Superman At World's End
December 23, 2008
It's a bird! It's a plane! Well, whatever it is, it certainly isn't Superman...
(Cover to Action Comics #775) LINKARA: What’s so funny about truth, justice, and the American way? That’s the question Superman once asked in Action Comics #775. The story was a response to the growing popularity of a series called The Authority, which had a group of superheroes who were willing to kill at the first sign of trouble and basically made lots and lots of morally questionable decisions.
(Various covers featuring The Authority) The story was a rejection of The Authority's ethics and principles, and a reinforcement of Superman’s. It was about being a good person; trying to help people; and how maiming and killing are, in fact, wrong.
(Cover to Superman in the Seventies) You know, there are people out there who don’t like Superman - which is fine. You’re entitled to your opinion. The problem is that some of these arguments about why they don’t like him are crap. They say he’s too powerful. They say he’s too goody-goody. They say if someone had that kind of power, they’d be an evil asshole, or various other ridiculous assertions like that.
(Futon) But you know what? Screw that! He’s Superman! He’s the embodiment of how a superhero should be: kind, compassionate, and able to take down his enemies without killing them.
(Various Garth Ennis comic covers) Hell, even Garth Ennis, whose work I really don’t like, has a soft spot for Superman - and this is the guy who writes a series about a world where superheroes are the worst assholes in the universe! But apparently, there are comic creators who don’t like him.
(Futon) For example, Chuck Austin did a run on Action Comics, and was outspoken in his belief that Superman should kill and be a jerk.
But we’re not talking about that annoying run today. No, we’re talking about a stupid book that is so not Superman that I feel uncomfortable even saying its name. (holds up the comic) As such, let’s dig into Superman at Earth’s End.
(Cover) I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on the cover for this one, since this is one of those prestige format books that’s bound like a small trade paperback. I’m not even sure how to describe what we’re looking at here. Looks like some sort of musclebound Santa Claus wearing Superman’s logo while carrying…eh, hell, I don’t even know what it is. It can’t be a gun, since it’s far too ridiculous to be a gun - with random wires hanging out of it, multiple chain gun barrels, and bullet clips just hanging loosely from it. It looks more like a parody of a gun than a real gun!
(Title page) On the title page, we get an introductory text.
“September 26, 2102 A.D.
In his 150 years on Earth, the man of steel has seen civilization twice destroyed.”
Damn you, global warming! Was once not enough for you?!
“Under the shadow of polluted skies, his power ebbed…and he forgot even his own name…”
Since when have Superman’s memories been tied to yellow sunlight?
“Finally, he was rescued by the youth Kamandi and the Biomech VII’s, a race of biological machines programmed to find the cause of the (second) apocalypse.”
Oh, great! This is a sequel to something!
(Cover of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!) Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth was a series Jack Kirby produced in 1972. It was set in the 26th century, when humanity had been all but destroyed in ‘The Great Disaster,’ and Kamandi was one of the remaining humans on the planet. Taking a cue from The Planet of the Apes, the world was populated with highly intelligent anthropomorphic animals who persecuted humans. A cute little concept, to be sure.
(Futon) So it’s 1993, tastes have changed…so what do we do with the concept? We give it to Tom Veitch, who says this:
(Cover of Kamandi at Earth’s End #1) “You know, that Kamandi concept was good. But you know what would’ve made it better? If it was set in the 22nd century instead of the 26th; and Kamandi’s not a caveman, but instead wearing a leather jacket and traveling around with huge guns! And we’ll call it Kamandi at Earth’s End! That’s what the comic reading public wants!”
(Futon) So there you have it, folks: an unnecessary, unwanted sequel to an already unnecessary, unwanted Elseworld story.
(Title page) I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to get to this point, but I am really not looking forward to this. (sighs) Okay, they brought Superman to their floating fortress above the clouds so he could have exposure to sunlight again. And now the Biomech VII’s are planning on purging the world of ‘subhuman scum.’ But Superman has other ideas…
(Comic) “SUPERMAN: You’re not blowing up Gotham City!”
(Futon) Wait a second. These Biomechs plan to exterminate all living beings, and all Superman cares about is Gotham City?!
(Comic) And these guys must be the Biomechs. Who the hell designed these people?! They have chicken heads and ears like those robots from Chobits! Ladies and gentlemen, the restorers of the human race.
