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Cover of Superman #14, dated January-February 1942. Art by Fred Ray.
Cover of Superman #14, dated January-February 1942. Art by Fred Ray.

Superman, a comic book character has spanned several decades and become a defining character of the superhero genre.



The first Superman character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was not a hero, but rather a villain. Their short story "The Reign of the Superman" concerned a bald-headed villain, somewhat reminiscent of Flash Gordon's Ming the Merciless, bent on dominating the world. The story did not sell, forcing the two to reposition their character on the right side of the law. In 1935, their Superman story was again rejected by newspaper syndicates wanting to avoid lawsuits, who recognized the character as being a slightly altered Hugo Danner, the lead character from Philip Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator. An upstart publishing company, DC Comics printed another of their creations, Dr. Occult, who made his first appearance in New Fun Comics #6, October 1935. DC decided to take a chance with Superman, figuring if any lawsuits were filed, they would just drop the feature.

Early years

The revised Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, June 1938. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to the company for $130 and a contract to supply the publisher with material. The Saturday Evening Post reported in 1941 that the pair was being paid $75,000 each per year, still a fraction of DC's Superman profits. In 1946, when Siegel and Shuster sued for more money, DC fired them, prompting a legal battle that ended in 1948, when they accepted $200,000 and signed away any further claim to Superman or any character created from him. DC soon took Siegel's and Shuster's names off the byline. Following the huge financial success of Superman in 1978 and news reports of their pauper-like existences, Warner Communications gave Siegel and Shuster lifetime pensions of $35,000 per year and health care benefits. In addition, any media production which includes the Superman character must include the credit, "Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster".

Throughout the first decade of Superman's existence, DC sued several competing comic book publishers for introducing superheroes with similar powers. Among these companies were Fox Feature Syndicate for its character Wonderman, and Fawcett Comics for its character Master Man. In 1941, DC filed a lawsuit against Fawcett over the top-selling character of the time whom DC perceived as a Superman clone, Captain Marvel. During the National Comics Publications v Fawcett Publications case, Fawcett fought the lawsuit, and continued publishing Captain Marvel, who surpassed Superman and the other superheroes in sales in the mid-1940s. By 1953, the case had been in litigation for twelve years, and in court for five. The case was decided in DC's favor. Fawcett paid DC a fine and ceased publication of all Captain Marvel-related comics. DC would acquire the rights to Captain Marvel in the 1970s and the former rival characters would be presented as allies, with Captain Marvel often serving as the Kryptonian's substitute in emergencies.

Golden Age

See Superman (Kal-L)

By the time the United States had entered World War II, Superman had inspired a boom in the comic book industry and had engendered the new genre of the "superheroes" which by WW2 had included Batman, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Captain Marvel, Robin, The Flash, The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Captain America.

By this time, the character had also leaped from the comics into other media. In 1939, Superman's adventures were seen in newspaper strips, although they were often reprints of what was already appearing in the comics. Also, The Adventures of Superman radio program was broadcast to the nation with millions of listeners. And while Captain Marvel beat him to live action cinema in The Adventures of Captain Marvel (in a serial originally intended for Superman), a series of lavishing budgeted animated cartoons produced by Max Fleischer hit theaters and continue to astound viewers today.

After the war though, many of Superman's contemporaries found themselves slowly being forgotten after the boom became a bust. Throughout the late forties and the duration of the fifties, Superman was by far the most popular character in comics, by the mid-fifties, there were few characters to challenge him. Only Batman, Wonder Woman and a few other Golden-Agers remained. During this time, Superman's powers became more and more grandiose. They would expand to include heat vision (heat rays emitting from his eyes), the ability to breathe in space, and the power to travel through time. Superman's adversaries also grew more fantastic and mighty, but more and more issues of the comics involved "imaginary stories" which could result in any number of scenarios (either as a cause or an effect) and did not effect the continuity of future issues. These grander powers would be replicated within the Silver Age Superman.

It was also established shortly after World War II that Superman had began his career years earlier in the town of Smallville, under the name of Superboy. Stories about Superboy tended to be illustrated in an idyllic fashion and has been compared to the Saturday Evening Post. Superman also became a hit in live action. The 1948 self-titled serial and its sequel Atom Man vs Superman with Kirk Alyn as Clark Kent/Superman were both box-office smashes--the former being the biggest of all time--and his television show Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves, was an integral part of the so-called "Golden Age of Television."

