There Are Many Superman Reboots, But This One’s Mine

Let me take you back, Bloggers, to a past that never happened…and a man who never existed. This is comics, moving with the times!

(Though I guess there is no particular reason why comics should move with the times…)

And so this is my Superman reboot, with thanks to beta readers Richard and Nate! And we’re going to get rid of a bunch of stuff. The red sun? Gone, for reasons already covered at some length

Krypto the Superdog? GONE!

Kryptonite, the broken pieces of the crust of Superman’s home planet?

VANISHED! Though with an explanation…

And X-ray vision and super-hearing and even flying, all gone too, disappeared without trace. Don’t even mourn their passing! Just consider them to have been raptured up into that big fictional multiverse in the sky, along with super-cats and super-horses and even Mon-El of the Legion of Super-Heroes…which, maybe it exists somewhere, in some Superman’s milieu, but it doesn’t exist here. Alternate universes? Sure.

But a big fat ol’ Multiverse?

As you will see, in this case it turns out we can either have a Multiverse or a Superman, but we can’t have both.

But, we do get Superbaby out of it as a compensation.

So… shall we begin?

*

Once upon a time, long long ago when the Mathusians were off in some other galaxy still learning how to knap flint, there was a fabulous star-spanning empire that spread throughout the Milky Way. This was actually not too long after the Milky Way had formed, when galactic centres were calmer places, and thus the first sites of life. In most of today’s galactic centres, you understand, life is not possible: the supermassive black holes of active galactic nuclei appear to be highly-correlated with the appearance of life, but just let those giant entropic engines run for a few billion years and their waste products scorch all the space around them into an uninhabitable desert. The theory is that this correlation has to do with metallicity, by the way, in the fortunate accumulation of that dust that fled the hard light of the very early quasars: very difficult to fertilize a galaxy without that intergalactic pollen, but it also gives you black hole bestiaries, all the cages in the zoo so closely jammed together that they can’t help consolidating themselves into just one big cage, over time. Not that you will always find no life in a galaxy without an active nucleus, but it’s just far more rare…”dark” pinwheels spin more slowly in this sense than bright ones, which is why there aren’t many different Guardians of the Universe dwelling on odd central planets, but only the ones we know of: the longshots that came off, the incredibly ancient ones who got unimaginably lucky, way back at the dawn of time…

…Or rather: the early morning of time, since development like theirs was slow, in their old dim elliptical, low and slow like they say about barbeque on the Food Network. But as it happens, our beloved Milky Way did host a true Dawn Culture, a bright fast regime that knit the whole place together and helped younger cultures to advance themselves. And maybe it was not all exactly what we’d call “philanthropic”, but at least the Dawn Culture was not rapacious…well, actually that would’ve been quite difficult for them, you see, because at that time there was only one world that really was a world, and it was their own. Only one rich world, in a galaxy as yet still very metal-poor, and thus resource-poor. And star travel, even for them with their wonderful “gravitic” drives that shrunk and expanded the space around their ships, takes a lot of energy. So if you were only interested in being colonialists then the costs of Empire wouldn’t be balanced for you in the early universe, and you wouldn’t do it; but they did it anyway, so we can only assume they did it for other reasons. But it was all so long ago that it’s tough to speculate on their motives — even the Guardians barely remember the Dawn Culture, mainly as rumours and legends, and the galaxy was so different then. In fact the only way we have of actually knowing the Dawn Culture existed is in the common theoretical framework that supports most everyone’s stardrive technology…secrets handed down, often lost, sometimes rediscovered, very rarely independently invented, over eons of time. Well, and a few extremely advanced civilizations use wormholes, stargates, fancy stuff that verges on or doubles as full-bore time-travel technology…which is very dangerous…but mostly where you find somebody piloting a ship from planet to planet, they’re using the Dawn Culture’s special magic even if they don’t know it, or don’t remember it…

And they don’t remember it, because long ago — long, long ago! — the Dawn Culture disappeared. Hid themselves, as far as the other people in the galaxy knew…which explains why every race that remembers them, calls them pretty much the same thing:

The Hidden.

So on Earth, if we remembered them, their semi-mythical home planet would probably be known as “Krypton”, to us…if we remembered them, which we don’t. Because we’re just too darn young. But oh, how the early peoples of the Milky Way searched and searched for a trace of their Kryptonian benefactors, after their disappearance! But they never could find them, and they never will…

And here’s why. Out at the fringes of the Kryptonian Empire, their ambassadors began to notice that the homeworld was moving, in every one of their subjective frames, slower and slower. And why this was happening was not exactly tough to figure out: the big shadow of Sagittarius A, the Milky Way’s central black hole, was gradually drawing Krypton into its umbra. Soon, very soon, it would slip over the event horizon and be lost forever…for one instant finally matching the speed of light, the gamma factor hitting unity just as the universe’s door bangs it in the ass and it’s gone. So the overwhelming majority of Kryptonians chose to return home — to the only world that was a world! — rather than tragically out-age and out-live all their loved ones in their relativistic slowdown. And only a few recalcitrant ones, rebels and outcasts, chose to stay where they were and survive, usually under false names and dark clouds of secrecy. Thus all the ships went home, and the galaxy went very quiet almost overnight, and in time Krypton did indeed slip silently out of the main parlour of the universe.

Billions and billions of years ago.

Except.

Inside a black hole, time’s not the same thing as it is on the outside. So for the Kryptonians who fell in, it was — or rather, isnot billions and billions of years ago, that this all happened, but more like “just a little while ago”.