The leader of the Biomechs, Ben Boxer, tells Superman that he’s scheduled it for demolition due to it no longer being viable for the new civilization of humanity. Super Santa Claus launches himself at Ben, and they…uh…wrestle or something. It’s not entirely clear.
“NARRATION: A year, and the bright light of Sky City has restored Superman to full strength. He feels energized and alive. But Ben Boxer is a Biomech VII, the most powerful synthetic man ever built.”
(Futon) Yes, because his builders designed him around a chicken - the most powerful animal on the planet!
(Comic) “BEN BOXER: Gotham is infested with freaks and muties, my friend!” My friend that just tackled me into wall! “It’s a cell-hole (sic - it’s cess-hole) of genetic corruption!
SUPERMAN: And you’re just going to wipe it out with your big guns, right?”
(Futon) (flexes biceps) Yeah, these guns! The Hulkster’s guns!
(Comic) “BEN BOXER: We’re going to nuke it and forget it!”
Well, wait a second it! Nuke it?! I thought you people were trying to rebuild civilization!
“The mission of the Biomechs is to cleanse the Earth for the new generation of mankind…”
(Futon) Because there’s nothing that mankind needs more than radiation!
(Comic) “BEN BOXER: Foolish old man…your refusal to kill got you nowhere in 1999 - where do you think it will get you now, in a world ruled by death?!”
Yeah, remember when Superman failed us in 1999 by not killing anything? Boy, those days sucked.
“The Earth of 2102 is ruled by weapons, friend. That’s reality.
SUPERMAN: Reality is: you are an android - I AM A MAN!”
(Futon) (Linkara gapes at the panel)
(Comic) (Line repeats) Sweet merciful crap! Superman just punched that android’s guts out!
(Futon) Let this be a lesson, kids: when debating, solve your disagreement not with words, but by screaming “I AM A MAN!” and punching them in the guts. Allow me to demonstrate. (sets down the comic and turns to the side) I AM A MAN! (punches at nothing; jump cut facing forward again with the comic in hand) Yes, even if you’re a woman, you should shout that you are a man. Otherwise it doesn’t work.
(Comic) Get this - after Superman has done his gut punch, he’s suddenly a lot more coherent. “SUPERMAN: Ben, I know you mean well. You’re only doing what your creators programmed you to do.” Dude, he’s holding his own robot intestines in his arms!
“NARRATION: Superman gave his soul-stirring speech…then he left.” Much like the reader does after reading that quote-unquote ‘soul-stirring speech.’
Superman flies around and contemplates whether weapons truly are the way to rebuild civilization. And so Superman flies down to the ruins of Gotham and…hey, wait a second. Didn’t Ben Boxer say the place wasn’t viable for their new civilization? Despite two apocalypses, the place looks like it’s in pretty good shape! Sure, the architecture isn’t all that futuristic, but are you seriously telling me that they’re gonna plow over the whole thing?
“SUPERMAN: Gotham was part of a civilization that lifted itself mightily out of the age and stone and iron. The greatest civilization in the history of mankind.” Wait, what the hell?!
(Futon) Look, I admit that I have a biased view of the USA as awesome and possibly the greatest civilization in history, but when the hell did America ‘lift itself mightily out of the age and stone and iron?’ Did Clark Kent flunk history when he was younger?
(Comic) And you know what? Gotham - the city of corrupt cops, criminally deranged supervillains, and its primary protecter was a guy who dressed up like a bat - is probably not the best place to be your monument of American civlization.
“SUPERMAN: My friend Bruce Wayne understood that. He was a man of culture…passionately involved with his time…”
(Futon) Bruce Wayne?
(Clip from Batman: The Animated Series) BATMAN: I am vengeance! I am the night! I! Am! Batman!”
(Futon) (shrugs) If he says so.
(Comic) Suddenly, some bizarre bat creature sees Superman and attacks.
“NARRATION: The fight with Ben Boxer has sapped Superman’s remaining strength.” What?! He punched Ben Boxer’s stomach right in! And then he flew off into the atmosphere! When did he have a fight that sapped his strength?!
“SUPERMAN: Bruce?! Is it you?”
(Futon) Oh! This is the Bruce Wayne he was talking about!