As shown in the original Golden Age comics; including Action Comics #1 (1938), Superman (Vol. 1) #1 (1939), and Superman (Vol. 1) #61 (1949), as well as in later stories such as Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #1 (1986); noted scientist Jor-L discovers that Krypton is about to explode, yet he cannot convince his fellow Kryptonians to save themselves. However, he manages to construct a spaceship to save his infant son, Kal-L. The ship launches just as the planet explodes, with Kal-L landing on Earth in a farm country town (later identified as Smallville) around the time of World War I. In this version, John and Mary Kent (passing motorists who witness the spaceship landing) take the infant to an orphanage and soon return to adopt the child, naming him Clark. In his 1942 novel, George Lowther changes the names Jor-L, Kal-L and Lora (Superman's birth mother) to the more modern Jor-El and Lara. According to an interview with Joe Shuster shortly before his death, the name "Clark Kent" was chosen as a combination of the names of two movie stars, Clark Gable and Kent Taylor.Mietkewicz, Henry. "Great Krypton! Superman was the Star's Ace Reporter", The Toronto Star, April 26, 1992.

Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the debut of Superman. Cover art by Joe Shuster.
Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the debut of Superman. Cover art by Joe Shuster.

Clark grows up on the Kent family farm, slowly discovering that he possesses various superpowers but unaware of his Kryptonian origins. After the deaths of his adoptive parents, Clark decides to use his powers for the benefit of humanity, constructing a stylized costume and moving to the nearby city of Metropolis. Clark begins work as a reporter at the Daily Star newspaper and soon makes his debut as the world's first superhero, Superman.

The earliest Superman stories were written by Siegel, and drawn by Shuster in a style heavily influenced by comic strip artist Roy Crane. According to Jules Feiffer, "Shuster represented the best of old-style comic book drawing. His work was direct, unprettied - crude and vigorous; as easy to read as a diagram.... Slickness, thank God, was beyond his means" (Feiffer,The Great Comic Book Heroes, 1965). In the last interview Shuster gave before his death, he explained that he had modeled the visual appearance of Clark Kent on himself and movie star Harold Lloyd, and that of Superman on Douglas Fairbanks Senior. Lois Lane was modeled after Joanne Carter, who would later marry Jerry Siegel after the comic became a success. The skyscape of Metropolis was inspired by that of the city of Toronto, where Shuster had spent most of his childhood, and the newspaper employing Clark Kent, originally the Daily Star, was named after the Toronto Star for which Shuster had been a paperboy. (Mietkewicz, above)

With Superman's quick success, the demand for Superman stories exceeded the creator's ability to produce them. Although the stories continued to carry the Siegel and Shuster byline, progressively more of the work was done by assistants in the Siegel and Shuster studio (Les Daniels, Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, 1971). But the use of assistants was not always successful. According to Jules Feiffer, Shuster "could not draw well, but he drew single-mindedly -- no one could ghost that style. It was the man. When assistants began 'improving' the appearance of the strip it went downhill. It looked as though it was being drawn in a bank" (Feiffer, above). One story in which Superman encountered a cartoonist provided a tongue-in-cheek look at how such work was delegated. The story, which purported on the title page to tell "how comic strips are written and drawn", showed a studio filled with "artists -- stacks of them -- figure men, background specialists, inkers, letterers" as well as script-writers, all devoted to the production of stories about a Superman-like character, while the original creator of the strip was to Superman's consternation kept busy answering his fan mail ("King of the Comic Books", Superman no. 25, 1943).

In the early stories, Superman is the only science-fiction element. He is described as the champion of the helpless and the oppressed, and he combats real-world social evils: munitions manufacturers, dangerous conditions in mines and a hit-and-run drunk driver (in Superman #1), rigged prize fights and corrupt businessmen (in Superman #2), child abusers and wife beaters (in Superman #3) and crooked cops and politicians (in Superman #7). By 1940, more extraordinary antagonists began to appear in the stories, including giants, mad scientists and dinosaurs. Superman's powers also developed during the 1940s, including vast increases in strength and acquiring the ability to fly — the earliest comics depict Superman able to leap only an eighth of a mile at a time. In Superman (Vol. 1) #61 (1949), Superman finally learns of the existence of Krypton. Superman becomes an honorary member of the Justice Society of America, though he only participates in two capers in the original Golden Age stories (All-Star Comics #8 and #36).

