Alternative versions of Superman
|Alternate versions of Superman|
Cover for the hardcover edition of Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross. Art by Alex Ross.
|First appearance||Action Comics #1 (April 1938)|
|Created by||Joe Shuster
Steel (John Henry Irons)
Superman (Kal Kent)
Superman Red/Superman Blue
|See also||Superman in other media|
This is a complete list of the alternative versions of Superman, including all media forms such as the DC Comics Multiverse, Elseworlds imprint stories and screen (film and television) adaptations of the character.
Superman, also known as Kal-El from Krypton, adopts the identity of Clark Kent when not fulfilling his superhero role. The character, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, has been continually published in a variety of comic book titles, with the Justice League series emerging as a best-seller in January 2012. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, he went through a distinctive reboot. To accompany discrepancies in the aging of Superman across several decades, his earliest stories were retroactively portrayed as having taken place on an alternative world called Earth-Two. The Multiverse used to explain these characters later gave way to an "evil" version of Superman from Earth-Three and other "What if?" scenarios. The Multiverse system was discarded in the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, following which an adaptation of the mainstream "Earth-One" Superman was rebooted in John Byrne's The Man of Steel miniseries in 1986. Variations in the character were eventually defined by the varying Superman origin stories, such as the subsequent Superman: Birthright reboot by Mark Waid in 2003.
The single-Earth continuity would still allow for the dichotomy of a good and evil Superman by introducing an alternative version of Superman's Earth-Three double, Ultraman in the Antimatter Universe surviving the Crisis, as presented in JLA: Earth 2. Alternative Supermen were also depicted using literary devices such as time travel and "Hypertime". The subsequent sequel to Crisis, titled Infinite Crisis, would see a brief return of the Golden Age Superman, Kal-L as well as the teenage Superman of a world without heroes, who survived the original Crisis. Due to the events of the sequel, as revealed in the subsequent weekly maxiseries 52, a new Multiverse, consisting of fifty-two alternative Earths, was created with most worlds featuring new alternative depictions of Superman.
In addition to these "official" variations of the standard Superman character, a number of characters have assumed the title of Superman in many variant stories set in both primary and alternative continuity. Following the storyline of The Death of Superman and during the subsequent Reign of the Supermen storyline, a number of characters claimed the mantle. In addition, Bizarro, for instance, is an imperfect duplicate of Superman. Other members of Superman's family of characters have borne the Super- prefix, including Supergirl, Superdog and, in some instances, Superwoman. Outside comics published by DC Comics, the notoriety of the Superman or "Übermensch" archetype makes the character a popular figure to be represented with an analogue in entirely unrelated continuities, for example rival publisher Marvel Comics parodies Superman through the character Hyperion.
In mainstream comic continuity
Mainstream and continually published depictions
- Kal-L is the version of Superman retconned in the 1960s as the primary separate incarnation who was active during the Golden Age (roughly 1938-1951), to explain how Superman could have been active as a young man in the 1930s when later stories show Superman still youthful in the 1960s, with the emergence of the Silver Age incarnation of DC heroes such as Barry Allen as the Flash and Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. Kal-L is the first primary superhero of Earth-Two and emerges before World War II. He is a member of the Justice Society and, during World War II, the All-Star Squadron. As Clark Kent, he works for the Daily Star as a reporter and eventually becomes Editor-in-Chief. Clark eventually marries Lois Lane and settles down with her for several decades, and when Kal-L's long-lost cousin Power Girl arrives on Earth, they become her surrogate parents. Kal-L is erased from Earth's history after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but survives and enters a "paradise" dimension, where he remains until the events of Infinite Crisis. Shortly after his wife passes away, Kal-L dies at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis while battling Superboy-Prime.
- The Silver Age Kal-El is most closely associated with the Mort Weisinger era. The most significant difference between the Golden Age version (later equated with Kal-L of Earth-Two) and Silver Age version (Kal-El of Earth-One) of Superman is that the Silver Age Kal-El begins his public, costumed career as Superboy at the age of eight, more than a decade before nearly all other Earth-One heroes. Superboy only finds super-powered peers in the 30th-century Legion of Super-Heroes, though he also meets as a teenager Earth-One's only other major superpowered hero, "Aquaboy" (the teenaged Aquaman). Luthor meets Superboy in Smallville when they are teens; the two are briefly friends before they become mortal enemies, years before they become adults. As an adult, Clark Kent works at the Daily Planet (rather than the Daily Star like his Earth-Two counterpart) and Superman joins the Justice League of America (rather than the Justice Society). The Silver Age Superman also has greatly enhanced powers compared to Kal-L. In the aftermath of the Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series (1985–1986), which depicts all existing Earths collapsing into one in an event that changes DC Universe history, Superman's backstory was heavily revised and many Silver Age elements, such as his career as Superboy, were removed. The Silver Age Superman was given a send-off in the Alan Moore-penned imaginary non-canonical story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1986).
- Superman Red/Superman Blue was the subject of several storylines. The Silver Age version of the tale was an "imaginary story" in which Superman splits into two beings, one which marries Lois Lane, and the other marries Lana Lang, and both are happy. The modern tale was a controversial storyline in which Superman develops energy-based powers while losing his original powers, and gets a corresponding new costume. He eventually splits into two versions of the energy-Superman, known as Superman Red and Superman Blue.
