Superman: Earth One

Cover for Superman: Earth One by Shane Davis.
Publication information
Publisher Earth One (DC Comics)
Formats Original material for the series has been published as a set of graphic novels.
Genre Superhero
Publication date (Volume 1)
October 2010
(Volume 2)
October 2012
Main character(s) Superman
Creative team
Writer(s) J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller(s) Shane Davis
Inker(s) Sandra Hope
Letterer(s) Rob Leigh
Colorist(s) Barbara Ciardo
Editor(s) Eddie Berganza
Adam Schlagman

Superman: Earth One is a graphic novel written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Shane Davis.[1][2][3] It was first published in the US in 2010 by DC Comics, and in the UK in 2011 by Titan Books. Superman: Earth One was the inaugural title of the new, ongoing OGN series Earth One, which had similarities to the Ultimate Marvel universe, and now allows creators to tell stories free of continuity and reintroduce classic characters for a new generation.

A sequel, Superman: Earth One Volume Two, was released on October 31, 2012.


Writer J. Michael Straczynski said the project was a dream come true, as writing Superman was among his plans which also included Babylon 5. Two years before its publication, Straczynski announced he had signed a contract with DC Comics. Before Straczynski's announcement, he had kept the project secret while he worked on the Red Circle characters and The Brave and the Bold.[1]

Straczynski used his experiences as a journalist to add detail to the Daily Planet environment, for example, the character Jimmy Olsen, called Jim in the books, is depicted as tougher and smarter than his mainstream counterpart. Straczynski wanted to retell the beginning of Clark Kent's transition to Superman, and explore possible alternatives to Clark becoming a superhero. Straczynski said; "he [Kent] could have been rich as an athlete, researcher, any number of things. There's a flashback scene to when Martha Kent finishes his uniform and gives it to him as a gift, hoping he'll go that way. He looks at it and says, in essence, 'Shouldn't there be a mask?' She says no, that 'when people see how powerful you are, all the things you can do, they're going to be terrified ... unless they can see your face, and see there that you mean them no harm. The mask ... is that what you're going to have to wear the rest of your life.'" Straczynski introduced a new villain character with a connection to Krypton, who was used to explain its destruction.[1]

Shane Davis removed the stereotypes associated with depictions of the civilian and superhero identities of Clark Kent. Davis drew the 20 year old Clark wearing layers of clothing, showing that he is trying to blend in with his associates and differing from previous depictions of Kent wearing a suit, tie, and glasses, which Davis said, "didn't make sense".[4] Davis also re-imagined Metropolis, which was historically depicted as an expanse of art deco buildings. Davis designed the city to look more realistic.


Volume One

Clark Kent arrives on a train in Metropolis, and rents a room at a hotel. The next morning he tries out several jobs: pro footballer, Major League baseball player, and positions in a scientific research company, and in financial services and media industries. Clark realizes he can do anything as each company wants to hire him. He calls his mother and tells her what has happened, to which she replies that she would be happy with his choice of occupation. His last job stop is at the Daily Planet newspaper, where he meets Perry White, James "Jim" Olsen, and Lois Lane.

However, upon hearing that the Daily Planet and the wider newspaper industry are in decline, Clark decides not to apply for the job, dumps his application, and flies into space. He thinks upon his history, and how his adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent, told him how they found him while hiking through woodland. The Kents saw a spaceship fly past them and crash, creating a sonic boom in its wake. They checked the wreckage for survivors, found a baby boy, and left with the infant and a small fragment of the wreckage. Some time later, the Kents decided to keep the child. Shortly after this, the US government and military arrive at the crash site. The Kents kept a small fragment of debris from the ship and learned of its, and the child's, extraterrestrial origins. Back in the narrative present, Clark talks to his late father's grave and says he feels incapable of being a superhero as he has already conformed to human society. Instead, he decides to begin a career and hopes that his father would accept that.

