During the Death of Superman
story arc, Superman
was killed by Doomsday
. In honor of his heroic death, the city of Metropolis
erected a huge statue of Superman in the newly-named Superman Park, and the dead body of Superman was interred within the statue. During this time, four beings stepped forward, each claiming to be Superman, and yet each of them not. During this Reign of the Supermen, Superman re-awoke from what was not death, but a deep coma, and returned to the people of Earth as their champion.
Superman’s fight with the new villain Conduit
causes a hole in the base of the Superman statue in Centennial Park. Repair workers are shocked to discover that, within the statue, there lies a coffin with Superman’s corpse. The people of Metropolis are in shock, with a sizable amount doubting whether the Superman that returned is the real Superman or another impostor. The Metropolis S.C.U.
brings the corpse to S.T.A.R. Labs
to examine its authenticity.
Experimentation by Emil Hamilton
confirms that the corpse is, in fact, Superman. As word gets out, more and more people become distrustful of Superman. Superman, meanwhile, begins to get on edge; he spends extra time trying to prove to people that he is the real deal, and he has no concrete leads as to where the corpse came from. At wits end, Superman starts a witch hunt, going after villains that have the possibility to create this ruse.
Superman first targets the Eradicator
, and come into conflict with the Outsiders
. While Superman is on his witch hunt, Emil Hamilton confirms that the live Superman’s DNA has a discrepancy, making the search more urgent. Superman next visits Lex Luthor
, but the Man of Steel finds him still comatose at S.T.A.R. Labs. The same goes for Brainiac
, who is also still comatose in the care of the New Gods
of New Genesis
. His visit to New Genesis makes Superman think that Darkseid
might be behind it, so Superman heads to Apokolips
. Superman becomes more on edge, as he tackles the Female Furies
. He finally confronts Darkseid, who gives him some hints on the real culprit. However, Superman misreads the hints, and thinks that Mr. Mxyzptlk
is behind it.
Superman goes on a rampage, thinking that everything that has come is an illusion created by Mr. Mxyzptlk. The Metropolis S.C.U. is called in to stop Superman. Superman comes short of killing Maggie Sawyer
, when Mr. Mxyzptlk arrives. Mxyzptlk lets Superman know he is not the one behind it. Shocked, Superman flees from the Metropolis S.C.U., who has issued an arrest warrant for Superman.
The real culprit is revealed to be Brainiac, who had been faking his coma while regrouping his intellectual muscle. Brainiac escapes from New Genesis, besting Orion
, the Forever People
, and other New Gods. He uses his mental abilities to almost trick Superman into killing Lois Lane
, but Superman sees through the illusion. However, he throws illusion after illusion at Superman, from Ma
and Pa Kent
. Superman’s willpower starts to crumble, until Brainiac tries to kill Lois Lane. Emil Hamilton creates a device that allows Superman to snap out of it, and Superman attacks Brainiac directly. Superman eventually breaks through Brainiac’s mental defenses, convincing Brainiac that he is nothing more than Milton Fine, a shuckster. The Milton Fine personality takes over Brainiac, allowing the S.C.U. to convince Fine to imprison himself. With Brainiac defeated, all trace of the supplicate Superman disappears, having been an illusion in everyone’s head.