- Ultraman is an evil version of Superman and a prominent member of the Crime Syndicate of America. Ultraman originally appears as a super-villain from Earth-Three, a world where the counterparts of super-heroes are villains, and the counterpart of the super-villain Lex Luthor is the only surviving super-hero. Earth-Three is destroyed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
- Superboy-Prime (briefly Superman-Prime) is the superhero turned supervillain from Earth-Prime. This version of Clark Kent is from a world without other super-powered beings, where he grows to adolescence reading about DC superheroes in comic books. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, he gains powers like those of the Silver Age Superboy and helps to defeat the Anti-Monitor. However, his own world is destroyed and Superboy himself is confined to limbo. From limbo, he watches events unfold on the post-Crisis Earth; manipulated by Alexander Luthor, he comes to regard the post-Crisis Earth and its heroes as imperfect. When he escapes limbo during the Infinite Crisis, Superboy-Prime sets himself the task of recreating a "perfect Earth", and kills repeatedly in pursuit of his goal. Since Infinite Crisis, Superboy-Prime has become a major supervillain, and has fought DC Comics' superheroes as a member of the Sinestro Corps, in the weekly series Countdown to Final Crisis, and in the future in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds.
- Kal-El is the modern Superman. The history of Superman was modified after the Crisis on Infinite Earths in The Man of Steel (1986) miniseries by John Byrne, and later revised in Superman: Birthright (2003) by Mark Waid. Superman's backstory was further modified following the events of Infinite Crisis (2006). Many of the Silver Age elements of Superman's biography (such as his meeting Lex Luthor at a younger age and his teenage membership as Superboy in the Legion of Super-Heroes) that were removed in The Man of Steel have been restored in the continuity changes of the last few years. Nonetheless, many of the elements added in the Man of Steel revamp remain in place. Superman's backstory is explored again in the Superman: Secret Origin six issue mini-series, which debuted in September 2009.
Alternative universe depictions
- The Pocket Universe Superboy was created as an explanation for the existence of the Legion of Super-Heroes after Crisis on Infinite Earths. He is essentially identical to the Silver Age Superboy, the young version of Superman who becomes a Legion member, and he is far more powerful than the post-Crisis Superman. This version of Superboy dies saving Earth of the Pocket Universe in Legion of Super-Heroes #38 (1987), years before he would have become Superman.
- There are several versions of the evil Superman analogue, Ultraman. Another version of Ultraman later appears (saved by Saturn Queen when Alexander Luthor, Jr. re-established the original Multiverse during Infinite Crisis) in the Supergirl comic book. The second is a Qwardian Ultraman with powers similar to the original, a member of the Crime Syndicate who is noted for having only one appearance and appears to have oversized eyes (as do all Qwardians). Antimatter Universe Ultraman is Lt. Clark Kent, a human astronaut who is experimented on during a deep space mission. Due to the experiments, his mind becomes twisted, but his body becomes superhuman after exposure to Anti-Kryptonite. Regular access to Anti-Kryptonite is required to maintain his powers. He is a member of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. The most recent incarnation is the Post-Crisis Earth-3 Ultraman who resides on the matter-based Earth-3 and is a member of the Crime Society of America. This Ultraman and his team are analogues for the elder Superman and the Justice Society Infinity of the new Earth-2. It is unclear if the Earth-3 Ultraman is an enhanced human or a Kryptonian like the pre-Crisis Earth-Three Crime Syndicate of America and second antimatter Ultraman. Earth-3 Ultraman is missing and assumed dead after the Monarch-Monitor war in the Countdown series.
- The Superman of Post-Crisis Earth-4 is Captain Allen Adam, the Quantum Superman, and one of the most powerful beings in all of the 52 Earths. An amalgamation of Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan of the Watchmen maxi-series, Air Force Captain Allen Adam gained his quantum abilities when he was disintegrated in a blast caused by an experimental U-235 engine. The U-235 particles fused with his body, and his disembodied consciousness built an enhanced copy of his former body, but he keeps his "quantum senses" at a managed level by using drugs. He is one of the Supermen from throughout the Multiverse who are recruited by Monitrix Zillo Valla in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, and allows the drugs in his system to wear off in order to reach a grander state of being, fusing the consciousness of Ultraman and Superman together in order to operate the Superman Robot in the Monitor world and fight Mandrakk, the Dark Monitor.
- On the post-Crisis Earth-5, Superman's closest analogue is Captain Marvel (originally a Fawcett Comics superhero) as shown in Superman: Beyond and Final Crisis.
- Earth-8 features a German Superman called "Herr Superman", who serves in Monarch's army.
- The Superman from DC's Tangent Comics imprint is a radically different character from the traditional Superman. Due to an experiment conducted on an entire town by a government black-ops group called Nightwing, Harvey Dent was the lone infant survivor of a failed super-human program that killed hundreds. After growing to adulthood, and falling from the world's tallest building in an attempt to save a suicidal man, his dormant powers activate and he develops advanced physical and psychic abilities. Evolving millions of years past normal humans, he eventually becomes a "modern-day superhero". He is illustrated as a tall, bald, African American man wearing a blue robe, and carrying a staff. This version of Superman has become the most powerful person on Earth. After attempting to give his wife the same powers as his, through what he thought was a safe version of the experiment, which resulted in her apparent death, Superman instead married that reality's version of Power Girl and decided to protect the entire world by conquering it, as seen in Tangent: Superman's Reign. This Earth is numbered Earth-9 in the DC Multiverse.
- Earth-10, which is under the control of the Nazi Party, depicts an alternative Superman, usually known as Overman, who supports the Nazi's policy of genetic purity. He is a member of the JL-Axis, a Nazi-themed Justice League. Two conflicting artistic renditions of this Superman have been shown. One is a stereotypical blonde Aryan with a Nazi swastika replacing the S-shield, while the other is a black-haired twin of the standard Superman with an "S" resembling one from the Schutzstaffel emblem; the latter is portrayed in Superman: Beyond as guilt-ridden. The first blonde-haired Superman, along with most of the JL-Axis was likely killed when they were fighting the Monitors on Earth-51 and that entire universe was destroyed by Superman-Prime and Monarch. The second, called Overman, is Karl Kant, a.k.a. Kal-L, whose rocket from Krypton crashed in a field in Czechoslovakia in 1938. Nazi scientists retro engineered technology found in the rocket to win the war, and later unleashed Overman to defeat the US forces in the '50s. Overman leads his world's Justice League, consisting of Brunhilde, Leatherwing, and Underwaterman, while fighting Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.
