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There is only one superpower now.

Everyone knows the basic story of Superman. Strange visitor from another world, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands... and who, as the champion of the common worker, fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, communism and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact!

Wait, what?!

Superman: Red Son is a DC Universe Elseworlds story, written by Mark Millar and published in 2003, that dares to imagine what would have happened if the spaceship holding baby Kal-El had landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States, due to a small difference in the Earth's orbit compared to the main DCU. Instead of being adopted by the Kents in Smallville, Kansas, he is raised on a collective farm in Ukraine, where he discovers that he has powers greater than any man, powers he decides to use for the good of his country, and the world.

As an adult, he aligns himself with the government of Josef Stalin, protecting the citizens of the Soviet Union from even the smallest crimes and accidents, eventually succeeding Stalin as the country's leader. When the people of the United States learn of Superman's existence, they're naturally terrified, and the government turns to the smartest man in the country, scientist Lex Luthor (husband of Lois Lane), to combat this newest threat to the American way. Thus begins a superhuman arms race and a legendary battle of power and philosophies between Superman and his archnemesis.

The world of Superman: Red Son is part of the new DC Multiverse as Earth-30, presenting the possibility of Soviet Superman visiting the mainstream continuity, or vice versa.[1]

An animated movie was released in 2020, both digitally and in DVD/Blu-ray: here is the trailer.