Here’s where it gets speculative. Inside the black hole, “time” just means the direction of space that points inward to the singularity, and “gravitic” drives DON’T WORK…because inside a black hole, spacetime isn’t shrinkable or expandable, it just IS. But that isn’t all that’s going on, with that internal space; because there’s another component of motion inside the event horizon besides just “in” and “out”, which reveals the previous conception of “spacetime” as being slightly incomplete! Stars that spiralled in, logically (well, logically if you’re Bob Haney) continue to spiral down, and though “time” is only something they experience on the one vector of motion, on the other they experience something somewhat like time, without it actually being time. Hey, outside the black hole you would be very hard-pressed to experience this “other vector” stuff, since outside the black hole it is actually aligned with time! But once inside, it becomes apparent that there is a fifth dimension that’s been there all along, lurking underneath time. Inside the black hole, things are very different in a lot of ways, but you don’t necessarily just die instantly when you pass into one’s interior; a black hole as big as Sagittarius A is quite mild when it comes to tidal effects, and you wouldn’t automatically know immediately when you had crossed its invisible boundary, especially if the strange conditions inside made it so you were tidally-locked forever behind your star, with its ameliorating bulk forever between you and the singularity’s siren, though still very far-off, gravitic call…

Though you’d soon start seeing some very strange stuff, for sure! Inside a black hole, cosmological history goes in reverse: all the forces and dimensions are neatly frozen-out and separated, then stepwise they’re recombined at higher and higher energies as you fall inwards. First, light goes: electromagnetism is smashed into the weak force, fused under pressure to become something else, and whatever photons are “free” simply fall up to the border of the event horizon, there to circle endlessly, timelessly, spacelessly…always just not quite fast enough to escape into the outer universe. So light — light qua light, if you know what I mean — leaves you, is peeled away to find its own level, as the electromagnetic processes it used to mediate become other processes, that electromagnetism wots not of. Matter isn’t the same; and energy takes different paths from A to B, along different highways…lost highways, overgrown these 13 or 14 billion years now. Further down, as energies mount, there is a “stratospheric” deck of W bosons, that are similarly peeled away to seek their own level as electroweak force fuses to strong force. And below that, presumably a “tropospheric” deck of gluons, and down at the very bottom, at the Omega Point itself, gravity joins them in their widening wading pool just in time for the whole mess to simply pop out of the universe completely, back into the unknown topological register of pre-Big Bang Space…whatever that is.

Except obviously there’s a fifth force too, though what it is we won’t know until Jor-El figures it out. Down in the black hole, along the “other vector”, experience continues to accumulate, and the power of life gets concentrated and reconcentrated, denser and denser living in every measurable inch of “time”. So the Kryptonians are pleased to discover that, far from dying, they’re becoming a bit, well, “super”! And it seems as though this will just continue and continue on down to Omega, where they will become…er, “protonauts”? Popping out of reality into whatever came before reality? Just as their “superness” reaches an ultimate. So everything’s cool, and God’s got this, so in the meantime why not have some fun: there are no rules down here, and the energy-density of everything is mounting all the time…hey, why not become super-criminals and petty dictators? In this fascinating, ever-more-lively-and-tumultuous, exciting environment of possibility. How about a little war, for that matter, eh? Just harmless fun to the superpeople, right?

But Jor-El doesn’t think so, and he’s not alone. Employing his own concentration and reconcentration of the powers of life — his special thing is scientific genius, by the way — he repurposes the old stardrives in such a way that they can liberate light from a Kryptonian body, or rather turn the material of a Kryptonian body into a mess of massless particles (“Q Rays”, maybe?) that behave in a way very like light, whereupon they all peel off and seek their own level in the eternal “phantom zone”: the ring of light that orbits Sagittarius A just inside the Schwarzchild radius. Poof! No more war criminals! And now we can all get back to business…right?

Well…

Jor-El isn’t a genius for nothing, you know, and he knows that the whole universe runs as it does because the principle of conservation is the highest law of the land. Even inside a black hole, it has to be observed! So nothing is destroyed, but only changed; and nothing is changed, except it leaves some product behind it that balances the books of mass and energy. The Kryptonian felons who get turned into “liberated light” leave something behind them, for instance: gravity showers, perhaps in the form of Higgs bosons, that make a flat plain behave gravitationally more like a mountain range. Everything inside the black hole can’t get out, not as information and not as anything else either: from the outside, a black hole reveals nothing whatsoever about what may pass inside it, only getting bigger the more external stuff it swallows. So everything that happens inside just stays inside, in order that the mass and energy budget of the universe entire may balance. That’s why there’s no way to escape the black hole, you see: because it can’t shrink, no matter how your fancy stardrive used to work on the outside of it. At best, it can not grow for a millisecond or two…but conservation, the parent of Time, gives you nothing more than that. So the Phantom Zone Projector, that magical device (Higgs field manipulator?) that only works inside a black hole, is maybe quite a risky piece of gear to have used so much…Q-Ray sprites leaving the surface of Krypton leave a particle cascade behind them, that changes their planet. And perhaps they’ve already used it too much: when Zod was finally dispatched, last of the super-warlords, strange tremors shook the capitol…well, tremors are always shaking the capitol, as energy reconcentrates itself within inanimate objects too, but this one was different. And Jor-El is worried. Krypton’s survival may teeter on a knife’s edge, the protestations of the “newly”-formed Science Council (“but Jor-El, as time goes on we are not using the Projector as much, so these are probably just aftershocks, that we’ve probably already seen the worst of!”) notwithstanding…

…And especially they are notwithstanding because of the thing Jor-El knows that no one else wants to hear: that Krypton is not going to make it down to Omega anyway, but is doomed to break up and smear out and fizz off into nothingness, whereupon the Kryptonians will all finally die the real death, long before they are transported into the realm of the protonauts. It’s the difference between stars and planets, you see: stars aren’t made of much that’s different, and what is different in them is constantly being recirculated, the different energy-reconcentrating profiles of the different elements smoothed by solar convection. But planets are different, never mind that they’re held together by the same force of gravity that will apply all the way to the bottom: Rao may soften the singularity’s tide, but it can’t do anything about the other vector, that gradually makes uranium into super-uranium, that makes iron into super-iron…that eventually will create super-elements capable of causing their own disassociation even over the objections of the force of gravity. One day, all of this will reach escape velocity! Including the stuff of your own wonderful body, which after all has noplace to put its reconcentrating energy either…!

