Superman Comic Books
The Lex Files - Case File #160329 - "Doomsday"By Lex Luthor.
I would open my eyes in the middle of the night, as a child, to see that dark, hulking form at my window. I didn't need to make any noise for him to find me. His glowing, red eyes traced their way to where I slept, and that was precisely when I would awake to realize it was a dream.
I never had to dream of what happened next. Even then, I had the foresight to know what would happen. There was no running away from it. The moment those terrible eyes locked with mine, I was doomed.
The wall would provide it no resistance, and in the blink of an eye it would be inside, wall and window in ruins, and my sister Lena would be dead in its hands before she had time to scream. I would get to see her die first for no other reason than that her bed was closer to the window than mine. And then its terrible eyes would lock with mine once more.
One could never see it approach. It was too fast. When it was ready for you it was simply there, and you were already dead.
But I'm Lex Luthor. Even then I was Lex Luthor. And, like everything else in this world, dreams - even nightmares - can be understood, and if something can be understood, it can be manipulated. Conquered.
I quickly became an observer of my own psychology, taking notes, employing all manner of tricks to convince my consciousness it wasn't a threat. I even gave the monster a name to familiarize it, to make it seem less alien. And, over time, "Davis" bothered me less and less. But, although I'd seemingly won the battle then, I knew - somewhere in the back of my mind - he wasn't truly gone.
Doomsday was coming.
I didn't know that name then. Years later, when I first heard it applied to the monster who was then battling Superman, it was so fitting I half convinced myself I'd always known it. That I'd always been trying to forget it.
The monster was an apocalyptic beast. It was as invulnerable as Superman, if not more so. Sharp, bony protrusions emerged from its body, even partially covering its eyes. It was approximately eight feet tall, with tremendous girth to match its height.
Its powers bore a striking similarity to Superman's when he first appeared in Metropolis in that garish t-shirt-and-blue-jeans costume. Incredible strength, invulnerability, the ability to leap great distances in a single bound. And it was fast, fast enough to match the Man of Steel. Besides its size, toughened grey skin, and bony protrusions, what set it apart from Superman was its ferocity. It attacked relentlessly, ceaselessly. It moved across the city like a wildfire. And like the dream, it indiscriminately killed everything it saw. Once its glowing red eyes found you, you were dead.
Unless Superman was there.
It was a coincidence, of course. That this monster bore a striking resemblance to one of my most vivid dreams is exactly the kind of coincidence that's been inspiring folklore for millennia.
Besides, in the slew of monsters and aliens we'd seen since our oh-so-beloved protector arrived in Metropolis - There must be hundreds of them by now; even I've lost track - it was hardly surprising that one of them resembled a childhood dream of mine. Statistically, it was an eventuality.
As I watched the battle rage across the city, I calmly went about my business. When asked, repeatedly, by my inner circle how I should get involved, I responded with caution. I had every confidence Superman could handle it, I said, and that we shouldn't get in his way until absolutely necessary. And, as everyone around me watched the destruction with rapt attention, I attended to paperwork. I fiddled with a "rubix" cube. I made plans for cleanup, once Superman had inevitably beaten "Davis", and imagined ways to make myself look the hero and Superman the reckless fool.
I made a mistake.
And as Superman lay dead, the enormity of that mistake hit me.
True, I'd always considered Superman a big threat in his own right. But for the time being, I must admit, he is useful for protecting us - even me - from creatures like this who we cannot yet deter with our technology. At least for the time being, we need him. I may not say this often, but this was a job for Superman.
And that's why it was also a job for Lex Luthor, because I saw what the creature was. Because, despite what I told myself, I knew from the beginning the creature might overcome Superman.
If it had been even a tiny bit stronger, it could have survived the battle with Superman, and then there'd be nothing anyone could have done to stop it. I would have watched from my tower as the monster tore our civilization apart and killed every living thing on this planet. And then, finally, it would have come for me.
I don't have super powers. I could not have physically joined Superman in battle. (My Suit was not yet complete at the time, and either way, I'm doubtful it would have done much against that thing). When I see a terrifying force of destruction like that, I may rage against it - and, perhaps, fear it - as much as Superman does, but I don't have the luxury of being able to physically do anything about it.
But what I can do is understand. That's really all I can do, and all humankind has ever been able to do in the face of relentless, merciless nature. We learn to understand how it works, and then we find ways of surviving it. Dealing with it. And maybe, if we're lucky, we can even learn to overcome it.
I was finally able to study the creature's body after it had apparently died. It was still too invulnerable for a full autopsy. But the government team I was working with was able to poke and prod it enough to get some basic clues about its biology. (Unfortunately, the government team confiscated all the DNA samples they managed to take, and I couldn't get ahold of any myself to study). What we found was incredible.
Like Superman, the creature is X-Ray opaque, meaning we can't get a glimpse inside it via X-rays. But that in itself was a clue. Objects are usually "radiodense" (opaque to X-Rays) if the material they're made out of has a high density. To confirm that this is the case, we weighed the creature. 915 pounds.