(Comic) Superman crashes into an alleyway with the bat creature, but several more are waiting for him and attack. “SUPERMAN: Let me go, ya ugly slimes!”
(Futon) Are we sure this is really Superman and not just some homeless guy from New York who found a Superman shirt?
(Comic) The bat creatures get chased off by a bunch of motorcycle riding thugs wearing Darth Vader helmets. They corner the bat creatures and open fire on them using chain guns and futuristic hand pistols. And geez, these motorcycle guys seem really short! Why the heck is that?
Superman grabs hold of their leader and pulls off his helmet. “SUPERMAN: Eh? You’re a kid?!” Wait, how come the little punks didn’t get knocked back by the gun recoil?! Oh, and you gotta love this: the kids all have these bizarre hairstyles and face paint. Where in the future do people get the hair mousse and razors they use to style their hair into mohawks?! And is Hot Topic still active in the future to sell earrings and black paint so little kids can draw stars over there eyes?!
The kids take Superman back to their headquarters, which turns out to be Wayne Manor. To Superman’s horror, he sees that Batman’s tomb has been forced open! The kids reveal to him that they were stolen by an evil group called the ‘DNA Diktators.’ And Diktators is spelled with a K instead of a C. Because poor literacy is cool! The DNA Diktators apparently use human beings for experimentation.
“GANG MEMBER: Us kids ound a way out, into the caves under the city. We ex-caped (sic)…but our parents are still down there.” Why does everybody speaks like a 1920s gangster in the future?
(Futon) I’m Supahman! I fight fer truth, justice, and the American way, ya mook!
(Comic) Superman reasons that the DNA Diktators are making clones of Bruce Wayne - half human and half monster. Um, why? And that they plan to do the same to the kids’ parents.
The group moves through the Wayne Manor, and - oh, get this - they come across a display, right in the open, of a gun in a glass case. And the case is labeled ‘The gun that killed my parents,’ like it was right out of the Adam West series or the silver age stories. That’s not creepy or anything, is it? And even has portraits of his foes lined up on a wall! This can’t seriously be the same Bruce Wayne we think it is, can it? And not even Superman is disturbed by any of this! He just keeps going on and on about how much he misses his BFF, Bruce Wayne.
“GANG MEMBER: This way, Superman - to the Batcave!”
(1960s Batman transition)
“NARRATION: Deeper, deeper into the bowels of the clubhouse mansion…” Clubhouse? What, was Bruce still a seven-year-old?! I’ll give them this, though: we are certainly heading deeper into the bowels.
“All of the Batman surveillance technology is still in place…powered by thousand-year atomic batteries.” Thousand-year atomic batteries?!
(Futon) Oh, like the Adam West show. Ha ha ha. Yes, you’re very clever for including that reference.
(Comic) “GANG MEMBER: Way down along that old sewer pipe…about twenty miles into the caverns!” Twenty miles? TWENTY MILES?! “Go left at the next fork, Superman…then straight for about ten miles!” Another ten miles?! When did Batman find time to dig thirty miles worth of Batcave?! Is all of Gotham City over one gigantic hole?!
They find some bats, and Superman comments, “Yes…the creatures that attacked me from the rooftop… Those Diktator people mixed Bruce’s DNA with one of these.”
GANG MEMBER: Yeah…they’re makin real batmen!” Yeah, we’d established that literally two pages ago!
Ugh…more walking on the next page. I cannot believe I’m even reading this crap! Did I die at some point, and my eyes just haven’t caught up with me? They FINALLY arrive at the bunker, where the kids escaped. Superman forces the door open, but notices that the “strength he regained, during a year in the clear sunlight high above Earth’s polluted skies, continues to fade.” A year?! He spent a year above the polluted skies, and his batteries are going out already?!
But wait, let’s talk about the polluted skies for a second. The artist really failed on this point. Only a few pages ago, we can see the skies, both from space and from the ground. What pollution are they talking about?! The clouds look fine, and if the sky was as covered as they claimed it to be, we shouldn’t see that huge moon in the background! Did no one actually edit this book?! Well, I checked. While it does list off various titles, including an executive editor and a managing editor and all that, there isn’t a credit for an actual editor for the book. Yeah - no one proofread this!
