Psychology of Supervillains (July 2021) - Superman: Red Son

Welcome to The Psychology Of Supervillians Club. This month (July 2021) Supervillain [Superman: Red Son]

This club will be discussing darker aspects and elements within the DC Universe. These aspects and elements could be viewed as overtly violent, malevolent and possibly offensive to some.

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  • Supervillains are potentially driven by deep seated and often dark or disturbing concepts of what they feel is the right thing to do and why the villain is the hero of their own story.
  • We will explore if the supervillain is actually correct in their views and actions, are they justified in what they do and potentially would their fictional worlds be better off if they actually did win and defeat the hero.

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Don’t be afraid to be bold, to challenge the status quo, to think in unique ways and be outspoken. Their is no “right” or “wrong” point of view here. There is what we each find in delving beneath the surface and into the mind of our Supervillian Of The Month.

Most importantly, have fun. Enjoy your process. Revel in it. Don’t be afraid to let some of your “evil” out. We’ve all got a bit of it in us somewhere. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t find villains interesting, now would we. :smiling_imp:


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Our July 2021 Supervillian of the month - Superman: Red Son
n supporting a non-democratic republic, and leading it after killing Stalin. (Yep, Superman breaks with his canonic continuity and straight up murders someone.) How do soocciopolicical perceptions help us determine what makes a hero as opposed to a villain?

Below are the comic book resources for Red Son available on DCU.

Is Superman, as the puppet and eventual leader of a communist country, does he (or our perception of him) was him as a villain, even if just for a portion of the book?
Is Russian Batman a criminal as it is clear he is breaking laws in ghat country?
Is Wonder Woman indirectly a villain for not taking action to stop a totalitarian Superman?
Is Luthor (the archtypal villain) cast in a heroic light because he is fighting for democracy? But, if many of his actions parallel other iterations of Luthor where they make him the villain, because the is doing it against a totalitarian Superman, are those same “villainous actions heroic?
So do fundamental differences in sociopolitical philosophy change how we perceive heroes over villains?


Without further ado, we delve into the Elseworld of Superman: Red Son.
Let the adventure begin!!!


This was my first time reading this. I really enjoyed it. Yes, Superman was definitely a villain in that he usurped people’s freedom of will. I was glad that he saw the error of his ways at the end, unlike most of the villains we read about. I would say that his support of communism definitely colors my perception of his actions as well.

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two thirds of the way through.

I kind of like how Superman is often the narrator of the story. I have seen this in both regular and elseworlds.


This was also my first time reading this.

The moment Superman becomes a villain is when he chooses to take over. However, he was already under pressure to step in after Stalin had died. I found it interesting when talking to Brainiac that he could have the world under his boot heel overnight and preferring to wait out failing capitalist economies in order to win “the argument”.

Russian Batman is essentially an enemy of the state only because of his opposition to communism. Which is the end result of having to watch his parents get killed. And it is less about the man who pulled the trigger, but the system that allowed it to happen. In the end, “I’d rather be a martyr than a Superman robot”.

I would not call Wonder Woman a villain, but I remember reading that Superman thought she was a true ally to the communist way. I liked how she felt betrayed when he asked her to break the lasso in order to help him.

In many ways Luthor is being Luthor. I liked how Superman mused about what wonders Lex would create for his fellow man were he not so focused on defeating Superman. And in this scenario, where it’s more about politics and ideology, it becomes a long con. Superman and Luthor in this case are less hero and villain since they are heads of state. Luthor’s final plan used multiple fronts from direct assault with the Lanterns to using his own wife to deliver the proverbial death blow. Genius, by the way.

I liked the ending: in order to create the super advanced long living society, Jor-L had to send his only son back in time before Earth’s now red sun swallows the planet.

But really, the moral of the story is never trust Brainiac.


There will a Red Son WAL (BYOM) on Saturday July 24th 4PM eastern / 1PM pacific.


This watchalong has been my carrot all week.

