Alan Moore has done so much more for DC Comics than writer the controversial tale; The Killing Joke. After his tour on the comic, Swamp Thing, Moore went on to write some of the best “one-shot” comics for DC to be found. Most of which have not only enhanced the comic character’s timeline. but altered it drastically forever. One such tale was in 1985’s Superman Annual #11: For The Man Who Has Everything.
The tale begins with Batman and Robin (Jason Todd in this one) waiting the arrival of Wonder Woman outside the frozen wasteland that is Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. It is Superman’s birthday and the trio are musing over what they are giving him for his day. What they find when they enter is a catatonic Superman with a plant like being attached to his chest. The alien Mongul sent it to Superman, disguised as a gift.
Mongul: “Do you like it? It’s called a “Black Mercy”. I traveled a great way into the tangled zones to locate it…it’s something between a plant and an intelligent fungus. It attaches itself to its victims in a form of symbiosis, feeding from their bio-aura.”
Batman?: “And what does it doe for them in return?”
Mongul: “Why, it gives them their heart’s desire.”
The Black Mercy, attached to Superman’s chest has created a virtual reality. A world where Krypton never exploded. Where Kal-El grew up with his family on his home world, fell in love and had a son of his own. A world that Superman doesn’t want to leave. A world that has rendered him helpless on Earth.
Wonder Woman goes on the attack, taking the battle to Mongul while Batman and Robin attempt to free Superman from the grasp of The Black Mercy. They succeed only to have it attach itself to Batman and create a world for Bruce, where Thomas Wayne beat back the thief and saved all their lives. A world where Bruce never became an orphan and therefore, never needed to become Batman.
Superman awakes and comes to the realization of what has happened. He flies in a rage to fight Mongul. In his heart and his soul, not only did he lose Krypton again, but his grown parents, the wife he loved and the son he never had. As they battle it is up to Jason Todd to come up with the solution. He takes the Black Mercy away from Batman and casts it at the powerful alien Mongul and it attaches itself to him. In his dream, Mongul kills Superman and enslaves the planet Earth. The first of many worlds he conquers in his version of reality.
For The Man Who Has Everything, Moore gives us a different glimpse of the super heroes we thought we knew. Their pain and secret desires. The truth that no matter how powerful they have become, they have each come into their power through loss and pain, and they would gladly trade all their power for a world where they simply did not have to exist.