(Futon) I’m sorry that I keep pulling away from the book itself, but I’m not even halfway through this and there’s just so many damn mistakes here! I feel like I’m gonna collapse!
(Comic) But I have strength enough…for now. Okay, they get into the bunker. The narration explains that the bunker networks were set up after the first apocalypse, but doesn’t tell us what the apocalypse actually was. The second apocalypse was a deadly disease that wiped out most of Earth’s population, and the remaining people sought refuge. But to Superman’s horror, someone has turned the Gotham city bunker into a diseased version of Hell!
(Futon) Because a regular version of Hell is just so pleasant!
(Comic) The DNA Diktators have giant robots at their command. They order the ‘Harvesters’ to collect six specimens. “DIKTATOR: Males only, please! Grind them very fine!” Why only males? You know, come to think of it, there’s an astonishing lack of women in this comic. Sure, some of the kids in the biker gang are girls, but I only see them in a larger group shot.
The leader of the kids sees his father, who kind of looks like a mixture of the Hulk and the Jolly Green Giant. His father has mutated to the point where he’s only rage and confusion now, and attacks the boy. Superman defends him and comments, “I think your real father left that rotting sack of tumors long ago.” Yeah, look who’s talkin’, Tumorman.
One of the robots grabs Superman, but he musters his strength and breaks free. The Diktators recognize Superman and order the robots to grab him. Superman exposites that if his heat vision was working, he could take the robot down easily. As such, one of the kids tosses Superman a gun, and he uses it to blast the robot. The group escapes from the bunker - by the way, where did the kids get all these guns in the first place? - and go back to the Batcave.
“NARRATION: Superman recovers his senses…and ponders the unspeakable madness he’s found at Earth’s end…”
(Futon) You know, why do they call this Earth’s end? Clearly, the Earth is still around. Yeah, the various civilizations have ended, but that’s not the Earth! And you know what? As far as the end of the world goes, it’s been pretty lame so far. Mutant bat creatures? Ten-year-olds with guns and motorcycles? And it’s not just this comic - it’s a constant problem in these kinds of stories! Why is it that the end of the world is just so dull?!
(Comic) Anyway, Superman says he’s only at half strength and he doesn’t think he’ll be able to survive another pounding. One of the kids suggests that he uses this gun, and the… Holy crap! That gun is huge! And not just regular huge! This is like peering into the darkest nightmares of Rob Liefeld and twisting that nightmare into a gun huge! “NARRATION: The Expunger - A weapon captured by Batman in his final case.” Why the hell would Bruce put that thing in there?! Oh, wait… “On his deathbed, Bruce Wayne spoke these last words: ‘One day, the world will be free of guns, or the world will be no more.’” Then who the heck put that thing in the cave? I don’t think Dick Grayson would exactly feel it best to honor his mentor by putting a huge-ass gun in his cave!
Anyway, Superman says the kids wouldn’t survive a day without weapons, but he’s never needed one before. When one of the kids comments that he used a gun earlier, Superman responds that they were robots. “SUPERMAN: I do not kill!”
(Futon) You kids, though, feel free to kill with your guns as much as you want.
(Comic) The group arrives at Wayne Laboratories, where Superman once again thinks it’s monstrous that they’ve perverted Bruce’s stuff. For the love of Heideger, why don’t you just marry Bruce instead of Lois? He charges in, but get this - there are Nazi mutant guards protecting it! So the mutants attack Supes, and…hey, wait a second. Who is that giving them commands?
(Futon) No. No no no no, no. It can’t be.
(Comic) Anyway, the little kids try to help Superman, and more orders are given off by the…wait.
(Futon) No way! No way can it be that!
(Comic) Superman calls out for them to stop killing the children, and the…oh my God. Is it? Can it be?!
“SUPERMAN: My God…! Adolf Hitler! Two of you!”
(Futon) (jaw drops) My God…what new spore of madness have they unleashed upon the world this time?! Hey, wait a second…it’s Superman fighting twin clones of Hitler in the future. This comic is starting to get awesome!
(Comic) “HITLER CLONE: Ja, Superman. Two of us. Created by Wayne Laboratories from a lock of der Fuehrer’s hair…” Um, who the hell thought that was a good idea?
