that he knew what he was doing and that he intended to kill him. It clearly changed him as a person as noted below.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: This comic book, dealing with the end of Superman, mentions 13 villains total, with the last one, "his greatest foe" pushing him to his end.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Notoriously averted. All the trauma Superman goes through loosens his formerly strong adherence to his no killing rule. Saturn Queen is shocked that Superman's not bluffing when he attacks the trio with heat vision after their murder of Lana Lang, noting he's prepared to kill. He is ultimately forced to claim a life when he sees no other way to stop Mxyzptlk, but his remorse is such that he then decides to give up his powers and identity.
    Superman: I broke my oath. I killed him. Nobody has the right to kill. Not Mxyzptlk... not you... not Superman. Especially not Superman.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: During the course of the story, Superman loses in quick succession his secret identity, his family, friends and dog, his Fortress and finally his powers. At the end, though, he's allowed to marry Lois. As Alan Moore puts in the introductory text: "All the things he had were taken from him save for one."
  • The Trickster: Mxyzptlk used to be an imp who used his nearly limitless powers to pull pranks and annoy Superman. Growing tired of his past schtick, he randomly decides that he will instead become evil and turns into Superman's greatest enemy.
  • Two First Names: Lois' husband is called Jordan Elliot—which subtly foreshadows his true identity.
  • Unmasqued World: In the future, everybody knows that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person.
  • Unwitting Pawn: All the villains only behave the way they do due to Mxyzptlk's manipulation of reality. Prankster and Toyman in particular aren't even able to explain why they acted in the way they did when confronted.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left:
    • The Legion of Supervillains retreat to the 30th century when they realize that Superman is prepared to kill them for murdering Lana Lang.
    • When Superman aims the Phantom Zone projector at Mxyzptlk, the fifth dimensional being attempts to escape by saying his name backwards, only to be torn in two from being sent to the Phantom Zone and the fifth dimension at the same time.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Mxy says that he spent the first 2,000 years of his existence doing nothing, the next 2,000 years being a benevolent being, and then the last 2,000 years being a prankster. He's decided that now he would just be plain evil. After that? He muses he'd probably spend the 2,000 years after his evil run being remorseful. All attributed to the fact that he has to find something to do being immortal.
  • You Are Too Late: Despite their best efforts, the rest of the world's heroes are unable to assist Superman in time, as Braniac's force field is blocking off the Fortress, even after his death. Once it falls, it's already too late.
  • Zeerust: Taking place in the far flung date of 1997, the fashion in the story is less futuristic/modern and more '80s. Lois Lane's dress in particular looks exactly like Bond Girl Lupe Lamora's. Tim Crane wears a hideous "futuristic" 1970's leisure suit.