The first part starts in the 1950s, and sets up the board and the pieces. The world is nearly identical to our own to begin with, but starts diverging rapidly as the Soviet Union unveils its newest asset, Superman, upsetting the Cold War and turning the nuclear arms race into a super-being arms race
Superman: Red Son is an Elseworlds comic published in 2003. The three issue miniseries was written by Mark Millar with art by Dave Johnson and tells the story of what would happen if Superman had landed in the Soviet Union instead of America. It was nominated for an Eisner Award.
Red Son Rising
The first part starts in the 1950s, and sets up the board and the pieces. The world is nearly identical to our own to begin with, but starts diverging rapidly as the Soviet Union unveils its newest asset, Superman, upsetting the Cold War and turning the nuclear arms race into a super-being arms race.
At this point Superman is a newcomer in Stalin's inner circle. He's kind-hearted and just, and also dedicated to the cause of communism. When possible, he spends his time detecting and preventing accidents around the USSR. His opposing number is the American Lex Luthor, a legitimate scientist at the employ of S.T.A.R. Labs and a super-genius who is very well aware of his intellect and has very little regard for lesser minds. He is married to Lois Lane. At the behest of his CIA contact, Agent Olsen, he begins attempts to destroy Superman.
In order to collect genetic material for his first attempt, Luthor causes Sputnik 2 to plummet towards Metropolis. As Luthor predicted, Superman arrives in time to divert its course. In the process, he meets Lois Luthor, and though there is immediate romantic tension between them, they do not pursue their mutual attraction as Lois is married. In a nod to the mainstream continuity, the story makes mention of a best-selling fictional work which depicts Superman and Lois involved in a romance. The satellite is retrieved by the United States government and Luthor uses the traces found on it to create a Bizarro clone of Superman.
Meanwhile, Superman meets Wonder Woman at a diplomatic party. She becomes rather smitten by Superman, but he is forced to leave when he spots Pyotr Roslov, Chief of the NKVD and Stalin's illegitimate son, who is drunk and extremely disgruntled. Pyotr is angry at everything, especially at Superman, whose arrival has rewritten the Soviet Union's power structure, turned his father's attention away from him and putting a stop to his chances of advancement. Having had to shoot a dissident couple before their own son's eyes for printing anti-Superman propaganda, Pyotr snapped and arranged Stalin's poisoning, which in turn has caused him horrible guilt, though not enough to confess. Stalin dies from cyanide poisoning, but Superman initially declines the leadership of the Party.
Meanwhile, Luthor's clone is finished and engages Superman. The duel is inconclusive on its own, but causes an accidental nuclear missile launch at Great Britain. The clone, which has been made too much like Superman, sacrifices himself to save millions, although Superman's visible heroism and the accidental nuclear missile launch coupled with damage in London resulting in high civilian casualties apparently lead to an irrevocable breach in Anglo-American relations. Horrified at the implication that Superman is more intelligent than himself after losing a chess game to the clone, Luthor murders his research staff before leaving S.T.A.R Labs and founding Luthorcorp, dedicating his life to destroying Superman. Lois is nigh-abandoned and longs for Superman. Superman himself tries to put this all out of his mind, but a chance meeting with Lana Lazarenko, his childhood flame, changes things entirely. Seeing the suffering of her and her children, Superman realizes that his powers could be used for a greater good, and assumes leadership of the country in order to transform it into a utopia.
Red Son Ascendant
It is an alternate 1978, and the fictional world of Red Son has diverged greatly from our own. There are no references to Soviet interventions in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968) or Afghanistan, which implies that Soviet prosperity has spread to its satellites, and mitigated the existence of dissident movements in those societies.
John F. Kennedy is president of the United States, having replaced the tragically slain Richard Nixon, who won the 1960 election but was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in 1963. Luthor has devised and executed several plans to thwart Superman, none of which have worked. Only the United States and Chile remain independent from the Soviets, and both are on the brink of collapse, while President Kennedy is forced to grant independence to Georgia, and he acknowledges that there have been similar secessionist pressures in Detroit and Texas, riots in California, and even a "communist sympathiser" terrorist attack on the White House. He has also married Marilyn Monroe, and divorced Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in this world. By contrast, the Superman-led (Global) Soviet Union has grown without resorting to war, and has virtually eliminated poverty, disease and the like, but this has started to infringe on individual liberties, and Superman is fast becoming a Big Brother-like figure. A brain surgery technique that turns dissidents into obedient drones, or "Superman Robots," is in use.
Wonder Woman and Superman have now become adventuring allies and friends, using their superpowers to save lives in addition to their ambassadorial and governing duties. Wonder Woman has fallen for Superman, but he sees her simply as a comrade, and is cheerfully oblivious to her love for him. Lois Luthor succeeds Perry White as the editor-in-chief of a failing Daily Planet, while her estranged husband feverishly works on his obsession.
Luthor plans to shrink Moscow, but this fails when Brainiac, his collaborator, shrinks Stalingrad instead. Superman intervenes and retrieves both Brainiac's central processing unit and the tiny city, putting an end to the Brainiac-Luthor cooperation, although he is unable to restore Stalingrad and its inhabitants to their proper size. This becomes his one failure and a source of great guilt.
Luthor's second plan involves Batman, who is revealed as the boy orphaned by Pyotr early in the story, now a grown man and the head of an anarchist terrorist network that sees the abundance forced upon the people by Superman's system as little more than oppression. Their persistent success in avoiding capture is a thorn in Superman's side. Batman joins forces with Lexcorp and with his parents' killer, Pyotr, now head of the KGB and consumed by jealousy of Superman, to attempt a coup. They capture Wonder Woman and use her as bait for Superman, hoping to sap his powers with rays that imitate the light of Superman's native sun. The plan works, but Wonder Woman breaks free and rescues Superman, although the process (which requires severing her golden lasso) seriously injures her, snapping something inside her and causing her hair to turn instantly white. Batman commits suicide to avoid capture, but not before revealing to Superman that Pyotr had a role in the plot. Pyotr is then turned into a Superman Robot.