Now, that isn't incredibly heavy for his size. Doomsday is 8'10, and has a considerable amount of girth on top of that height. It's not surprising for such a creature to be 915 pounds, which is about the weight of three overweight humans strapped together.
So at that weight, his density alone isn't enough to account for his x-ray opacity.
But bear in mind that different tissues have different opacities to x-rays. If you've ever seen an x-ray of yourself, notice that bones show up clearly - the x-rays can't seem to see through them as easily as the surrounding tissue.
Radiodensity is measured on a scale known as the Hounsfield scale, where materials are measured in HUs (Hounsfield units). The more HUs, the more opaque it would appear on an x-ray image. On that scale, water has zero HU, while human blood has 30 to 45. The brain's gray matter has 37 to 45, while the liver is slightly higher on the scale, with up to 60 HU.
Now compare the dense, bony tissue that comprises most of your skeleton's mass. This has up to 3000 HU.
So Doomsday's tissue seems to have a lot in common with a human bone, if only in terms of its x-ray opacity. But how much can we reasonably extrapolate from this?
I would hypothesize that Doomsday's tissue is suffused with bone, that it's tightly interwoven with his flesh. Perhaps, taking this to an extreme, his very cells are protected by hard, bony cell walls.
(That's not how human bones work - the individual cells aren't protected by minerals; rather, cells called osteoblasts secrete a compound that becomes bone mineral - but as I'll explain later, I have reason to think Doomsday might be a different animal entirely).
In support of this hypothesis are the monster's bony protrusions. While some Earthly animals have hard protrusions, like horns and antlers, these are more controlled, more logical.
Doomsday also has horns, of course, but his other bones erupt all over the place. They grow from his knees, his shoulders, his chin. They even grew across his eyes.
That suggests to me that his body is producing uncontrolled bone growth. There's no reason to suspect that the visible protrusions are all there is. After all, the protrusions must start smaller and then grow, eventually erupting from the skin.
Doomsday's body must be constantly producing bony growths, possibly so many that they collectively make the entire mass of his tissue opaque to x-rays, while simultaneously allowing him to move fluidly (not what one would expect, were one's entire body filled with bony material).
In fact, it's a wonder he's able to live at all. Shouldn't the bony growths, if truly uncontrolled, act as a cancer? Shouldn't they ultimately grow into and interrupt the function of his internal organs, killing him?
Up to this point I'd been making an assumption. It seemed reasonable to treat the creature as a modified version of Superman. After all, it seemed to have similar abilities, at least at first. And it was clearly humanoid, and seemed to have originated on Krypton, so I imagined that some scientist had started with Kryptonian DNA and made genetic alterations to make the creature tougher.
(It seemed unlikely that this creature was the result of natural evolution - it was too perfect. A super-soldier with humanoid form? It would take unimaginably harsh conditions to breed this killer out of a humanoid - and we humanoids usually survive through our ingenuity and technology, rather than by dying until we've evolved enough to survive naturally).
I imagined the differences between Superman's biology and the creature's would likely be superficial, then. Imagining myself in the role of some ancient Kryptonian genetic scientist, I wouldn't have had to make systematic changes to the Kryptonian body in order to make him or her a super-soldier. I would increase heart and lung capacity for endurance, muscle growth and peak muscle mass, skin toughness. But the general layout would be the same.
So given that assumption, I rationalized that Doomsday's Kryptonian cells are so durable, his organs are able to survive even the pressure of bony protrusions pushing against them.
But while that explanation made sense, something didn't sit right. For one thing, the bones are Kryptonian too - meaning that as they continued to grow into an invulnerable body, they wouldn't break and could keep growing forever. For another thing, his bones are able to break free from his skin, forming the monster's bony protrusions, meaning that they are almost certainly capable of penetrating Kryptonian tissue, at least to some degree.
Unable to penetrate the creature's tissue with electromagnetic radiation, we tried to create a sonogram, an image with sound waves. Unfortunately, this attempt wasn't much more successful than the first. His body proved resistant to vibrations, and consequently the machine returned inconclusive results.
But interesting inconclusive results. The machine produced no image, but read that it was penetrating almost a centimeter into the creature's body.
Now, a centimeter isn't much, but at least in a human, there's plenty to see a centimeter beneath the skin. Blood vessels, fat, different kinds of tissue. But our device returned absolutely no variation in its image.
So either our device was confused by the creature's unusual makeup, or it was taking an image - and there was nothing to see.
What if the creature had no veins, no capillaries, no fat deposits? What if inside its body was uniform tissue? What if any given clump of cells in his body looks pretty much like any other?
An intriguing thought, but one I quickly dismissed at the time. How far, after all, would this uniformity extend? Does the creature also not have arteries, muscles, brain matter? Does it lack internal organs entirely?
The notion was absurd. There's a very good reason animals have all those things; they're not exactly dispensable. Without a complex circulatory system, how would fluids be distributed to the various tissues? How would they be oxygenated?
Without organs, how would it function?
The creature's body was moved before we could devise better, more conclusive tests. It might have been possible to devise a more elaborate sonogram setup, which could have determined whether the original image was accurate. Not that we took the possibility seriously. But either way, we might have learned something.