But Jor-El is still a bit worried, that the past use of the Projector has brought escape velocity even closer. Perhaps it is just around the corner: gravity showers causing weird differentials to mount up in unseen and untrackable places. Until just a nudge here or there, in the right location, might be all it takes?

Might be all it takes, for Krypton to be doomed sooner than later.

However…

However…

Here’s what will happen at the end of the universe: long after heat-death has claimed everything with absolute thoroughness, there will be a brief reintroduction of order as the black holes all finally and explosively pop, once their evaporation via Hawking radiation has whittled them down in size so much that they can’t remain stable. Smaller ones first, then bigger ones later, and supermassive ones last, but in that epoch they will all go, and the information long stored on their surfaces will come free as a sort of “death bond” into spacetime. The prisoners of the Phantom Zone will be freed at this instant, too, though there will be nothing for them to do, and no mischief they can make…well, in fact they will be loosed as anti-Q Rays according to Jor-El’s calculations, travelling backwards in time on a very long loop through the black hole’s increasingly-powerful gravitational field, and finally nudged back inside it by the gravitic weight of time-reversed Hawking radiation at the exact moment their Q-Ray sprite counterparts were sent up from Krypton’s surface, to meet and annihilate, and keep the matter/energy budget of the universe intact. That’s what’s going to happen: in negative time, their masses will then descend — have already descended, if you look at it the right way — back to Krypton’s surface, as the meeting of Q-Ray and anti-Q Ray produces mass in the same way that the meeting of electron and positron produces energy. And this is all enabled only by the fact…as Jor-El suddenly sees from his amazingly privileged position as an experimenter

…That the universe is fundamentally time-asymmetric. And the only reason it doesn’t look time-asymmetric, is that the residual fractions of energy that would indicate its asymmetric nature are being bled off into the fifth dimension.

But two can play that game, if one of them is dead, and so Jor-El has — Rao help him — an idea. As long as conservation isn’t violated, then part of Krypton can live on. One last use of the Phantom Zone Projector — he thinks it may be enough to finally cause Krypton’s ultimate disassociation — simultaneously with the use of what we might crudely term the opposite of a Phantom Zone Projector, a stardrive repurposed the opposite way in order to produce an anti-Q Ray sprite. I have it all worked out, I promise you, but to explain it all would make even this overweight blogpost too long to be read! So suffice it to say that if these two sprites, Q and anti-Q, were to meet one another exactly at the event horizon of the black hole…then the product would be mass, exiting the event horizon at nigh on the speed of light, though getting slower as it goes. Because the anti-Q radiation will pass over the gravitational fence just as though it wasn’t even there, in exactly the manner that Q radiation can not…since anti-Q radiation is ordinarily born to cross the event horizon from the other side, but inside the black hole it has anomalous properties…is programmed, so to speak, to get onto the other side in order to cross back in. And its anomalous nature is paid for in the only way it can be paid for, which is by sucking a bit of energy out of the fifth dimension back into the four we know of, there to dwell in the black hole as part of its mass/energy budget until the Hawking Epoch at universe’s end sets it free again. So for a moment, the black hole will cease expanding, just long enough for…

…A rocketship about the mass of a man to escape it, and inside the rocketship an infant. Jor-El’s son.

Well, can you blame him?

And Krypton dies forthwith, as soon as it’s done; just a little bit ahead of schedule. No, he most definitely doesn’t tell the Science Council! He just builds the rocketship, and builds the machine. He doesn’t even tell his wife, until…

Until…

Horribly, he realizes that he’s made a miscalculation. It will all work, and the gimmicking will get little Kal-El through, but in order for the gimmicking to happen, Jor-El himself must operate the controls of the sprite/anti-sprite assembly. But then who will take the very last one-way trip into the Phantom Zone, to be the equalizing quantum of energy that kicks the rocketship out?

There is only one person who could do it…only one person who would do it. But it’s awfully hard, isn’t it? Kal-El’s mother Lara will be spit out at the end of the universe in the Hawking Epoch along with all the other Phantom Zone prisoners, there to realize that everyone and everything dies eventually despite long shots, just before arcing away on the long loop back through time to be reabsorbed by Sagittarius A at the moment of her previous self’s original banishment. But her son will live, so that makes up for it all…one hopes…

And so Lara gets into the Phantom Zone Projector, a last-minute change in plans that’s recorded nowhere and known to no one (you Bloggers are the only people in the whole Universe who know about it), and Kal-El is lovingly placed in his rocketship, and the masses balance. With the closing of a contact, 5D energy will strike the match that lights the fuse that ignites the dynamite that blows apart the house Jor-El built…and for a moment he hesitates…and then he resolutely pushes the button…and

About forty-five thousand years ago by our reckoning, about eleven billion years ago by Jor-El’s, and just last week by his infant son’s…

…The planet Krypton, or whatever its inhabitants actually used to call it, is gone.

And little Kal-El’s rocket speeds away from the catastrophe, first at so near c as makes no difference, then slower and slower…but still it will be a long time before the ship is travelling slowly enough for relativistic time-dilation to cease isolating it from its surrounding universe. The ship’s navigational system is programmed sensitively by Jor-El to look for planets in a certain favourable band of velocity and trajectory and gamma-factor-match, that also support a biosphere favourable to humanoid life…a wish-list to be filled out as best the navigator can, in the relatively short amount of time that Kal-El has before his life-support systems peter out. Earth is basically the first planet that fits the bill, a very lucky close approximation! Because if it hadn’t been us, out past the Orion Spur is an awfully big gap of inter-spiral space, a passage that the Last Son Of Krypton probably could not have survived. In fact if it weren’t for the Orion Spur, then he probably wouldn’t have! Thus time and chance enter into all things, but faith is occasionally rewarded…down onto the Kent fields crashes the little rocketship, and the boy is found.

