Alternate Reality: Lessons Taken from Superman Red Son

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Yesterday is gone and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet; how are you living your today?  We only get one life and cannot go back in time to change what has happened in the past.  But what if things were different?  What if we got a do-over in another time and another place without knowing it?  Imagine yourself being born in another state or another country to completely different parents.  Do you think you’ll turn out the same?

With the current state of politics in America and with everything else going on in life, I’d like to dedicate this next post to anyone who wishes they could live in an alternate reality or universe.  Comic book characters and their stories have constantly provided me with an outlet and release on life.  This next book I will be discussing will involve characters you may be familiar with but told in a different time and in a different place.  People read comic books for different reasons and one of those is to escape.  Escape the monotony of their work, or a hardship they’re going through; whatever the reason, comic books provide this as well as entertainment value.  But how do comic book characters get to escape their trials and tribulations?  What do they do when they want to start again?  Luckily, we have great writers and artists to let these questions thrive with life.

Superman Red Son

 

Red Son centers around the premise of Superman crash landing in Soviet Russia instead of the USA.  No longer the Man of Steel American icon but comrade of steel Soviet icon.  Mark Millar (Marvel’s Civil War, Wanted, Kick-Ass) is able to blend a morality tale into this alternate reality tale that in current US politics, might be more relevant now than ever.  The social commentary on foreign policy and economics that echoes throughout the book rings an all too familiar bell a decade and a half after it was published (originally published in 2003).  Superman proudly wears the hammer and sickle instead of the highly recognizable “S” on his chest but one thing remains the same, he believes he is doing the right thing.  Without the same upbringing, he uses his super vision, hearing, and all superpowers to ensure we are safe; however, we cannot challenge his system or think for ourselves.

The Usual Suspects

Lex Luthor starts as a doctor at S.T.A.R. Labs and reportedly the smartest man in the world.  He is in charge of the Superman deterrent.  Lex even claims that if Superman had landed in the US he could see them becoming the best of friends.  Lex eventually resigned from S.T.A.R. Labs and creates his own business, LexCorp, to fund his efforts of killing Superman.  Lex finally ends as POTUS; however, he doesn’t do this to help the people, he does it to leverage his place and kill Superman.

Lois (Lane) Luthor is still a reporter but is married to Lex yet immediately has feelings for Superman the moment they meet.  She stays by his side all the way through his presidency even though they only see each other once a year due to his obsession with destroying Superman.

Batman’s parents died posting anti-Superman pages and were killed by the chief of police.  President Superman describes him as “a force of chaos in my world of perfect order. The dark side of the Soviet dream.”  Batman kidnaps Wonder Woman, binds her with her Lasso of Truth, and fights Superman hand to hand under red lamps.   Batman swallowed a bomb before any of this occurred so if he was captured he wouldn’t be turned into a human robot under Superman’s control, he detonates it when he inevitably loses.

 

 

Wonder Woman fights with Superman for equality in a man’s world as his international peace ambassador, “the greatest champion for social justice the world had ever known.”  Her home of Themyscira becomes an outstanding convert to communism.  Wonder Woman ends up turning on Superman as she comes to realize his quest for power and control.

Hal Jordan leads the US Green Lantern Core with nods to Kyler Rayner and Guy Gardner.  They team up with Wonder Woman to launch a final attack on Superman as he simultaneously launches his attack on the US.

Bizarro is created by Lex and called Superman Two in hopes of destroying Superman.  He wears a “US” chest emblem instead of the backward “S” in the regular continuity.

Brainiac is also included in the story as an attacker on Superman and a Brainiac robot that Superman keeps as a servant and advisor.

Jimmy Olsen goes from a government agent to Luthor’s vice president.

Both Green Arrow and the Flash get nods to appearing in this reality.

Brief Recap

Superman aligns himself with Joseph Stalin and his efforts to spread communism to the world.  Superman at first just wants to help people but we see a transition throughout the story.  After some nudging, Superman decides to lead the USSR after Stalin’s death in order to take care of everyone’s problems.  Over the years Lex builds (classic) Superman villains like Parasite, Metallo, Atomic Skull and Bizarro in attempts to assassinate Superman and restore the fading fortunes of the US.  In the second book of Red Son, we learn that all countries (except the USA and Chile) were glad to volunteer “total control” to Superman and he virtually eliminated poverty and disease from these countries.  Oh, and disobedience to the communist party has also been virtually eliminated.  I wonder how that happened.  At this point in the alternate reality, Superman has become and all-seeing big brother and there is no freedom.  Sure things are better than before but you can’t be who you want to be.  In this new Superman world, no one wears a seatbelt and ships don’t carry life jackets anymore because everyone knows Superman or his friends will save them.  Sometimes Superman is seen questioning the methods he and the KGB use with their tight grip; however, he still condones putting a brain chip in anyone who disagrees with his system and they become human robots.  In the third book, Superman wants the whole world to be his utopia but the US is standing defiantly under Luthor’s insatiable quest do defeat Superman.  When these two world powers collide, the whole world is almost destroyed.  The twist ending to this tale reigns supreme among twist endings of any kind.  It’s one that I did not see coming in all my years of reading comic books.  Throughout this story we see Superman transition from wanting to do good and save everyone to ridding the world of their humanity and freedom from anything but pleasant survival.  Both Luthor and Superman ended out benefiting humans to some degree, but with very different motives.

We only get one life.  Toying with the idea of a second chance or if things had been different gets us nowhere except spinning around in circles.  If you find yourself wanting to change the way you or someone else is behaving, read this story and keep in mind that some people try to do what’s right but are haunted by demons that are so deeply engrained in our humanity, it takes a lot of time and support to improve.  Don’t be like Luthor or like Superman, be like you and love this life you’ve been given and try to make an impact for the greater good.  Find someone who keeps you grounded.  We all know what the path to hell is paved with…

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