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"You're much stronger than you think you are."
The second title in the All Star DC Comics line, and by far the more successful and acclaimed of the two. Grant Morrison's 12-issue limited series touches on nearly every corner of the Superman mythos as it tells the story of Superman's final days.
When Lex Luthor finally manages to poison the Man of Tomorrow with an overdose of solar radiation, Superman decides it's time to look back and wrap up his life. There are villains to overcome, answers for the woman he loves, and the Twelve Challenges of Superman to perform. But Lex is still planning something and there is a villain hiding just out of sight....
- Adaptation Distillation: To the point that the origin is covered in four panels and eight words.
"Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple."
- All There in the Manual: As is often the case with Morrison, interviews are near-essential reading. Part four and part six aren't linked there, so they are here.
- Androcles' Lion: Superman keeps a baby sun-eater as a pet. After he releases it, it comes back to save him when he is battling Solaris, The Tyrant Sun.
- Arc Words: Stars factor into most of the plot of the series.
- Belated Backstory: Of DC One Million.
- Bittersweet Ending.
- Canon Foreigner: Leo Quintum.
- Canon Welding: the appearance of Kal Kent and Solaris ties this comic to DC One Million (a crossover series plotted by Morrison), which is nominally in different continuity. Even though DC One Million was released years before All-Star Superman, it actually provides a conclusion for the events of the latter series, as we get to see Superman return from the Sun. All-Star Superman also gives us the origin of the infant universe Qwewq, who was an important character in Morrison's Seven Soldiers.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Lex Luthor.
- More of a subversion - he identifies himself as a born dictator and all that, but truly does seem to believe that the world would be better off under his absolute rule and without reliance on Superman.
- Casanova Wannabe: Steve Lombard
- Chekhov's Armoury: The Fortress of Solitude. The exogenes. The Sun Eater. A newspaper ad. The malfunctioning Superman Robot.
- Clark Kent Held Hostage: During the Parasite's attack/Prison riot. Played with later when the Kryptonian astronauts show up at the Daily Planet and can clearly tell that Clark is Superman, to their disgust.
- Clark Kenting: The image for that page comes from concept sketches Frank Quitely drew for this series. This series is probably the most believable Superman story in terms of people not being able to tell Clark is Superman.
- It also explores the subject with his paramour. Lois refuses to believe they're the same person even after being told, partly because she doesn't want to believe that some part of Clark truly represents who Superman is and partly because it means he's either lying to her now or has been lying to her for years.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: The Parasite is being moved while Clark interviews Luthor, and Clark now has so much power that just being in the same room as him lets the Parasite burst out of his restraints. Clark then has to protect Luthor from the rioting prisoners and subdue Parasite without revealing his identity.
- Crapsack World: The Bizarro World, making its only sane native, Zibarro, the Woobie.
- Cryptic Background Reference: There are constant references to adventures Superman has had in the past including ones with Batman and the Justice League.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Lex's niece Nastalathia.
- Deface of the Moon: Jimmy writes on it "I Love Lucy" before his big date with Lucy Lane. Fortunately, it's a "short-term, cosmetic alteration" - so presumably P.R.O.J.E.C.T. can turn it back afterwards.
- Bar-El and Lilo also cause temporary damage to the moon out of carelessness while fighting Superman and then basically tape up the crack they made using various Earth bridges.
- Eldritch Abomination: A lovely baby Sun Eater.
- Parasite is portrayed as this as well.
- Emo Teen: Depicted but treated sympathetically.
- Energy Beings: The series features a brief appearance by things that look like energy beings, but it turns out they actually have some physical presence. Their energy patterns are contained inside some kind of biogenic crystaline structure filled with a conductive gas. In layman's terms, they're living neon signs.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Especially sentient, evolved dinosaurs who live in the depths of the Earth.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Evening, Leopold.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Until Luthor gets Supes' powers, that is.
- Executive Meddling: Ideas show up here from a 1998 pitch made by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Mark Millar years ago for a bold revamp of Superman (the execs ultimately went for a more conservative revamp.) Naturally Waid's Superman:Birthright and Millar's Superman: Red Son also borrow some from this pool of inspiration.
- Fluffy Tamer: The baby Sun Eater.
- Foot Popping: Lois, when Superman kisses her.
- Fun with Acronyms: The D.N.A. P.R.O.J.E.C.T. - at one point, somebody asks what "P.R.O.J.E.C.T." stands for, and the scene immediately ends before the answer is revealed.
- Going to Give It More Energy: Luthor poisons Superman by giving him too much solar radiation, which in smaller doses heals and empowers him.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: Jimmy Olsen makes a "short-term, cosmetic alteration" to the moon to get back in his girl's good graces.
- Superman himself alters Lois's gene expression with "exogenes" giving her temporary powers so she can spend a day in his world seeing it the way he does. He also salvages and restores the Titanic for dinner, takes Lois to Atlantis, makes out with her on the Moon and wins armwrestling matches with Atlas and Samson at the same time to "win" her affections as she'd requested.