- On the gender-reversed Earth-11, Earth's greatest hero is Superwoman.
- Christopher Kent of Earth-16 was a far more evolved Superman who was able to reformat his power source to any energy source he could consciously choose. His power levels were able to allow him to successfully defeat both his Earth-30 and Earth-31 counterparts at the same time, though he was still far below the Monarch's own energy manipulation levels. In a last-ditch effort to defeat Monarch, Christopher used all the power that he had to stop him. However, this was not sufficient to stop Monarch, and he died from unleashing such a massive amount of energy. Christopher was radically different from Kal-El in appearance as he was far shorter than his Earth-30 and 31 counterparts, bald, had tattoos, and seemed parallel to Doomsday in that he kept red energy around his eyes and had external spinal bones on his upper arms and back. Chris wore a simple black t-shirt and jeans similar to Conner Kent, the current mainstream Superboy.
- The Superman of pre-Crisis Earth-17 was the original Overman, created by the government as were the other heroes of this Earth. Likewise, all other heroes that were created were modified clones of Overman's cell scrapings, such as versions of Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern. Some time later, Overman went on a homicidal rampage (due to an STD which had affected his mind) and murdered everyone on the planet before he decided to commit suicide and destroy the planet at the same time with a doomsday bomb. This world was destroyed, and Overman was wiped out by the Crisis, until the Psycho-Pirate began bringing back characters which the Crisis had killed in Animal Man #23, Overman and bomb included, despite trying not to remember him. Overman fought against Ultraman and Animal Man, before Overman was dragged out of the comic book panels and wiped out by a closing panel, ranting that it wasn't his fault he was like that before Animal Man disarmed the bomb.
- In Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier, Superman is one of the heroes of Earth-21, who has been active since the '40s, and still is during the events of the storyline, which occurs during the 1950s. As in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, he is a government agent, but unlike Dark Knight Returns, he is willing to go against the U.S. government when he feels that the tensions between the humans and superhumans has to end. He is also a friend of Batman, rather than his foe as he is in Dark Knight Returns.
- The Kingdom Come miniseries shows an alternative future in which Kal-El went into self-imposed exile following the death of Lois Lane. He returns after ten years at the behest of Wonder Woman. This alternative Superman is said to reside on Earth-22. He appeared in DC's mainstream continuity in the Justice Society of America story "Thy Kingdom Come", where he joined the Society in battling the being known as Gog. The Kingdom Come Superman is more powerful and less vulnerable to kryptonite than his younger mainstream counterpart, due to far greater exposure to yellow sun radiation (as explained by his Earth's Lex Luthor in the mini-series).
- Superman: Red Son explores what would have happened if Superman's ship had crashed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States and was raised under the control of Joseph Stalin. The Red Son Superman's birth name is stated to be Kal-L, the same as the aged pre-Crisis Earth-Two Superman, though he is essentially immortal as shown at the end of this mini-series. Moreover, he is from Earth's distant future and is a descendant of Lex Luthor and Lois Lane. A younger alternative Communist version of the Red Son Superman resides on Earth-30. The Earth-30 Superman was captured by Monarch and forced to join his war against the Monitors in the Countdown series. He is later seen in Final Crisis #7, flying along with 50 other Supermen.
- Writer Frank Miller's version of Superman who appears in his works, The Dark Knight Returns, its sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again and the prequel series All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, is shown to reside on Earth-31 in Countdown: Arena #1. A hyperbolic rendering of the mainstream depiction, this Superman is a parody of an adult "boy scout" and an "all-American patriot". As of The Dark Knight Returns and its sequel, Superman is a pawn of the American government in a dystopian United States in the supposed 1980s, and mention of him by the media is implied to be strictly forbidden by the Federal Communications Division. Although Batman and Superman are not friends, Superman shows a grudging respect for the Caped Crusader in The Dark Knight Returns, and regrets when his fellow hero supposedly dies.
- On the world of the JSA: The Liberty Files, now Earth-40, the Superman was Zod, a sociopath banished to Phantom Zone for creating a deadly synthetic plague when he was eleven. When American scientists breached the Zone in an experiment they found Zod. He feigned almost no memory of his home or his name. Renamed Clark Kent, he was sent to live with the Kents under supervision from the Pentagon, and then began running tests on his powers when they started to develop. Zod fooled most of his superiors by acting dumb, while at the time he was murdering other agents looking for a device called "The Trigger", a device which could simultaneously detonate all power sources on the planet like bombs. Zod, knowing that if activated the Trigger would set off nuclear warheads, and that radiation was the only thing that could harm him, wanted the Trigger so he could destroy it. He was finally taken down by the other costumed agents, until the combined forces of the Bat and the Star were able to trap Zod in an orb of nuclear energy in space.
- On Earth-44, the Superman of that world is a robot, a member of the Metal Men, robotic versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and Hawkman, created by Doc Tornado, an amalgamation of Red Tornado and Will Magnus. Their base of operations separated with their Earth and collided with New Earth during Final Crisis #7, but New Earth's magnetic fields causes them to go berserk and attempt "technocide", destroying most of the mementos in the trophy room before they were shut down by Luthor and Dr. Sivana.
- Apollo, a hero of the darker Wildstorm Universe which is assigned the designation Earth-50, is also seen in Final Crisis #7. Apollo was genetically enhanced to be a solar powered super-being. Apollo is a member of the superhero team, the Authority, is openly gay, and is married to his superhero partner Midnighter, an analogue of Batman.