And what a strange boy he is! For he is not made of the regular stuff of baryonic matter that we are used to, but instead he’s made of whatever stuff is left to coagulate itself once most of the fundamental Four Forces have been re-unified. Protons? Electrons? We think — we think! — that he is at least made of something like atoms and molecules, but honestly who knows. Anyway whatever he is made of, it’s stuff that can’t be scratched by any force we know of, and so the kid is indestructible. Also, though with some effort his eyes can detect the presence of photons, it’s easier for him to see W bosons and gluons and Higgs particles and such. Neutrinos? We think he can see neutrinos, in their whore-like flexing between states…

Really, he seems to be able to see everything. Call him the obverse of Daredevil?  Sure, call him that, but as time goes on he also becomes capable of emitting his “radar sense”…with great concentration on his part, gluons stream from his eyes, capable of altering the relationship of quarks in the matter they’re directed at: it’s scarier than heat vision, but it’s more sensitive too. And who knows what other kinds of bosons his eyes might emit, as a reversed consequence of also being absorbed? With time, too, he’ll become absurdly strong, and fast, and able to leap tall buildings: not because he is “naturally” any of these things, but because as a Kryptonian he accesses the “other vector” that in the ordinary universe is hidden by virtue of its alignment with time…what is “superness”, after all? It’s merely the reconcentration of effort into arbitrary slices of “time”: Clark Kent is as strong as he needs to be because he can lift “more”…not as in lifting more weight, but as in doing more lifting! He can outrace a locomotive because the locomotive can’t double and redouble the speed it already has, but he can. When he jumps, he can sort of “hang there” in the air, prolonging what the jump is. And eventually it will look like he is flying, but he isn’t really.

Eventually it will look like he is flying through space unaided by any technology, at any arbitrary superluminal speed you care to name…! But he won’t be. It’s all 5D trickery, you see. Though people will think he is the only case of superluminal transportation not requiring some sort of technological assistance, of course it will merely look like that while really being something else…and only a few, a precious few, will notice that it’s actually impossible for him to be doing the things he’s doing.

The Guardians of the Universe.

Adam Strange.

Brainiac.

And Lex Luthor, the only scientific rival of Jor-El. Oh, Smallville happened, my friends! But in my Superman reboot the Luthor that moved there was just a little bit more aware of what was going on around him. Even for Superboy to fly, is no crazier than for him to have super-breath, and Lex sees that, sees that the one thing is no more ridiculous than the other…and, more importantly, no less ridiculous. He also notices that Superboy does not have super-hearing, but only sometimes mimics it. “My, uh…super-hearing tells me that someone’s trapped in that mine!” Because there is no Kryptonite (did you notice that?) Lex’s origin takes longer to happen; and because it takes longer to happen it is always Lex who’s putting himself in positions of peril where Superboy has to save him, and Lana Lang never even gets a chance to do so…without it looking exactly like what it is: that she’s copying Lex.

Poor Lana! Forever the object of derision, from men who should want to sleep with her yet somehow don’t…!

And as for Lex, Superboy never suspects he’s just faking, because he’s got his shit planned out. Lex Luthor, Scientific Adventurer, would of course constantly be getting into scrapes, wouldn’t he? Just as one day Lois Lane, Investigative Reporter, will get into them too. But Lex Luthor — the Smallville Daily News calls him “Mr. Action!” for a time — isn’t really a Scientific Adventurer at all, because he never goes spelunking anywhere Superboy can save him, that he hasn’t already been a week earlier when Superboy wasn’t looking. Oh, I forgot to mention…lead doesn’t block Kal-El’s W-boson vision? There is something that will block it, but it isn’t lead

…But instead it’s the thing Lex Luthor eventually invents, once he figures out Kal-El’s implications for physics. Underneath the dimension of Time, Lex realizes, another dimension is hiding…and as well as this meaning that the universe is time-asymmetric, that there’s such a thing as true randomness outside the collapse of the wave function, and that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is incorrect, more importantly to Lex it means that a type of matter could be created that resonates strongly with the energies of the fifth dimension…so much so it almost is energy rather than matter…and actually if you placed a 5D energy “tap” near this hypothetical substance, this material that interacts so strongly with the hidden dimension…this “Kryptonite”…then the effect would be almost as a Faraday Cage? So, sure, you could use Kryptonite for all kinds of things, but there’s only one thing you couldn’t use anything but Kryptonite for, and that’s for killing Superboy

…Which is what Lex is working on in the laboratory bunker Kal-El builds for him by the lake outside Smallville, though he says he’s working on something else: Kryptonite. 5D matter-energy hybrid substance, capable of supplying inexhaustible energy and driving perpetual-motion machines and doing God-knows-what else! But how do you know when you’ve got it?

Well, you test it.

By using it to kill Superboy.

I mean, Superboy’s not a bad sort, but we all have to make sacrifices for science?

Thus the scene in the laboratory bunker, and Superboy escapes, but in the course of his escaping Lex is rendered bald — like, five-dimensionally bald, which means “incurably bald” — and boy is it a sad day for Superboy when he discovers his former friend, the guy he actually looked up to (as a Scientific Adventurer, natch!), was actually faking it the whole time. Faking everything, even his own feelings…

…And now this guy is going to be constantly after him, trying to trap him to experiment on him some more, as Kal-El let him do back when he trusted him. Not the Scientific Adventurer getting into scrapes anymore, but the Super-Criminal trying to pull off elaborate bank robberies! It’s the same thing, really: “Superboy, come get me!” Oh, I don’t want you to think Lex Luthor is a psychopath, though, because that’s not the real nature of his villainy; actually, there’s nothing wrong with him except the choices that he makes. He thinks and feels just as you or I, Lex Luthor does, and he’s motivated by the same things…truth be told, he’s not really even that petty or selfish, it’s just that he was an abject failure everywhere he went, before Superboy befriended him and believed in him, and do you know what it’s like to be a person as smart as Jor-El and yet fail miserably at everything, not even be able to help your poor mother out with rent as you bounce endlessly from town to town because instead of making friends at new schools you always make enemies? OF THE TEACHERS, not even of the kids…but when you’re a kid, if you have a part-time guardian as an enemy then you can’t beat them; and if somehow you can beat them anyway, then you have to leave the town they’re in. Lex Luthor would be a sympathetic character, I dare say, if it weren’t for the fact that as hard as he’s had it Superman’s had it harder and still manages to be a good person…Lex never had one break except for the fact that he’s a naturally-occurring super-genius, well Kal-El never had one break except that he’s a 5D tap-site, a naturally-occurring physical marvel. Same?

