- ...no matter how dark it seems. There's always a way.
- — Superman src
Many years ago, the doomed planet Krypton was destroyed in an unimaginable cosmic conflagration: in a last ditch effort to save their son, desperate scientists Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van placed their son, Kal-El, in an experimental rocketship, and sent the last hope of their people to the stars. Eventually, the Last Son of Krypton would crash-land on Earth in the Kansas town of Smallville and be found by a kindly couple, farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who would raise him as their own son, Clark.
As time went on, and the boy Clark Kent learned the truth of his powers and heritage, he donned an 'action suit' based on the clothing of the lost planet Krypton and would become the hero Superman, defender of all mankind. His early career would be marked by tragedy, a team-up with the future heroes of the Superman Squad, including Kal Kent, the Unknown Superman of A.D. 4500 and the Superman of the 5th dimension to hold back the hideous Chronovore causing him to miss the death of his adoptive father.
After moving to Metropolis, Clark found work at the Daily Planet under editor-in-chief Perry White, affecting a persona of a clumsy, cowardly wimp when in his civilian disguise in order to evade suspicion that he was also Superman. He would fall in love with Lois Lane (though their relationship would be strained by his need to hide the secret of his dual identity), befriend cub reporter Jimmy Olsen as both Clark and Superman, and work alongside the likes of Cat Grant, Ron Troupe and Steve Lombard. As Superman, he would battle against the likes of the immeasurably brilliant, sociopathic criminal mastermind Lex Luthor, the alien, city-miniaturizing monster Brainiac, the tyrannical computer-sun Solaris, the pitiable imperfect clone of Superman himself, Bizarro, the Kryptonian criminals of the Phantom Zone, the energy-draining Parasite, the delusional, robotic science-fiend Mechano Man, and far, far more among a legion of fiends from across the expanse of time and space, all of whom he would defeat. He would help form Earth's premiere defensive team, the Justice League, alongside the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, worked alongside the likes of the Legion of Super-Heroes, befriended the scientific genius Leo Quintum, traveled to far-off realms such as New Olympus, contended with the menace of the many varieties of Kryptonite, rescued the space-shuttle Columbia, retrieved the shrunken Kryptonian bottle city of Kandor, raised the lost ship Titanic, adopted a baby Sun-Eater, and took in the sickly infant universe of Qwewq. In all these deeds and more, he would be seen as Earth's greatest hero.
His final adventures began when saving Leo Quintum and his workers from a mission to the Sun sabotaged by Luthor; in diving into the sun, Superman's cells were overloaded with yellow solar radiation, which while temporarily granting him enhanced abilities, would in time destroy his body from the inside, ultimately killing him. With his remaining days so limited, Superman resolved to prepare the Earth for his passing.
Superman revealed his identity to his love Lois (who initially refused to believe him, his many ruses to uphold his Clark Kent identity having convinced her with certainty they were two different men), and for her birthday gifted her with the Super-Elixir, granting her his full range of powers for a single day. The celebrations, however, were rudely interrupted by the time-travelling Samson and Atlas, who wished to court the now super-powered Lane. As it turned out, they were in fact present to get Superman's help in battling the Ultraspinx, whose atomic crown jewels they had stolen. As retribution, the Ultraspinx placed Lois Lane in a state of quantum uncertainty, and challenged the Super-Champions to answer his unanswerable question in order to redefine her quantum state as being one of life - Superman, accepting the challenge, was confronted with the question "What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?" and replied "They surrender", to the Ultraspinx's satisfaction. Prior to leaving (though not before challenging Superman to an arm-wrestling competition to 'win' Lois, which the solar-charged Kal-El easily dominated), Samson revealed Superman would be fabled in completing Twelve Impossible Super-Challenges in the days before his death (of which answering the Ultraspinx's question was one), and handed Superman the article of the Daily Planet announcing his demise...an article, strangely, written by Clark Kent.