- The superhero Mister Majestic of Earth-50 is shown in Final Crisis #7 as another Superman analogue. An alien from the planet Khera with advanced longevity, Majestros is a born warrior with great intellectual prowess and centuries of experience. He, along with a squad of his fellow Kherans and archenemies the Daemonites were stranded on Earth after they all crashlanded during a battle thousands of years ago. Mr. Majestic is the strongest superhero in the Wildstorm Universe and is an off and on member of the superhero team the Wildcats. Majestic is nearly as strong as the New Earth Superman and is vastly smarter, better trained and more experienced than Kal-El.
- The superhero Icon is mentioned in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 as being an analogue to Superman. Icon is an alien named Arnus from the planet Terminus who crashes his lifepod in the southern United States in 1839, and is found by an African American slave woman; the pod alters his DNA to match hers, but to a highly evolved rate. After more than a century and a half he does not physically age past the age of 40 and has near Superman-level strength and similar powers. He works as a high-class attorney in his secret identity of Augustus Freeman IV, and protects and resides in the city of Dakota. Originally, Icon resided in an alternative reality until his universe was merged with the mainstream DC Universe during the events of Final Crisis.
- In Final Crisis #7, dozens of Supermen are shown from all across the multiverse. The most noticeable of these Supermen is an African-American version of the Man of Steel who is the President of the United States in his secret identity. Writer Grant Morrison has confirmed that this Superman is a homage to President Barack Obama. This Superman wears exactly the same costume as the New Earth Superman, except that his "S" insignia is yellow with a red backdrop. In Action Comics #9 it is revealed that this Superman's Kryptonian name is Kalel, with the human identity of Calvin Ellis. His reality is revealed to be Earth 23, where the majority of the heroes in the DC Universe are of African descent or resemble features similar to Sub-Saharan Africans (such as Nubia being Wonder Woman) and that he is a native of Vathlo Island on Krypton.
- Before this, the first African-American version of Superman depicted was in Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths (February 1999), which saw a Kal-El and Kara who were man and wife, and who had been selected as the last survivors of Krypton through polling selection. Earth-D's Superman died early in the one-shot, leaving Earth-D's Supergirl to carry on, ultimately sacrificing herself.
- JLA: The Nail and JLA: Another Nail show a Superman from a reality that resembles a combination of Earth-1 and Earth-2, who was raised by Amish folk instead of the Kents. His Amish upbringing delays Superman revealing himself to the world. This Superman is more humble, less in touch with the outside world and less experienced than other incarnations. He is nicknamed by readers as Amish Superman.
- Sunshine Superman is a version of Superman that was lost in the destruction of the infinite realities of the original multiverse after the first Crisis. He first appeared as a memory projection of Psycho-Pirate along with his teammates in the Love Syndicate of Dreamworld: Speed Freak (an alternative female version of the Flash) and Magic Lantern (an alternative version of Green Lantern) in Animal Man #s 23 and 24 (May–June 1990). He is seen in Final Crisis #7 flying with various other Superman analogues. He is portrayed as a muscular, African-American man with an afro and a yellow sun shaped S-shield. His name is a reference to the song "Sunshine Superman", by British singer Donovan.
- In the alternative timeline of the Flashpoint event, Kal-El's rocket crashed directly into Metropolis, resulting in the deaths of over thirty-five thousand people, and the infant was subsequently taken into government captivity. Years later, young Kal-El is found to have been placed in a government facility of aliens to control his powers for uses to make supersoldiers. Sam Lane takes a liking to him, as he becomes the son Lane never had. Kal-El later makes friends with Krypto, who was also being held in the facility, but they are separated after Kal fails to appease the government workers. Kal-El is helped by Neil Sinclair to free himself, and attacks Sam. Kal-El makes his way to Lane's office, where he finds Lois Lane, Sam's young daughter. Sinclair attempts to kill Lois, but Kal, seeing her innocence, protects her. Sam uses a Phantom Zone gun to send himself and Sinclair into the Phantom Zone. Afterward, Kal-El is deemed Subject 1 and placed in a government underground bunker life sentence by General Nathaniel Adam. Sometime later, attempting to rally support in his attempt to restore the timeline to normal, the Flash, aided by Batman and Cyborg break into the facility where Kal-El is being kept, only to find a very thin man incapable of speech who seems terrified just at the sight of others. Once they break out into the daylight, Kal-El rises into the air. He uses his heat vision on the attacking guards and flies away. Kal-El arrives in Western Europe and rescues Lois from the Amazons who attempt to kill her. Just as the two reunite, Sinclair attacks them. While Sinclair fights some Amazons, Lois tells Kal-El that he must leave. He refuses and says that he learned from Sam that they must protect people from villains like Sinclair. Kal-El manages to overload Sinclair's body with energy, and punches him through the chest, killing him in a huge explosion; Lois is unfortunately caught in the blast. Kal-El holds the dying Lois in his arms, and Lois tells him to save the people. Kal-El arrives at the scene of the Atlantean/Amazon war and intends to attack both leaders Aquaman and Wonder Woman at the last battle. It is possible that Superman's thin form was caused by isolation from the sun, the source of his powers.
- The 1980s series Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew presented the parallel Earth of Earth-C-Minus, a world populated by funny animal superheroes that paralleled the mainstream DC Universe. Earth-C-Minus features the heroic Super-Squirrel, a member of his world's superhero team, the "Just'a Lotta Animals".