…Yet Luthor is not the only person who’s interested in the 5D spigot known as Superman, and his implications for the Standard Model. There are another couple of enemies he’s got. Closest to home, there are the ex-prisoners of the Phantom Zone, already several billion years in the future cut loose and driven back through time to eventual annihilation at the event horizon of Sagittarius A…except that when the Q and anti-Q sprites went up on the last day of Krypton, as Kal-El flew over the gravitational fences like a human home run, the essences of the Phantom Zone prisoners who had been “most recently exiled” were themselves changed into a vacillating Q and anti-Q state…doomed to re-entry of the event horizon, sure enough, but occasionally able to assert the positive-matter side of their nature, and live in space and time as tangible entities for short periods of time, on their way back through time. It’s a route no less sure, but it’s weirder…longer…and, it occurs to the brighter ones among those who get to take it…

Look, the event horizon just wants a humanoid mass that’s escaped it!

It doesn’t care which one it gets!

So if Kal-El can be grabbed and tossed into the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, then Zod can go on and do what he pleases from that point, his matter/energy debt being paid by someone else. Zod, so absurdly powerful! Having everything at his disposal that Superman has, but also having his fluctuating state between matter and energy to draw on, and thus control of exotic radiative emissions that even Jor-El never foresaw! But the first time Superman meets Zod, is also the last time Zod meets Superman, since the only way for Zod to escape his fate is to find a replacement to throw into the black hole…so the first battle is fought fiercely, and Superman has the odds stacked against him! He doesn’t even know who this guy is…!

So he defeats Zod in that first/last attack, but from his point of view that doesn’t mean he can’t die later anyway…

Because the universe is fundamentally time-asymmetric, you see, but let’s leave sad old Zod for now, because he’s not the only one who’s interested in Superman either

Because somewhere out there is a fifth-dimensional entity who because of Jor-El’s machinations has his foot caught in the gopher-hole of Sagittarius A, for the next several billion years. And how annoying this is! Eons and eons of living high off the hog of the 4D universe’s “extra” energy (they don’t really need to know there’s such a thing as true randomness, do they?), but now he’s lost status in his community, because he’s tied by a thin cord to the 4D universe, but to break the cord would cause a shocking social tumult, and so now he even has to submit to such an indignity as having a name and being a definite thing! Oh, the indignity, it is shattering. Yet he can’t simply get rid of the son of the highly-annoying Jor-El with a click of his fingers, even though he would like to, because the kid’s got a 5D shadow, a thickness, an active extension into the “other vector”…technically, he has standing in the 5D realm, even though it is abominably low standing, and that makes it difficult to vanish him away. His 5D shadow would remain, even if his 4D substance was obliterated, so for the little man with the nonsense name it just doesn’t even make any sense to blast Superman into atoms, because from his perspective that simply won’t satisfy his pique: it won’t change anything. He’s not in the same situation as the Phantom Zone criminals, we must remember: his foot is caught in Sagittarius A for a few billion years no matter what happens, so it’s only revenge he’s after and nothing more…and it’s a minor revenge at that, since he is not actually banished from his home, he just has a lot of his neighbours smirking at him all the time because he has to maintain an extension into 4D space, and manifest himself there on a regular basis. But, it isn’t even like it’s three days a week, or anything…! So, he’s a peevish little fellow, but hardly in a murderous rage, and anyway he wouldn’t do what Zod might and just kill all Superman’s friends, because frankly that’s 4D-entity thinking, even if he did want to make him “suffer” in some general sense…

…Which he doesn’t, because frankly that’s 4D-entity thinking too, the stuff that savages indulge in. In the civilized world, revenge is meaningless unless it’s proportional: if someone humiliates you, you humiliate them back, you don’t go on some killing spree or something, good heavens! Mortal vendetta against some tiny speckling from the lower dimensions?

Do you want to be even more of a laughing-stock than you already are?

And besides it isn’t Kal-El who’s humiliated Mxy, but his father, and since all who perish inside a black hole are utterly extinguished Jor-El just isn’t around to humiliate anymore…and even if he were, my God man, humiliating a corpse?…what’s happened to you…so what Mxy will do to Superman will be just a tad more complex than that, though truth be told…

…He is getting just a little bit unhealthily obsessed with the sprat?

But then it seems that must be the fate of all who are closely connected to him. More distant entities are capable of approaching the subject of Superman’s physical uniqueness in a more sensible fashion. Brainiac, for example, is no flash-in-the-pan freak like Lex Luthor, nor some tired would-be tyrant who eventually got his ass kicked by someone tougher…no. Brainiac is something of a Master Tyrant, if you like; having been in the biz for a couple thousand years now, he’s seen a lot of petty self-styled Emperors succeed brilliantly for a time through brutish force, and then inevitably get overthrown. And what was it all for? What was gained? What did anyone think would be gained? To consolidate power in your family line for a bare handful of generations, only so your line can then be extinguished when you’re overthrown, that’s…well, even for monkey thinking, you know, that’s some pretty bad excuse for making a plan. But of course, such are the inevitably rancid fruits of raw personal ambition, and there’s nothing that disgusts Brainiac more than raw personal ambition. His empire was built sustainably, for the long term not the short; his empire places a greater emphasis on persuasion than on conquest. In fact his empire enjoys nothing more than toppling petty would-be Kings and Emperors; would-be Kings and Emperors are his empire’s bread and butter, if you want to know the truth. Brainiac himself, pretty well invulnerable in his own “person”, is always the one who makes first contact with new civilizations, and no hordes of armies back him up when he does it…because he’s a lover, not a fighter. Does that sound odd, for a being at least half machine, with a computer mind? But the highest love is the love of truth, is it not? And Brainiac enjoys his exalted position for no other reason than because of all his empire’s subjects he loves truth the most, and is willing to risk the most for it. It would be so unseemly, for the man with all the power to secrete himself away in some palace, enjoying elite privileges while those less capable and less empowered go out and do the hard and dangerous work of building civilization! So he goes himself, alone and unassisted, to discover even in the dregs of the starfield the value that some more petty and personally-ambitious tyrant would scornfully choose to overlook.