Tropes used in Superman Red Son include:
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Superman seems far more powerful here than normal along with lacking several of his prominent weaknesses. It's outright said he could conquer Earth in less than a day through brute force if he wanted to.
    • Lex Luthor is much smarter and craftier than he normally is.
  • AI Is a Crapshoot: Brainiac. OK, he was already evil, but as it turns out, he was able to evade Superman's attempted reprogramming of him.
  • All-Loving Hero: To prove that it's still the same person as we're all familiar with, Superman says that he can never ignore a cry for help. Even if those people are American, it won't stop him from saving innocent lives.
  • All for Nothing: Jor-L sends Kal-L back to 1938 so he could be spared Earth falling into the sun and could change the past for the better so humanity doesn't become so complacent that it lets itself die. Not only was there a Stable Time Loop in place, the sheer amount of yellow sun radiation he'd been exposed to allowed Kal-L to live for billions of years until the Earth was fated to die.
  • Alternate History: The Cold War happens very differently when you throw Superman and Lex Luthor into the mix. Also, the Roswell spacecraft was Abin Sur's ship.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: Both Lex Luthor and Superman deliver massive technological advancement to their countries.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Even after a billion years worth of hindsight, Superman isn't quite sure what motivated Bizarro to sacrifice himself.
  • Anti-Villain: Everyone. Except Brainiac who's an ordinary villain.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Luthor gets really upset with Superman, because the Bizarro he created had the temerity of beating him at chess.
  • Artistic License Biology: Over billions of years, Humans evolve into the powerful Kryptonians. But given the utopia that Luthor built, it's very likely that the human body would weaken significantly over the millennia rather than become dependent on the sun's rays.
  • The Backwards R: Supes is a Soviet, so surely.
  • Badass Army: The Green Lantern Marine Corps and the Amazon army.
  • Badass Normal: Batman, of course. (The original, that is.) Lex Luthor mixes this with Mad Scientist and Magnificent Bastard.
  • Better the Devil You Know:
    • How Pyotr Roslov gets Batman to work with him. There's no doubt that Roslov would be a thousand times worse a dictator than Superman but Roslov is human and therefore mortal while Superman may very well live forever and won the Superpower Lottery. As Roslov even lampshades, who's regime does Batman stand a better chance of toppling?
    • When Lois Lane opines that Lex Luthor and Superman are Not So Different, Lucy Lane concedes she might have a point but at least Lex speaks English and believes in American values.
  • Break the Cutie: Wonder Woman, who loses a piece of herself when she has to break her own lasso to save Superman.
  • Britain Is Only London: And its most famous landmark gets destroyed.
  • The Cameo: Statues of Krypto and Darkseid appear in Superman's museum.
  • The Chessmaster: Luthor, complete with Chess Motifs and to a lesser extent, Brainiac and Superman.
    • In fact, it becomes personal for Luthor when Bizarro beats him at chess.
  • The Chosen Many: The Green Lantern Marine Corps.
  • Clark Kenting: Used and lampshaded by Superman at the end, after he survives his apparent death.
  • Cold War
  • Composite Character: Brainiac. He takes his Coluan's self trait of shrinking down and storing cities but is a mechanical being who wishes for worlds to run as he deems fit much like his Superman: The Animated Series self.
  • Conflict Killer: Inverted. Braniac turns on Superman after the main moral question is resolved.
  • Create Your Own Villain: If Superman had just been a little nicer to Wonder Woman and actually acknowledged her injuries and the sacrifice she made for him, he'd have secured her and her people as allies.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Until Lex's Armor-Piercing Question, Superman takes on the whole world and wins.
  • Dance of Romance: Between Superman and Wonder Woman.
  • Determinator: Hal Jordan kept his sanity through four years as P.O.W. thanks to his incredible willpower. He earned that Green Lantern ring.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What truly sets off Luthor's vendetta against Superman is Bizarro beating Lex at chess which implies that Superman is smarter than Luthor.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Superman all but begs an aged Wonder Woman to stand down. She doesn't and he subsequently walks over her army.
  • Dramatic Irony: Superman eventually decides that he has no right to interfere in Earth's development because he's an alien. He's not. He's a prime sample of humanity, a billion years in the future. It's never made clear if he figures this out.
  • Elseworlds
  • Fatal Flaw: What separates this Superman from the normal one isn't his Russian heritage or belief in Communism. It's that he views Earth and humanity as a problem to be fixed as opposed to ultimately good people who need support from a champion to listen to their better nature. It's this sense of superiority over mankind that drives him to ignore Wonder Woman's feelings and injuries and set Pytor on a revenge quest against him.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Superman 'robots'. A "Superman robot" in this continuity, rather than a robotic double for Superman, is someone who has been subjected to mind control.
  • Flying Brick: Faster than ten times the speed of thought, more powerful than... well, basically anything, and immortal, not to mention lacking several of his usual weaknesses, this Superman is even more powerful than usual.
  • For Want of a Nail: Subverted. The solicitation claims that the only difference is Superman landing in the Ukraine instead of Kansas but several other characters are moved around (such as Lana Lang and Bruce Wayne being Soviets) and reimagined as well Abin Sur being the alien who crashed at Roswell. And then there's The Reveal that Krypton is in fact Earth in the distant future making it a full on AU.
    • In-universe, with the benefit of hindsight, Superman wonders how the course of his life might have gone differently if certain events had played out differently or if he'd taken other options.