It's been years since then, and I've had plenty of time to reflect on my mistake. I've been reflecting on many of my mistakes lately, in fact, and I refuse to persist in and repeat them.
When the beast returned, my first impulse was to ignore it yet again. Superman had proven his ability to deal with the creature, after all, and he was surrounded by the Justice League. Why should I get involved?
But, no. Not this time. This creature would not be spared Lex Luthor again.
This time, however, Doomsday would not be so easily understood. When he emerged, he quickly hid deep in the ocean, where he entered a cocoon. That transformed him into something different - and his new form not only made him many times more terrifying, it also made me rethink everything I thought I knew.
When Doomsday emerged from the ocean, the water boiled around him. When he stepped onto the shore of an island, the sand all turned to black onyx.
Fires broke out, buildings lost molecular cohesion and collapsed, and animal and plant life for many miles around burned and died. And as they did so, the beast grew in size and mass.
This was an immensely fascinating mechanism, without equivalent in Superman or anywhere else in nature. My first thought was to compare it to Superman's ability to draw in sunlight from miles around, but that idea quickly broke down.
For one thing, deflecting photons - particles of light - from their paths is an entirely different task from breaking down solid matter. For another thing, the creature gave me a clue to the mechanism: blackish-purplish gas seemed to ooze off its body when the creature would appear, dispersing into the air.
When the Amazon appeared to battle it, her body seemed affected by the purplish substance, though she was later able to shrug off the poison without incident.
So Doomsday was putting something into the air which breaks down living matter and somehow transports that matter into his body. This is quite a complex task. How might Doomsday's body be accomplishing it?
The purplish substance is unlikely to be a gaseous compound. It's possible that some gas might be able to dissolve matter and poison other living things, but transporting nutrients back into Doomsday's body is quite another matter.
That's a very specific task, one which demands a very specific mechanism. For one thing, after the monster's destructive appearances, some of his prey animals, which he consumed simply by walking past, left corpses behind.
That means that whatever consumed them and delivered their mass to Doomsday's body isn't just taking apart all the molecules and delivering everything to Doomsday, it's selectively choosing parts of the prey's body, presumably choosing the parts that are nutritious.
That's a task that requires finesse - especially considering that, once it's grabbed the nutrients from the prey's body, it's then got to deliver them in a specific direction - towards Doomsday.
And so I concluded that a biological agent must be involved. There must be some living cells involved in the mechanism. That may not be the whole story - the microorganisms may be carried by a gas, or they might secrete one, to help them break down matter. But it's extremely likely that the organisms are involved somehow.
And once I realized that, everything began to fall into place. There was only one more crucial clue for me to discover before I figured this beast out. But unfortunately, I didn't have time for cool, collected scientific inquiry. Events were unfolding around me. I had to act - and if I made a mistake this time, I knew, it could doom our world.
The creature's movements were easy enough to extrapolate, using a few simple mathematical algorithms that I'd devised. The creature was going for bigger and bigger prey, never staying long enough to engage anyone with a real chance of combating it.
And it became clear to me that this pattern had an obvious endgame: the most powerful prey this planet has to offer. Superman. Around the same time I made that realization, I also realized that Superman would have no chance of defeating the creature. He wouldn't survive the encounter. The creature was avoiding contact with him until it was certain it could consume him - effortlessly.
I had few options. I saw no way of saving Superman. So I reasoned that perhaps I could kill two birds with one stone. If the monster was seeking him - which it clearly was - then the best course of action was to get him off the planet, for him to go into space. That way the creature would follow him, and the Earth might survive. And I'd be rid of not just the monster, but my nemesis as well.
I didn't like this option. I hated it. The creature would consume Superman and add his incredible power to its own. And then it would fly off into the Universe, in a random direction, obliterating whatever world crossed its path. And if it ever found its way back to Earth, there would be no stopping it. (Not that there is now).
But I had no choice. For once I didn't have to lie, to manipulate Superman into playing his part. I had only to tell him the honest truth. To tell him the conclusion I'd come to. Wayne (my affectionate nickname for the Batman) would protest, of course. He sees only motive and intent. But Superman, I knew, would see the big picture. He'd see I was right. and he did.
Then, in the moment of his impending demise, I finally admitted to myself that he was my equal. And that, while it wasn't by choice, when the two of us were forced to work together this way, when our cooperation could mean the survival or downfall of worlds, it was somewhat... glorious.
And then he was gone from the planet, leaving me with the sinking feeling I'd made a mistake once again.
But he soon returned to Earth, thinking he'd killed the creature - instead, he lead it back to us. What happened next was shocking, even to me. But more than that, it was stunningly fascinating.
This moment of - I don't know whether to say 'horror' or 'triumph', or I don't know what - gave me the last clue I needed. That purplish substance, the same one he'd used to contaminate the air, just oozing off him as Superman rips him apart. What was left of the creature began dissolving into the stuff. And then, too late, it all came together.
I'd supposed the creature was secreting microorganisms, which comprised the purplish airborne poison. Perhaps the microorganisms had a symbiotic relationship with Doomsday, or perhaps they were of his genetically engineered immune system that could leave his body in a gaseous medium.
