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Fanfic / The Metropolitan Man

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The Metropolitan Man is a Deconstruction Fic of the Superman franchise written by Alexander Wales, told mostly from the perspective of Lex Luthor.

Set in the 1930s, this fanfiction paints a picture of what the author thinks would happen if a superstrong, superquick, flying and unkillable alien in possession of X-Ray Vision and Super-Senses comes out and starts saving people.

It's set on the rather cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and moved MUCH further in that direction as the story progresses.

A mirror link is available here and a podfic is available here.

This fanfic provides examples of:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Jor-El's simulacrum who wore a modified toga and the background of ancient Greece turned out to be this.
    The real Krypton was a dark planet covered in black water, and the real Kryptonians were something like a cross between a spider and an eel.
  • Afraid of Their Own Strength: Together with Beware the Nice Ones.
  • Alliterative Name: Pointed out to Lois they share the same alliterative initials by Lex Luthor.
  • Anti-True Sight: As always, Superman's X-Ray vision is blocked by lead, which stupefies Luthor, as there's no known physical reason why lead, and only lead, would have this kind of effect.
  • Berserk Button: Willie Calhoun really goes out of his way to find and push Superman's. Intentionally. When he gets acquitted by the court yet again, Superman finally kills him.
  • Beware the Superman: The driving force of Luthor's actions.
    • Lois Lane is significantly less enamoured than her Canon counterpart by Superman, who reminds her of old boyfriends. She ends up working as a spy for Luthor because she fears Superman so much.
  • Big Good: How Superman is generally seen by the public and how he strives to be. Of course, in this fic, that resolve is tested severely... until Superman breaks.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Superman's X-Ray Vision is analysed and Luthor concludes it could not possibly be real X-Rays, but must rather the result of hitherto unknown "krypto-particles".
  • Blessed with Suck: With his Super-Senses, Superman is aware of all the cries for help not only in Metropolis, but all the way to China.
  • Break the Scientist: Lex Luthor has a very difficult time reconciling everything he knows about science with Superman’s anomalous nature.
    "Now then," said Lex, "I will admit that a degree of convergence is implied by Darwin's theory of evolution, but not to such an extent. These features, a strong jaw and brown hair, blue eyes and his ridiculous musculature, well, I can accept that the marsupials of Australia bear more than a passing resemblance to the more traditional mammals of North America despite being separated by millions of years, but this beggars belief. And why does he even need legs if he can fly? What evolutionary reason would there even be for that? And not only does he look human, but he looks like an attractive human at that!"
  • Bullying a Dragon: Calhoun really, really tries to enrage the indestructible god-man.
    • Averted by Lex Luthor, who sets himself up as Superman's biggest supporter, and even tries to stop Calhoun's harassment campaign. Contrast this with comics Lex Luthor, who loves nothing more than taunting Superman. Turns out he was just more subtle about it.
  • The Chessmaster: Lex Luthor, who hides his mistrust of Superman while secretly trying to find a way to kill him.
  • Clark Kenting: Lois was angry to find out she'd been duped so thoroughly for so long, while Luthor was initially baffled why Superman would ever want to be Clark Kent.
    "Superman always holds his head high, with his jaw thrust out," said Lex. "This man spends most of his time looking down, with his chin tucked in. It disrupts the lines of his face, makes him less noticeable. But the nose, you can tell from the nose it's the same man. It's him. It's Superman."
  • Deconstruction: Superman has superhuman abilities, but not superhuman wisdom, and struggles to determine what the right thing to do is, with all that power, and if he should do anything at all. He makes mistakes, grievous ones. He seeks guidance from others, but they have their own weaknesses and vices, and do him more harm than good.
  • Deducing the Secret Identity: Lex Luthor analyzes the timing of Superman sightings and notices that they're much less common during the normal workday - suggesting that Superman has a day job, which would require a civilian identity. He eventually compares photographs of Superman and Clark Kent and concludes they're the same person.
  • Downer Ending: In multiple ways. Superman offers Lex a chance to work together for the good of humanity, but this act of mercy just gives Lex the opportunity he needs to kill him. Later, Lois confronts Lex about his crimes, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, but admits that he won't face any consequences because there is no proof. And finally, an injured Floyd is left to die a slow and painful death in his makeshift jail without Superman around to bring him food or water.
  • Eating Optional: What many suspect of Superman and one of the things Lois questions him about when she asks him over for spaghetti.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Crime boss William Calhoun freaks out in a big way when a plan to goad Superman into killing someone accomplishes nothing but the deaths of several children that he had no reason to want harmed.
  • Eye Scream: One of the many, many ways people try to hurt Superman.
  • Gentle Giant
    "I spend my every waking second treading lightly, trying not to go too fast, trying not to break your fragile little bodies. Do you understand how careful I was in bringing you up out of the storm? How easily I could have broken your bones, or liquified your muscles?"
  • Good Is Not Dumb: This really shown in the finale. Unfortunately, not smart enough.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: Understandable, this being the 1930s and Clark having been raised in a much more religious environment.
  • Green Rocks: Good ol' kryptonite, though they lose their glow when they're in pieces smaller than a gram here.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: Superman doesn't want people to grow too reliant on him, which clashes with Lois' thoughts in a big way.
  • Human Aliens: Subverted. Kryptonians in this story don’t resemble humans at all, and Clark is an artificial being the ship built after scanning Earth.
  • The Jailer: Superman acts as one to Floyd Lawton after the latter killed Clark's mother.
  • Karma Houdini: Lex Luthor gets off scott free for his crimes, including setting up Martha Kent's death, and goes to exploit Superman's technology for his own ends.
  • Last of His Kind: One of the classic examples, although the degree to which it actually applies varies over time.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Leroy Barnes charges straight into a bank robbery, prompting a "God dammit Leroy" from his partner in crime.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Lois realizes exactly how Luthor manipulated everything, she really regrets the role she ended up playing.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: As per canon, Superman. Lex Luthor systematically tests it for vulnerabilities, but nothing mundane seems to affect him.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Luthor's biggest qualm about Superman.
    We're talking about the fate of the world. You know that there's no stopping him if he goes rogue. Even if the chance is slim, it's a chance weighed against the total destruction of humanity. If the odds are a thousand to one that he'll kill us all, that's an average of two million dead.
  • Plagued by Nightmares: Lex has a recurring nightmare about Superman crushing his skull between his hands.
    In the dream he was just one in a long line of people that stretched out on either side of him, an endless number of people waiting to be killed by Superman. The alien did the work calmly and cleanly, and Lex was the only one who was trying to fight back.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Superman struggles with how he should use his power, knowing that he's not actually wiser than the best humans. He has conversations with Lois about this, wondering about things like the morality of turning criminals over to the police to face the death penalty (and a more painful death than Superman could theoretically inflict on his own) or his policy of not intervening to prevent abortions.
  • Science Hero: Well, science villain, but as an example Luthor explains his paranoia of Superman with an extensive rant about how, by the laws of science as humans know it (at the time the tale takes place), it's impossible to believe that some planet out there would copy Earth's circumstances so much down to a "T" that humanoid (let alone human-looking) life would evolve. Turns out that it was right on the money.
  • Starfish Aliens: The real kryptonians were this, resembling a mix of spiders and eels. Superman isn't technically the last Kryptonian, but actually a construct created by the ship his "father" sent out, based on scans of Earth's civilization. Ironically, he's more human here than in most other incarnations.
  • Villain Protagonist: Lex Luthor, according to the author.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Averted. According to his author's notes, Metropolis and Gotham City respectively replace New York City and Chicago.