|Superman: Red Son|
|No. of issues||3|
|Written by||Mark Millar|
Tom Palmer Jr.
|Red Son||ISBN 1-4012-0191-1|
|Deluxe Edition||ISBN 1-4012-2425-3|
Superman: Red Son is a three-issue prestige format comic book mini-series published by DC Comics that was released under their Elseworlds imprint in 2003. Author Mark Millar created the comic with the premise "What if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?" It received critical acclaim and was nominated for the 2004 Eisner Award for best limited series.
The story mixes alternate versions of DC super-heroes with alternate-reality versions of real political figures such as Joseph Stalin and John F. Kennedy. The series spans approximately 1953–2001, save for a futuristic epilogue.
In Red Son, Superman's rocket ship lands on a Ukrainian collective farm rather than in Kansas. As an adult he becomes a state-sponsored superhero whose civilian identity is kept a state secret, and who in Soviet radio broadcasts, is described not as fighting for "truth, justice, and the American Way", but as "the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact".
The ideas that made up the story came together over a long stretch of time. Millar said:
Red Son is based on a thought that flitted through my head when I read Superman #300 as a six-year-old. It was an imaginary story where Superman's rocket landed in neutral waters between the USA and the USSR and both sides were rushing to claim the baby. As a kid growing up in the shadow of the Cold War, the notion of what might have happened if the Soviets had reached him first just seemed fascinating to me.
As I got older, I started putting everything together and I first pitched something to DC when I was thirteen, I think — although it was in a much cruder form, of course, and my drawings weren't quite up to scratch.
By 1992, he had already developed many of the plot points:
Instead of landing in Kansas as a child, I've decided to explore what could have happened if his rocket would have landed on a collective farm in the Soviet Union. Instead of working for the Daily Planet, he'll be a reporter for Pravda. There's a reversal of the current situation, this time it's the U.S.A. that's splitting up with Georgia and Louisiana demanding independence — tanks rolling through the streets of New Orleans. I'll be including a whole bunch of DC characters, like Batman and Green Lantern — who you'll see in a new light.
Grant Morrison has given interviews about giving Mark Millar the idea of sending Superman back to the past, as was used in the end of Red Son.
Certain images from the series are taken from famous comic book covers or panels. A splash panel from the first issue references Superman's pose on the cover of Superman #1. Another panel showing riots in the U.S. mimics the cover to Action Comics #1, which was the first appearance of Superman.
The Soviet Union reveals Superman to the world in 1953. The news of a superpowered alien under Soviet control causes panic in the United States, shifting the focus of the Cold War arms race from nuclear weapons to metahumans. CIA agent James Olsen recruits Lex Luthor, a scientist employed by S.T.A.R. Labs, to destroy Superman. Luthor's first act is to cause Sputnik 2 to plummet towards Metropolis. After Superman diverts the satellite away from the city, Luthor retrieves traces of Superman's genetic material from the satellite and uses them to create a monstrous clone of Superman, whom Lex Luthor names Superman 2.
Meanwhile, Superman meets Wonder Woman at a diplomatic party, and she becomes smitten with him. Pyotr Roslov, the head of the NKVD and Joseph Stalin's illegitimate son, is angry that Superman has turned his father's attention away from him and ended his chances of advancement within the Soviet regime. Pyotr shoots a dissident couple in front of their son for printing anti-Superman propaganda. Stalin dies from cyanide poisoning, and Superman initially refuses command of the Communist Party. However, a chance meeting with Lana Lazarenko, his childhood sweetheart, changes his mind. Superman chooses to use his powers for the greater good and turn his country into a utopia.
The U.S. government sends "Superman 2" to engage Superman, and their duel causes an accidental nuclear missile launch in Great Britain. The clone sacrifices itself to save millions. Luthor murders his research staff at S.T.A.R. Labs and founds LuthorCorp, dedicating his life to destroying Superman.
By 1978, the United States is on the verge of social collapse whereas the prosperous Soviet Union has peacefully expanded its influence to nearly every corner of the globe. The cost of this progress is an increased infringement on individual liberties, with Superman fast becoming a Big Brother-like figure, and the introduction of a brain surgery technique that turns dissidents into obedient drones, or "Superman Robots". Superman now works with Wonder Woman to save lives as well as govern the Soviet state. Wonder Woman has become increasingly enamored of Superman, but he considers her simply as a comrade, and is oblivious to her love for him.
Luthor plans to shrink Moscow, but this plan 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. 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 third plan involves the vigilante Batman, who was the boy orphaned by Pyotr. Batman joins forces with LuthorCorp and Pyotr, now head of the KGB. They capture Wonder Woman and use her as bait for Superman, hoping to sap his powers with rays that imitate sunlight from Superman's home planet. The plan works, but Superman convinces Wonder Woman to break free of the lasso that she is tied up with and destroy the generators running the lamps emitting the solar energy. She does, severely injuring herself in the process, but the lamps stop running and Superman's powers return. Scared that Superman was going to lobotomize him and turn him into a robot, Batman kills himself as a martyr to his cause. Pyotr is turned into a Superman robot, and Wonder Woman no longer has feelings for Superman, as he shows little to no regard for her injured condition.
