IS IT a Soviet spy plane? Is it a communist missile?
No, it’s Superman — but not as we know him.
DC Comics, creator of the 1930s all-American superhero,
is bracing itself for a patriotic backlash this
week when it unveils the long-awaited new Superman,
reinvented by Glasgow comic artist Mark
Millar as a “weapon of mass destruction” for
the Soviet Union — depicted as the world’s only
Millar says his Superman vilifies America’s “unethical
foreign policy” in the aftermath of the war on Iraq.
“Superman: Red Son” imagines what would have happened
if the Earth had turned for 12 more hours and the
baby Kal-El from the destroyed planet Krypton had
landed not in the golden Smallville wheatfield but
in a Ukrainian collective farm and was raised not
by Ma and Pa Kent, but under Joseph Stalin.
Instead of a quest for truth, justice and the American
way, the world’s most famous superhero fights for
international socialism and the dictatorship of
The iconic “S” on his rippling chest — one of the
world’s most recognisable cultural symbols — is
transformed into a Soviet hammer and sickle and,
rather than morphing from a downtrodden Daily Planet
journalist to the spandex-suited guardian of liberty,
he becomes the power-hungry leader of the USSR.
Eisenhower’s hydrogen bomb is no match for Superman
and so the Soviet Union becomes the centre of a
global economy, with Tony Benn as his pipe-smoking
deputy in Downing Street. America, the only country
resistant to communist ideology, descends into a
fragmented parody of the modern eastern bloc, run
by warring mafiosi.
In America, 40,000 people have already reserved
copies of the comic before publication, and magazines
such as Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly are
keen to promote it.
Yet Millar, the son of a Coatbridge trade unionist,
accepts that he and DC Comics are taking a massive
gamble with one of the world’s most enduring icons.
He has already received criticism from right-wing
commentators who see it as an attack on American
“Drawing images of Superman tearing down the
stars and stripes and kicking in the Whitehouse
doors with a hammer and sickle on his chest is
the equivalent of making a joke about Princess
Diana at her funeral,” he said.
Millar said he changed the storyline, created
by Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster in 1934, to
create a modern commentary on “unethical American
“A character like Superman is as well known
as the American flag itself and in the movies
we see him rescuing cats from trees and doing
all of these nice things,” he said. “But the logical
conclusion of a guy who interferes with your life
is one who is going to take over the world eventually.
“He is an allegory of George W Bush and very like
America. Superman is rolling over every despot
in the world and feels he has a moral justification
to take away these problems, particularly the
small wars in the Middle East and the starving
“At the end of it, Superman has created 10,000
years of rule where there has not been a piece
of litter dropped and this immortal figure realises
what he has done. It is a ‘God is dead’ moment.”
In Red Son, Superman grows up to be Stalin’s personal
bodyguard. When he takes over power, he can see
and hear everything and performs reconstructive
surgery on people who do not agree with him. His
girlfriend is not Lois Lane but Wonder Woman, reimagined
as a Soviet diplomat, while Batman has what Millar
describes as an “Al-Qaeda role” as a terrorist freedom-fighter.
The world falls to Superman’s rule. Nixon becomes
American president and is assassinated in 1963 after
beating Kennedy, who grows old and paunchy with
Marilyn Monroe. Lex Luthor, Superman’s legendary
rival, later takes over the American presidency
and is the country’s last hope.
Ivor Davis, manager of Red Hot Comics, the Glasgow-based
specialist retailer, said:
“There is no doubt this will offend diehard
fans and it is partly for the political commentary
that it has been delayed thus far. But Superman
was a bit of an anachronism and a 1930s wartime
“My orders for Red Son have doubled normal sales,
despite the fact that its cover price is more
Jordan Elliot, creator of a leading American Superman
fan website, said:
“Millar has a point and he also has a message
that should probably get out. But I think it unfortunate
that it’s getting out at the expense of Superman.
I’ve always thought that politicising Superman
is a mistake.”
Superman: Red Son is published by DC Comics.
edition is now available.