After several notable incidents (including being temporarily corrupted by a piece of Black Kryptonite, forcing Jimmy Olsen to temporarily transform himself into the monster Doomsday to contain him, conducting an interview with Lex Luthor as Clark Kent in which they were forced to evade a jail-breaking Parasite, in which Luthor revealed he knew of Superman's approaching doom, and joining the Superman Squad to battle the Chronovore, an incident in which disguised as the Unknown Superman of A.D. 4500 he actually worked alongside his own past self, and was given the opportunity he had missed before to say goodbye to his adoptive father Jonathan), Superman was caught off-guard while releasing his Sun-Eater from the Fortress Zoo by the emergence of a new Bizarro World from the Underverse, home to a race of Bizarro plague-carriers that converted humans and animal life into Bizarro's themselves even as the native Bizarro's stole their forms. Superman forced the planet back, but was trapped in the Underverse along with it, his powers reducing as the solar radiation was filtered into the red end of the spectrum. Aided by Zibarro, a mutated Bizarro of human appearance and intellect, as well as the Bizarro Justice League, Superman managed to build a crude rocket ship to escape back to his native reality. On the return home, he found two long-lost Kryptonian astronauts Bar-El and Lilo, who had drifted to Earth and taken over his duties in his absence. They initially attempted to remold Earth into a new Krypton, but they were revealed to have passed through the same cosmic cloud that had transformed the rest of Krypton's remains into Kryptonite, slowly poisoning them; Superman was forced to dematerialize them into the Phantom Zone to save their lives, an act of empathy which earned their respect.
As his final hours approached, the rate of his mighty deeds accelerated to compensate. Over the course of one day, he took a group of terminally ill children on a flying tour around the world, copied his entire DNA sequence in a book with instructions on how to combine human and Kryptonian DNA stands that a successor might be born to take over for him in time, placed Kandor on Mars on the advice of Leo Quintum where it could thrive under a yellow sun without interfering with human society, rescued an out-of-control train, defeated Mechano-Man, saved a teenager from committing suicide, replaced all of Earth's bridges (removed by Bar-El and Lilo to seal cracks in the moon caused by their skirmish with him), cured the cancer of the children he visited earlier (and possibly world-wide) with the infinitesimal aid of the microscopic Kandor Emergency Corps, was warned of the coming of Solaris by a time-capsule from the year 2312 left by the descendent of the girl he had saved from committing suicide earlier that day, and carved his will into solid steel with his heat-vision. Perhaps the most astonishing deed of the day however, was that in order to determine whether the Earth would be able to survive without a Superman after his passing, Superman created life, in the form of Earth-Q within the infant universe of Qwewq - an Earth that in the absence of a Superman created its own, firstly in the form of myths and legends of gods, then in philosophical systems by the likes of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Friedrich Nietzsche, and finally in the form of a story in Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
With Solaris' arrival imminent, Superman devised a new uniform to allow him to maintain his powers in spite of the Tyrant Star's red-solar barrage; going to confront it with the aid of the Superman Robots after closing down the Fortress of Solitude, Superman finally managed to shut Solaris down, albeit with the sacrifice of his former pet Sun-Eater. Returning to the Daily Planet with his completed article chronicling Superman's death, Clark finally passed away, only for Luthor to emerge, having stolen the Super-Elixir and now determined to conquer the Earth, in his hubris largely disregarding that Solaris had poisoned Earth's sun, soon to bring about the extinction of all life. Kal-El was met on the shores of the afterlife by Jor-El, who informed him that his consciousness was now converting to pure solar energy, and that it was his decision to surrender to the process or turn back and stop Luthor one final time. Waking in his body, Clark grabbed a Gravity Gun he had stashed away along with a spare costume and knocked Luthor away, exposing his identity to his coworkers. In a final battle that raged across Metropolis, Luthor seemed to have finally defeated Superman, and with the aid of his robotic sentries and his niece Nasthalthia, was poised to conquer the Earth. However, being possessed of Superman's senses and seeing the universe laid utterly bare before him forced Luthor to hesitate as he was finally confronted with the essential nature of reality that he has always denied: "It's all just us, in here, together. And we're all we've got.". Superman rose one final time, informing Luthor of his true tactic: having suspected that Luthor had stolen the Super-Elixir due to the malfunction of one of his robots, the Gravity Gun had sped up Luthor's metabolism to a point where his artificial powers had worn off within mere minutes, and knocked him out when Luthor returned to his former petty self. Beginning to disintegrate into pure energy, Superman kissed Lois goodbye one final time before hurling himself into Sol to build it an artificial heart, his final Super-Challenge thus fulfilled. While he would live on in the sun, he would be forced to remain there until his task was complete; the Planet nonetheless published the headline of Superman's death, so that it would ultimately be sent back in time as a warning for Superman to prepare.