Luthor enacts his fourth plan when he finds a mysterious green lantern in an alien ship that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico. Brainiac is reprogrammed into Superman's aide, and the construction of a Fortress of Solitude, located in Siberia and referred to as "The Winter Palace", begins. Superman's reign continues with no crime, poverty, or unemployment, but with an ever-present state authority. Superman is committed to "winning the argument" with the U.S., and repeatedly refuses Brainiac's suggestions of an invasion. Stalingrad remains his one failure, now contained within a protective glass "bottle".
In 2001, the U.S. elects Luthor and Olsen as President and Vice President, respectively. Using his scientific expertise, massive economic capital and dictatorial powers, Luthor returns prosperity to his country. This is only a part of a more general plan to provoke Superman into invading the United States. Luthor shows Olsen two of his greatest discoveries: the Phantom Zone, a place that super-hearing cannot reach; and the Green Lantern Corps.
Luthor confronts Superman in the Winter Palace. Brainiac yanks Luthor deep into the recesses of the Fortress to be converted surgically into a Superman Robot, claiming that Lex would convince Superman to commit suicide in less than 14 minutes. Superman agrees that his hand has been forced, and prepares to attack.
First Lady Lois Luthor visits Paradise Island to forge an alliance with the Amazon empire, now ruled by an embittered and vengeful Wonder Woman. Superman attacks the East Coast, confronting and defeating the Green Lantern Marine Corps, which is led by Colonel Hal Jordan. The Amazon forces, commanded by Wonder Woman, attack Superman but are quickly defeated, along with a collection of "super-menaces" (including the Atomic Skull, the Parasite and Doomsday) that Luthor had 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. They are greeted by Lois Luthor with the last weapon, a small note written by Lex that reads: "Why don't you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?"
Realizing he has meddled in affairs that he had no place in, Superman orders Brainiac to end the invasion. Brainiac, however, reveals it has never been under Superman's control, and instead attacks Superman with green radiation. Brainiac is shut down from inside by Luthor, who evaded the surgery. As the singularities powering Brainiac's ship threaten to collapse, Superman rockets it into space, where it explodes. The Earth is saved, but Superman is apparently dead.
The Soviet Union falls into chaos, but is soon brought back under control thanks to the Batmen (resistance members who began wearing the costume after Batman's death). Luthor integrates many of Superman's and Brainiac's ideas into the new philosophy of "Luthorism" and forms 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. Luthor presides over a string of scientific achievements, including the curing of all known disease, and colonization of the solar system. Luthor lives for over 1,000 years.
At Luthor's funeral, it is revealed that Superman survived the explosion of Brainiac's ship and is apparently immortal. Superman attends the funeral wearing a business suit and thick glasses essentially identical to the appearance of Clark Kent, an identity he never adopted in this timeline. Luthor's widow, Lois, sees this mysterious figure in the crowd and, other than an eerie sense of deja vu, suspects nothing. Superman walks quietly away from the ceremony, planning to live among humans rather than ruling over them.
Billions of years in the future, Earth is being torn apart by tidal stresses from the sun, which has become a red giant. Luthor's distant descendant, Jor-L, sends his infant son, Kal-L, 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 (and, thus, making Superman a descendant of Luthor and Lois).
In 2004 the story was collected into a 160-page trade paperback. (Titan Books, March 2004, ISBN 1-84023-801-1)
In 2009, it was collected into a 168-page hardcover Deluxe Edition. (Titan Books, December 2009, ISBN 1-84856-431-7)
In The New 52 (a reboot of DC's continuity), the alternate Earth depicted in Superman: Red Son has been designated Earth-30. The Superman of Earth-30 also appeared in the Countdown: Arena series in 2007, in which he came into conflict with the Cold War U.S.-based Supermen of Earth-31 (The Dark Knight Returns) and Earth-15 (Chris Kent). In 2008, Earth-30 and its Soviet Superman also appeared in the Countdown to Final Crisis: The Search for Ray Palmer storyline, where it was one of the alternate Earths visited by Jason Todd, Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner to locate Earth-0's absent Atom (Ray Palmer). Characters from Superman: Red Son also appeared in the Action Comics and Detective Comics tie-ins to the "Convergence" storyline, in which they are forced to fight against the heroes from the original Earth-Two's Metropolis. A promotional comic, Kentucky Fried Chicken Presents: The Colonel Corps had the Colonel Sanders of Earth-30 ("Comrade Sanders") joining with Colonels from other universes to take on Earth-3's evil Colonel Sanders. This Sanders wore an ushanka.
In the alternate 1940 setting of DC Comics Bombshells, Stargirl and Supergirl are both Soviet aviators in the Night Witches, which was seen as a nod to Superman: Red Son.
In March 2018, the Batman featured in this story made a cameo appearance in the sixth issue of the Dark Nights: Metal comic book series.
Figures based on characters from the series include Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, President Superman and Green Lantern. A boxset was released in 2008 featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and a remolded Bizarro.