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Happy Birthday Superman - here's a throwback to one of the most depressing birthday comics of all time

For the Man Who Has Everything may be the most haunting birthday story ever

Superman with the Black Mercy attached to his chest
Image credit: DC Comics

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Birthdays are expected to be a happy occassion. And we're happy to celebrate the spectacular Superman as he turns one year older on February 29, but it also seems like a good time to celebrate one of the best (and most depressing) birthday comics ever made.

Yes, we're talking about Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' iconic story 'For the Man Who Has Everything,' originally published in Superman Annual #11. Superman fans who aren't into reading comics from the 80s might still recognize the title, as the story was famously adapted for Justice League Unlimited cartoon in 2004 and again adapted (but this time for Kara, instead of Kal-El) in an episode of Supergirl.

In 'For the Man Who Has Everything,' we follow Batman, Wonder Woman, and Jason Todd as they head to Superman's place bearing birthday gifts for their friend. When they find Superman though, they are shocked to see that he's got some sort of organism attached to his chest. They soon learn, from supervillain Mongul, that the organism is called the Black Mercy, and that, when attached to someone, will hold them in a state where their deepest desire comes true.

Superman, when attached to the Black Mercy, is brought to a life where he grew up on Krypton, got married, had a son. To return to the real world (and save Batman and Wonder Woman who are struggling in a battle with Mongul, who had sent the Black Mercy to Superman), Superman must leave his son and the life that he desires most deeply behind. This drives him into a fury, powering him to beat Mongul and plan to drop the villain into a black hole for what he's done.

It's a tragic story, and a reminder of the sad core at the center of Superman's story. But still, Superman's got friends. Wonder Woman gifts him with a replica of Kandor, and Batman has brought him a flower - a new breed of rose that he's named Krypton, though the rose has been destroyed during the fight.

Happy birthday, Superman.

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About the Author
Tiffany Babb avatar

Tiffany Babb

Deputy Editor

Tiffany Babb is Popverse's deputy editor and resident Sondheim enthusiast. Tiffany likes stories that understand genre conventions (whether they play into them or against them), and she cries very easily at the movies— but rarely at the moments that are meant to be tearjerkers.