Superman would not leave the Earth undefended: having left behind his genetic code, a second Superman, the genetic son of Lois and Clark, would be created by Leo Quintum, and would go on to found the Superman Dynasty, protecting the Earth for all time and even the structure of timespace itself as the forces of the Superman Squad. Kal-El himself would one day emerge from his seclusion: he was seen once from countless thousands of years in the future, having evolved into a sort of golden god, meeting with his past self shortly after the death of Jonathan Kent and his masquerade as the Unknown Superman, and shortly before his own 'death'. The future Superman presented his dying past self with an indestructible golden flower from New Krypton, "For him, from all of us. In remembrance of all that we are. And all that we will be." The flower was planted at Jonathan Kent's grave.
- Kryptonian Physiology: Under the effects of a "yellow" sun, Superman possesses the same potential powers as an average Kryptonian. These include:
- Solar Energy Absorption: Under optimal conditions, this is the main source of Superman's super powers as they are contingent upon exposure to solar radiation from a yellow sun star system. His biological make up includes a number of organs which lack analogues in humans and whose functions are unknown. It is believed that between one or more of these and his bio-cellular matrix, "yellow" solar energy is stored for later use. This allows for the use of these powers to fade when yellow solar radiation is not available instead of immediate failure.
- Heat Vision: Superman can, as a conscious act, fire beams of intense heat at a target by looking at it. He can vary the heat and area affected.
- Super-Hearing: Superman's hearing is sensitive enough to hear any sound at any volume or pitch. With skill and concentration, he can block out ambient sounds to focus on a specific source or frequency.
- Enhanced Vision: Superman's vision processes the entire electromagnetic spectrum as well as allowing vast control over selective perception and focus.
This umbrella ability includes the following:
- Electromagnetic Spectrum Vision: Superman can see well into most of the electromagnetic spectrum. He can see and identify radio and television signals as well as all other broadcast or transmitted frequencies. Using this ability, he can avoid detection by radar or satellite monitoring methods. This also allows him to see the aura generated by living thing.
- Telescopic Vision: This is the ability to see something at a great distance, without violating the laws of physics. Though limited, the exact extent of the ability is undetermined. In function, it is similar to the zoom lens on a camera.
- X-Ray Vision: This is the ability to see through any volume of matter except lead. Supermans can see things behind a solid, opaque object as if it were not there. He can focus this ability to "peel back" layers of an object, allowing hidden image or inner workings to be observed. The exact type of energy perceived—such as x-rays, cosmic rays, or some other energy invisible to normal humans—is unclear. This ability perceives an ambient energy source though, it does not involve the eye projecting a concentrated, possibly toxic, beam to be reflected back from objects.
- Microscopic Vision: This is the ability to see extremely small objects and images down to the atomic level.
- Infrared Vision: Superman can see with better acuity in darkness, and to a degree in total darkness.
- Flight: Superman is able to manipulate graviton particles to defy the forces of gravity and achieve flight. This ranges from hovering to moving in any posture, in any direction.
- Invulnerability: Due to the interaction of his dense molecular structure and supercharged bio-electric aura, Superman is nigh-invulnerable to extreme energy forces. In addition, his extends this protection against toxins and diseases.
- Superhuman Stamina: Superman is able to maintain continuous strenuous physical action for an indefinite period of time. This based on his body converting yellow solar radiation directly to energy, but is limited by physiological and psychological needs to eat, drink, and sleep.