In his earliest adventures, Superman is depicted as being grim, strong-willed, and not afraid to take the life of an evildoer. These include examples of beating a robber to death after the thief tries to shoot him. Like the Batman of that era, he prompted a small controversy over comic characters killing. While Batman was toned done in terms of violence, Superman imposed a moral code that he would never take a life of any adversary he faced. During World War Two, Superman was used as a figure of hope for readers in America and soldiers. This was evident in many of the Superman Fleischer Studios animated shorts of the era, in which Superman is helping the Allies win the war and often shown at odds with Japanese spies and German espionage agents.

Beginning in the 1940s, Superman's life as a boy is gradually fleshed out. The first Superboy story appears in More Fun Comics #101 (February 1945) but the locale is still not clearly specified though it appears to be a Metropolis neighborhood, and the Kents still do not have names. Superboy is not established as a Smallville resident until Superboy (Vol. 1) #2 (May 1949) and his parents' names, Jonathan and Martha Kent, are not mentioned until Superboy (Vol. 1) #12 in January 1951, twelve years after his debut in Action Comics #1. Other developments in the Superman mythos appear as a result of appearances in other media, including radio and newspaper strips. The Daily Star becomes the Daily Planet — possibly because newspapers called The Daily Star already existed — and Perry White replaces original editor George Taylor in the first episode of the radio serial; a young office boy named Jimmy Olsen joins the cast soon afterward.

The Silver Age

Comic historians disagree on when exactly the "Silver Age of Comic Books" began, but most would place it at either 1955 (with the introduction of J'onn Jonzz, the Martian Manhunter) or 1956, with the introduction of Barry Allen, the second Flash. The latter introduced what would become a new trend for DC: new versions of old heroes. This Flash had the same powers as his predecessor, but a different costume, identity, origin, etc. Other Silver Age successors of Golden Age heroes would surface in time. This Flash also introduced the concept of Earth-2, which is a parallel dimension in which all of the old heroes lived. In time, there would be a Superman on Earth-2 to explain some of his inconsistencies (see Kal-L). The Superman readers would see from the 1960s onwards until COIE was the real Superman of Earth-One.

Under the editorship of Mort Weisinger, the 1950s and early 1960s oversaw a major expansion of the character's mythos with such memorable foes as Brainiac and Bizarro appearing, as well as the arrival of his cousin Kara--also known as Supergirl--and the formation of the Justice League of America. Despite this, the 1960s would be a gloomy decade for Superman. Foreshadowing this, in 1959, George Reeves, the actor who had embodied the Man of Steel in The Adventures of Superman allegedly took his own life. Two Superman related pilots, The Adventures of Superpup (1958) and The Adventures of Superboy (1961), failed. In 1966, a lavish Broadway play entitled It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman premiered with an actor named Bob Holiday in the title role. Despite its success, plans for a new TV series with Holiday never materialized. 1966 did see the arrival of a somewhat-successful animated series entitled The New Adventures of Superman.

Meanwhile, in the comics, by the mid sixties, Superman was facing more competition for consumer appeal than ever before. Batman had come out of the shadows, so to speak, and become a marketing bonanza, thanks in part to his own television series, which had much higher production values than The Adventures of Superman. Also, a rival company called Marvel Comics had unleashed a myriad of new characters including The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man whose more sophisticated characterization encouraged more compelling storytelling. Superman remained popular and viable, but he was no longer alone.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the Superman mythos gradually added familiar elements firmly established by the late 1950s, such as greater emphasis on the science fiction elements of Superman's world, including his Kryptonian origins as well as an updated version of his origins.