For example…did you know that there’s this really backwards planet in this really insignificant little spur of a spiral arm, where a hot pinpoint of what appears to be 5D energy crisscrosses the globe righting wrongs anonymously? And the worst thing that could happen to such a remarkable and laudable kind of raw material like that would obviously be for it to fall under the sway of some unenlightened chauvinistic institution, would it not? Brainiac very rationally believes — because he holds no beliefs that are not rational — that it’s far better to intercede to preserve the good, than it is to wait until it goes bad: potential is a thing so easy to waste, you see, and that ease is itself such shocking evidence of the universe’s basic black absurdity… What if this unique energy-source, this powerful force for truth and justice (they are the same thing really), was not supported? What if it soured, and became something terrible, something that could no longer be nurtured but only done away with? Only a petty would-be tyrant waits to convince by military force when he could persuade by friendship instead…and more importantly, only a inexcusably poor philosopher (like a petty would-be tyrant) thinks the wilful squandering of resources in anything but a tragedy that we are morally-bound to prevent. Oh, Brainiac is a very benevolent guy, for sure! Like the ancient Kryptonians, all he wants is to give people the chance to improve their situations! His empire is the most technologically-advanced thing you will ever see, and all these gifts are free to every new planet he encounters! You don’t even have to join up, to get them!

There aren’t even any strings!

Just…some problems that come with a surfeit of well-being, that he can help you work out. It’s okay, every civilization experiences these problems, the trick is just to see what must be done and then to do it, quickly, minimizing the anxiety of adjustment…

But you know…Earth isn’t really there yet, honestly. Brainiac, the empire’s Chief Scout, would hesitate to put it on a diet of miracles, at this point. He’s only really interested in Superman

And…let’s see…

Have I missed anything?

(thinks)

OH YEAH!

Something for the Doctor Who fans out there:

Kara Zor-El may still be alive.

There are many Superman reboots, but this one’s mine. My Superman reboot and I know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, or the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. And we will hit…

…Or, actually, we won’t, but wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? A couple of other things I might mention, because they seem like obvious questions, so I might as well answer them obviously:

Yes, the Daxamites exist. No, they have no superpowers.

Yes, the Legion of Super-Heroes exists in the…uh, thirty-first century now, I guess? Although, remember: time is asymmetric

Yes, the Justice League of America exists…Batman and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman and the Atom and the Flash and all the rest of it…Green Lantern’s power works on a very advanced form of the “stargate” technology alluded to earlier, the Flash’s power comes from a future event he calls “the Crisis” (which if you are very clever, or alternatively if I have not been very clever, you may be able to figure out what it is without me telling you), and the Atom has some bullshit story about finding a chunk of “white dwarf matter”? Hey, the Atom’s obviously a big liar

Yes, Luthor and Brainiac form an alliance. At a certain point.

Yes, Terra-Man exists. And he’s actually VERY IMPORTANT…

(Hmm, these are mostly “yes” things…that’s probably good…)

Yes, Legion ’89 basically happens, though not for the same reasons. Because…

No, there’s no such thing as a “metagene”.

No, Invasion! never happens. Not strictly-speaking.

Yes, Adam Strange could probably beat Superman in a fight. He’s an extremely ingenious fellow, that Adam Strange…!

No, there really, really, REALLY is no Multiverse.

No, the JSA doesn’t exist…and furthermore never did exist, not really.

(Oh dear, some of these “no” things are going to cause problems, I fear…)

(And I thought I was doing so well…!)

Yes, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman exists, and is in continuity, with just the slightest tweak, just a sentence or two.

(…What, no one wanted to know that?)

Yes, post-Crisis, we will have the Wally West Flash of Baron and Messner-Loebs.

Yes, Jimmy Olsen exists, I just haven’t mentioned him except parenthetically as “Mr. Action” (sorry, Jimmy), and all the rest of the Planet crew exists as well…even Steve Lombard…heck, Lois even still takes pity on Clark occasionally and comes over to Clinton Street to cook him boeuf bourgignon

Superman still has his Fortress of Solitude, too…

And, oh!  A bunch of other stuff which I mostly haven’t mentioned because I mostly forget, but isn’t it interesting how giving Superman a very specific sort of reboot changes just a whole shitload of things?

And, oh yeah, almost forgot to remind you…

Kara Zor-El may still be alive.

Hey, it’s a bit late for April Fool’s, but here I am…!

Always leaving too early and arriving too late, but I hope you enjoyed this frivolity I made for you, Bloggers! Yes; I don’t like the whole “it’s so fun to play mean tricks on your friends and family, because they’re arbitrarily not allowed to get mad, ha ha!” thing…I think we should give meaningless gifts instead. Foolish gifts.

I fancy I’ve got a gift for foolishness, me.

Well…proof enough? Fifth-dimensional petit bourgeois, Kryptonian criminal aristos…and Space-Lenin, for God’s sake?

None of them know why they can’t help but get so darned involved with that Superman…!

But only Lex Luthor knows, and is he ever jealous! Poor failed Comrade Luthor, he was so promising once at the rallies…he spoke so well…

But then the Secretary’s daughter went and fell in love with that awful Bingo Little fellow.

