All-Star Superman as Religious Creed

By Matthew Brake

All-Star Superman recently began to trend when James Gunn announced that the upcoming DC movie slate would be inspired by many of the works of comics writer Grant Morrison. While not taking place in DC Comics’ “main continuity,” the story of All-Star Superman is a quintessential Superman tale, combining all the elements from the now more-than-80-years history of the character and portraying Superman at his best. Someone reading the comic may not know all of the details of Superman’s publishing history, but they’ll walk away understanding the core of who the character is and what he’s about.

Morrison has stated in their part-history-of-comics, part-memoir Supergods, that they think of superhero comics as a part of their own “private religion” (270, 276). Morrison has described the birth of the superhero as “the founding of a new belief” (3) and Superman himself as a “divinity” (14). Morrison says that “the idea of Superman is every bit as real as the idea of God” (415). The fan-favorite writer has also talked about being a fourteen-year old who had “timidly rejected the Bible” and embraced “the cosmic creed” of the superhero (138).

Some religions, but not all, have creeds, some sort of statement of faith reflecting the shared beliefs, doctrines, or even stories of a particular tradition. Creeds attempt to summarize the basics of a religious tradition or clarify unclear doctrinal elements. Christianity (my own tradition), is quite creedal, in part because of its historically centralized institutional structure. Some of these creeds are incredibly short (“Jesus is Lord”), while later creeds, such as the Athanasian Creed, are longer and painstakingly precise in their language, reflecting attempts to refute contemporary heresies. Thus, they are more context-specific in what they seek to address. Some creeds reflect the bare bones of a tradition, while others grow more complex and complicated as history moves forward and new challenges arise.

The same thing happens with our favorite comic characters. There are certain bare bones elements to Superman’s story, like that he was raised in Smallville, Kansas and that his love interest is Lois Lane. There are, however, more complicated parts of Superman’s publishing history, like his death and resurrection, or the time he was split into a Red Superman and a Blue Superman. To explain the Superman Red/Blue Superman story would get into some of the nitty gritty details of 90s era comics, and I’m not sure that I have your attention for that much time.

In Morrison’s own way, they’ve written a story that condenses the essential elements of Superman down to the basics of what readers need to know: Superman’s character, his power, and his compassion.

But if All-Star Superman could itself be a creed about the character, there is a more basic creed found within its pages, the bare bones of the Superman story that might as well be entitled “The Apostle’s Creed: Superman Edition.” It’s a simple formulation:

Doom Planet.

Desperate Scientists.

Last Hope.

Kindly Couple.


That last line is actually an innovation from the animated adaptation of Morrison and artist Frank Quitely’s story, but it adds a nice punctuated ending to this creed. Morrison further highlights the religious significance of All-Star Superman, noting, “The attempt to be true to the underlying spirit of Superman, as we saw it, brought out the best in all of us. Link a monk contemplating the deeds of a saint, I was elevated by the time I spent imagining how Superman might feel” (411).

When it comes to bare bones articulations of Christian belief, I’ve always been partial to the Apostle’s Creed. It may not necessarily be the oldest creed, as it did go through a process of development before taking its final form. However, I find that it presents the basics of Christian beliefs, not in the technical language of some of the other creeds (like Nicea) that sought to clarify Trinitarian relationships, but more as a telling of the basic parts of the narrative of the life of Jesus and the teachings of Christianity:

I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, thence he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrections of the body, and life everlasting (Johnson, 32).

There are more complicated parts of Christian history and doctrine that require a lot of specialized knowledge, but like some of our superhero stories, it’s always nice to read an articulation that reminds a follower or fan about the “bare bones” of the story the believer is living out and to be spiritually elevated by it.

Matthew Brake is the series editor of the Theology, Religion, and Pop Culture series from Lexington/Fortress Academic. He is also the co-editor (with A. David Lewis) of the forthcoming Religion and Comics series from Claremont Press.


Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters. New York. Doubleday. 2003.

Morrison, Grant. Supergods. New York. Spiegal and Grau. 2012.


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