In the version that became established by the early 1960s (and memorably summarized at the start of each episode of the 1950s Adventures of Superman television series Narrator Bill Kennedy (actor) intoned at the start of each program: "Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman! Yes, it's Superman — strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman — who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way."), Superman is born on Krypton as Kal-El, the son of Jor-El (a leader-scientist) and Lara. When Kal-El is two or three years-old, Jor-El learns that Krypton is doomed to explode. He brings this warning to the Science Council, Krypton's rulers. The Science Council refuses to warn their fellow Kryptonians and forbids Jor-El to do so. Jor-El immediately begins work on a rocket that will allow the whole family to escape the coming disaster; however, events move too quickly, and only a small model is completed by the time of the final quakes. Lara stays by her husband's side rather than accompany Kal-El to Earth so that his ship will have a better chance of surviving the trip. Knowing that Earth's lower gravity and yellow sun will give the boy extraordinary powers, Jor-El launches Kal-El's rocketship toward Earth moments before Krypton explodes.

Kal-El's ship lands in a field near the town of Smallville and is discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent. They name the child Clark after Martha's maiden name. After formally adopting him, the Kents raise him. The Kents discover his amazing powers and train their adopted son to use his powers constructively. At the age of eight, Clark adopts the superhero identity "Superboy" and fights crime, both in the present and in the far future as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. After his graduation from high school and the death of his adoptive parents, Clark moves to Metropolis to attend Metropolis University. During his junior year, Clark changes his superhero name to "Superman". After graduating with a degree in journalism, Clark is hired by the Daily Planet.

Despite a changing market, Superman's stories remained similar to those which defined the Silver Age for quite a while. However, by the seventies, it became apparent that even the Man of Steel needed some polishing. Superman entered the 1970's under famed artist Jack Kirby. Kirby chose to revamp the spin-off Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, using it as a platform for his Fourth-World concept. Among the creations first appearing therein was Darkseid, an alien warlord powerful enough to pose a great threat to Superman himself.

In the same year, editor Mort Weisinger left and was replaced by Julius Schwartz, while up-and-coming talents such as Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Elliot S! Maggin and Ross Andru added new dimensions to the character in both writing and artwork, it was the evolution of veteran Superman artist Curt Swan which provided a transition from the fantasies of yesteryear to the more modern illustration style. This was marked by a major storyline that attempted to ease the writing challenges with the powerful character by significantly lowering his power level and eliminating most kryptonite on Earth. However, the reader appeal of Weisinger's influence proved too strong and the changes were soon reversed with the associated storytelling difficulties as well.

Also Superman's Earth-2 counterpart married the Lois Lane of his world, and new rivals such as Terra-Man and Parasite appeared. In 1978 Superman was released. The film featured groundbreaking special effects and stars such as Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman, but it was the performance of newcomer Christopher Reeve under the direction of Richard Donner that made the film come alive in the eyes of many critics. The film engendered a series of sequels throughout the eighties. However, the later three sequels proved to be less successful than the first, which was due to Donner's dismissal and an emphasis on comedy. Meanwhile, the comics continued to sell, yet by 1986 DC Comics decided that Superman and all of their properties needed a vast overhaul. In 1971, the Galaxy Broadcasting Station and its president, Morgan Edge, purchase the Daily Planet, Edge subsequently naming Clark as the lead anchorman for its Metropolis television station, WGBS-TV. Later in the 1970s, childhood friend Lana Lang joins Clark in his newscasts as his fellow co-anchor.

After the establishment of DC Comics' Multiverse in the 1960s, it is established retroactively that the Golden Age version of Superman lives on the parallel world of Earth-Two and is named "Kal-L", while his Silver Age counterpart lives on Earth-One and is named "Kal-El."

While the Multiverse allowed for DC Comics to bring the Golden Age stories back into continuity, it also created problems. There had been no break in Superman stories between the Golden and Silver Ages; the character had been published in one ongoing story since his debut. Additionally, DC had dropped the name "Kal-L" in favor of "Kal-El" before the end of the Golden Age. A series of stories in the 1970s establish that the Earth-Two Superman had married his version of Lois Lane] in the 1950s (Action Comics #484 (1978)) and had become the editor-in-chief of The Daily Star. In the early 1970s, Kal-L discovers a Kryptonian rocket that contains his cousin, Kara Zor-L. After acclimating to Earth, Kara becomes the superheroine Power Girl. Kal-L also continues to serve with the revived Justice Society; he is revealed as a founding member of the group in the team's origin story in DC Special #29. In the early 1980s, Kal-L is also shown as a member of the All-Star Squadron during World War II.