The next day, and twenty years after it crashed, Major Sandra Lee, a soldier working at a US Military base on advanced technology, revisits the crashed spaceship, which has regenerated its damaged and lost parts. The scientists working there have found symbols inside the atomic structure of the ship. Clark discovers his apartment is on fire, and quickly enters the building to recover the fragment of spacecraft and a red and blue outfit his mother made for him from the cloth he was wrapped in as an infant. Alone, Clark checks the fragment with his enhanced vision when he is hit with energy, becomes unconscious, and falls from the sky. The fragment talks and connects itself back to the ship in order to download more information. Just then, an invading alien force arrives and attacks Earth's major cities. The military quickly mobilizes, but the alien attack ships defeat Earth's fighter jets. Jim and Lois are almost killed because Jim wants to take photographs of the invasion. Clark, still unconscious, is given information he could not previously remember: the last moments of his homeworld, the planet Krypton.

Clark, born as Kal-El, is the son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, who waited until the last minute to dispatch him so that the shockwaves would hide his escape. The alien armada leader, Tyrell, reveals himself to the Earth but does not reveal his identity and purpose. He issues an ultimatum: the Earth will be destroyed, and millions will die if someone Tyrell has been looking for does not surrender to him. Major Lee and the scientists agree that the person for whom Tyrell is looking was in the crashed ship. Clark tries to attack the aliens without revealing himself, but Jim's photographs show a human-shaped red and blue blur. Clark goes for help at the research company that was about to employ him, but he finds that it is corrupt. Tyrell notices Jim taking pictures and almost kills him until Clark, who can no longer stand by and watch, destroys a robot. Tyrell is now aware of Clark's presence on Earth and prepares to increase the ferocity of his attack. Clark looks at his outfit, remembers wondering why there was no mask and his mother asking whether he wants to hide for the rest of his life, and his adoptive father coining the name "Superman". Clark decides to wear the outfit and reveals himself to the world as Superman.

Superman lands and starts destroying the alien robots and ships, and Tyrell reveals himself. He proves to be Superman's physical match, and says that Krypton's destruction was no accident but was an assassination. Tyrell originates from the planet Dheron. Krypton and Dheron were bitter enemies that fought several wars, which ended when a Dheronian war machine, designed to destroy Krypton's core, was provided by an unknown alien race. Although Krypton was destroyed, a scientist's son escaped, and a mission with which Tyrell had been charged―to find and kill the child―was considered a failure. Tyrell proceeds to activate several war machines to destroy Earth, and hits Superman with a red solar energy beam that pins him down. Tyrell explains the nature of their powers and leaves to make final preparations. Because Superman is the cause of the invasion, no one in Metropolis wants to help. Lois and Jim get Superman out of the energy beam using a truck and Superman regains his strength and stands up. He and Tyrell fight again; this time Superman gains the upper hand by burning Tyrell with his heat vision. Superman's ship becomes fully regenerated, takes off to find him, and knocks Tyrell from behind. Tyrell tells Superman that his own spacecraft is almost as impervious as Kryptonian metal, from which Superman's ship is made. Superman enters Tyrell's weakened spacecraft and destroys it from the inside. Tyrell tries to stop him but is defeated, and he warns Superman that others like him will come to finish the job. Superman jumps off Tyrell's ship. The invasion is over, and Superman smiles and flies away. At a government base, Major Lee wonders who Superman is and what he wants, and whether his presence means more trouble for Earth. The general puts her in charge of researching Superman and his origin, and tells Lee to locate him.

After his ordeal, Clark walks home. The boss of the research company finds him and offers him a job, which Clark declines. A Dheronian battleship crash-lands in an indoor football field. Clark purchases some new clothing and formulates a "Clark Kent disguise". He returns to the Daily Planet, which is more enthusiastic and successful because its coverage of the invasion and Superman was superior to that of rival news media. Perry does not know what to call the new superhero until Clark suggests the name "Superman". Clark is hired because of an interview he claims he conducted with Superman, and he bonds with his new colleagues. Public opinion of Superman is mixed: some like him and see him as a hero; others do not trust him because he was the cause of the invasion. In the Arctic, Superman has hidden his ship in a secret cave, and its sentience activates and tells him his mission: to survive, use his powers well and wisely, and to avenge the murder of his homeworld. At the close of the story, Lois and Jim are on the Daily Planet rooftop discussing how Superman has changed the world. Jim photographs Superman again.

Volume Two

File:Superman-Earth One vol.2.jpg

Cover for Superman: Earth One, Volume 2, art by Shane Davis.

