Why does Superman feel compelled to help everyone? One story reveals he’s connected to the entire universe by his strangest power.
Superman’s powers may be extraordinary, but what really inspires people is what the Man of Steel uses his abilities to do for the world. While some would use his incredible power to conquer and live a life of luxury, Superman is motivated only by an intense desire to help others and protect all life. Although this highly developed morality is the result of many factors, including his upbringing with the Kents, one story revealed Superman’s greatest power inspires him to help everyone.
This power was revealed in All-Star Superman #12, an out-of-continuity Superman story that followed Superman during his final days after being diagnosed with a terminal condition. In his final moments, the secret behind Superman’s great generosity was discovered – by none other than his greatest enemy, Lex Luthor!
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Luthor actually jump started the entire storyline by giving the Man of Steel his disease. Angry that he was getting older while Superman wasn’t, Lex manipulated Superman into exposing himself to a dangerous level of solar energy that increased his power but also began killing his body. Lex was given the death penalty for his crimes, but went to the electric chair happy, feeling that he had finally beaten his greatest enemy. But this wasn’t the end of Lex’s story. After manipulating one of Superman’s robots to steal a special serum, Lex gained Superman-like powers for twenty-four hours, making him durable enough to survive his execution. He then went on to battle and apparently beat Superman in physical combat, announcing that he would be taking over the world.
At that moment, however, Lex experienced a startling revelation. Noticing that his super-senses allowed him to see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, Lex saw how the fundamental forces of existence were “yoked by a single thought.” Realizing that he was seeing the very machinery of the universe, Lex finally understood that everyone – humanity, Superman, and even he – were all interconnected and dependent on each other. It was a revelation that drove even a megalomaniac like Lex Luthor to tears as he finally saw the world as Superman saw everything and everyone all the time.
Moments after he saw how to save the world, Lex had his lights punched out by Superman – in the comic book version. In the animated movie adaption All-Star Superman from the comics, however, Lex remains conscious but broken as Superman tells him, “If it had mattered to you, Luthor, you could have saved the world years ago.” Finally seeing his vendetta against Superman for the empty pursuit it was, Luthor could only respond, “You’re right.”
It’s a remarkable ending that shows Superman’s powers aren’t just tools for him to save the world – they’re the reason why he wants to save it in the first place. Although his perceptions are influenced by the morals he learned from the Kents, Superman’s senses also serve to connect him to the entire universe, revealing how everyone – not just Lex Luthor – is capable of saving humanity and that far from being alone, people can still depend on each other. It’s an ideology he’s sought to share with the world by example, and one that serves to motivate him to do good every day.
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