The Bronze Age

In a 12-issue limited series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths all of the DC heroes battled an evil being called the Anti-Monitor, resulting in the destruction of most of DC's alternate dimensions. Following this series, the backstories of all of DC's characters were altered and updated. Even Superman got an overhaul in 1986's John Byrne's Man of Steel. This 1986 reboot brought substantial changes to the character and met huge success at the time, being one of the top-selling books.

During the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, the various parallel Earths are combined into one, retroactively eliminating some of Earth-Two's heroes from existence. Kal-L, the Earth-Two Superman, his wife Lois Lane of Earth-Two, the Superboy of Earth-Prime and Alexander Luthor, Jr of Earth-Three, have no reality to call their own, and they enter a "paradise dimension" at the end of the series. Kal-L isn't seen again until the limited series The Kingdom, in which it is revealed that he has found a means of exiting his dimension, but chooses not to do so yet.

DC Comics retired the Silver Age version of Superman in 1986, after the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Just before the character's revamp, the Silver Age Superman was given a sendoff in the two-part story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? published in Superman (Vol. 1) #423 and Action Comics #583, written by Alan Moore with art by Curt Swan. Although the new Modern Age version of Superman is said to have already been active for many years, most previous Superman appearances and elements were rendered out of continuity by John Byrne's Man of Steel. Later stories such as Superman: Birthright bring many of the Silver Age elements back into continuity.

In Byrne's version, Superman came from the planet Krypton which was re-imagined as a cold, sterile world in deep contrast to the wonderworld of the past 48 years. Once Kal-El's rocketship (containing genetic materials and a birthing-matrix which resulted in him being "born" on Earth) reached Earth he was adopted by Martha and Jonathan Kent. Instead of bringing him to an orphanage only to adopt him later, the Kents pretended that he was their own son. In the new version, Clark's powers developed gradually and he never assumed the identity of Superboy, and unlike most pre-existing versions, Ma and Pa Kent survived throughout Clark's adult years and remain important supporting characters in the comics to this day.

Also, Superman's powers were scaled down, removing several of his more fantastic abilities in an attempt to make the stories more exciting. Superman's strength and speed were still immense, but there was a feeling of limits to them. In Metropolis, he faced a revised rogues gallery, including a new version of Lex Luthor who was recreated as an evil billionaire and philantropist.

Some fans debated whether the more drastic changes were necessary, and some of the more traditional historical elements Byrne removed from the backstory were later restored. Byrne himself quit the books after a few years because he felt DC was not supporting the changes he made. But Byrne's changes became the template for Superman's origin and characterization for almost two decades. Most notably, his alterations to Lex Luthor, altering him from a scientifically oriented villain to a businessman, and having Ma and Pa Kent kept alive as supporting characters.

Ironically, since one of the most notable revisions was the elimination of the Superboy persona from Superman's life, a new live action television version of Superboy hit the small screen in 1988. Despite its following, the series has not been seen in North America and most of Europe since 1992, but its first season was successfully released on DVD in 2006. The show was ended to make way for another live action television show Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman which helped to put equal focus on not just Lois and Superman, but also Clark Kent

Superman exiles himself to space for a number of issues after he is forced to execute some Kryptonian criminals from a different dimension.{Superman v. 2 #22} The repercussions of Superman's use of lethal force have been dealt with in several stories by subsequent writers. Clark Kent proposes to Lois Lane and reveals his secret identity; Lane accepts.In Superman (vol. 2) #50

Art from Superman #75 (January 1993), where Superman dies in Lois Lane's arms. Pencils by Dan Jurgens.
Art from Superman #75 (January 1993), where Superman dies in Lois Lane's arms. Pencils by Dan Jurgens.

In 1992, DC Comics published the storyline Death of Superman, in which Superman battles a monster of then-unknown origins called Doomsday. Both Superman and Doomsday are killed, taking each other down with their final blows. Funeral for a Friend follows The Death of Superman, chronicling Superman's funeral and examines other characters' reactions to the death of the hero.