As the part ends, Luthor's third plan begins, when Luthor is given a mysterious green lantern found in an alien ship that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico. Batman has become a martyr for his cause, Brainiac is reprogrammed into Superman's aide, and the construction of a version of the Fortress of Solitude, here located in Siberia and referred to as "the Winter Palace", begins. The stage is set for the finale.
Red Son Setting
It is the year 2001, and the Global Soviet Union encompasses all countries except for Chile and the divided remnants of the United States of America, which underwent a disastrous civil war in 1986, after which an unnamed sixteen states seceded from the union. Within the Soviet sphere of influence there is no crime, no poverty, no unemployment, and no choice. The "Superman Robot" operation is a common punishment for dissent. Superman is committed to "winning the argument" with the US, and repeatedly refuses Brainiac's suggestions of an invasion. His sole failure remains Stalingrad, which is ravaged by a green microscopic organism bearing resemblance to a Sheep louse.
Luthor runs for, and wins, the American presidency, with Jimmy Olsen as his running-mate. He has succeeded a President "Friedman", whose misrule resulted in food riots and tanks on New York's First Avenue. Whether or not this is the late economist Milton Friedman is unclear. Using his scientific expertise, massive economic capital and dictatorial powers, he returns prosperity to his country, overcoming the secession that had sundered the United States fifteen years beforehand. He remains as asocial as ever, though, and this is only a part of a larger plan to provoke Superman into invading America so that he can be destroyed, as Lois Luthor and Lucy Lane Olsen concur in the deserted offices of the long-closed Daily Planet in Metropolis. Luthor confronts Superman in the Siberian Winter Palace. In a seemingly anticlimactic moment, Brainiac yanks Luthor deep into the recesses of the Fortress to be surgically turned into yet another Superman Robot. Superman agrees that his hand has been forced, and prepares to attack.
Superman takes on the East Coast, confronting and defeating the Green Lantern Marine Corps, which is led by Colonel Hal Jordan, and featuring Privates Scott, Stewart, Rayner, and Gardner. He defeats the Amazon forces commanded by a highly disillusioned Wonder Woman, and a collection of "super-menaces" that Luthor has put together over the years. Brainiac's spaceship cuts the U.S. Pacific fleet to pieces, and the two superbeings meet at the White House, where Lois Luthor waits with the last weapon, a small note written by Lex that manages to break the Comrade of Steel's resolve. It reads, "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?"
Superman orders Brainiac to end the invasion, but the robot reveals that he is not as reprogrammed as everyone thought, attacking Superman with green radiation that may be analogous to green kryptonite, given its effects on this Superman, while boasting that "eventually the entire universe" will "hum to his battery". He is shut down by Luthor, who evaded surgery (by undisclosed means) during the invasion, and is destroyed by Superman. This triggers a fail-safe self-destruct (though it is lightly implied that Luthor had planned for this to happen) and as the gravitational singularities powering Brainiac's ship threaten to explode, Superman rockets it into outer space, where it blows up. The Earth is saved, but Superman is thought to have been caught in an explosion which is said to have a kill radius of 15,000,000 miles (24,000,000 km).
The epilogue follows. The Soviet Union falls into chaos, and is transformed by the Batmen. Lex Luthor goes on to integrate many of Superman's ideas into the new philosophy of "Luthorism" and form a "Global United States". This becomes the defining moment for mankind's future as it enters an unprecedented age of peace and stability. A benevolent world government is formed and maintained, and Luthor presides over a string of scientific achievements, including the cure of all known disease, and colonisation of the solar system. Lex Luthor lives for over two thousand years. At his funeral it is revealed that Superman survived and is apparently immortal, although this is unknown to Lois, who has outlived her husband.
Now permanently retired from public view, he goes on to describe Luthor's descendants, culminating in Jor-L, "whose intellect exceeded that of even his beloved ancestor." Billions of years in the future, it is revealed that Earth is being torn apart by tidal stresses from its sun (which has become a red giant). Jor-L and Lara send their infant son rocketing back into the past. The final panels of the comic book depict the landing of Kal-L's timeship in a Ukrainian collective in 1938, effectively causing a predestination paradox.
- As part of its motion comics series, DC/Warner released a 12-part adaptation of the story on iTunes, with a new episode being released every week beginning in late July 2009. The Superman: Red Son motion comic was animated by New Zealand-based Karactaz Animation and featured a select voice cast based in the Los Angeles region.
- The video game Injustice: Gods Among Us features DLC costumes for Superman, Wonder Woman, Solomon Grundy, Green Lantern, Batman, and Deathstroke as well as missions that are based on the Red Son storyline.
- Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Red Son #1 added some details to the Earth-30 variant of this story.
- A glimpse of this Superman appears in The Kingdom #2 indentifying his reality as part of hypertime.
- The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia (2010) identified this as Earth-1598.
- It is unclear if Earth-1598, Earth-30, and Earth 30 are simply alternate timelines or different names for the same reality.
- An animated movie adaptation based on the comic book was released in 2020.
- Actor Henry Cavill cited Red Son as one of the four Superman comics that gave him inspiration and insight for portraying Superman in the film Man of Steel.
Links and References
- Superman: Red Son (ISBN 1-4012-0191-1)
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