The events depicted in Volume Two occur shortly after those of Volume One. Perry promotes Clark to write articles to help build the Daily Planet's reputation. Lois is suspicious of Clark and the authenticity of his Superman article, so she decides to investigate his past. Clark later meets his neighbors Lisa Lasalle and Eddie Monroe; Lisa and Clark start dating.

Criminal Raymond Maxwell Jensen infiltrates the S.T.A.R. Labs research facility to destroy evidence of his crimes kept by an accomplice. Jensen is discovered by guards and while escaping he is accidentally exposed to a high-energy neutrino that transforms him into an energy-absorbing supervillan called Parasite. Elsewhere, Clark learns that a tsunami is about to hit the island of Borada. He travels there to help as Superman, but the island nation's ruthless dictator General Samsa sees him as a threat and threatens to kill his own people if Superman does not leave; Superman complies. Meanwhile, Parasite feeds on the life force of innocent people, killing them, but is unable to satiate his new-found hunger. Parasite decides that Superman might be powerful enough to feed him.

Distrustful of Superman, Major Lee proposes that the United States should develop countermeasures should he go rogue. Superman is lured to an incident at a power plant where Parasite attacks him and drains his energy, turning Parasite into a hulking beast with Superman's power. Weakened, Superman escapes while Parasite begins a rampage. Parasite's sister Theresa is informed of his actions, but refuses to believe that it is her brother and takes a flight to Metropolis to see for herself.

In the Arctic, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) aboard the Kryptonian ship that brought Superman to Earth has turned a cave system into a vast Fortress of Solitude. There, Superman researches a means to counter Parasite's power, and the AI offers to build a crystalline shielding warsuit. In the US, Lee responds to Parasite's rampage with military force; during the following attack, Lee realizes that Parasite is progressively weakening as the energy he absorbed fades. Parasite attacks the Daily Planet building to draw out Superman; they fight and Superman is completely drained and powerless, leaving him comparable to humans and capable of being injured. The next day, Superman's powers are restored and he returns to the Fortress. The AI completes the warsuit, but warns Superman that it will prevent him from using his heat vision, will block the sun's energy which powers Superman, and that if Parasite breaches the suit and absorbs his power again, he will die.

Parasite again attacks the Daily Planet and Superman intervenes. With the warsuit, Superman can fight Parasite on equal terms, but the suit gradually disintegrates as the battle continues. Theresa arrives and Parasite breaks away from the fight to hug her, accidentally absorbing her energy and killing her. Parasite blames Superman for her death and resumes his attack. Superman strikes Parasite with his full strength, incapacitating him. Parasite is taken into the custody of the Secondary Army Advanced Technology Division.

During a later telephone conversation with his mother, Clark hears Lisa scream from her apartment and finds she is being attacked. As Superman, he flies her attacker to Alaska and warns him not to go near her again. Lisa tells Clark that she is working part-time as a prostitute to earn extra money. Clark is heartbroken but the pair agree to remain friends.

In Boroda, Superman instigates a rebellion against General Samsa, leading the country to democratic reform. Clark returns to his apartment and learns that Eddie has died of a heroin overdose. He writes an article about Eddie to raise awareness of substance abuse. Clark receives a telephone call from a former teacher in Smallville, and learns that Lois is investigating his past. In the epilogue, Lee recruits the wealthy scientists Lex Luthor and his wife Alexandra, to help find a way to kill Superman.