  • Genius Bruiser: Superman. When Stalin is poisoned, he quickly goes through several books of medicine for a possible treatment and later confronts the Bizzaro Superman after learning English 10 minutes ago.
    • Bizarro himself is one ironically, having beaten Luthor at chess.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Fuzzy Bat-hat and all.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The US government unleashes all of its super-villain Super Soldiers (including Doomsday) in a vain attempt to slow Superman down.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Superman is a Totalitarian Utilitarian, dissenter-brainwashing Knight Templar, but Lex Luthor, despite all he does for his country, is still Lex Luthor, along with all that that entails. Though Luthor does lead the world in a long Golden Age after Superman has gone, this is probably for his ego as much as anything else.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Lex Luthor is (true to form) such a Magnificent Bastard that he manages to squeeze an entire Hannibal Lecture into a single question: "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?"
  • Heel Realization
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Done by the Bizarro Superman. "Hello everybody. Me very pleased to meet you."
  • Historical Domain Character: Josef Stalin, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon (who is mentioned in passing).
  • Humble Hero: Superman initially resists the idea of being elevated to leader, noting (correctly, but unsuccessfully) that putting him in charge because of his inborn advantages is utterly contrary to socialist principles.
  • Hypocrite: Lex Luthor to no one's real surprise. He condemns Superman as an alien meddler who's only repressing humanity's potential. When you analyze both their styles of government however, they're practically identical...except that Superman essentially elected himself as a police chief and let the humans handle the internal dealings of the government and make their own choices while Lex made sure that it was his descendants that wound up being the brightest minds on Earth and ruled the planet. And to top it all off, a lot of Luthor's ideas for his utopia were actually thought up by Superman and Brainiac.
    • Really Luthor's issue isn't the utopia that Superman created but that Superman is in charge when Luthor feels he should be. At one point, he has the audacity to call Superman a control freak.
  • Ignored Epiphany: On the part of Pyotr. His heart to heart with Superman, complete with Drowning My Sorrows and attempted suicide sure didn't change him, did it?
  • Infallible Narrator: Superman is telling the entire story from some future point, and doesn't miss one detail. Justified by his super memory.
  • Inferred Holocaust: At the end of the story, the world is liberated from Superman's Soviet tyranny...only to join back up into another world state overseen by the United States, which in the course of fighting Superman has essentially become a command-economy state run by a Luthor-approved oligarchy. So... why were we fighting Superman again?
    • It says that freed from needing to concentrate on defeating Superman, Luthor was able to assemble a government made up of artists, scientists, philosophers and the like, leading to an age of human achievement unthinkable under Superman. The galaxy was colonised, the human lifespan became measurable in centuries, and all of it was explicitly democratically chosen. That's why.
      • It's implied that not much was really democratically chosen, or even remotely egalitarian, since this Lex Luthor we're talking about here...and would go on to Take Over the World and rule for another 2,000 years, basing his economic policies on Superman and Brainiac. He went on to become another Big Brother-figure, and there were hints that's all he was going to be from the get go.
  • It's All About Me: Luthor devotes forty years to a Machiavellian scheme designed to ruin Superman's life...all because Lex can't stand the fact that Superman might be smarter than him.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Batman uses red sun radiation to block Superman's powers, but Kryptonite itself is noticeably absent throughout the comic; in the end it's implied that this is because instead of a separate planet that explodes and becomes Kryptonite, Krypton is actually Earth in the far future. However, Kryptonite is given a Shout-Out of sorts when Brainiac nearly kills Superman with a green beam of energy.
  • Knight Templar: Superman. As if becoming absolute dictator of the Soviet Union isn't enough, the final chapter involves him launching an all out invasion of the United States. It turns out that Brainiac is an even BIGGER Knight Templar however. In the end, Brainiac is defeated, and the USA is saved.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: The Global Soviet Union rules over the whole world, save the Divided States of America. Despite people all over the world living in a socialist utopia, the Americans remain independent, living in a war-torn country, to avoid being ruled over by Big Brother Superman.
  • Man Behind the Man: Brainiac to Superman
  • Mary Suetopia The book creates two...At first, that's what it seems like. In the world Commie!Superman creates "Every adult had a job, every child had a hobby, everybody had a full eight hours sleep. Crime didn't exist. Accidents never happened...Almost six billion citizens and hardly anyone ever complained. Even in private". However, Lex manages to shake this with his Armor-Piercing Question, and Superman realizes he's no better than Brainiac "Another alien bullying a less-developed species". In the world Lex creates The world does become perfect, Lex manages to creates a one-world government of scientists, writers and artists, colonizes the solar system and makes humanity the most advanced race in the universe. But, millions of years in the future, Earth is about to be consumed by its growing red sun. Jor-L sends his son back in time to make sure humanity never becomes "this cold complacent lot"
  • Mind Screw: The ending.
  • Monumental Damage: Big Ben gets taken out after Bizarro punches Superman through it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Superman, after reading Luthor's letter: "Why don't you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?
    • A lesser version happens when upon reflection, Superman can't believe the way he treated Wonder Woman.
  • My Greatest Failure: Superman considers Stalingrad being shrunk by Brainiac the black spot of his career.