Next, DC published the Reign of the Supermen storyline, during which four different characters — a new Superboy, the cyborg Man of Tomorrow, the brutal Last Son of Krypton and Steel — are introduced as Superman, although none of them actually are. A de-powered Kal-El later surfaces in a Kryptonian battle-suit near the end of Reign of the Supermen. After Steel and Linda Danvers destroy the battle-suit, Kal-El is revealed as the pilot, wearing a black costume with a silver 'S' shield and long hair. The cyborg allies with Mongul and destroys Coast City. Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Steel, Hal Jordan and the Eradicator attack the "Engine City" built on top of Coast City, and the united Supermen defeat the Man of Tomorrow, who is exposed as scientist Hank Henshaw. After the Reign of the Supermen storyline, Lois and Clark are reunited. When they eventually marry in the 1997 special Superman: The Wedding Album, it coincided with the marriage of the two characters in the television series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

The real hero returned; however, the story's aftermath lead to fellow superhero Green Lantern losing his mind and becoming a villain called Parallax. This led to the 1994 limited series Zero Hour which was a sequel-of-sorts to Crisis on Infinite Earths. For a few months after his return from the grave, Superman sported shoulder-length hair, and thus Clark Kent wore a ponytail. Exactly how he was able to grow his hair was never explained.

In 1996, Superman (or rather, Clark Kent) finally married Lois Lane, and while they have had their ups and downs as a couple are happily married. That same year, Superman returned to animation in the animated series Superman which was produced by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini of Batman: The Animated Series fame. The series combined elements of both the Pre-and-Post-Crisis versions of the character and featured an all-star cast including Tim Daly as Superman, Dana Delany as Lois Lane, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor.

Amidst much controversy, DC Comics brought forth massive alterations to Superman's appearance and powers, turning him into a being of pure energy. About half a year later, the energy was split into two: Superman Red and Superman Blue. In the story Superman Forever, Superman's traditional costume and powers returned.

In the Superman comics of the late 1990s, Superman loses his traditional powers and transforms into a being of electromagnetic energy(see Superman Red Superman Blue). In this form, Superman can phase through solid objects, see frequencies of energy, and draw power from electrical sources. In order to maintain physical cohesion in this form, he needs to wear a containment suit. During this time, he is able to transform into the corporeal form of Clark Kent but has no special powers in his human guise.

In 2004, DC published an updated version of Superman's origin in the 12-issue limited series Birthright. Written by Mark Waid, Birthright restores some of the pre-Crisis elements eliminated by John Byrne, including an emphasis on alien heritage. The "birthing matrix" is replaced by the more well-known rocketship, with Kal-El leaving Krypton as an infant rather than a fetus. Clark now possesses the ability to see a living being's "aura", becoming a vegetarian. His 'S' shield is a symbol of hope from his homeworld, and his costume is made from fabrics put in his spaceship during his journey. Lex Luthor is also now a childhood friend in this version. However, due to the Infinite Crisis effects, this origin is no longer valid.

Kal-L fighting Kal-El, in art from the cover to Infinite Crisis #5 (2006). Art by George Perez.
Kal-L fighting Kal-El, in art from the cover to Infinite Crisis #5 (2006). Art by George Perez.

In the 2005-2006 Infinite Crisis limited series (the sequel to the 1985-'86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths), the Earth-Two Superman (Kal-L) escapes from the "paradise" dimension with Alexander Luthor, Jr and Superboy-Prime . Kal-L wants to recreate the universe, which he believes is corrupt, making aspects of Earth-Two predominant, rather than those of Earth-One. He believes this will also save the dying Lois Lane of Earth-2. Alexander Luthor builds a machine which re-creates Earth-2, transporting Kal-L and Lois there where Lois revives briefly before collapsing and dying. In grief, Kal-L lashes out at the Earth-One Superman, and the two fight until Wonder Woman arrives and ends their battle.

The two Supermen team up to confront Luthor and Superboy-Prime, whose plan to restore the Multiverse will kill billions of people. The pair willingly deplete their powers as they drag Superboy-Prime into Rao, Krypton's red sun, and use the last of their strength to defeat him on Mogo, the sentient Green Lantern planet. Fatally wounded in the battle, Kal-L dies in his cousin Power Girl's arms. He and Lois are buried next to the deceased Superboy.