Other characters known as Superman
- Kon-El, the modern Superboy, is a clone created from the combined genetic material of the Man of Steel and Lex Luthor. He arrived in Metropolis shortly after Superman's death. Originally, he had no name besides "Superman". When the original Superman returned, he declared that the clone had earned the name "Superboy", much to his dismay. Superboy eventually became a hero is his own right, and Superman came to think of him as family, giving him the Kryptonian name of Kon-El and the human alias Conner Kent, cousin to Clark. Originally Kon-El's origins were depicted as being created from genetically engineered human DNA and made to look like Superman and to be as Kryptonian as possible, manipulating Superman's bio-electric aura into a telekinetic field, but eventually this was retconned so that 50% of his DNA actually does come from Superman (despite Cadmus earlier concluding that this was impossible due to the far greater complexity of Kryptonian DNA, which has far more chromosomes than humans). They also learned that the genetically engineered human DNA came from Luthor, rather than Paul Westfield as initially stated by Cadmus. In a future depicted in the Titans Tomorrow story arc, Conner becomes a tyrannical Superman after Kal-El dies again. Although Conner died during the Infinite Crisis (2006), his future self, as Superman, is part of a story arc in Teen Titans, published in late 2007. The second Titans Tomorrow Conner is Tim Drake's clone of the original. The first Conner returned to life during the events of Final Crisis in the story Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds and remained active within the DC universe up until The New 52 reboot, where he is once again just beginning his career as a super hero.
- Hank Henshaw was one of several to claim the name of Superman, following the original's death. To differentiate him from the others, the press dubbed him the Cyborg Superman. After the Coast City incident, he was referred to simply as the Cyborg (not to be confused with Victor Stone). He is currently a member of the Sinestro Corps.
- The Eradicator also emerged as a Superman impostor, "the Last Son of Krypton", during the Reign of the Supermen. No longer able to absorb energy directly from the sun, he used Kal-El's body as a power source. He eventually became delusional and believed himself to be Superman, but this taught him humanity. He eventually gave his life to stop the Cyborg Superman and restore Kal-El's powers.
- John Henry Irons made a suit of armor and cape emblazoned with the Superman-insignia, as tribute to the fallen Man of Steel. Unfortunately, he was lumped in with the other Superman impostors, even though he made no claim to the name. Eventually dubbed "Steel" by the resurrected Superman, he became a close ally and friend to Kal-El.
- The Superman Dynasty is the line of Superman's descendants and successors, featured in DC One Million. In this story, his first direct successor is called Superman Secundus. In the 853rd century, Kal Kent is the last scion of the dynasty, and leader of Justice Legion A.
Bizarro is the imperfect copy of Superman. There have been many incarnations of the character, varyingly portrayed as evil or as well-meaning but destructive. The Bizarros share many of the strengths and weaknesses of Superman, although there are some minor differences relating to kryptonite coloring and certain Kryptonian powers, for instance the Bizarros have at times been characterized by having heat breath and freeze vision.
- Bizarro Superboy was the first version of Bizarro to appear in comics, making his first (and only) appearance in Superboy #68 (1958). Created by accident, Bizarro Superboy is a misunderstood monster who only wants to be accepted, but most residents of Smallville, including Superboy, regard him as a menace. The only friend he makes is a blind girl, and in the end he sacrifices himself to restore her sight.
- The Silver and Bronze Age Bizarro #1 is accidentally created by Lex Luthor's duplicating ray when he uses it against Superman. Not only does he survive his initial encounter with Superman, he eventually gains a cast of supporting characters such as Bizarro versions of Lois, the Daily Planet staff, and the Justice League, and, eventually, Htrae, a cube world filled with Bizarros. His story comes to an end in Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? He strives to be the "perfect imperfect clone" of Superman, after being manipulated by Mr. Mxyzptlk. Since Superman saves people, he goes on a murder spree, and since Superman is a survivor of Krypton, he kills himself.
- The Man of Steel mini-series, which rebooted the Superman mythology in 1986, presents the first modern Bizarro, who is originally created by Lex Luthor. Because Luthor is unable to adequately replicate Kryptonian DNA, the clones' bodies would degenerate into a chalky-skinned caricature of the Man of Steel. This Bizarro, too, sacrificed his life to restore the eyesight of a blind girl, Lucy Lane, that had befriended him.
- Bizarro #1 is the only modern Bizarro that has survived, although he is not created like the others; having stolen the powers of Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Joker creates him (along with a Bizarro version of Batman, named Batzarro). Unlike the others, Bizarro #1's suit is purple toned.
- In All-Star Superman, an entire race of Bizarros appear, who are spawned wholesale from a cube-shaped planet which originally belongs in the Underverse, an alternative universe on a different gravitonic plane than our own. Originally opaque, shapeless beings, they take on skewed characteristics of people they encounter. This planet also produced what might be the ultimate Bizarro - Zibarro, a sort of Bizarro Bizarro who is, by normal standards, sane - and therefore feared and reviled by his own people.
There is also a "Bizarro"-Kryptonite, which is blue and does not appear to affect Superman, but is fatal to Bizarros. When Bizarro #1 donned a ring containing a small chunk of it, his addled mind became sane and super-intelligent.
Other alternative depictions
Between 1989 and 2004, DC's Elseworlds imprint was used to showcase unofficial alternative universe stories; before 1989, "imaginary stories" served the same purpose. Since 2004, stories outside of the main DC continuity have carried no particular name or imprint. The examples listed below are just a few of the many alternative versions of Superman depicted in these stories.
- All-Star Superman is from the comic book of the same name. Writer Grant Morrison has said that for all intents and purposes, he is the Silver Age Superman, or at the very least has a backstory similar to that of the Silver Age version, including powers and continuity. For example, Clark Kent first reveals himself during childhood as Superboy, and Jonathan Kent has died (however, in actual Silver/Bronze Age stories, both Jonathan and Martha Kent died by the time Clark is active as Superman).
- Frank Miller's Superman, the Superman of All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, is not the same as the Superman of All-Star Superman. The artist of All-Star Batman, Jim Lee, has stated that he is based on the Golden Age Superman, which is why he is shown running on water instead of flying. However, they make no mention of this in the actual comic. Conversely, Frank Miller's Superman is seen flying in his other comics about Batman. This is notionally the same Superman who will evolve to the jingoistic government agent seen in The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, at least from Miller's authorial point of view, as there is no official canonical link between the All-Star and Dark Knight continuities yet.