Also, looking forward to this month’s dissertation, O Illustrious Leader.


Just finished the first one and love it! Looking forward to finishing the books before the WAL.
I really love that at his core he’s still the Superman we know and love. It’s also a fascinating examination of political ideals and the pros and cons of each.
This moment made me want to cheer. We really need a Superman in this world :heart:


WAL starts in 1 hour and 44 minutes.
1PM pacific, 4 eastern.

I am working on my write up. Was hoping to have it done before the WAL. But, it’s taking a longer than I thought. Hopefully I’ll have it posted by the end of the weekend.


Just finished #2 and now I’m not so happy and optimistic, just like the narrative! Lol

This is sad to think about.

Krypto! And the banner says 1978, the year of Superman: The Movie!

Dang Lois you’re a saint for sticking with this cray cray.

I liked this issue even though it’s darker it’s getting deeper into the cons of each way of thinking and showing us how destructive humanity can be even when it goes against our best interests. This issue was all about fear and dealing with it poorly.

On to the last one!


I almost blew it!


Finished!!! Was not expecting that twist ending! Looking forward to the WAL soon!


WAL Has started

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And here it is.
Red Son
To analyze Red Son I will attempt to avoid the western Cold War perspective of “capitalism good, communism bad”. If one takes out this bias and looks at both of the sociopolitical views, both have upsides and down sides. Also, Marx and Lenin’s definition of communism is different from Stalinism. It is the former that is Superman’s basic sociopolitical view.

Let’s get two of the four characters off the list first.
Batman is a terrorist. Pure and simple. He doesn’t believe himself to be a terrorist. Yet his actions (such as the multiple, simultaneous bombings on a Superman celebration day) are terrorism. No regard for who might be impacted, injured or killed.

Diana is a very mixed bag. The truth is that Themyscira is a collective. The Amazon’s work together for the betterment of the whole of Themyscira. They certainly aren’t capitalist. Themyscira doesn’t even have currency. I think that her breaking the lasso to save Superman was the defining moment of their relationship. Before that, she is on board with Superman, the notion of collectivism, and the greater equality given to women under that political philosophy. After having to break the lasso, she feels used and betrayed. Manipulated into a situation she did not have to be part of. I think it is thus sense of betrayal that drives her to Luthor’s side at the end. Only that at that point and only she rejects the neutrality Themyscira retained throughout the series. (I must confess that her specifically choosing to side with Luthor at the end didn’t have really grounded psychological base. It felt very forced. Square peg, round hole, as it were)

Now for the classic matchup, Lex vs Supes

Lex is as egomaniacal as ever. The weapons he creates, including fsiled versions of both Doomsday and Parasite, we see in the background of one frame, which might be attempts at saving the “free world”. But, that would only be a by-product. Lex creates a personal grudge and obsession with Superman. Thus is clearly demonstrated by the virtual divorce he implements against Lois. His belief that he is the only one that can defeat Superman. Classic narcissistic personality disorder. Also, from every action we see, Lex is always taking a first strike order. Truly being what he historically is, the true villain of the story.

Superman is fundamentally still a hero. His saving of Metropolis from that satellite clearly demonstrates this. As is mentioned, the “coups” that move countries to a communist are bloodless. Superman wanting to “win” by “winning the argument”. He is mostly defensive, given the consistent first strikes by Lex.

Certainly Superman is far removed from his “big blue Boy Scout” ways. He becomes somewhat tyrannical, but, can one really blame him? There is no empire in history that hasn’t been run by some type of monarch or emperor…Julius, if avoidAlexander, Genghis, Attila, Napoleon, etc.

Perhaps it is a requirement that an empire requires an emperor. Certainly some of his actions are messed up. Especially the “reprogramming” of dissidents. Is that manner of dealing with dissidents better or worse than just killing them. This is a value judgement that each reader needs to make for themselves. It’s does give us a glimpse into the requirements of empire requirements to quell dissidents and Superman not wanting to take life if there is another way. I’m that sense he is very much like the mainline continuity Superman.