Infinite Crisis Secret Files & Origins 2006 shows that Superboy-Prime is to blame for many continuity errors in the DC Universe. In his attempt to escape reality, his assault on the barrier wall of the paradise dimension alters history, causing revisions of events to occur, including the Birthright origin. Alexander Luthor, Jr's attempts to manipulate the Multiverse result in New Earth, affecting Superman's history further. During the publication of the Infinite Crisis limited series, the majority of DC Comics' superhero line advanced one year. One year later, Superman remains powerless, and Supergirl defends Metropolis. Unburdened by his responsibility to the world, Clark Kent has re-solidified his reputation as a star reporter. Although he manages to weasel his way out of prison, Lex Luthor's reputation is damaged irreparably, partially due to Clark's writing, and his fortune and power over LexCorp is gone. Under attack, Clark's powers gradually return, and he returns to action. He finds that his sensory powers are enhanced, as are his computational abilities and memory.

The Modern Age


In 2003, DC Comics released a 12-issue limited series entitled Superman: Birthright, written by Mark Waid and penciled by Leinil Francis Yu; this series was a retcon of Superman's post-Crisis origin, replacing Byrne's version, but yet using many elements from that version; it also reintroduced various pre-Crisis elements discarded in Byrne's revamp, along with elements that subtly tie into the Smallville television show. However, this is no longer valid.

Post-Action #850

Action Comics issue number 850 presents the latest revision of Superman's origin, containing many subtle retcons to Birthright, possibly as the result of Infinite Crisis. Indeed, the new timeline is specifically indicated to supersede Birthright in a panel which shows a progression of three successive versions of Superman that Kara Zor-El views and selects the latter as the "right" version of Superman.

Written collaboratively by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza and Geoff Johns, the new version is based on the first Superman movies and has many elements of Man of Steel that are still in continuity. It includes details such as Krypto's presence on Krypton as opposed to originating from the ersatz-Krypton of Return to Krypton in the '90s, Clark's awareness of his adopted status from a young age, etc. In the only element similar to Birthright, it is revealed that he had met and interacted with (but did not cause the disfigurement of) Lex Luthor, who left Smallville after a few months "under a cloud of suspicion." Clark is known to have been wearing glasses as far back as his early teens in Smallville, and he used his powers to help others at this time, while not in costume. As revealed in Superman Batman, Byrne's story of the first encounter of Batman and Superman is still in canon, and his depiction of Lois being intent on getting the story of his early exploits is still intact.

The new version also supports the portrayal and aesthetic design of Jor-El and Krypton as featured in the ongoing Richard Donner co-authored arcs of Action Comics, essentially rendering Krypton closer in style to his and Bryan Singer's shared film continuity. Also, there is the revelation introduced in The Lightning Saga that Clark was a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes at some point in his early career, and he still retains possession of a Legion flight ring. As reporter Clark Kent, just like in Byrne's original version, his alter ego is both assertive and mild-mannered (but not clumsy) in Action Comics #858, with Perry admonishing him for having no friends his own age.

Ongoing titles

All Star Superman, launched in 2005, is an ongoing series under DC's All Star imprint, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely. DC claims that this series will "strip down the Man of Steel to his timeless, essential elements". However, the version presented is clearly almost wholly based on the Pre-Crisis Silver Age version of the character, and Morrison has stated this, claiming it to be the Superman that still exists despite being retconned twenty years earlier. The All Star imprint attempts to retell some of the history of DC's iconic characters, but outside of the strict DC Universe continuity.

Following the events of Infinite Crisis and the "Up Up and Away!" storyline, the two major Superman titles have followed two major story arcs. Action Comics deals with Superman and wife Lois adopting a Kryptonian child who is revealed to be the child of General Zod. This story arc is still ongoing and the concluding events are to be revealed in Action Comics Annual #11. The child's human name is Christopher Kent. This Action Comics story arc has been developed by Richard Donner and Geoff Johns. The Superman title's main storyline has Superman facing off against a time traveling magician named Arion, who says that Superman is delaying an eventual catastrophe and that he is preventing humans from acting to protect themselves. Arion tells Superman to stop his daily activities of saving people or else Arion will stop him. Arion fails to convince Superman in Superman Annual #13 concluding that storyline at least at this point.

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