- In Superman: The Dark Side (1998) Kal-El's rocket is diverted from Earth to Apokolips, and Superman is raised by Darkseid.
- Superman: True Brit is a humorous re-imagining of Superman in which the ship crashed in England and his career as a superhero is severely limited both by glory-adverse adoptive parents and the scandal-hungry tabloid press.
- Superman: Kal- Kal-El's rocket lands on Earth in the Middle Ages, where he becomes a blacksmith's apprentice in a village ruled by Baron Luthor, who seeks to marry Lady Loisse, daughter of the village's murdered protector Lord Lane. After Kal uses his powers to forge the "silver egg" his parents found him in into a suit of armour for Baron Luthor, he asks for Loisse's hand in marriage as payment, but Luthor - thanks to a Kryptonite gemstone he wears - takes Loisse to his own bed on her wedding night due to an old feudal law, subsequently beating her to death. Using a sword he forged for himself at the same time as he made Luthor's armour - implied to be Excalibur - Kal manages to slay Luthor, but he is severely wounded by Luthor's gemstone in the process.
- Superman: Speeding Bullets has Superman found and adopted by the Waynes and christened Bruce. He sees his foster parents murdered in front of him and grows up to be a superpowered Batman. Earlier imaginary stories, such as the stories of "Bruce (Superman) Wayne" told in Superman (vol. 1) #353, #358 and #363 (1980–1981), also explored the scenario of the infant Kal-El being adopted by the Waynes.
- Superman: Last Son of Earth is a dramatic role reversal for many Superman traditions. In this story, he is Clark Kent, biological son of Jonathan and Martha Kent, who is sent into space to escape the impending destruction of Earth by collision with a space rock. He lands on Krypton and is adopted by Jor-El and Lara as their son, Kal-El, eventually discovering an Oan power ring.
- In Superman: Secret Identity, a teenage boy named Clark Kent in the "real world" (where Superman is a just a comic book character) somehow develops superpowers like those of his namesake. After a brief career as a mysterious, non-costumed "Superboy", Clark dons the fictional character's colors and continues to work in secret as "Superman".
- Superman & Batman: Generations I-III, three limited series which present a unified cohesive history of many elements seen throughout the characters' history, with the characters interacting in real time from the early 20th century onward.
- In Batman: Holy Terror (1991), the body of an alien known simply as "The Green Man" with a similar origin to Superman is shown, and his origin is described during this story.
- The Booster Gold story arc "52 Pick-Up" briefly depicts a Superman in Booster Gold #3, when showing a timeline where Superman was found by Lionel Luthor and raised as Lionel Jr. alongside Lex Luthor. Lex finds out his brother's secret and ends up killing him a year later.
- The Hypertension storyline in Superboy #60-64 (1999) shows an alternative version of Kon-El named Black Zero. Black Zero is a clone of Superman that has successfully grown to adulthood after Superman dies at the hands of Doomsday. For a time, he acts as the new Superman, even calling himself Superman 2. He exhibits both Superman's abilities as well as Superboy's tactile telekinesis. Eventually he turns to evil after coming to believe that clones are being treated unfairly. He first conquers his Earth, then enlists the help of the New God Metron to travel to alternative realities and conquer them as well to protect the clone community. He is defeated by the combined efforts of Kon-El, multiple versions of Superboy and the Challengers of the Unknown. He is lost in Hypertime at the end of the story and hasn't been seen since.
- In the Just Imagine... series, Superman is reimagined as a police officer from Krypton named Salden who is accidentally transported to Earth, and only wishes to go home. He becomes a superhero because he believes Earth's primitive technology is a result of humans squandering their resources fighting crime, corruption, and other ills, and that alleviating these problems will allow humanity to advance to the point of creating a means to send him home. He has superhuman strength and speed, and wears a flying harness. This version was created by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
- Marvel/DC Crossovers - In the majority of Marvel/DC crossovers, Superman is from the same universe as many Marvel characters, as in an Elseworlds story. In JLA/Avengers, which depicts the DC and Marvel Universes being attacked and forcibly combined by Krona, Superman and Captain America are mentally affected by the universal upheaval and become disgusted with each other's methods; Superman views the Marvel Universe's heroes as disgraces who have let their world down through inaction, while Captain America views the Justice League as overlords who oppress the people of their world. The two eventually reconcile and admit that part of the reason they resented the other is that they fear their accusations are right, with Superman being temporarily entrusted with Captain America's shield and Thor's hammer Mjolnir during the final fight against the minions of their greatest foe, Krona.
- JLA: Shogun of Steel (2002), set in feudal Japan, features a Japanese Superman.
- Multiple versions of Superman appeared in Superman/Batman issue #25 "Supermen/Batmen", who come to aid the mainstream Superman. Among them are Bizarro #1; Superman Red; a blond-haired Superman; a Superman depicted as a stereotypical African-American; a Superman with a different style "S" shield resembling the Golden Age Superman's in Action Comics #1; and a black-suited, long-haired Superman from "The Return of Superman".
- A "Super deformed" version of Superman, Batman and the Justice League of America appeared in Superman/Batman #51 and #52.
Film and television
- In the Superman cartoons produced by Max Fleischer, Superman is much as he appears in the first years of Action Comics publication, despite changes in his costume, notably the all red belt or absence of one in later cartoons, and the S-shield with a darkened blue plane and a red S instead of the yellow plane with the red S. He is said to have been found by "a passing motorist" who brought him to an orphanage. This version of Superman lives in and protects Manhattan rather than Metropolis, although in some cartoons such as "The Bulleteers", Metropolis is clearly named by the antagonists.