(Futon) “Hey, Steve! You wanna clone Hitler?” “Nah. Hey, I’ve got an idea! Why don’t we make two of them?!” Seriously, the Jackal’s cloning plans made more sense than this!
(Comic) “SUPERMAN: All these years…the world thought you committed suicide…that the Allies finished off your scheme for world domination!” Um, Superman, they did. Didn’t you just hear him? They’re CLONES of Hitler!
“HITLER CLONE: America’s so-called ‘victory’ in World War II was an illusion…the power of the Third Reich is forever.” Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, Mr. Hotsy Totsy Nazi. Hitler 1 says that Superman can join them and together they can rule the world and blah blah blah. “SUPERMAN: I see I have only one choice left.”
(Futon) Punch them like you did during the golden age of comics?
(Comic) “SUPERMAN: To the Batcave.”
(1960s Batman transition)
(Futon) Screw you, Super Santa!
(Comic) Back in the Batcave, Superman…oh, no. “NARRATION: In the Batcave is a gun…a very powerful gun.” No, you cannot be serious! “There is also a man…a very powerful man - making the most critical decision of his life.” No! Wrong! No! “SUPERMAN: Ben Boxer was right. It is time to face reality! It is time for Superman to finish World War II!”
(Futon) You have got to be effing kidding me! I can believe in ludicrous things. I can believe that a man can fly. I can believe a man dresses up like a bat to scare criminals. I can believe a woman was born from clay, and then become (sic) the spirit of truth! But I cannot believe that Superman would carry around a huge freaking chain gun! When has Superman ever needed a gun?!
(Panel of a Bronze Age Elseworld story) THAT DOESN’T COUNT!
(Comic) Superma… You know what? I’m not even gonna call him Superman. Bearded Idiot flies off with the remaining kids to fight the mutant hordes of the twin Hitlers. “SUPERMAN: Okay, you evil despots…I’ll say it once! I’m coming in to get Bruce Wayne’s mortal remains!”
(Futon) Oh, and…you know, end World War II or something. Oh, and help the kids. But the primary mission objective is Bruce Wayne’s desiccated, decaying corpse!
(Comic) Bearded Idiot fires on the mutant hordes. “SUPERMAN: This is for all the boys who died on the beaches of Normandy!” And, you know, all the OTHER soldiers who died in World War II.
“NAZI MUTANT: My Fuehrer! You promised he wouldn’t shoot back!”
(Futon) Mein fuehrer! I can walk! I can walk away from this comic and away from this nonsense! (gets up and walks away) (sighs and comes back) It’s almost done, it’s almost done…
(Comic) “NARRATION: Once past the outer perimeter of human-lion mutants, Bearded Idiot must deal with the Hitlers’ new gestapo…cloned from the bones of elite Nazi stormtroopers.” And the guy just shoots them all and wastes them. Yeah, he really needed to 'deal with them.' Dear lord, this is like reading that Doom comic with all the insane dialogue, except this isn’t funny!
“SUPERMAN: And that’s for all the civilians who died at the hands of you sinister butchers!” The Hitlers retreat into their clone factory to unleash their secret weapon on him.
“NARRATION: In the center of the huge lab, raw meat rises on conveyors out of the underground bunkers to feed the satanic mills of the Nazis’ undying dream of world domination!
HITLER CLONE: Yes. The atrocities of World War II never ended.”
(Futon) YES! THEY! DID! I HATE THIS COMIC! I HATE IT! I HATE IT! ANTI-LIFE JUSTIFIES MY HATE! ANTI-LIFE JUSTIFIES MY HATE! (breaks down crying as he holds the magic gun to his head)
(Comic) They confront the Hitlers.
“SUPERMAN: You’re exactly like him, aren’t you? You really are Hitler.
HITLER CLONE: Of course. Don’t you know anything about science?” Well, if he doesn’t know anything about history… “Like all good geniuses, the master couldn’t resist an experiment.” Yeah, Stephen Hawking’s got an obsessive-compulsive disorder, I’m sure. “Afterward, they were sorry they cloned us… They wanted to destroy us…but we destroyed them!”
(Futon) Why?! Why. Make. Clones. Of. Hitler?!
(clip from Superman: The Animated Series) “SUPERMAN: I heard you were crazy. I didn’t think you were stupid.”