With his suspicious friends.

So, not really very much unlike me, then?

AS I ALWAYS SUSPECTED

11 responses to “There Are Many Superman Reboots, But This One’s Mine

  1. Please note that the Guardians are like the Orkans in Mork & Mindy…the greatest cowards in the universe, GENIUSES at hiding…

    And also I think the key to Lex Luthor’s whole personality is that he’s the greatest genius the universe has ever known, but he’s been a TOTAL FAILURE HIS WHOLE LIFE, and honestly it really is not fair, is it?

  2. You beat me too it, I was hoping you’d let me use as another guest post on How Would You Fix… the location of Krypton?

    I much prefer Krypton being in Sagittarius A* as opposed to DCs recent pathetic attempt to get astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to convince us it is located in the constellation Corvus. Shame on you Grant Morrison.

    And Lex as being entirely sympathetic… I’m sold!

  3. Our old friend Madeley reminds me that I have not slotted-in the New Gods…they, of course, live in an entirely conceptual realm which is above dimensionality, which means (among other things) that it’s a very tough world to live in, ultimately hard-edged, because there are no meta-textures, no higher universes in which what Himon or Darkseid or Scott does can be otherwise-construed. Consider Orion’s words to the Rooftop Lady in respect of the differences between their universes: in Orion’s, things ARE WHAT THEY SEEM, almost always, barring the benevolent intervention of the Source…no one has “down-time”, and Superman’s need for that is why he can never live in Super-Town? The 5D Imps obviously know nothing of the Fourth World, it’s above them and they can’t see it, can’t even suspect it…why it all sounds a bit like Forbidden Zone, where the Devil as King of the Seventh Dimension can only do so much against Herve Villechaize’s King of the Eleventh Dimension? The Devil is clever as anything, but then again to go against his betters he needs to be?

    Unless I was just so STONED when I saw that, that I’m misremembering it…hmm, if that’s possible, and not antithetical…

    Anyway I see the New Gods, in this rebooted DCU of mine, as being above all dimensionality! They really don’t BELONG, in Turpin’s world! A fight between Green Lanterns, maybe he could deal with procedurally: Green Lanterns don’t see the world as inconsequential

    But Orion and Kalibak, fundamentally, DO…and maybe that’s what makes Turpin such a good cop, that he can feel this is going to get out of hand in a way ordinary super-conflicts aren’t. There’s going to be some DEATH, there’s going to be some DESTRUCTION…no one is fighting here (as Superman usually does, or at least somebody does) for the average person in the apartment or on the street. These fucker just don’t even CARE, because they’re not even from here!

    I guess if you see superfights all the time, it’s an easy reflex to think “oh, one of them must be fighting for us“, but Turpin sees right away that this isn’t the case here, they’ll kill everyone in the city if that’s what it takes for one to get to the other, this isn’t Superman, it isn’t even the Martian Manhunter, this is truly fucked-up shit from Dimension Z

  4. The other thing about this is that it still works okay for Superman to be vulnerable to magic. Because it’s still magic, which he still doesn’t have anything to do with.

  5. I’m not feeling this Lex Luthor the way I feel this Mxyzptlk and this Brainiac. The latter two you’ve got exactly right, but Lex isn’t quite there yet. If you start him from a position of “he’s brilliant but everything he did failed” before Superboy even shows up, he’s just generally self-pitying with no reason to direct his resentment at any one alien entity in particular.

    Also don’t overlook the potential in the bottle city of Kandor. I know exactly where I’d put it, if it were my reboot. (And I’d have the Kryptonian equivalent of domestic pets in it, so there would also be room for a Krypto…)

  6. Aha, Kandor! That was, indeed, the thing I was talking about when I kept wondering aloud what I’d left out! Of course, I left it out on purpose, because I haven’t actually decided what to do with it. A couple of possibilities suggest themselves, but they’re dependent on how other things would go.

    I bet your idea’s better than either, actually…

    But I agree, Kandor’s too good to throw out, even if in this iteration Brainiac has absolutely nothing to do with it. Which he can’t, obviously…he’s only been a around for a couple of thousand years, and Krypton perished billions and billions of years ago, didn’t it?

    I do prefer my other Reboot Lex in a couple of ways…what was it I said? “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, but the two-eyed man is bored…” This Lex here has the advantage of being the cleverest man in the universe in a way that isn’t much up for dispute — from super-breath to a perpetual motion machine, in one dazzling leap of insight! — but then again, I wrote that for him, so maybe it doesn’t count? Doesn’t count 100%, anyway? Or maybe I just can’t write a well-rounded Lex Luthor in the true Elliot S! Maggin style, even though I empathize with him pretty strongly.

    Hmm…

    Of course, in Superboy, young Lex is quite the resourceful guy, doing plenty of good right away…and only turns bad when people (from his perspective, anyway) start screwing him over, so perhaps it’s this that I’m missing. From Luthor’s perspective after the bunker disaster, he wasn’t jealous of Superboy, but Superboy was jealous of him, and tried to sabotage his success. My favourite fan-fic Lex, Paul Saveen, goes a similar route in Tom Strong…righteous anger at other people, even if actually it isn’t all that righteous sometimes. So…

    Yes, I think I can plug that gap, maybe!

  7. I’m glad you approve my Mxyzptlk and Brainiac, though! I do like those two…am quite happy to sit back and imagine a comic about Mxy himself, dealing with the vagaries of 5D society!

  8. Pingback: The Reboot Of The Villain Lex Luthor, By The Wastrel Blogger Plok | A Trout In The Milk·

  9. “Superman: Man of Tomorrow”

    A cool, new take on the classic Man of Steel franchise, Superman, Man of Tomorrow incorporates Superman’s core characters with a rogue gallery of new villains not previously seen in animated form.

    Superman: is a the last son of Krypton that uses his powers to benefit Metropolis. His Superman identity is the mask he puts on to help others and Clark Kent is the “real” persona. This leads to complications in his private life.