- Kirk Alyn starred as Superman in two 15-chapter serials produced by Columbia Pictures, Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). In it, Superman has many of the powers demonstrated in the comics. The origin story is similar to what is described in a 1942 novel about Superman, with his foster parents being named Sarah and Eben.
- Adventures of Superman (1952–1958) was a television series that featured George Reeves in the title role, which he first played in the 1951 movie serial Superman and the Mole Men. While he had many of the powers demonstrated in the comics, they are not shown at the tremendous levels depicted in the contemporary Silver Age comics. The show often featured Superman battling generic gangsters.
- In 1966, Filmation produced The New Adventures of Superman and from 1973 to 1986, Hanna Barbera produced different versions of the Justice League influenced Super Friends, both of which were animated series aimed at children. In both cartoons, Superman was similar to his contemporous comic book counterpart. In one episode of The World's Greatest Superfriends, the Super Friends battled evil Super Friends from an alternative universe, led by an evil Superman.
- In the 1978 feature film Superman and its sequels, Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman III, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Superman is portrayed by Christopher Reeve and is depicted as possessing an array of abilities never before seen in the comics. He was able to erase Lois' memory of his secret identity with a kiss, restore the Great Wall of China with the use of blue eye beams, and possibly teleport among other abilities. Kryptonian foes such as General Zod even demonstrated telekinetic ability.
- In 1988, two years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the producers of Superman: The Movie produced a syndicated TV series entitled Superboy which featured John Haymes Newton in the role for one season before he was fired and replaced by Gerard Christopher. The show concentrated on a college-aged Kal-El as a journalism student at Seigel University. Legal issues have prevented the series from either reairing in any syndication market and, except for season one, being released on DVD and VHS.
- The 1988 Superman series, produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, offered the first animated incarnation of the post-Crisis Superman. Acting as story editor, Crisis on Infinite Earths writer Marv Wolfman provided several changes to this Superman that included elements from The Man of Steel. In this series, Lex Luthor is not a publicly known criminal, but a rich entrepreneur instead. Clark Kent is Superman's alter ego, instead of the other way around. Furthermore, Martha and Jonathan Kent are still alive in Superman's adulthood in this series. This version of Superman was never Superboy as a teenager, although his powers had appeared very early in childhood. Clark Kent is clumsy in this series.
- In Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Dean Cain played the first live-action Superman affected by the changes to the character after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and various elements on the series reference The Man of Steel mini-series, which heavily influenced the show. This is the first live-action Superman series that showed Clark Kent as his "real" persona and Superman as the constructed alter-ego. As he explained to Lois in the second season episode "Tempus Fugitive", "Superman is what I can do, Clark is who I am." As the title implies, Clark is the primary identity with Superman making more sporadic appearances. The Lois and Clark version reverses the traditional hairstyle distinction between Clark Kent and Superman; here it is Superman who has slicked-back hair and Clark whose fringe falls more naturally. In neither mode does the character feature his trademark spitcurl, making it one of the few depictions of Superman to lack this distinctive feature.
- The Superman of the DC animated universe is a synthesis of Superman's 60-plus year history. At first glance, it appears to be an adaptation of The Man of Steel, but also took many aspects of the Silver Age and modernized them. In this continuity, Superman was believed to be the only Kryptonian survivor until Professor Hamilton found a device with access to the Phantom Zone, where two other Kryptonians were found. Kara In-Ze (Supergirl) from Krypton's "sister" planet, Argo and the artificial intelligence of Brainiac were also shown to be survivors of Krypton's destruction. His arch-enemy is the "wealthy business tycoon" version of Lex Luthor. His parents are still alive, and this Superman was never Superboy. In Justice League Unlimited, which follows the continuity of the animated series (as well as Batman: The Animated Series), Superman is portrayed as slightly older and a different voice actor portrays him (although cast members such as Dana Delany and Clancy Brown re-appeared in guest appearances).
- The Clark Kent of the Smallville TV series leads his life differently, never becoming Superboy, although he secretly performed heroic feats as a teenager and young man before moving to Metropolis and becoming its resident superhero. He meets Lois at a younger age, maintains a complicated friendship with Lex Luthor into young adulthood and for the most part of the series was romantically interested in Lana Lang. This Clark discovers the Fortress of Solitude, was one of only six real Kryptonians to survive Krypton's destruction, meets Vic Stone, Bart Allen, Black Canary, Aquaman, Green Arrow, his cousin Kara Zor-El, the Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, three Legionnaires, the Justice Society of America, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Maggie Sawyer, and Jor-El, and has even fought Zod, Brainiac, Mister Mxyzptlk, Faora, Maxima, Bizarro and Doomsday, but assumed his super-hero identity only after he defeated Darkseid. Clark's best friends in this version was Chloe Sullivan, who for a while worked as a reporter for the Daily Planet, and for the first few seasons, an African American Pete Ross. During the series finale of the ten seasons of the show, Clark finally managed to fulfill his destiny and became Superman.
- In Superman Returns, Brandon Routh takes over the role of Superman. Director Bryan Singer had stated that this film's continuity is based only loosely on the first two Superman films directed by Richard Donner and Richard Lester, and thus Reeve and Routh's Supermen, though similar in places (even having identical fathers—Jor-El played by Marlon Brando and Jonathan Kent played by Glenn Ford), may not be exactly the same individual. For example, the events of the third and fourth films are ignored.
- The animated series Legion of Super Heroes features a teenage Superman, who, like the original Superboy, travels to the future to join the Legion. As shown in the first episode of the series, in his own time, the early 21st century, Clark Kent secretly performs heroic deeds, but has not yet donned the Superman costume. In addition to Clark, the second season features a Superman from the 41st Century named Kell-El, who is cloned (in part) from the original. In the second two-part second season finale of Legion of the Superheroes, Saturn Girl fused Kell-El and Superman so they could stay projected in Brainiac 5's mind. This Supreme Superman almost beat Brainiac 1.0.