No. The organisms are him. Doomsday is nothing but a colony of these microorganisms.
The elegance and beauty of it struck me all at once, as did my shortsightedness at failing to see it before. How could I have been so blind, so paralyzed by assumptions?
Obsessively, I studied the images of the event again and again. I'm particularly fond of the one you see above, because it confirmed it. I could kiss whatever lucky photographer snapped this breathtaking image because, despite some unfortunate distortion from soundwaves in the picture, it shows Doomsday in the process of being torn in half - and we can see his insides.
He has no internal organs - at least not visible ones. His internal tissue is essentially homogenous, just as the sonogram we'd dismissed years before had shown.
This, of course, takes us back to the drawing board. Because if he's nothing but a colony of smaller organisms, how does he perform the functions that the animals we're familiar with do?
He sees with eyes, he smells with a nose, he hears with - well, he hears - and the information from these senses guides the actions of his arms, legs, mouth, and so on.
To be able to maneuver in a complex environment, Doomsday would need a complex information processing system - essentially, a brain. Everyday activities like walking on two legs, stepping over a gap, picking up an object, are all complex activities which require your brain to model their environment and send out commands to the body based on those models.
But a brain relies on cells working together, being connected to one another. Standalone organisms have been known to work together, but not to that degree of precision.
In a sense, a human is a colony of micro-organisms - each cell can be thought of as an organism in its own right, but only to a degree. None of them can survive without the survival of the body as a whole. Without the heart pumping blood, every cell in the body will quickly die.
But the micro-organisms that comprise Doomsday have been demonstrated to be able to exist separately, as they can leave the body to attack others. Furthermore they can't be as specialized as our own cells, because if they were, they wouldn't have produced the homogenous (uniform throughout) tissue we've observed.
One might imagine a sort of "compromise" between uniform tissue and the organs of the life we're familiar with. It might still look like discrete organs, at least from far away. There could be a brain-like structure (a region with no distinct borders that performs most of the functions of a brain), veins to distribute blood (or whatever analogue the creature has), and more. But there seems to be none of that. Even small capillaries would have showed up on our sonograms; and pseudo-organs would likely have been visible in the photo of his insides as he was ripped in half.
One possibility - the only one I can think of, though of course that doesn't make it the right one - is that each individual micro-organism (I'll call them "nanodooms" for now) is performing some part of many of the larger-scale functions on its own. Each one must have some analog of muscular action, and each one probably performs at least some portion of the functions of a brain. In that way, the creature's neural processing could be spread out throughout the body. This has some distinct advantages. For example, Doomsday might lose his entire head and still be able to survive indefinitely, still moving coherently around his environment.
The nanodooms, then, are self-sufficient entities. Which makes Doomsday as a whole even more dangerous - he could be incinerated, if there was a furnace powerful enough to do so, and as long as a few stray nanodooms survived, the whole creature could be regrown.
They must be able to work together remarkably well. The nanodooms must be able to share nutrients and liquids with one another very efficiently, or else some sort of veins would still be required to replenish them.
And they must be sharing information as well. The nanodooms each likely have some sort of analog of the brain, which explains their ability to perform complex functions such as breaking down living matter and transporting it back to the body.
But together, they must form a larger intelligence, or the body as a whole would not work, as I've mentioned.
This leads to some interesting possibilities. If the brain's functions are distributed throughout the body, then its personality and memories likely are as well. His flesh could all be incinerated down to the bone - if anything exists powerful enough to do that to him - and he'd grow back, remembering everything. He'd remember who had killed him, and how. A terrifying possibility.
But the nanodooms are not all the same - there's at least some level of specialization going on. The creature has eyes, after all - the cells that comprise those eyes must be specialized to receive light signals and transport them to - well, perhaps not to the creature's brain, but rather more likely to be distributed throughout the creature's body, to be processed and interpreted.
So certain cells or clumps of cells take on specific functions, at least in some cases acting like traditional organs. At first glance, this seems to contradict the model I've been laying out, in which his tissue is essentially homogenous - the same - throughout. But upon closer inspection, it may actually fit in nicely with that model, explaining some further loose ends.
I mentioned before a sort of compromise between the uniform tissue and traditional organs. Some form of this could be correct. It may be the case that certain regions of the body perform certain functions more often than others. As I noted, it seems likely that the brain functions are spread throughout the body - but that doesn't preclude there also being a region of the body that handles slightly more of the processing and modeling functions than the rest.
As an analogy, imagine an unconventional office where no one has any specific assigned task, but everyone knows what needs to be done. People can trade jobs at any time. Everyone can perform every task. In that environment, some people might gravitate towards a certain task more of the time anyway. Maybe they find they're good at that, or maybe they especially enjoy it.
This allows Doomsday a lot of adaptability. He has the benefits of having organs, in that he has a specialized center for doing specific tasks. But they're only carrying slightly more of the load for that task than the rest of the body - so if that organ is somehow destroyed, the body can immediately take over.