(Comic) Just to add to this insanity, they’re standing in front of tubes with labels for other people they apparently cloned, including John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Lex Luthor - seriously? - and Elvis Presley. Why didn’t they just stick with the good guys? Why clone Hitler?!
The Hitlers unleash their greatest weapon. It’s a mutated Batman clone.
“MUTANT BATMAN: Claaarrk…is that yooou? I can’t belieeeeve you’re still alive…
(Futon) Finally, Bruce, we can get married like we always wanted!
(Comic) “NARRATION: The reincarnated Batman has the physical power of a hundred Bruce Waynes!” You know, that’s pretty impressive...except when you consider that Superman has been able to juggle planets in the past!
“SUPERMAN: I sense no pulse, no heartbeat… You aren’t him…you’re imprinted with his memories…but you aren’t even alive!”
(Futon) Whereas I AM A MAN! (punches and pulls out a porcelain squirrel) Wait, what?
(Comic) So Bearded Idiot knocks down Not-Batman with a single gooey punch. “SUPERMAN: You - Hitler!”
(Futon) And you, other Hitler!
(Comic) “SUPERMAN: This world - ruled by weapons of death - is your world. You created this hell.” No, I’m pretty sure the creative team did that on their own. “I understand now. The nations had to defend themselves…they had to build engines of destruction, in order to stop you…once the arms race started, it never stopped…more and more deadly weapons, more hatred, more killing…all because of you!”
(Futon) Yes, because there was absolutely no warfare or weapons until the Nazis came along. Read a book, you dumbass!
(Comic) Bearded Idiot, having lost his invulnerability, takes several bullets, yet somehow still has the strength to lift his stupid gun. Geez, even when the thing shoots, it doesn’t look impressive at all. If you’re gonna have a huge-ass weapon like that, at least have the decency to make it look cool! So yeah, Bearded Idiot kills the Hitlers. What a complete load.
(Futon) It’s Superman fighting twin clones of Hitler! How do you screw that up?!
(Comic) So Bearded Idiot recovers the coffin of Batman, who looks to be in pretty good shape despite being dead for a hundred years. Although why he’s grinning like that is anyone’s guess. The remaining kids run out of the lab, which is now on fire for some reason. Bearded Idiot, while suffering from hundreds of bullet wounds, carries off the corpse so he can “cremate him…so this can never happen again.”
(Futon) So clones of Hitler can never make easily killable clones of Batman ever again!
(Comic) At night, the cremation bonfire burns bright, and Ben Boxer comes down after detecting the lab’s explosion. “SUPERMAN: I am dying, Ben. My internal organs are full of shrapnel…damaged beyond repair.” Although I’m perfectly capable of standing up tall in spite of that fact.
Ben Boxer offers to turn him into a Biomech to save his life, but Bearded Idiot refuses. He decides that he’s going to die with Batman’s corpse in his hands and burn along with him. And so, to some melodramatic, unnecessary narration, Bearded Idiot walks into the fire and burns to death. A kid tosses his gun into the fire, proclaiming, “If it wasn’t for guns, Superman would still be alive!”
“BEN BOXER: Then, in sacrificing what he believed in most, Superman has showed us all…there’s a power that will rule the Earth long after the last weapon turns to rust - the power of human courage.”
(Futon) Bullcrap! You can’t have an anti-gun message when you clearly use guns to solve your problem! It just doesn’t work! I don’t have to tell you that this comic sucks. This is not Superman!
(Various Superman covers) Superman is kind and decent! Superman saved the world from the anti-godmageddon! Superman beat Solaris the tyrant’s son and Braniac, and yes, even Hitler in the golden age! Superman always followed his principles, even when the world told him not to! Superman even gave his life to save others, in regular continuity and in his excellent All-Star series!
(Futon) But this?! I don’t even know how to describe this…this…”
(Clip) “This mindless habbaration whose only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction.”
(Futon) Well said. This comic deserves to burn! This is a job for Superman! But since he’s clearly not here, I’ll have to do it myself. (gets up and unbuttons shirt, revealing Superman t-shirt underneath)
(Next shot, he is in the backyard and lights the comic on fire, letting it in a metal barrel. He nods happily as he watches it.)
(Clip from Superman: The Animated Series) “SUPERMAN: Burn!”