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Literature / Last Son of Krypton

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An alien named The Master plots to take over the galaxy, and Superman must join forces with his worst enemy and childhood friend Lex Luthor to stop him.

A 1970s Superman novel by Elliot S! Maggin. It was originally proposed as the idea for a Superman movie, and the novel was released as a companion to the first Superman movie - although the plot and characterization (especially that of Luthor) differ greatly from the movie. (Even the location of Krypton is different; in the movie, Superman claims he comes from another galaxy, while in this novel Krypton is said to have orbited Antares.)

As this novel was written prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman's powers reach near-ridiculous levels at some points. He flies through the core of the sun to take a refreshing bath. He fires a blast of air between his front teeth that disables a helicopter several blocks away, yet doesn't even affect anything else nearby. He takes out an entire mob of Lex Luthor's goons, one man at a time and in a different and inventively nonlethal way with each man, before a ten-second countdown finishes. It doesn't quite reach the truly insane levels shown in some episodes of the Super Friends ("With Colossus distracted, I'll pick the Earth out of his pocket and put it back in orbit around the sun"), but it comes close.

There's also a sequel called Miracle Monday.

The book can be read online here.

This book provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: This book contains an awful lot of a) Luthor and b) Einstein. It also plays up Superman's role as the Big Good of the DC Universe to a nigh-supernatural level.
  • Badass Boast: How Superman persuades Luthor to give himself up at the end of the book.
  • Big Bad: The Master, an alien despot plotting to take over the entire galaxy.
  • Big Good: This story establishes Superman as the Big Good of the DC Universe, saying that he's a force for good so strong that it defies fate and death.
  • Cardboard Prison: Lex Luthor can get out of prison any time he likes, no matter what precautions are taken.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Discussed at length by one passage, which states Superman's greatest fear is having his secret identity leaked and being forced to live as Earth's biggest celebrity 24/7. The Einstein-centric chapters also touch on this; at one point, he grimly jokes that with all the government agents watching him 24/7, he might as well have stayed behind in Nazi Germany.
  • Character Name Alias: Lex Luthor uses the name 'Abraham Lincoln' when passing through an alien spaceport.
  • Cool Starship: The Black Widow, Lex Luthor's single-man starship that he designed and built himself.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Master
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Averted. Lex regularly maintains multiple false identities as prominent scientists, businessmen, and even artists; this is how he is always able to raise the money necessary for the equipment and hired minions his world-conquering and Superman-busting schemes require. In other words, Lex is perfectly capable of playing the legitimate marketplace like a fiddle and regularly does so as a matter of course, but because he views himself as an ubermensch, he considers the idea of just playing by society's rules and getting rich and famous to be beneath him. He only views the money thus earned as a means to an end — that end being conquest of the world and the destruction of Superman, two things polite society frowns upon.
  • Descriptively-Named Species: Played with. When a group of aliens introduce themselves to Luthor, their species names are rendered by the intentional translator as things like "Bug-Head" and "Vulture-Face", not because those are the actual species names but because Luthor has tweaked the settings to translate the names into his own descriptions (and vice versa, meaning he can amuse himself by going around calling aliens "Vulture-Face" and they won't take offense because they'll just hear the correct polite term).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Clark's discussion with Steve Lombard sounds like it's about something other than drinking.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: After Superman is captured by the Master, Luthor breaks him out of his cell and sneaks him out of the building disguised as one of the guards.
  • Enemy Mine: Superman and Lex Luthor have to join forces to save the galaxy from a greater evil.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Why Luthor doesn't bother to try and figure out Superman's secret identity. His own secret identities are just temporary tools that he can discard without a qualm as soon as they stop being useful, and he assumes the same is true of Superman.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Master and Luthor