This makes it very hard to kill him, even if one had a weapon that could penetrate his invulnerable hide. Let's say Superman had an uncharacteristic fit of rage and burned through Doomsday's head with his heat vision. The creature might have a pseudo-brain there, so his thinking might be temporarily disrupted; but he'd soon wake up, angrier than ever, as the rest of his body has assumed more of the brain's duties.
It also brings up another interesting issue: the creature's evolution. Despite this incredible biology that bears no resemblance to life on Earth, Doomsday's general structure still implies a humanoid origin.
Once again imagining myself in the role of the genetic scientist who created this abomination, I feel I would have needed to put this creature through many, many iterations to achieve this brilliant design. (Whoever that scientist is, I would love to meet him and shake his hand on his masterful work, his art. Exquisite).
His whole biology is designed around that premise. From each iteration, the strongest, most adaptable tissue must have been salvaged and from it, the rest of the creature regrown. The new body would be as strong as the strongest, most resistant tissue in the old body.
Over time, his tissue must have learned to survive the death of the body. To do this, cells or clumps of cells must have adapted to become self-sufficient, becoming the predecessors of the nanodooms we see today.
This conversion isn't too implausible. If single-celled life can learn to live together as multicellular life, why can't the reverse happen? A multicellular organism becoming a colony of single-celled life?
The development is, nonetheless, astounding. It allows Doomsday to get the best of both worlds: all the benefits of being a multicellular creature with none of the drawbacks.
Evolution is not normally a process that takes place in one organism. On Earth, evolution happens over millennia, with gradual genetic changes slowly accumulating. But Doomsday's something else entirely.
His body, having fully adapted to being repeatedly killed, will evolve. If he's hit with something so hard it appears to kill him, the surviving cells are likely to be the ones most resistant to whatever "killed" him - and so when the whole body grows back, he'll be more resistant to that kind of attack. That is the basic mechanism of evolution, even if it's not enacted in the usual way.
This may be his strongest weapon: he comes back. He evolves. And all because he's really a colony of individual organisms, a population, which may evolve over time, like bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics. That's the biggest benefit of his unique biology.
I wonder if that was intentional or an unexpected benefit. His creator may have intended only to breed the strongest possible organism, repeatedly harvesting the surviving flesh of a dead organism. The tissue finding ways to survive such a harsh process on their own, without being artificially regrown, may have been unforeseen. Either way, I have no doubt Doomsday could be the terror it is without that quality. His greatest super-power.
Even as I grasped these spectacular truths, I was confronted by their final confirmation. As so often happens in my life, this confirmation was in the form of the realization of my worst fears.
Superman killing the monster had been a mistake. If I had figured the creature out sooner, I would have realized this.
When Doomsday was torn apart, he dissolved completely into the air. Nothing left of his 915 pounds. And all of it went into Superman, who inhaled it unintentionally.
He'd known. Doomsday had been playing us. This mindless brute with no thoughts but rage, had somehow outsmarted all of us - Superman, Wayne, and yes, even me - to get what it wanted the most. Superman.
It was unthinkable. I'd handed it its ultimate victory. As if to gloat, the creature confirmed my hypothesis about his ability to survive as individual nanodooms. He was completely dissolved and survived. Not only that, it was his plan.
This must have been the purpose of the cocoon he went into. He must have been transitioning to more fully independent state. Before the cocoon, the nanodooms might not have been fully self-sufficient - still independent, but unable to operate outside the body on their own. They could regrow into Doomsday, sure, but they couldn't act as individual nanodooms. They couldn't perform the Doomsday Effect, breaking down living matter, and they couldn't become the spores Superman inhaled.
Completing that transition allowed him to consume the landscape without touching it. He'd grown to maturity.
But even then, upon his re-appearance, he wasn't fully ready. When first confronted by Superman, he retreated. He probably needed to take the last steps of that transition to a fully modular, compartmentalized biology.
But now I was mad. This thing thought it had won? Please. It didn't know what I knew. It didn't know Superman.
While he couldn't control it completely, the disease would become psychological to some extent, I knew. In order to control Superman, the nanodooms would have to interface with his body, with his brain. And that provided the opening I needed.
Up to this point, Doomsday had beaten us at every turn because of his speed, his relentlessness, his unpredictability. Because, just as we were trying to figure out his latest ability or behavior, he progressed to another. We didn't have time to think.
This time, I knew I could find a way to stop him. I had a lot to work with. It was just a matter of buying myself the time to do it.
Unfortunately, Superman didn't prove the most willing to cooperate. He refused to turn himself in for days after his infection became apparent. The Amazon finally convinced him, and at last, we could study him.
We bought ourselves time. Cyborg developed nanomachines called nanobytes which could dampen the effects of the nanodooms, trying to drain the life of everyone around. We held him in a prison of my own design - one I'd built to hold even him. And, crucially, we surrounded him with friends. Keeping him calm was central to the effort to buy us time. Doomsday's psychology would become dominant as Superman became angry or upset.
And we set to work. Gleefully, I realized that unlike Doomsday, Superman is not radiodense. He may be suffused with Doomsday's tissue, but his own could be imaged. We were able to examine his blood. And we saw blood cells that looked crystalline, almost bony, mixed in with normal blood cells.
