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Kingdom Come: What Happened to Old Man Superman?

Kingdom Come Superman feature

Of all the various, fan-favorite alternate incarnations of Superman, the biggest and most enduring is the version created by Alex Ross and Mark Waid for their acclaimed Elseworlds story Kingdom Come. Taking place in an alternate future of the DC Universe, the iconic superhero suffered immense tragedy before returning as much sterner, visibly aged figure. While the initial four-issue story is over 20 years old, the character has since reappeared in the pages of Justice League and Young Justice this year, and is slated to make an appearance in this year's epic Arrowverse crossover event "Crisis on Infinite Earths."

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Now, we're taking a look back at the history of Kingdom Come Superman, from his tragic backstory and role in Kingdom Come and its sequel The Kingdom to and his eventual team-up with the modern DC Universe's Justice Society of America.

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Kingdom Come

Superman's "Kingdom Come" Justice League, by Alex Ross

Years prior to the start of the story, a new superhero referring to himself as Magog openly employed lethal force when battling against criminals. Dissociating himself with the new vigilante, Superman's world was rocked to its core when the Joker fatally poisoned most of the staff of The Daily Planet before beating Lois Lane to death. After his arrest, the Clown Prince of Crime was killed by Magog and applauded for his actions by the general public. An aghast Superman went into seclusion for several years as a new generation of out-of-control heroes following Magog's example arose.

When Magog and his team of heroes confront Parasite, they accidentally trigger a radioactive event that results in much of the American Midwest being irradiated, killing millions and putting American food production in jeopardy. Learning of the recent developments from Wonder Woman, Superman emerges from retirement and forms a new incarnation of the Justice League with imprisoned villains and wayward super-powered beings in a gulag while trying in vain to educate them to use their powers for good.

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As the inmates riot and are joined by rival factions led by Wonder Woman and Batman, the United Nations attempts to destroy all the meta-humans with a nuclear strike, infuriating Superman. Confronting the U.N., Superman is talked down from vengeance by the human spectator Norman McCay and instead leads the surviving superheroes towards taking a more politically active role in the world and leading the new generation of heroes.

The Kingdom

In 1998, Waid crafted a direct follow-up to Kingdom Come, with artists Ariel Olivetti and Mike Zeck titled The Kingdom. A survivor of the destruction of Kansas in the original story gained the power of four omnipotent beings, taking on the moniker Gog and using time-travel to repeatedly kill Superman 20 years after the events of Kingdom Come.

As Gog moves further towards the DCU's relative present, killing Superman during every era, the existence of divergent timelines forming a version of the multiverse known as Hypertime is developed. When the Superman of the present learns of the events of Kingdom Come, he vows to prevent this future from coming to pass before defeating Gog with items retrieved across Hypertime. In the aftermath, the timeline of Kingdom Come is revealed to still exist but as a separate divergence within Hypertime as the heroes return to their respective time periods, no longer slated to become the true future of the DCU.

Thy Kingdom Come

Superman Kingdom Come

As part of Geoff Johns' run on Justice Society of America, the instant Superman is struck by the U.N. nuclear strike, the JSA's Starman recovers him from his reality of Earth-22 through a reality-warping singularity. As the Kingdom Come Superman adjusted to apparent loss of his world, not knowing if anyone survived the bombing, he becomes an impromptu member of the JSA and meets his main DCU counterpart.

New incarnations of Gog and Magog appear in Africa, with the JSA divided over how to react to the seemingly benevolent deity figure. Learning that Gog has a parasitic presence on Earth and is draining the planet of its energy, Kingdom Come Superman and the JSA defeated and beheaded Gog, imprisoning his still-living head within the Source Wall. Starman returned Superman to his Earth, picking up after the finale of Kingdom Come and revealing that he started a full family with Wonder Woman before continuing to survive to see his full heroic legacy 1,000 years into the future as an old man.

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