Main characters

  • Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman
    Clark is the protagonist of the story. He is the 20-year-old adoptive son of a childless couple from Smallville, Kansas. Clark is aware that he did not originate on Earth and hopes one day to find his origin and purpose in life. He is especially gifted in science and journalism, despite only having earned an associate degree from Smallville Junior College. He travels to Metropolis in search of a career. Clark's alien heritage gives him superhuman abilities while in the presence of Earth's yellow sun; among his abilities are flight, immense strength, invulnerability to physical injury, the ability to see through solid objects, and the ability to burn objects with his eyesight. After the battle with Tyrell, Clark discovers his origin and his task as the last surviving Kryptonian; to use his powers well and wisely, and to avenge the murder of Krypton. He decides that he should benefit and protect humanity as Superman. Clark finds he would rather work for the Daily Planet, being impressed with the newspaper's integrity for the truth, and adopts the persona of a mild-mannered, spectacle-wearing reporter.
  • Jonathan and Martha Kent
    The couple are Clark's adoptive parents who, despite their awareness of Clark's extraterrestrial origins, rescued him as an infant from the wreckage of his spaceship. Clark is especially close to his adoptive father, who provided him with wisdom and guidance that would shapes Clark's character. Clark was deeply affected when Jonathan died. Martha Kent is supportive towards her son, and has faith that Clark will choose the right path. Prior to Jonathan's death, she made Clark's Superman costume using the indestructible Kryptonian clothing Clark was wrapped in when they found him.
  • Tyrell
    The antagonist of the story, Tyrell is the genocidal leader of an alien armada from the planet Dheron, a neighboring world of the destroyed planet Krypton. Tyrell invades Earth and has the information that Clark is desperately seeking, but Tyrell's aim is to kill Clark or to destroy most of humanity if Clark does not reveal himself. Tyrell has some of the same powers as Clark under a yellow sun; superhuman strength, invulnerability, and flight. Tyrell dies when he is impaled by a sharp piece of falling equipment after his battle with Clark. Before he dies, Tyrell warns Clark that other Dheronians will also try to find and eliminate him, and refers to something that Clark still does not know about.
  • Perry White
    The editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. White struggles to keep the once-great metropolitan newspaper running and refuse to give up, and only Lois Lane and Jim Olsen support him, as well as giving the inexperienced Clark Kent a chance to work for him. After the Dheronians' invasion and Superman's debut, the Daily Planet's in-depth coverage from Lois, Jim, and Clark of the event has saved the newspaper and return to its former glory, and Perry is proud that the Daily Planet is back on top.
  • Lois Lane
    The staff reporter of the Daily Planet. Clark Kent develops a crush on Lois at first sight when he has a job interview with Perry White. Clark is impressed by her dedication and idealism towards her career during the Dheronians' invasion. Lois, along with Jim, also saves Clark when he, in his Superman persona, is trapped in Tyrell's gravity field. She later writes an editorial praising Superman's heroism during the crisis.
  • James "Jim" Olsen
    The staff photographer of the Daily Planet. Jim is known for his dedication to his job, deliberately putting himself in harm's way and risking life and limb for a perfect photograph. The photographs Jim has takes during the invasion have saved the Daily Planet from financial failure, and other news companies begin seeking reprint rights for Olsen's pictures.
  • Major Sandra Lee
    A major in the US Army, scientist and a member of the Second Army Advanced Technology Division, a secret research facility where Clark's Kryptonian ship has been held and studied. Sandra has been tasked with finding out as much as possible about Superman and his origins. Sandra is skeptical of Superman's intentions and sees him as a potential threat to humanity.

Volume Two

A few new characters were introduced in Volume Two,

The antagonist of the story. Raymond Maxwell Jensen is a common criminal who turns into an energy-absorbing supervillain in a scientific accident that leaves him with a constant hunger to consume to others' energy, killing them and enhancing his own strength and durability to match that of Superman, and also endowing him with energy projection abilities. In his backstory, Jensen was a troubled youth who bullied his classmates and mutilated animals.
  • Lisa Lasalle:
Clark's neighbor and love interest. Lisa is libidinous, teasing, playful and flirtatious, especially around Clark.
  • Theresa Jenson:
Parasite's sister, who believes that her brother is a consultant with a real estate firm and is unaware of his status as a murderous criminal until his transformation.

Minor characters include: General Samsa, dictator of the island of Borada; Eddie Monroe, Clark's neighbor and a heroin addict; and Jo Ann Massie, Clark's former teacher. Genius billionaire Lex Luthor makes an appearance with his wife Alexandra. This version of Lex, instead of his usual baldness, has a full head of hair and facial hair, resembling actor John Glover, who portrayed his father Lionel Luthor in the television series Smallville. Lex is portrayed as sympathetic towards Superman, finding the prospect of killing him unethical. Alexandra finds the idea appealing, and is portrayed as manipulative of her husband.

