‘Superman: Red Son‘ is a comic book mini-series published by DC Comics that was released under their Elseworlds imprint in 2003. Author Mark Millar created the comic with the premise ‘what if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?’ The story mixes alternate versions of DC super-heroes with alternate-reality versions of real political figures such as Joseph Stalin and John F. Kennedy. The series spans approximately 1953-2001, save for a futuristic epilogue.
In ‘Red Son,’ Superman’s rocket ship lands on a Ukrainian collective farm rather than in Kansas, an implied reason being a small time difference (a handful of hours) from the original timeline, meaning Earth’s rotation placed the Ukraine in the ship’s path instead of Kansas. Instead of fighting for ‘…truth, justice, and the American Way,’ Superman is described in Soviet radio broadcasts ‘…as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.’ His ‘secret identity’ (i.e. the name his adoptive parents gave him) is a state secret.
The ideas that made up the story came together over a long stretch of time. Millar has stated: ‘Red Son is based on a thought that flitted through my head when I read Superman #300 as a six year old. It was an imaginary story where Superman’s rocket landed in neutral waters between the USA and the USSR and both sides were rushing to claim the baby. As a kid growing up in the shadow of the Cold War, the notion of what might have happened if the Soviets had reached him first just seemed fascinating to me.’
‘As I got older, I started putting everything together and I first pitched something to DC when I was thirteen, I think – although it was in a much cruder form, of course, and my drawings weren’t quite up to scratch.’ By 1992, he had already developed many of the plot points: ‘Instead of landing in Kansas as a child, I’ve decided to explore what could have happened if his rocket would have landed on a collective farm in the Soviet Union. Instead of working for the ‘Daily Planet,’ he’ll be a reporter for ‘Pravda.’ There’s a reversal of the current situation, this time it’s the U.S.A. that’s splitting up with Georgia and Louisiana demanding independence – tanks rolling through the streets of New Orleans. I’ll be including a whole bunch of DC characters, like Batman and Green Lantern – who you’ll see in a new light.’