  • Mythology Gag: This isn't the first time Lex Luthor becomes President of the United States.
    • The shot of Superman handing the balloon back to the little American boy is a homage to the cover of Superman #1
    • In Red Son Setting, when Brainiac and Superman are discussing the political situation in America, an image of people rioting appears on the page. The image is EXTREMELY similar to the cover of Action Comics #1, where Superman first appeared.
    • Superman being a time traveller from Earth's distant future is how he first appeared in his original newspaper story.
    • An in-universe piece of fiction depicts a romance between Lois Lane and Superman ala tradition. Superman doesn't see the appeal. Lois later mentions having a dream where she's falling and Superman catches her.
    • In early Wonder Woman stories, it was said if she broke the artifacts the gods gave her, she would lose her other godly attributes. Sure enough, when she snaps her Lasso of Truth, she suddenly ages a good 30 years into what a normal Amazon of her age would look like.
  • Nice Hat: Russian Batman's Bat-Ushanka. You know you want to touch a hat this sexy. The sketches included in the trade paperback have the commentary: "I took a lot of flak for this hat, but it's cold in Russia. Why shouldn't Batman have a warm hat?"
  • No Poverty
  • Not My Driver: How does Batman secretly meet with a high official of the government he's opposing? By posing as the man's driver and kidnapping him, of course.
  • Not So Different: From the original Superman, that is; one of the key elements of the story is that while this Superman becomes increasingly authoritarian throughout the story, he still shares a lot of the same values and characteristics as the one we are all familiar with.
    • Also, Luthor's post-Superman global utopia isn't all that different from Superman's global Soviet state — in fact, Luthor actually admits that his old enemy had some good ideas and adopts them.
    • Brainiac wants Superman to die acknowledging this regarding the two of them.
  • Obliviously Evil: Superman genuinely believes he's acting in the world's best interests and can't see the problem with lobotomizing the Batmen.
  • Red Scare
  • Secret Identity: Superman's given name is mentioned as being a "state secret", but it doesn't come up much because he never uses a Secret Identity, spending all his time as Superman until the end. We never even find out what his real name is.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jospeh Stalin ships Superman and Wonder Woman. Granted this is purely so that the two can breed and make Stalin some superpowered Child Soldiers but it's still hilarious to think about.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: Luthor attempts a face-to-face Hannibal Lecture to Superman, but Brainiac restrains him. Too bad Lex already thought of that.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Superman, Brainiac, and especially Luthor (who is first seen playing fourteen games of chess at once while reading The Prince and teaching himself Urdu on a tape recorder he designed that morning all while on his coffee break).
  • Stylistic Suck: Not the miniseries itself, of course, but the first few pages are deliberately written in the style of a bad Silver Age comic... then Superman saves Metropolis from a Sputnik-turned-meteor. Which, as you should have guessed, is in the country he's at war with.
  • Stable Time Loop: Albeit a very, very long one; Lex Luthor's leadership leads Earth to become Krypton in the future, then his descendants (whose last name has atrophied from Luthor to Luth to L) send their son Kal-L back in time.
  • Super Senses: Played with. A totalitarian state can be very effective if its leader has x-ray vision and super hearing. Before he becomes leader, it's mentioned that he doesn't stick around watching parades by Stalin's side when he knows someone needs help hundreds of miles away.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Brainiac prevents Lex from talking to Superman out of fear that someone of Lex's intelligence would cause Superman to commit suicide.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Surprisingly, Superman still sticks by this policy despite his different values, though for different reasons: He could take over the world in 10 seconds if he used brute force, but he wants other countries to join him willingly because of the success of his economy and government. Not that he isn't fond of brainwashing his enemies.
    • Batman averts it.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • The relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman is one of best friends but there are enough hints to let the reader know Diana wants more than that.
    • Superman pegs that he has this with Lois Lane when they first meet but neither can act on it due to the political climate and Lois' marriage to Lex.
  • Villain Protagonist: Superman.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Stalingrad. Did they ever fix it? We never do find out for sure.
    • Also, everyone who became a Superman Robot.
    • Superman himself. He writes that the red sun of the future has "dimmed my powers and aged my mind" implying that he's still alive to witness Jor-L launching his younger self back to 1938 but no answer is clearly given.
  • Wonder Woman Scorned: After Superman ignores the sacrifice she made for him and she ages forty years in a second, Wonder Woman develops a deep hatred for him and joins in the fight against him.
  • Xanatos Roulette: Lex Luthor explains that everything has gone exactly as planned. "One can almost be forgiven for thinking that this had all been worked out to the tenth decimal point forty years ago, eh?"
    • Fridge Brilliance: Luthor's ability to avoid Brainiac's tendrils makes it likely that he planted Brainiac on Superman all of those years ago in order to further his plans.
  • You Already Changed the Past: Jor-L sends Kal-L into the past so that can affect change and Krypton won't become a cold, sterile world. Shame then that Earth became Krypton because Lex Luthor rose to power after he defeated Superman.
  • You Fail Geography Forever: While the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, it was not part of Russia. Russia and Ukraine were constituent republics of the USSR. The final page of fails to make this distinction with a caption reading "Ukraine, Russia, 1938".
  1. The last variety has already happened in Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer, although it didn't change squat.