Pale Horse

Whatever Happen to the Man of Tomorrow?

By Tim Crane

Published: Special Assignment for the Daily Planet

METROPOLIS — Ten years. It has been ten years since the world last saw Superman, the Man of Tomorrow. How does one mark such a tragic event? As many of our readers know, the Daily Planet was intimately connected with Superman. Because he touched so many lives here on paper, our owners and editors decided the proper way to commemorate the anniversary was to celebrate it. You hold in your hands that celebration. Over the following pages we will chart his rise from his first appearance to global icon. I have been assigned to cover the final weeks of his life. Many long time readers might wonder why me, Tim Crane was given this assignment and I will admit to wondering myself. I was told that because I came to the paper after his disappearance, our editors hoped I would bring a fresh set of eyes to the events. That is what I will endeavor to do.

The logical place to start this is with the only surviving eyewitness, Lois Lane. For many she is synonymous with Superman and his story. Through her reporting the world got to know the last son of Krypton and her fame grew as well. It was shortly after the events we've all come to know happened that Miss Lane resigned from the Planet and dropped from the public radar. I will admit I was just a bit intimidated at the thought of interviewing her. Her reputation is still well known around the office even after all these years. She did not suffer fools gladly.

It took quite awhile to track her down and finally with the help of our senior editor, Perry White, I was able to convince her to do an interview with me. I drove out to the quiet suburbs early one morning to hear the story once again from her. I was surprised at the modest ranch house on the quiet street she lived it. Packing up my tools of the trade I walked up to the front door and knocked. It took a moment for the door to open but then I found myself face to face with Lois Lane. She was still a very striking woman even after all these years. She invited me into her house and also corrected me, it wasn't Lois Lane, it was Lois Lane-Elliot now. What follows is her first hand eyewitness account of those last days.

It seems longer but I guess it has only been ten years. Things… things were different back then. There was a sort of peace as most of Superman's enemies had either died or vanished. A peaceful time, I know that sounds strange to say nowadays, but maybe it was just a simpler time. Superman was working with the government on a space mission and just starting with the newly formed Justice League. I guess the starting point, if there was one, was Bizarro.

Something had happened to him. What? I guess we'll never know, but in his twisted mind something had changed. His goal seemed to be to become the perfect imperfect duplicate of Superman. It made no sense back then and it still doesn't. He went on a killing spree, since Superman never kills anyone. Bizarro deliberately destroyed the Bizarro World and then came to Earth as an adult, again since Superman came as an infant. Bizarro took the opposite theme to its logical conclusion, committing suicide. Since Superman was alive in Bizarro's twisted mind the only way to be the perfect imperfect duplicate was to be dead. It was almost tragically comical if you think about it. His last words were,' Hello, Superman, hello."

That seemed to be a turning point and things got much darker after that. Toyman and Prankster kidnapped and tortured Pete Ross. They killed Pete.

It was at this point that Mrs. Lane-Elliot had to break off. She was obviously still haunted by the memories, so I didn't push her.

Don't miss any of the Planet's

coverage of the Anniversary!

Go online for more pictures

and stories! The Daily Planet!

Cat Grant dishes the dirt!

Who were the women in

Superman's life? Was he

more than just friends with

some of those famous female

heroes? Read all the gossip

and rumors on Page 6!

Lex Luthor:

Criminal Mastermind or

Misunderstood Genius?

Steve Lombardi investigates!

Page 12!

Where it all started!

First criminal caught by Superman

Butch Matson's release from

prison this week!

Story by Amanda Long

Page 15!

How the World's Changed

Ten Years Later

An Editorial by Perry White

Page 3!

Miss Lane-Elliot apologized for letting the emotions overwhelm her and then continued with her story. It was during a live TV newscast that the "Fearsome Funsters" as they were called, launched an attack that exposed Clark Kent's secret to the world.

