Before Watchmen (...plus Superman and Wonder Woman kiss!!!)
September of 1986, saw the publication of two outstanding stories by writer Alan Moore that would resonate through the years. One, of course, was Watchmen, which changed comics forever; and the other was the Superman storyline, 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?', which changed Superman comics forever. Both of these featured a super-human character besieged at his final refuge in Antarctica, where his superpowered pet tries to defend him and pays the ultimate price, and ultimately ends with some sort of final defeat of the once greatest hero.
But the roots of these stories can be found some 20 months earlier in Superman Annual 11, where the Watchmen team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons tell us a story set on Superman's birthday. As the story goes, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman arrive at Superman's Antarctic Fortress of Solitude to celebrate the Man of Steel's birthday, only to find Superman in some catatonic state, with some sort of flora entwined about his body. It turns out the villain Mongul has sent Superman a birthday present of a symbiotic plant that feeds off a sentient host, while providing a vision of their heart's desire - in Superman's case to live out his life among his own people on a Krypton that never died.
It's a really great story, showing us how Superman, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman each deal with crises, and how they relate to each other both on and off the battlefield (in a tender moment, Superman and Wonder Woman even passionately kiss). One drawback, however, is that Krypton seems a lot like just a future version of Earth, rather than a truly alien planet - but this makes some sense when you think about it - Superman, never knew life on Krypton, he grew up on Earth, and this isn't really Krypton, but the Krypton of (and limited by) Superman's imagination. Speaking of which, the Krypton (as future Earth) seems pretty quaint by today's standards - one can really see how much a global communications network and other computer advancements have made in the nearly 3 decades since this was written. In some ways today's Earth is more futuristic than this story's Krypton - but we can't really blame the writer for this failure of foresight.
One thing I can blame the writer for, though, is a fairly cheap way Mongul gets the drop on Superman during a fight: Superman momentarily gets distracted by something he's seen a million times in his Fortress of Solitude - a statue from Krypton. I think we're supposed to believe he's still got the visions from the symbiote fresh in his memory or something; but whatever the case, it doesn't really wash.
Dave Gibbons is a great artist for four-color superhero comics, and we're all aware of how well the Moore/Gibbons team works together. So here, before 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?', before Watchmen, before Crisis on Infinite Earths, and long before Justice League #12, we get a fun little story that presages them all.