I was right, then. Individual cells are, or at least can be, protected by a hard bone mineral casing. Unbelievable. My speculations are so wild even I doubt them; and yet, defying reason, they end up true.
We also learned something about the Doomsday Effect - the mechanism by which he now eats from afar. It seems the nanodooms emit a null field, which then sucks nutrients in.
Until recently, null fields were barely even theoretical physics - they were mainly a mathematical concept (though the term does have some existing scientific applications). The basic principle describes them as fields in which, at every point in space, the numerical values all cancel out, adding up to zero.
But lately we've encountered a quantum mechanical version of this principle. Sort of a quantum osmosis effect. Essentially, empty space isn't really empty because there's a constant "foam" of miniscule fluctuations going on at the quantum level (essentially, particles fluctuating into and out of existence). If one wanted to flatten that out and create a region of something closer to truly empty space, it would take energy to do that - to suppress (most of) the fluctuations.
And creating such a quantum mechanical null field can create a sort of suction, just as depleting a room of air causes air from the neighboring rooms to rush in. At first, it seemed such a physical reaction would violate Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, a fundamental rule of quantum mechanics which holds that an experiment can never simultaneously measure a particle's position and momentum at the same time. The more precisely you measure one, the less precisely the other can be measured. In this context it means you shouldn't be able to "flatten out" space-time by suppressing the quantum fluctuations, because then you'd know the energy of empty space too precisely.
But this phenomenon is no longer theoretical: we've seen examples of it. The villain known as Nightfall, for example, has been known to create a "null-field of pure darkness, absorbing all light and kinetic energy in a given area". Our running hypothesis of how this works is that it's precisely the violation of the Heisenberg principle that makes the quantum osmosis happen.
The rush of particles into the null field cancels out the null, making that space normal and "full" again, and uncertain. So just as quantum entanglement exists to preserve conserved quantities, the osmosis might be the guardian of Heisenberg energy uncertainty.
Doomsday's version, of course, would be much more powerful and nuanced than Nightfall's. He can do more than absorb electromagnetic radiation - it might even create the "Doomsday Effect" observed.
To lay out the process: Doomsday emits nanodooms into the environment, which then somehow seek out nutrients. When they find them, they create a null field to suck in the nutrients. Then, having accumulated their bounty, they return to Doomsday's body.
An interesting mechanism, and I even wonder if it could also be involved in Superman's mechanism for drawing in light after all (which, as I've previously noted, has to be something more than simply absorbing the light that touches his skin). But that's another issue for another Lex File.
As I put these final pieces together, I felt a thrill - I understood the beast, at least his basics, enough to begin to conceive a plan to stop him. But the creature would not comply. As if he somehow knew I was onto him, the coward ran.
Superman flew away, escaping his confinement, and in the escalating flurry of events since then, we completely lost control of the situation. I had a brief opportunity to talk to Superman over the radio, to reason with him. I knew I had to get him back here, to not take any risks.
I spoke to him rationally, honestly. I knew, again, I could get through to him if I spoke to him as my equal. And for a fleeting moment, I almost did - before that idiot Corben attacked, forcing Superman to risk himself to save Corben's life.
The military suffused the atmosphere with kryptonite because, of course, they wouldn't listen to me. Superman left the planet, and soon we had Brainiac to contend with, and I could no longer focus on developing a plan to stop the monster.
I almost cornered him. I had him. I know it. Just needed a little more time. But Doomsday never gives you that time, does he? That's what he's all about.
In the end, Superman cured himself by flying through the heart of the Sun and also through a black hole (I'm not clear in which order this happened, so I can't tell exactly which of these was responsible for curing him. If I did, it might have been a significant clue to how Doomsday works).
But he was gone. Superman had beaten him. And for all my years of study, of planning, all my fervent determination to understand the creature and find a way to stop it, in the end played no role at all. I didn't matter. None of it mattered. And, in one of the rare examples of this in my life, I was okay with that. Doomsday was gone. That was all I cared about.
Once again, humanity's boundless will, his drive to tame nature, had been subdued in the face of nature's wild unpredictability. I was as a child trying to lasso a bucking horse with a toy rope. A fool.
But not a fool, because I learned. And one day, make no mistake, I'll get another chance.
Doomsday is Coming
The heart of the Sun won't stop that thing. Nor will the event horizon of a black hole. It will escape what not even light can. It will be back. The only question is when - Doomsday is coming.
Already, we've seen minor resurgences. Proof that Doomsday is lurking in the shadows, awaiting his full return.
When Superman found his way into an alternate universe populated by creatures (who were strangely reminiscent of my own creation, the Superman clone B-Zero), Doomsday seemingly appeared out of nowhere, perhaps drawn to Superman once more. I can't say how he survived or reconstituted himself or even whether it's the same Doomsday or an alternate universe counterpart.
Whatever the case, the "Bizarro" creature quickly tore him apart and subsequently became infected much as Superman had.
This produced a remarkable effect: the Doomsday Effect, in the infected Bizarro (or Doomzarro) had the opposite effect from the one we're used to: rather than drawing nutrients from surrounding life on Bizarro's world and killing it, it made flowers bloom and gave life to numerous creatures.