At the same time, unknown to anyone, Lex Luthor was searching for the remains of Brainiac. Whether Lex intended just to disassembled it and learn its technology or something else, he somehow managed to reactivate the head, which quickly moved to take over his body and motor functions. In full control, Brainiac sought to avenge his defeat to Superman. He allied himself with the Kryptonite Man, who also bore a grudge.

Things got bad in a hurry and an army of Metallos attacked the Daily Planet. Superman managed to defeat them but with his secret identity out, he felt compelled to relocate his closest friends to his Fortress of Solitude. Krypto, Superman's faithful dog, soon joined Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and his wife Alice, along with myself.

Lois paused here as if the images of that day were still fresh in her memory. The sound of her young son caused us to pause. She carried him back and introduced me to him. He was a beautiful baby boy and it was very apparent how much she loved him. After a few minutes she continued with her story.

I must warn the readers of the Daily Planet; the story gets more fantastic from this point on. If she had not been an eyewitness, I must confess I would doubt it as well, but these are the facts as she told them to me.

While they were in the Fortress heroes from the 30th century arrived to bestow a gift on Superman. It was something called a Phantom Zone projector and it had been inscribed "HIS SUPREME HOUR." They soon vanished leaving only that cryptic message.

The battle started the next morning. Brainiac and other time travelers, this time villains named the Legion of Super-Villains laid siege to the Fortress. Brainiac erected a force field around it to prevent other heroes, including the newly formed Justice League from interfering.

Lois made a special point of noting how Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang showed true courage during all of it. They found artifacts in the Fortress that allowed them to temporarily gain superpowers and used them to aid Superman in the battle. Lana subdued the Kryptonite Man, while Jimmy successfully shut down Brainiac's force field. During the battle, Luthor was able to wrest back enough control of his body to be Lana to kill him. Seeing now other choice, Lana complied and snapped his neck.

So that is how Lex Luthor perished.

The Legion of Super Villains were able to determine how Jimmy and Lana were able to gain their powers and the used this knowledge to kill Lana. Brainiac temporarily was able to maintain control of Luthor's corpse and he murdered Jimmy. His force field was still keeping the other heroes at bay despite the destruction of the generator. Growing more desperate by the moment, Brainiac uses a nuclear bomb to finally breach the walls of the Fortress. Kryptonite Man rushed in, insane to kill Superman with his own hands, but Krypto somehow sensed the threat to his master. He attacked and killed Kryptonite Man but succumbed to a fate dose of Kryptonite radiation.

Brainiac finally deactivated when Luthor's body went into rigor mortis.

Lois said she would never forget the rage she saw in Superman's eyes when he saw the lifeless body of Lana Lang. The Legion of Super villains fled when they saw it too. There was one foe not accounted for, Mxyzptlk. Superman realized he was behind all of this, as he was the only one that could cause such bizarre events. As he relayed this information to Lois, Mxyzptlk appeared. He wasn't the extra dimensional imp this time, but a darker and grimmer little man with a cold smile on his face.

He admitted he orchestrated all of it, saying he had grown bored with simply being mischievous and now wanted to see what it was like to truly be evil. He then changed into his true form.

"Did you honestly believe that a 5th Dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat?"

Lois was at a loss for words on how to describe him.

"I can't describe what Mxyzptlk then became,' she said. "He had height, width, depth and a couple of other things, too."

From what she was able to describe, I will leave it to the readers' imagination, but I imagine he was something beyond our understanding, yet vaguely humanoid.

As he stalked them through the Fortress, Lois and Superman realized the significance of the gift from the Legion of Superheroes, The Phantom Zone project. Superman confronted Mxyzptlk with it and upon seeing it; he panicked and said his own name backwards, which sent him back to his own dimension. At the same moment, Superman activated the projector, sending Mxyzptlk to the Phantom Zone.

