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Old 10-19-2021, 11:01 PM   #31
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I mean, I generally ascribe to the Joker's "One Bad Day" theory myself, but yeah, in Superman's case it seems like it would take a LOT.

The Adventures of Superman 1991 Annual that tied into the "Armageddon 2001" crossover was probably the best example of a "Superman Goes 'Bad'" story, or at least the best one where he wasn't being manipulated by external forces. Like the "King of the World" storyline in the comics was really good, but Dominus was screwing with his brain so it kind of doesn't count since he only "turned bad" because he was manipulated into doing so.

For the benefit of those who didn't read the Armageddon 2001 AoS Annual, it starts off a little bit similar to the Injustice story, but doesn't go so completely off the rails with it. Intergang sets off a nuke, all of Metropolis (including Lois) gets wiped out, and Superman doesn't take it well.

But instead of immediately doing a 180 and becoming an evil dictator, Superman just gradually adopts a bit of a rougher edge, and specifically decides after Metropolis that mankind can't be trusted with nuclear weapons of any kind. So he starts unilaterally dismantling every country's nuclear arsenal, when he isn't holed up on the Kent farm with his new wife Lana, and a rapidly-deteriorating Ma Kent. MOST people support him and think he's doing the right thing by getting rid of all the nukes, but other people - including those high-up in the U.S. Government - decide that he's too much of a wild card. So they call in Batman to try and assassinate him. Batman refuses, because he too thinks Superman is doing the right thing, and in a moment of self-awareness comments that he'd be the last one to go after someone for taking things into their own hands.

Unfortunately, Superman accidentally sinks a submarine carrying nukes without knowing there were still U.S. soldiers onboard - he checked it with his X-Ray vision before sinking it, but all the lead lining prevented him from seeing the soldiers who were trapped - so the U.S. government brands him a murderer, and Batman now feels that he has no choice but to stop Superman before things get any worse. He HOPES it can be ended without bloodshed, but Clark isn't inclined to just give up quietly.

Ultimately, the story ends in a really neat subversion of the ending of "The Dark Knight Returns", with Battle Armor Batman and Dictator Superman fighting at Crime Alley. During the fracas, Superman almost accidentally injures Robin through his recklessness, and Batman confronts Clark with this and the incident with the dead soldiers as proof that Clark has gone off the deep end, becoming too reckless to go unchecked any longer. Batman ultimately overtakes Superman - using the Kryptonite ring which Clark had given him for specifically such a scenario. Realizing that he's gone too far to find his way back, Clark gives up and peacefully dies, whispering Lois's name, as Bruce promises to see that Lana and Martha are taken care of.

It's a really great single-issue story that deals with "Rogue Superman" in a far more believable and satisfying way than anything since then, in my opinion. And even then, he never really "goes bad" or acts insanely out-of-character, he simply starts slowly losing himself in his "The Ends Justify The Means" approach to saving the world, and then only goes "too far" by accident.

He never "snaps", acts wildly out of character, or knowingly kills anyone. He still becomes a "tyrant", while remaining wholly recognizable as the Clark/Superman we know. At every step, you can see where he THINKS he's doing the right thing, and in most cases agree with him. The act which ultimately damns him - the killing of the soldiers - is an accident he's immediately regretful for, rather than an explicit act of violence or a "Can't make an omelette..." moment. He doesn't try to justify it in any way; he at first denies it could have happened, and then when confronted with proof of it, he falls apart, finally admitting that he's gone way too far, even if by accident.

I mean, if you MUST have a "Tyrant Superman" in your story, I can't really see a "better" way to get there than how that story did it, unless you full on just have him be brainwashed or something. Injustice starts in the same basic place, but the way he immediately turns all bloodthirsty and "LoL People Died, Oh Well... but hey, I kinda like killing people now!" just really doesn't seem organic at all.

And Good Lord, Wonder Woman in the Injustice games is even worse than Superman. I'unno what crack they were smoking when they came up with HER characterization in those games. Superman's portrayal is bad but hers is arguably even worse. I'm honestly surprised how little that gets brought up.

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