Superman: Secret Origin

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Superman: Secret Origin
Cover of Superman: Secret Origin Deluxe Edition Hardcover (December 2010). Art by Gary Frank.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule Irregular
Format Limited series
Genre
Publication date September 2009 – August 2010
No. of issues 6
Main character(s) Clark Kent/Superman
Jonathan and Martha Kent[1]
Legion of Super-Heroes
Lois Lane
Lex Luthor
Lana Lang
Jimmy Olsen
Parasite
Metallo
Creative team
Written by Geoff Johns
Artist(s) Gary Frank

Superman: Secret Origin was a six-issue monthly American comic book limited series published by DC Comics. The series was written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, featuring the superhero Superman. The story featured the "definitive" origin of Superman for the modern, post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe continuity,[2] starting with Clark Kent in his pre-teens as Superboy. Within the series he goes on to meet a young Lex Luthor and the Legion of Super-Heroes in Smallville, Kansas, and soon heads to Metropolis where a young adult Clark debuts as Superman.

The series featured new elements for the origin tale, such as telling the story from the singular perspective of Clark, and not having at least one scene set on the planet Krypton. The story instead begins with one of Clark's "earliest memories," in a story of Clark's "self-discovery and the world's story of meeting Superman."

Plot[edit]

While playing football, a young Clark Kent accidentally breaks Pete Ross's arm. The next day, Clark panics when he discovers x-ray vision and nearly burns his school down with his heat vision upon kissing Lana Lang. Clark's parents Jonathan and Martha Kent realize it is time and they show him the rocket that brought him to Earth. The rocket reveals a holograph of Jor-El and Lara, who tell him about themselves and the planet Krypton, and that he is not one of "them." Elsewhere in Smallville, a young Lex Luthor discovers a chunk of Kryptonite and takes it to a street fair the next morning where he is selling his stuff. There he meets Clark, who is now wearing glasses. After Clark becomes weak and almost damages the Kryptonite, a tornado appears without warning and he rescues Lana while learning he can fly.

Later, he tells his parents what happened and that he wants to help people; Martha determines he will need an indestructible outfit and makes one based on one of the wardrobes from the holographic images. Clark tries it on and swears that he will never wear it again. A drunken Lionel Luthor, Lex's father, drives off a cliff but is rescued by Clark. Because he is embarrassed by the costume, no one sees the rumored "flying boy." After Lex refuses to be friends, Lana leaving because she wants to be just friends, and overhearing other kids teasing him, a depressed Clark is amazed to meet Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legionnaires bend their rules to take Clark to the future, but once they arrive, they fight a group of human supremacists. After the fight, Brainiac 5 angrily reminds them of the consequences of their actions and the Legionnaires return Clark to the present. They leave Clark with a Legion flight ring to which to communicate, though agreeing telepathically not to tell him about his future. As Clark describes the future to his parents, Clark stops a rocket heading toward their house to reveal Krypto inside. Later, upon hearing his father died from heart failure, a gleeful Lex Luthor plans to use Lionel's insurance policy to go to Metropolis.

Years later, a now adult Clark Kent walks around Metropolis, awestruck. Arriving at the dilapidated Daily Planet, he meets Rudy Jones, the overweight janitor, as well as the staff that consists of Ron Troupe, Steve Lombard, Cat Grant, photography intern Jimmy Olsen, and finally Lois Lane and Perry White. Because billionaire and businessman Lex Luthor nearly killed the Planet financially because of a story they had about him, Perry forbids Lois to get involved with Luthor. Ignoring the warning, Lois takes Clark, her new partner, to Lexcorp. Lois disguises herself and sneaks inside Lexcorp while Clark distracts the guards as Planet reporters are not welcomed. Lois watches as Lex unveils Metallo, his powered exoskeleton battlesuit, but is found by the security guards. She flees, but a mistake sends her falling from the roof. Clark sneaks into an alley, changes into his costume, and rescues her, revealing his superpowered self to the public. While in awe over the "flying man", others are scared and the police question him. Clark flees, fearing that he has made a "big mistake."

Lex's daily tradition is to select someone from a crowd around his tower, and provide them with a new life; the newest member happens to be Rudy. Rudy is brought in and offered all he can eat. He eats a donut that was dropped in bio-waste, which causes him to turn into something hideous. Curious about the "flying man", Lex meets with Lois and Clark. Clark leaves to confront Rudy as the Parasite. Clark manages to get Parasite out of the building and freeze him. The people are grateful but don't know what to make of Clark. It becomes worse when Lex arrives and claims the "flying man" isn't even human. Clark leaves, and on the roof of the Daily Planet, sees Jimmy on the ledge. They talk about how they're currently feeling, with Jimmy thinking of returning to New York. Clark persuades Jimmy to stay, since he's his "only friend" in Metropolis, and lets Jimmy take his picture. The next issue of the Daily Planet runs with Lois's story and Jimmy's picture, naming "Superman" as the city's new savior. Lex, furious, declares a personal war on Perry White.

After Superman puts out a fire in the Daily Planet’s main warehouse, he tells Jimmy and Lois that the fire was arson, part of an attack on Planet. While still wary, public opinion is improving on Superman thanks to the Planet, and their circulation rises by 700%. Lex calls upon General Sam Lane, Lois' father, who agrees to help Lex in exchange for weapons technology. Lex reveals that Superman is an alien, and can likely be stopped by the kryptonite rock Lex has, which also powers the Metallo battlesuit. Lois is greeted by Sgt. John Corben, with whom her father prefers she has a relationship. Lois refuses to date him, but John persists, and Clark steps in when Corben gets abusive.