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Used by Luthor and Superman to visit the Master's planet. Luthor has a faster-than-light spacecraft of his design; Superman just flies really fast.
  • Godhood Seeker: Luthor's eventual aim.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: One of the ways Luthor stores some of his more esoteric devices when he doesn't need them is by passing them off as modern art pieces and loaning them to art museums via one of his fake identities. The museums do the work of keeping them safe, and any time he needs them he can just break in and steal them.
  • Historical Domain Character: Jor-El contacts Albert Einstein, the greatest mind on his planet, to be Kal-El's foster father. Einstein says he's much too old and goes incognito to Smallville to pick out the Kents instead.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: There is a scene in which the possibility is discussed that Earth is becoming too reliant on Superman. It's also pointed out that Lois in particular frequently does things that are objectively extremely reckless because she has iron-clad confidence that if anything goes wrong Superman will show up and rescue her.
  • Immune to Fate: The Master is predestined to kill Superman and conquer the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. Superman, being the Big Good of the D.C. Universe, proceeds to come Back from the Dead and win anyway.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: A minor plot point involves an alien spice that makes food to which it is added so delicious that humans can't stop themselves from eating it.
  • Invented Individual: Lex Luthor has enough personas to populate an entire imaginary country: businessmen, scientists, journalists, artists, anybody he might need to be to carry out a plot. He only has to establish their existence; after he's spread a couple of fanciful reports about his larger than life creations, people start imagining their own.
  • The Last Title: The title.
  • The Madness Place: Lex Luthor sometimes gets into a state where he obsessively works on his current project, never leaving his lab, and only sometimes remembering to eat the food that's left for him. This can last for weeks at a stretch.
  • The Master: The villain of the book, a corrupt dictator, is known only as "The Master".
  • Master of Illusion: Towbee
  • The Omniscient: An alien prophet, Sonnabend, has a 100% prediction rate that spans eight billion years and he predicts that the Big Bad will win in the Prologue. When Superman prevails, the Epilogue shows Sonnabend rewriting his prophecy to reflect this.
  • Only Known by Initials: One of Lex Luthor's henchwomen is named Barbara Tolley, but insists on being called "B.J." even though her middle name is Arabella.
  • The Pardon: Superman gets Luthor's assistance by arranging a pardon for all federal crimes he has committed. At the end of the book, he arrests Luthor for a state crime and hauls him back to the authorities.
  • Planet Terra: Lex Luthor complains when aliens call him an Earthling, because he prefers "Terran". They explain that the translator operates according to the listener's intention, so if Luthor decides he wants to hear "Terran" instead, that's what he'll hear. Thereafter, he does.
  • Secret Identity:
    • Clark Kent.
    • Lex Luthor maintains dozens of identities as artists, businessmen, scientists, and other highbrow society positions. He does it partly to influence affairs in those fields, partly as a source of income, but mostly to keep from being bored.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: Lex Luthor uses multiple false identities in the course of his schemes, all of them disposable masks that he's prepared to drop immediately if they're discovered or cease to be useful. He doesn't make any effort to discover Superman's secret identity because he assumes that it's equally disposable and Superman will just switch to a new one.
  • Secret Ingredient: Clark makes a bet with his rival Steve Lombard that Mrs. Kent's soft drink is the best drink ever. While on the planet Oric, he obtains a spice so powerful that a drop of it added to his mother's drink would make it irresistible to the human palette.
  • Shipless Faster-Than-Light Travel: Superman visits an alien solar system without any kind of artificial aids just by flying really fast.
  • Stolen by Staying Still: Lex Luthor robs a sealed vault by making a hologram of himself appear out of it as soon as it opens. While everyone chases after the hologram, the real Luthor gets in without a problem.
  • Translator Microbes: Communication between disparate alien races is made possible by a technology called the "intentional translator", which allows the user to hear the meaning of what has been said as if it were spoken in his or her own language.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: When Superman comes face to face with the Master, he discovers that he's met him before; Towbee the Minstrel was a cover identity the Master uses to travel incognito and scope out his enemies.