- Green-Eyed Monster: As always Lex Luthor and he even makes it clear that its his motivation for killing Superman.
Luthor: I noticed a new wrinkle and I realized something. I'm getting older and he isn't. So its time I got serious about killing Superman, don't you think?
- Gypsy Curse: Jimmy Olsen believes he was cursed with bad luck after refusing to kiss the queen of the Gypsies. It's never stated whether this has any basis in fact, but considering all the insane things that happen to him on a monthly basis, it wouldn't be surprising.
- It was only "bad luck until the next full moon", which, of course, covers the events of that issue.
- King in the Mountain: Superman, at the end.
- Legacy Character: Set up at the end with the "Superman 2" project but shown earlier in the series with the Supermen of Time.
- Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded with Leo Quintum who is described as having "365 rainbow coats, all identical!"
- Megaton Punch: To Solaris the Tyrant Sun. "Mercy." "You'll live."
- Mythology Gag: Too many to list.
- Narm: Invoked in-story by Lex Luthor to discredit Clark, The Daily Planet, and the entire U.S. penitentiary system.
- "And then the inimitable Lex Luthor opened up the floor and shook hands with a baboon in a Superman suit".
- Noodle Implements: In the first issue, Lex Luthor is remote controlling a monster. For some reason, he's also holding a baseball bat. According to the writer, this was meant to convey Luthor's stance as someone whose mind just operates at a different level than everyone else's, and that, to Luthor, holding the bat was an integral part of the plan.
- In the animated film, Luthor is using it as a prop, as his remote-controlled bio-weapon is swinging a piece of metal at Leo Quintum and his assistant.
- Only Sane Man: An extreme case with Zibarro, the only one out of billions on Bizarro World that is sane.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Actually averted this time: Quitely's Clark can contort his muscles to where he looks more fat than ripped. Thus, nobody would suspect the flabby Clark is really the mighty Superman. He also wears oversized clothes to help the illusion (which has since been imported to the mainstream character.)
- Perky Goth: Nastalathia. Not so much perky as very laid-back and not depressed at all.
- Recursive Reality: Superman creates Earth-Q, a world without Superman. Within Earth-Q, we see Nietzsche invent the concept of "the superman" and then we see an artist, Joe Shuster, drawing the Golden Age Superman, saying "This is it. This is the big one. Third time's the charm..."
- Remember the New Guy?: Leo Quintum
- Rule of Cool: Morrison remembers that Superman was built on this, then runs with it.
- Schroedingers Cat: Lois is briefly held in this state while Superman is challenged with a riddle. It's comic book science.
- Shout-Out: Atlas and Samson also fight evil in downtown
MetropolisNew York City (albeit in the form of gangsters, not dinosaur-men) in the 1970 Arnold Schwarzenegger Old Shame Hercules Goes Bananas.
- Showy Invincible Hero: Up to Eleven. And remember: Tropes Are Not Bad.
- Silver Age: Word of God is that this was essentially a continuation of the Silver Age Superman's continuity. Morrison just does a good job of making it feel fresh.
- Solar CPR
- Super Dickery: Referenced with the fourth issue, which is called "The Superman/Olsen War!" and has a cover which depicts the Man of Steel attempting to kill his best pal.
- Superpower Silly Putty: Overlaps with Composite Character. As Grant Morrison said, it's basically a continuation of the Silver Age, complete with Jimmy Olsen undergoing this. His transformation? Doomsday. Yes, that Doomsday.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Lois and Superman.
- Star-Killing: The Tyrant Sun.
- Sudden Humility: Lex Luthor gets empowered with abilities like Superman's for a day. While he at first reveled in the power and used it to terrorize Metropolis, at some point, the Super Senses began to kick in, and Luthor suddenly gained a newfound perspective and started to Go Sane From The Revelation. For the first time, he understood the enormous weight that was on Superman's shoulders every day of his life.
- Upbringing Makes the Hero: Growing up on a farm.
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: In the end of episode 5, Lex's sidekick and niece rows a boat with Clark out of the prison where Lex is. It is heavily based on the Greek conception of the dead being sailed to the underworld on the river Styx by Death.
- This is actually very symbolic — the whole series is 12 issues and in those issues Superman's story is following a sun's path throughout the sky. By the middle of series he's entering his "winter" phase and we finally see Metropolis at night.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We see Krypto in the Smallville flashback but his status in the present is unknown.
- Word of God says that all that stuff we see about Superman's past adventures (for instance Batman gets mentioned a few times and even has a mannequin in the Fortress) is supposed to be like your dad's high school days; they were important once but not anymore.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Inverted. When Lex gains Superman powers at the climax, it is implied that anybody with Superman's power would naturally become an altruist.
- ... To the point that in the end Luthor cries because he can finally see the world in the way Superman always has.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Identified in the foreword of the collected edition by fellow comic writer Mark Waid as being his favorite moment of the series.