John leaves to meet Lex and Sam and agrees to pilot Metallo. Clark takes Lois to lunch, where she continues to notice that he's not all he seems to be. Clark hears an explosion and leaves to become Superman but the explosion was a fake; Sam Lane had caused it in order to meet Superman. Sam accuses him of being an alien and wants to know what his goals are, particularly with Lois. Superman, feeling as if he is being interrogated, and tries to leave, but Sam tells Superman that if he leaves he'll be declared an enemy. Superman leaves anyway, and Sam orders the Army to attack. The soldiers do little to Superman, but John, in the Metallo suit, manages to weaken him by exposing him to the kryptonite. Ricocheting bullets hit the kryptonite, which explodes and injures John and allows Superman to escape. Sam and his troops arrive at the Daily Planet, and orders it shut down until they can get definitive answers about Superman.

Lex takes John into surgery and replaces his heart with a kryptonite generator, turning him into Metallo. Sam reveals to Lois, Perry, and the Daily Planet staff that Superman is an alien. While Jimmy distracts the soldiers with his camera, Lois escapes. Soldiers find Superman in the sewers and the battle erupts onto one of the main streets of the city. Metallo enters the fight, injuring his own soldiers in order to get to Superman. Lois arrives to warn him about the kryptonite and tells him to leave, but he refuses to give up. Metallo attacks Superman with a kryptonite ray, threatening the bystanders. Superman melts a manhole to cover the kryptonite and flies Metallo into space until the lack of oxygen knocks him out. Sam arrives and orders Superman and Lois arrested.

The crowd turns on the Army, and Superman orders the crowd to stop, telling them that they are meant to be Metropolis's saviors. Not the Army, not Lex Luthor, nor Superman himself. Superman meets with Lex and tells him Metropolis does not belong to him anymore. Lex angrily objects since Superman is not from Earth. Superman replies, "This is my home," and leaves. Later, Lex goes to pick another person from the crowd to give a new life, only to find no one there. The Daily Planet celebrates becoming the top-selling newspaper in the city. Superman visits Lois atop the Daily Planet building and thanks her for making him feel like he belongs there. He starts the Planet’s rusty globe spinning again. Lois asks, "Are you a man or an alien?" His response is, "I'm Superman, Lois" and then flies across Metropolis.

Background[edit]

In 2003–2004, DC Comics published a 12-issue limited series entitled Superman: Birthright, which touted itself as a new origin series that replaced the 1986 series The Man of Steel by writer/artist John Byrne. Birthright presented a number of changes to the continuity of Superman's origin.[3] After the 2005–2006 event series Infinite Crisis, many new changes were made to the history of the DC Universe, including more alterations to Superman's origin, and at the time it was stated that both Man of Steel and Birthright were the "official" origin stories.

The truth was that after Infinite Crisis, Superman was without an "official" origin story as stated by then-monthly Superman writer Kurt Busiek.[3] In order to definitively answer the glaring continuity questions, in 2009 DC enlisted the Action Comics creative team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank (hot off their stories such as Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Brainiac) to pen what was planned to be the "definitive" origin story of the modern Superman, post-Infinite Crisis.[2]

As opposed to Green Lantern: Secret Origin (also penned by Johns), which ran in the monthly Green Lantern title, it was decided by Dan DiDio (then-Executive Editor of DC Comics) to have Secret Origin run as its own mini-series and not part of the regular Superman or Action Comics ongoing titles. It was during their run on Action that the pair of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank planned "Secret Origin," realizing that with stories such as Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, or Superman's first encounters with the likes of Parasite for example, that there weren't any modern retellings of those adventures, and planned them to be part of their origin storyline.

Johns planned their version of the origin story to be aligned with the modern stories, and as Man of Steel was "brilliant" and Birthright was a "beautiful book," Johns stated that this was not "Smallville or Superman: The Movie: this is Superman: Secret Origin by me and Gary." Johns also pointed out his love for "secret origins" because of how vital they are to the introduction of characters and mythology to the larger audience, in order to entice them into becoming a long time audience.[2]

For Gary Frank, his reason for doing the series was because of "clarity;" wanting enjoyment from readers, and not arguing what is and what isn't canon. An example being his version for Superman; being his own while giving the same feel to readers similar to the Curt Swan and Christopher Reeve Supermans.[4] It was also because he and Johns shared the same vision that allowed them to work so well.[5]

Reception[edit]

Reviewing each issue, IGN gave high praise to the overall series, with most of the individual issues receiving ratings between 7.8 and 9.0. They stated that Johns "wisely sticks closely to the play book of recognizable Superman tropes, making the story feel familiar and iconic without feeling stale." In the end, the IGN consensus was "we've all been here before, but that familiarity isn't as problematic as you'd expect. Like a great jazz musician playing over a standard, Johns is able to bring enough new personality and style to the mix to make it feel fresh and almost entirely his own."[6][7][8]

Comic Book Resources gave each issue in the series between 3.5 and 5 stars, stating "Johns and Frank are setting out to give us the absolute version of Superman's origin. Once and for all, or at least for the next so many years, this will be the book to come back to for Superman's origin story."[9] iFanboy gave the finale to the series full ratings, stating that the series as a whole is "a conservative retelling when compared to, say, Mark Waid and Leinil Yu's Superman: Birthright. So if your expectation was for a revolution or even evolution, this book is decidedly a failure. But that's not the only ambition a storyteller ought to have. If you look at "Secret Origin" instead of as a reexamination of Superman and his core relationships, I think it's pretty satisfying.[10]

Collected edition[edit]

The six-issue miniseries was collected as a deluxe hardcover titled Superman: Secret Origin - The Deluxe Edition (ISBN 1401226973) and was released on December 15, 2010, with a cover price of $29.99 US/$35.99 Canada.

References[edit]