This astounding effect provides new data to examine on how the Doomsday effect works. At first I thought the strange effect could be the result of Doomsday's unique interaction with Bizarro's biology, but now I'm leaning towards the idea that it could be that universe's reaction to the effect.
In other words maybe Doomsday is still creating the exact same null field, but in this universe sucking nutrients from an organism increases its vitality rather than killing it. Maybe a sort of reverse entropy is in play in that universe. If so, smashed eggs could spontaneously come back together, the sort of thing that would be impossible here. And that's extraordinary - well worthy of its own Lex File. But if that's the case it tells us more about that universe than it does about Doomsday.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Doomsday has found a way to weasel his way back already. Some Doomsday spores were left over from Superman's prolonged infection, and a kid became infected. I watched this situation with alarm, and yet again, Doomsday blasted my expectations out of the water. Everything I thought I knew seemed to no longer apply.
Doomsday's physical form was nothing like I'd seen. It was smaller and redder, largely unrecognizable. And he looked and acted less threatening. The boy seemed able to control the creature's rage somehow and hasn't manifested the Doomsday Effect as of yet. In fact, he's been able to become a superhero in his own right when he periodically transforms into the beast.
Maybe the spores that infected the kid were already half-dead, weakened and mutated following their encounter with Superman. Perhaps their genetic memories had been burned out and the Doomsday personality was gone from them. Perhaps the boy really was safe. After all, he ultimately won Superman's approval.
Hah! Good joke. Doomsday is never safe. There is no such thing as a safe Doomsday. I don't know what this one is doing - perhaps he's hibernating before mutating into some new form. But it's only a matter of time. He'll come, just as he came for my sister Lena and myself in my childhood dream.
The only reason I haven't had the boy killed is sheer curiosity. I can learn so much by studying a Doomsday operating within reach. Surely this is irresponsible of me. I'm endangering all of humanity to satiate my desire to know. But I console myself to think that this knowledge is essential.
Doomsday will return, whether it's this poor doomed kid, a reconstituted form of the Doomsday that fell off Superman in the Sun, or another Doomsday come barging from another universe. Consequently, we simply cannot afford not to learn all we can.
I will never stop trying. I will continue studying this terrifying and fascinating organism. And some day I will succeed.
It's been great to write more Lex Files, particularly about Doomsday. I'm glad I finally got a chance to tackle him. But this was probably the most complicated one yet. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun re-reading the various Doomsday sagas for this story and reading up on biology (which is not my field - so if I made any errors, my apologies! And please let me know).
I originally started this installment back when "Superman: Doomed" was the current story arc, and I'd planned to finish it around the same time as the story finished. But then I got a job as an actual science journalist, and my work at the website Ars Technica took most of my writing energy. Nonetheless, this unfinished Lex Files continued to bug me, so I poked at it bit by bit over time. It seems I've finally finished it, and just in time: it looks like Doomsday's set to make his first cinematic appearance about a week after this writing!
Anyway, down to business:
Lex's nightmare in the beginning is based on an actual childhood fear of mine. I was terrified of Doomsday. I was afraid to sleep in my room by myself because, in my mind, I'd see those red eyes right outside my window, staring in at me. The relentlessness of him, the grim determination. The feeling of inescapability. You couldn't even run - he has Superman's speed. I wanted to capture that feeling for this story. I don't actually have a sister; I added Lena to tie in with Lex's reminiscing about her in "Forever Evil" (and because seeing one's sibling die first makes it creepier).
"Davis", of course, is a nod to Davis Bloome, Doomsday's human alter-ego in "Smallville", who was portrayed by Sam Witwer.
The events chronicled in the section I've titled 'The Battle' are a rough retelling of "The Death of Superman". While this article takes place in the New 52/Post-Flashpoint continuity, it's implied repeatedly that some version of these events happened at some point in this Superman's backstory. This is confirmed both in the Geoff Johns run of "Superman", when we see a newspaper on the Daily Planet's wall which depicts Superman's death almost exactly as we remember it, and in the "Superman: Doomed" story arc itself when Superman recognizes Doomsday as a monster from his past.
Of course, we don't know exactly how those events unfolded in this new universe. In the original story, Lex had Supergirl/Matrix wrapped around his finger at the time, and she was the one who kept begging him to let her get involved. But Lex held her back for much of the battle. Matrix doesn't exist in this new universe, but I wanted to keep Lex's reaction as it was originally shown. So I replaced Matrix with anonymous members of Lex's staff, who could be anyone.
The subsequent study of Doomsday's body was seen shortly after "The Death of Superman"; I assumed the same thing happened here, even though this Doomsday was somehow returned to the Phantom Zone thereafter.
The government confiscating samples of Doomsday's DNA also happened in the original continuity. They eventually infused an unwitting soldier with this, turning him into the All-American Boy: essentially a Kryptonite Doomsday which Superman encountered in issues of Superman/Batman. So this is a nod to that, though that exact event may not happen in this universe. Maybe the government will do something else entirely with that DNA this time.