- The animated series The Batman featured Superman in the two-part season 5 episode "The Batman/Superman Story". This Superman is not related to previous animated versions of the character. George Newbern, the actor that voiced him on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, reprised the role.
- In the 2013 film version Man of Steel, as directed by Zack Snyder, Superman is played by Henry Cavill. Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe; Lara is played by Ayelet Zurer) imbues Kal-El with the genetic codex of the entire Kryptonian race before sending him to Earth. He arrives on Earth in 1980, and is 33 years old during the present timeline of the film. Jonathan and Martha Kent (played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively) are depicted as being around 30 when they find him. Jonathan is 46 when he dies in 1997, killed by a tornado outbreak, refusing help from his son to keep his powers secret in what he believed was an unprepared world. Martha helped Clark control his powers while he is young. He takes a series of odd jobs under assumed identities in his 20s, including a crabber, but leaves each job when he is forced to use his powers for good, leaving a trail of urban legends which Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) eventually finds and investigates. Clark's true nature comes to the fore when General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth to exact his revenge on Jor-El for thwarting his coup on the Kryptonian race before their planet's destruction.
- Amalgam Comics' Super-Soldier is the almagamated version of Superman and Captain America; Clark Kent volunteered during World War II to become a supersoldier using a combination of an enhancement serum and cells taken from an alien spacecraft, plus a super-charge of solar energy. He carries an adamantium shield which resembles Superman's chest insignia.
- Robert Kirkman's Invincible of Image comics is a clear homage to Superman. Both are sons of a dying extraterrestrial race (though the aliens of Image's universe, the Viltrumites, are malevolent).
- "Superduperman!" was a parody comic seen in Mad Magazine #4, in which the title hero has "muscles on muscles", battles Captain Marbles (a parody of Captain Marvel), but in the end is still dismissed as "a creep".
- Various Marvel Comics characters: Robert Reynolds aka The Sentry, Kallark the Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, and Squadron Supreme, Supreme Power, and Squadron Sinister's various incarnations of Hyperion.
- The Plutonian resembles Superman in many ways: he possesses a similar costume and powers, operates under a bespectacled secret identity, and is the head of his world's premiere team of super-heroes, the Paradigm (which contains a few other members similar to the members of the Justice League). However, his relative lack of control over his powers, (perceived) ingratitude from the public and his own emotional instability eventually cause him to snap under the pressure of protecting the world, becoming the most dangerous supervillain of all time. He destroys cities and nations on whims, goes out of his way to inflict horrific punishments on random citizens to prove his points, and cuts a bloody swarth through his former allies and enemies alike. Near the end of the series, it is revealed that he is living energy, a "golem" shaped into human form by force of will - but was tragically warped because of the human whose qualities he inherited. He is ultimately reduced back into energy and sent through the multiverse in the hopes that someone can "fix" him; his essence is ultimately shown to inspire Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to create Superman.
- Super-Turtle, an anthropomorphic superheroic turtle, was a series of long-running half-page gag strips that ran in various Silver Age DC comics starting in Adventure Comics #304 in 1963.
- SuperDan, a webcomic character who gains Superman like abilities after being bitten by a radioactive Superman.
- Nick Jones (January 2012). "Top 10 Selling Superman-related Comic Books in January 2012". supermanhomepage.com. Nick Jones. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- Wolf-Meyer, Matthew (January 2003). "The World Ozymandias Made: Utopias in the Superhero Comic, Subculture, and the Conservation of Difference". The Journal of Popular Culture 36 (3): 497–517. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00019. Retrieved 2008-01-13. "... will fail to emerge). Hyperion, the Superman-clone of Squadron Supreme, begins the series when he vows, on behalf of the Squadron ... "
- Bainbridge, Jason (2007). ""This is the Authority. This Planet is Under Our Protection" — An Exegesis of Superheroes' Interrogations of Law". Law, Culture and the Humanities 3 (3): 455–476. doi:10.1177/1743872107081431. Retrieved 2008-01-13. "The trend begins in 1985 when Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme (Marvel's thinly veiled version of DC's Justice League) take over their (parallel) Earth implementing a benign dictatorship to usher in..."
- Thomas, Roy. Bails, Jerry. The Justice League Companion (2003) pp. 72–73. (Roy Thomas discusses the creation of Squadron Supreme, his Justice League parody.
- Action Comics #484 (1978)
- Infinite Crisis #2 (2006)
- Infinite Crisis #7
- See, for example,The New Adventures of Superboy #1 (1980) and #12 (1980)
- Superboy (volume 1) #171, January 1971
- Adventure Comics #271 (1960)
- Man of Steel #1 (1986)
- See, for example, Action Comics #850 (2007)
- Superman (vol. 2) #8 (1987) and Action Comics #591 (1987)
- Final Crisis: Secret Files
- Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1-2
- Tangent Comics: The Superman #1
- Animal Man #23-24
- "CBR News: THE COMMENTARY TRACK: "Countdown: Arena" #4 w/ Keith Champagne". Comic Book Resources. 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
- Lyons, Beverley. "Exclusive: Comics writer Grant Morrison turns Barack Obama into Superman", Daily Record (Scotland), January 29, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
- Action Comics #9
- Flashpoint: Project Superman #1 (June 2011)
- Flashpoint: Project Superman #2 (July 2011)
- Flashpoint #3 (July 2011)
- Flashpoint: Project Superman #3 (August 2011)
- Flashpoint #5 (August 2011)
- First appearance in Adventures of Superman #500, 1993
- DC One Million
- The Man of Steel #5
- Superman: Arkham, Superman: Emperor Joker, 2001
- Wizard Magazine
- All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4, 2006