Superman’s change of political ideology” seems a bit contrived. As in, we can’t end the story with communism being an equal and successful political ideology.” There are some items they wrap up at the end on how Lex did all these “great things” for humanity, but becoming a functional emperor subject to the same foibles of any other emperor. Having the normal life expectancy moved up to 800 years is especially problematic. How do you control the population and a lot of hand . waving on this. The only way to make that work is to implement some form of birth requirements, as in how many you could have. (And we’ve seen how well that worked in China. Or do you test for “ideal genes”. And only allow that particular gene group to procreate and that requires sterilizing those who do not meet the genetic criteria. Both go down as pretty despotic, in my book, and reeks of totalitarianism, and far more invasive than anything Superman did.

So there we have it. My thoughts on Red Son. The movie is far more NATO centric and actually pretty good western political propaganda. The book is more even handed and gives a much more persuasive argument. Governments and these different political ideologies are neither good or bad. A central controlling figure is subject to corruption and a path that eventually leads to tyranny and not what is truly the best for the people. People, including Superman, are susceptible to this, no matter how “good” their intentions might be.

IMO, that is the biggest takeaway from the book. At the end of the day, be it Stalin, Luthor or Superman, they are all just men and subject to the same temptations as anyone else. It is easy to think of Superman as a god, given his powers, but he is not. As Nietzsche pointed out “God is dead. God remains dead.” Every individual must strive for their own “will to power”.
(For a more in-depth analysis of this check out The Psychology Of Supervillains Club..April 2020 - Sinestro


Wow, well said! On the population control thing, since Earth kinda becomes Krypton, can we assume they did implement artificial population control like in Man of Steel? It does make you wonder what the future will be like and how we will tackle so many issues. The comic leaves you with that and keeps you thinking about it.


Agreed. I must have glossed over it when reading the book. it was more in your face in the movie adaptation.

Themyscira is also self sufficient, which i think is a factor in its collectivism lean. Diana might have sided with Luthor merely to be opposed to her betrayer.

Before Stalin’s death, Superman is doing Superman. Around the world, saving the day from your average disaster. I don’t remember Stalin getting the Justice Lord in the book as we saw in the movie.

The reprogrammed dissidents may create the proverbial empty husk, but they are like the house elves of Superman’s communist regime.

What did you think of the ending?


The ending on the Superman front definitely felt contrived. He just up and goes “peace, out”. The eventual becoming a “citizen of the world” and secret identity makes sense. I just find it odd that we don’t see him helping all those various countries getting a chance to choose their own way. At least making sure that all people in that country, st least initially, getting a fair shake at being part of the political system. I think Superman being Superman, he would take that sense of justice and apply it to the first go round for other countries.

Sure, lots of people think him dead after getting rid of Brainiac’s bomb, but, is Superman going to stay in the shadows for long, not helping out with natural disasters, intergalactic villains, or supervillains. I just don’t think he just walks away from being Superman. He’s cares about people to much.


An Elseworld I’d like to see is what happens to Batman and his “mission” if his parents were killed by a western government and/or an international terrorist organization. How does he channel that need for vengeance?


I think the comic, being much more even handed, does that well. The movie takes many liberties. Superman vaporizing Stalin for example. Very Justice Lord. But, I also can’t see DC/WB putting out a movie that was “hey, communism has its advantages”. That’d be a bit socially suicidal in something that is going to sell most of it’s units in the USA. There would be a big consumer backlash.


Yes, Supes was still a Hero in Red Son, as was Wonder Woman and Batman. Supes was acting within the guidelines in which he was raised and honestly thought he was acting for the betterment of society at large. His utilitarian motives and sincere desire to help the greatest number was admirable-if not misguided; but he was true to his moral guidelines and thought he was doing what was right. When he had a change in world-view, his actions changed accordingly–but he was always true to his belief of what was right.