Torn between two dimensions, Mxyzptlk died with a horrible scream. Lois remembered feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that the battle was over. She was just coming to grips with the idea that her friends were dead, when she noticed the look on Superman's face. She had never seen him so devastated with grief. She asked what was wrong and he slowly turned to her. The sadness was clear in his eyes.

"I broke the one rule I promised myself I would never break,' he said.

He had killed. Lois tried to argue with him, saying he had too, but he disagreed. He said no one had the right to kill, not Mxyzptlk, nor her and not him. He turned and walked away in silence. Lois remembered running after him, pleading with him, calling to him. She realized too late where he was going. As if in penance for what he'd done, he entered a chamber containing Gold Kryptonite, which strips his powers permanently. As he walked into the blinding, golden light, he turned and gave a sad smile.

I never saw Superman again.

There was a long pause in our interview. I could almost see him in my mind, the uniform, the flowing cape, disappearing to pay for what he saw as the ultimate crime.

Steeling herself, Lois continued.

With Mxyzptlk's destruction, the force field his magic had been maintaining vanished and the heroes outside were free to enter. The wreckage in and around the Fortress seemed to be strewn with bodies, those of his most bitter enemies and those of his most loyal friends. I remember Batman describing it as 'like walking amongst the fragment of a legend. Death and destruction were everywhere, well almost everywhere. Perry and his wife were still alive. They found me outside the locked Gold Kryptonite chamber weeping. When they finally managed to open the door it was empty. He was gone.

They discovered a hidden passageway leading out of the Fortress. It was finally concluded that he had walked out powerless into the subzero wastes to freeze to death. They never found the body.

It was getting late and the interview was almost finished, but I felt compelled to ask one more question.

"Tell me, Mrs. Elliot, what do you think of the rumors that Superman is still alive somewhere?'

She seemed to think about it for a moment.

"Well, I'm sure a lot of people would like to believe that, but as far as I'm concerned, Superman died in the Arctic. I was there."

I apologized if the question seemed tactless, but she just waved this off. I guess it's the same with Jim Morrison or Tupac, people will believe what they want to believe.

As I was leaving, I stop to thank Lois again just as her husband came home. He was a tall, good-looking man, with a little gray in his hair and a mustache. We shook hands and I was on my way. I glanced back as I was climbing into my car and couldn't help feeling glad that Lois Lane had found some happiness after all she'd been through. She stood in the doorway with her husband and son and waved as I drove away.

So that is the story, from an eyewitness. I can't help wondering if perhaps given the state the world is in today, we couldn't use that Man of Tomorrow now.

(Tim Crane is a senior writer for the Daily Planet and a contributory to numerous online magazines and websites. He has been working for the Planet for 5 years and before that the Toledo Blade. He is also the author of 2 books)

Gotham – Two weeks later

Bruce Wayne sat in the Batcave looking at the multiple screens. He was exhausted; the wear and tear of being Batman was starting to catch up to him. He knew he should have been in bed, but the two articles on his screen held his attention. A name from the past figured prominently in both, Lois Lane. It had been ten years, but it almost seemed like another lifetime.

The first article was from the Daily Planet's special Sunday magazine, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" The entire issue was devoted to the anniversary of Superman's disappearance. A young reporter, Tim Crane, had interviewed former Planet reporter Lois Lane-Elliot, hoping that she, as the last person to have seen Superman alive, can shed some light on the mystery of the Man of Steel's vanishing ten years previous.

As Bruce read the story for the tenth time, the memories came flooding back again. He knew the story by heart as he read Lois' description of that last day.

Bruce remembered that day so well, as the world seemed a little darker after that. Lois had grieved for both Superman and Clark Kent, but finally moved on. Bruce had been there for her at first, but time and life slowly caused them to drift apart. It was months later he read she was engaged. She married Jordan Elliot and quit the paper. They lived in a nice quiet suburb far from the limelight. From what Bruce had heard they were happy.

It was the second article that tore at his heart. The bold headlines splashed it all over the front page.