- Superhuman Strength: Superman's strength is augmented by yellow solar radiation interacting with the greater than human density, resilience and biological efficiency of his musculature. His strength is more an act of conscious will on energy fields than actual physical strength. It is this act of conscious will that enables him to perform physical feats that are beyond the mere application force, such as moving a mountain top without said rock crumbling under its own mass.
- Superhuman Speed: Superman is able to move at incredible speed by sheer force of will. This extends to his perceptions and allows for feats such as catching bullets in mid flight as well as covering vast distances in little or no time.
This also confers:
- Super-Breath: Superman is able to create hurricane force winds by exhaling air from his lungs. He can chill the air as it leaves his lungs to freeze targets. He can also reverse the process to pull large volumes of air or vapor into his lungs.
- Longevity: Superman can live longer than regular humans, remaining at his prime as long as he was under the exposure of the "yellow" sun.
- Solar Overcharge: Due to solar over-exposure, Superman's natural abilities are massively elevated even by the standards of his fellow Kryptonians, developing new abilities such as the power to harness his bioelectric aura and pushing his existing talents to unimaginable levels. His powers presumably increase even further after spending over a year in the sun, and at some point in the future absorbing enough solar energy to become a golden, godlike being.
After the yellow solar overload, Superman's intellect and intuitive capabilities were similarly enhanced beyond the regular norm. He'd admitted that his increase in physical proponent was not the only benefit to his condition. Stating while having dinner with Lois that his bolstered abilities also increased his creativity, imagination and curiosity. Leading him to ascertain and learn new accumulative input at a much faster rate, enhancing his mental capacity in order to learn and retain entirely new skills.
- Kryptonian Physiology: Under the effects of a "yellow" sun, Superman possesses the same potential weaknesses as an average Kryptonian. These include:
After being exposed to an overload of yellow solar radiation, Superman became largely invulnerable to the effects of Green Kryptonite. However, some other wavelengths of K-energy such as those of Black Kryptonite were still effective against him, and red solar radiation was still capable of reducing him to a mortal man.
- Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, first appearing in Action Comics #1. However, in the All-Star Superman universe, his first appearance is in the first issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman series.
- Superman's Fortress includes a Time Bubble among its many mementos, indicating the Superman of All-Star worked with his universe's Legion of Super-Heroes at one point or another.
- Superman notes the existence of the Justice League in the past tense, suggesting the team has disbanded by the time of the events of All-Star Superman.
- The Twelve Super-Challenges that Superman completed before his demise were enumerated by writer Grant Morrison as
- Saving the first manned mission to the Sun.
- Brewing the Super-Elixir.
- Answering the Unanswerable Question.
- Chaining the Chronovore.
- Saving Earth from Bizarro-Home.
- Returning from the Underverse.
- Creating life (in the form of Earth Q).
- Liberating Kandor/curing cancer (with the aid of Leo Quintum and the Kandor Emergency Corps, respectively).
- Leaving behind the recipe/formula to create Superman 2.
- Defeating Solaris the Tyrant Sun.
- Conquering Death.
- Building an artificial heart for the Sun.
- Earth Q is in fact our own world (according to Grant Morrison), meaning that this version of Superman is in fact essentially our 'creator'; the final pages of All-Star Superman #10 additionally suggest that all other versions of Superman as conceived of in the real world are in fact reflections of this one, 'primal' Superman.
- The future self of this Superman is virtually identical to Superman Prime of DC One Million, that version of Superman (also created by Grant Morrison, who noted in the backmatter of Absolute All-Star Superman that it was intended to be the same character) himself inhabiting the sun for a prolonged period of time, giving rise to a Superman Dynasty including Kal Kent and a 5th dimensional Superman that act as members of the Superman Squad, and ultimately becoming a golden being by the time of the 853rd century. This backmatter additionally noted this future Superman of All-Star was retitled "Prime Superman", in order to avoid confusion with Superboy Prime.
- Superman is voiced by James Denton in the animated adaptation.
- 15 Appearances of Kal-El (All-Star Superman)
- 50 Images featuring Kal-El (All-Star Superman)
- 9 Quotations by or about Kal-El (All-Star Superman)
- Character Gallery: Kal-El (All-Star Superman)
Superman Family member
Daily Planet Staff member