The argument that Doomsday has no internal organs stems from the fact that Bertron, Doomsday's creator from the pre-Flashpoint continuity stated as much in the classic "Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey" miniseries. The idea also fit really well with Doomsday being made of spores in "Superman: Doomed".
Lex is essentially reverse engineering Bertron's work in the scene where this is discussed. I like the idea that the two brilliant, if evil, scientists are facing off in a sense - even though Bertron's likely been dead for centuries.
Speaking of Bertron, we don't know if he exists in this continuity, but I've assumed at least the process he used to create Doomsday is the same.
We do know for sure that Doomsday originated on Krypton, as we see him rampage across it in Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday.
Doomsday being radiodense was established in the comics shortly after "The Death of Superman", when they were studying the creature.
The portions of the story set years after Superman's death largely follow the "Doomed" storyline. Lex's determination not to repeat past mistakes is largely inspired by his character development in the "Forever Evil" miniseries.
Lex's grudging enjoyment of his partnership with Superman is inspired by their relationship in the novel "Superman: The Last Son of Krypton" by Elliot S! Maggin.
"Despite some unfortunate distortion from soundwaves": This is, of course, a nod to the sound effect word obscuring part of the image in the comic.
The term "Nanodooms" is my own. The idea of them carrying genetic memory - Doomsday's ability to remember everything that's happened to him prior to previous deaths - comes from "Hunter/Prey", as suggested by Bertron. Though it does also logically follow from his homogenous nature.
Lex's hypothetical discussion of Doomsday's "brain function" being temporarily disrupted should Superman try to lobotomize him is a nod to the DC Animated Universe version of Doomsday, who was lobotomized by the Justice Lord version of Superman in the "Justice League" cartoon series. Of course, that Doomsday was created under very different circumstances (an Earth-made clone rather than Bertron's ultimate life-form), but I thought the general idea might be similar. Anyway, this would explain why lobotomizing him worked at all, and why he was able to recover and remember the event.
Doomsday's weight is given as 915 lbs. in multiple sources, including the DC comics encyclopedia (my old edition says 615).
Lex referring to Batman as "Wayne" is a running joke in "The Lex Files", going back to the first one.
Null fields are indeed a mathematical concept and are used in a variety of contexts in physics. A null electrical field, for example, is a field where there's no charge at any point in the field. The quantum mechanical one I've proposed is my own invention, with input from author, writer and cartoonist Dale Debakcsy, who suggested the term "quantum osmosis". I've taken the concept of the null field and connected it with the idea of "flattening out" the quantum foam. Here, I'm playing pretty loosely with quantum mechanics, so this should not be taken seriously as a possibility. It's just sci-fi fun, though I hope it makes sense at least up to comic book standards.
The given description of Nightfall's power fit so perfectly with my version of a null field that I had to include it. Hey, it's precedent in the DCU, it counts.
The incident with Bizarro and Doomsday was from Action Comics #40. At the time of its publication, its canonicity was questionable, though "The Multiversity Guidebook" has later ensured its place in the Multiverse.
Lex mentions his creation, "B-Zero", an earlier version of Bizarro to appear in the Post-Flashpoint continuity who Lex created. This creature appeared, and died, in the "Forever Evil" miniseries. (He also has a cameo in the recent "Bizarro" series, where the new Bizarro dreams of being him, but who knows what that means).
The idea of some sort of "reverse entropy" - as hand-wavy as that is - makes sense with what we've seen of the Bizarro world. It would explain not only Doomsday's opposite effect on the world, but the reason why the Bizarros seen there (again, in Action Comics #40), with the exception of metallo, of course, seem not only impervious to harm but they actually enjoy it - throwing bricks at each other and toppling buildings all the time.
The kid Lex speaks of is, of course, Reiser, the protagonist of the comic book series "Doomed". It is somewhat baffling that Superman would let this kid proceed without even a medical checkup or scientific analysis. Doomsday is the kind of monster who can't afford to be taken lightly. But who knows: maybe Superman, like Lex, is keeping close watch and is hoping to learn things himself.
Doomsday's one of my favorite Superman villains, and I've always been fascinated by him. I used to walk to the comic store after class, searching the boxes for every one of his appearances. Certainly he's the scariest villain to me, as I illustrated with the dream. But I was also fascinated by the glimpses at his sentience over the course of his story in the pre-Flashpoint comics. Even in "The Death of Superman", you get the sense that there's more going on in his mind than the pure rage we're told about. And then his sentience grows over time - there was even one possible future version of Doomsday who ultimately becomes good! Two, if you count the Doomslayer. I like that juxtaposition: the most evil creature imaginable, and the most psychologically damaged, but with some interesting pathos underneath.
I wanted to push back against the idea that Doomsday's essentially "a grey version of the Hulk", as put forward by Max Landis in his video (which, despite the fact that I disagree with almost everything he says, I think was excellent) among others. Yes, there are similarities, but he's not the Hulk: Doomsday has his own unique character which is fascinating to me. And that's why I wanted to tackle him.
That and how could I resist the opportunity when "Superman: Doomed" came out?
Special thanks as always to Steve Younis and the Superman Homepage for publishing this story, and to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for creating Superman, and to Dan Jurgens for creating Doomsday.