    Clark Kent is the son of farmers, raised in Kansas. He came to Metropolis looking to help people as both a reporter and as Superman. Clark writes his own blog about his experiences in Metropolis while alternately selling articles to the Daily Star and The Planet.

    Pete Ross: is Clark’s best friend and is one of the people who knows that Clark is Superman. They’re old high school friends and he follows Clark to Metropolis because he wants to get into politics and Metropolis is one of the best places to be.

    T.J. White is Clark’s roommate and rival to getting scoops. His father is the big editor at The Planet, but he refuses to work for the newspaper and wants to make his own way. He’s sort of a Matt Drudge Character.

    Loretta York: is a waitress at the local coffee shop that is in love with Superman, but hates the bloggers that hang out at her coffee shop (like Clark). She also has a talent for magic, and sometimes things get out of hand when a 5th dimensional imp extends her powers.

    Kristen Wells: is a photographer for the Daily Planet that is trying to uncover the secret identity of Superman. What people don’t know is that Kristen is really a historian from the 25th century who is merely using the excuse to take pictures of Superman (who she knows is Clark Kent)to find the identity of the mysterious Superwoman.

    The JSA: is the reason Clark becomes a hero. Superboy would exist, but in a different way. I would keep that Martha keeps track of “supernatural” activity while Clark is growing up because she’s not sure what Clark is and wants to be prepared. So she has clippings of the “Mystery Men” or “JSA.” We learned that in this version of the world, the JSA are akin to superspies (ala JSA: Unholy Trinity). During the summer of his 17th Birthday, he ends up saving the life of Alan Scott from a car crash caused by the Valkyrie Gurda. He doesn’t have costume or most of his powers yet, but he travels with Alan Scott around the world, fighting Nazis and saving members of the JSA spy network from being killed by Neo-Nazis. This sort of merges the idea of Superman traveling the world with being mentored by the JSA. In the end, Dr. Fate reveals that Superman’s coming was a premonition and they are merely the “John the Baptists” leading the way. While the JSA members, who were spies that are now Super Heroes, fight against Surtur to forestall Ragnarok, Superman is born. He does not go into the final battle with the JSA, but he learns how to become a hero through their teachings.

    This would be like flashback episodes that show each of the JSAers teaching Clark a lesson about what it means to be a hero. Think of it as “Young Indiana Jones Adventures.” Ma Kent eventually sews Clark’s costume to resemble those worn by the JSA and with the symbol of the Kent family (of a snake shaped “S” that denotes Shaman from the Kents Limited Series). While he’s costumeless through most of the past missions saving JSA spies and is called “Superboy” by the JSAers, he finally puts on his costume at the end to team up with the JSA to go up against Surtur as Superboy.

    Futuresmiths: are a mysterious group of criminal scientists and high tech arms dealers who have an underground operation in Metropolis. They are the dark side to STAR Labs and are lead by the U.L.T.R.A. Humanite. The induction ceremony involves them ritually shaving their head bald.

    Legion of Superheroes: I was thinking about introducing the Legion in a very different way. Kristen Wells is trying to find out who is the mysterious Superwoman, while also hanging out with Clark and his friends. Clark and Kristen really hit it off and Kristen (who merely admired Clark for the articles and reporting that he will do in the future, starts admiring him for being Superman).

    Meanwhile, we meet Mr. Radu, the quirky coffee shop owner. We meet Jackie Vauxhaul, a police officer for the new Science Police division of the Metropolis Police Department, who is trying to figure out who killed industrialist Alexander Luthor with a wormhole (eventually, she pins it on his twin sister, Alexis Luthor, who gets trapped in the “Stasis Zone”). We meet the mysterious alien telepath in STAR Labs that seems to be the mysterious power behind Project M (and SHADE). We meet Ronald Thorpe, an up and coming writer for the Daily Planet that is willing to give Clark Kent a shot.

    We also have Superman investigating the mysterious Futuresmiths and we find out that ULTRA has been capturing people from around the world and putting them in camps where their genetic talents are manipulated and accelerated. Eventually, Superman uncovers this and frees the members of the camps. But not before being completely taken down by ULTRA and his first experience with Kryptonite.

    This is when they spring into action. Matter Eater Lad (Mr. Radu), Jackie (Sensor Girl), Tellus (the mysterious alien from Project M), and Reep (Ronald Thorpe) appear and not only help Superman, but also make Kristen Wells discover her own path…that she is the mysterious Superwoman that helps man start colonies on different planets.

    The Legion, Kristen, and Superman help the different refugees settle on off-world planets that help them defend earth from the Hsan Natali (the villains from Jurgen’s Teen Titans but also the secret power behind the genetic manipulation from the Futuresmiths). When that is finished, Kristen goes into the Future with the Legion, with Superman’s blessing.

    And it ends with the son of Alexander Luthor (Lex Luther) emerging as head of the new Futuresmiths (who are now decided anti-alien). We have Alexis Luthor secretly manipulating her nephew from the Stasis Zone, where she had been imprisoned. Also, we have as Ronald Thorpe’s last job was to get Clark a big Break at the Daily Planet where he meets, for the first time, Lois Lane.

    This, of course, leads us into the 3rd series, where we have characters like the Alpha Centurion (who now leads the Science Police and is the unfrozen Roman Gladiator from the past), The Moon Maiden and her Moondancers (a radical environmental fringe group that opposes “The city of Tomorrow”), we have the Kryptonite Man (aka Kenny Braverman, the other man who knows Clark’s real identity and who now has control over every different type of Kryptonite), a new group of Japanese Super-science heroes called the Super Young Team (who are kids that stayed in Metropolis’ Avenue of Tomorrow instead of going off into space with the rest of the Hsan Natalie experimented), and the STAR Xenobiology Scientist, Milton Fine, who helps Superman throughout the season until he starts having this horrible headaches after coming into contact with techno-organic life.

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