Übermensch!


Übermensch!

"Übermensch!" is a 1991 short story by Kim Newman, included in the collection "Famous Monsters". It features an Elseworlds version of the popular D.C. Comics superhero Superman (although the character is never explicitly identified as such) who, rather than 1930s America, instead lived in 1930s Nazi Germany. As well as subtle references to much of the common iconography of the Superman comic mythology (including references to kryptonite, an alternate version of Superman's upbringing and veiled reference to key figures of the comics, such as Lois Lane), frequent background references to film and popular culture - a common theme of Newman's work - are prominently included, including numerous references to German expressionist cinema of the 1920s and 1930s (including "Metropolis", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "Nosferatu"), and "The Boys From Brazil".

Plot summary

1989; The wall dividing Communist Europe and Western Europe has come down, and Metropolis is finally a whole city again. Avram, a Jewish-German scientist, Holocaust survivor and Simon Wiesenthal-esque Nazi hunter, has finally returned to the land of his birth after almost fifty years of hunting Nazis across the world and bringing them to justice. Now, he has arrived to meet the last, who has been imprisoned in Spandau Prison since the end of the war, and a childhood hero... the near-immortal Curt Kessler, who before his imprisonment was a legendary superhero and figurehead of the Nazi regime.

Granted an interview with Kessler, the two men reminisce; about Kessler's harsh upbringing in Bavaria, his joining the Nazi Party, his many battles against degeneracy and crime by personal request of the Führer, his relationship with fanatical Nazi propagandist Luise Lang and, eventually, his increasing disillusionment with and refusal to fight for the Nazi cause. Avram then comes to the real cause for his presence here; he has brought with him a suicide capsule containing the green substance that is the only substance that will prove lethal to Kessler. The war is long over, and with it the memories of the horrors of Nazism are fading - and Kessler, and his heroic image, are the last lingering symbols of Nazi strength and pride. Avram has come to ask Kessler to kill himself, and thus perhaps spare the horror happening again. After a moment, Kessler agrees, and bites into the capsule... but not before apologising to Avram, for his failure to live up to Avram's idealistic impressions of his childhood hero.

Notes

* 'Metropolis' refers not only to the city in which Superman lives and frequently operates in the comic book series, but also the titular city of the 1927 Fritz Lang movie.
* The character of 'Avram' is both a fictionalised version of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and a reference to the character of Lieberman in the novel and movie of "The Boys from Brazil"; in the short story, Avram claims to have burned Joseph Mengele's hidden retreat and destroyed efforts to clone Adolf Hitler, which is the central plot of "The Boys from Brazil".


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