Critical reception

Volume One

Superman: Earth One received mostly mixed to positive reviews. Before its release, various websites were given copies to review. Ain't It Cool News gave the book a positive review, and said, "Essentially JMS does what he does best; he delivers the “why” behind the what.." It also praised the attack on Earth for providing a reason for Clark to become Superman, and for being a magnified representation of the fear felt during the September 11 attacks.[5] IFanboy posted two reviews of the book; giving it a 3.5 and a 4 out of 5. Both reviewers concluded that the book was a competent retelling of the Superman origin story.[6] David Pepose of Newsarama also gave the book a positive review, and called Earth One's version of Superman an "unconscious reaction to Grant Morrison's invulnerable, easy-going All-Star Superman." Pepose also said the artwork was an iconic and cinematic, and that Clark's scene at his adoptive father's graveside and his conflict with his Kryptonian birthright were some of the best moments. He also praised the creative use of an entirely new villain.[7] It has made into #1 on The New York Times' Hardcover Graphic Books Best Seller List.[8]

Other reviewers responded negatively to the book. Dan Phillips of IGN gave the book a 'poor' rating, and wrote that it was "riddled with creative decisions that'll leave you scratching your head in disbelief", that Superman "becomes an angst-ridden cliché with a flimsy moral center and an eye towards vengeance", and that the new villain "ranks as one of the most forgettable and shallow Superman rogues in memory." Phillips also said of Davis' artwork, "this story is told in a dull and often times ugly manner, and even the splash pages fail to truly catch your eye."[9] Doug Zawisza of Comic Book Resources followed suit. While praising Clark’s search for a purpose, he objected to the idea that Clark would only become a hero due to the environment around him, and not as a personal choice. Zawisza also disliked Tyrell, the new villain, whom he thought was possibly "one of the most underwhelming characters I have ever seen in comics. His appearance is a cross between Lobo and David Bowie, but without any of the positive qualities from either of them." He also saw the book as nothing more than a "pitch book" for the new movie.[10]

The redesign of Superman in Earth One was also reviewed in a number of major news publications, such as the New York Post,[11] Entertainment Weekly,[12] and Yahoo!.[13] However, the articles primarily focused on images of Clark wearing a hoodie as opposed to the Superman outfit, and compared the look to that of Robert Pattinson of the Twilight series.

Volume Two

Superman: Earth One Volume Two received mixed reviews. IGN's Joey Esposito stated that while the sequel "still suffers from most of the same problems as it did the first time around, the positives are far more beneficial to the greater whole."[14] Like its predecessor, it has also made into #1 on The New York Times' Hardcover Graphic Books Best Seller List.[15]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Renaud, Jeffrey (2009-12-19). "Straczynski Launches "Superman: Earth One"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  2. Arrant, Chris (2010-02-16). "A Week of JMS: Day 1: SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE". Newsarama. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  3. McGuirk, Brendan (2010-05-19). "Artist Shane Davis Soars W/ DC, SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE". Newsarama. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  4. Phegley, Kiel (2009-12-08). "Shane Davis Lands On "Earth One"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  5. Douche, Optimous (2010-10-20). "AICN COMICS REVIEWS: JMS' SUPERMAN EARTH ONE & SUPERMAN "Grounded"! Millar's SUPERIOR! Shooter's TUROK! DINOMAN! & MUCH MORE!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  6. Flanagan, Josh; Montgomery, Paul (2010-10-26). "REVIEW: Superman: Earth One". IFanboy. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  7. Pepose, David (2010-10-26). "Best Shots Advance Reviews: SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, More". Newsarama. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  8. "Hardcover Graphic Books". The New York Times. November 14, 2010.
  9. Phillips, Dan (2010-10-20). "Superman: Earth One HC Review: JMS' Superman re-imagining crash lands". IGN. Retrieved 2012-08-23. .
  10. Zawisza, Doug (2010-10-27). "Review: Superman: Earth One". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  11. Gregorian, Dareh (2010-10-25). "New Superman for the 'Twilight" age". New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc.. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  12. Franich, Darren (2010-10-25). "'Superman: Earth One' turns Supes into an angsty, hoodie-wearing 21-year-old". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  13. Duboff, Josh (2012-10-26). "Superman Gets a Hipster Makeover — Crush: Hollywood's Next Generation". Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  14. Joey Esposito (October 31, 2012). IGN "Clark Kent outshines Superman in DC's latest take on the Man of Steel". IGN. IGN. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  15. "Hardcover Graphic Books". The New York Times. November 25, 2012.

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