And the debates begin. Whatever fans may have liked or disliked about Man of Steel (for the record, this columnist freakin’ loved it), one thing is for sure, the film was the beginning of something special. While Christopher Nolan’s Batman films stood in their own universe, Man of Steel has opened the door for, not only Superman sequels, but for an entire cinematic DC Universe. The arrival and acceptance of Superman in America can show other heroes that it is time to reveal themselves to the world. As fans wait on pins and needles for a clue as to where DC may go to next, let’s examine some ideas, characters, and established storylines that can fit seamlessly into the world just established by Zack Snyder, David Goyer, Christopher Nolan, and company.
Kryptonite ManFirst appearing in Superboy #83 (1960) it’s the newest version of K-Man that would make for a great film villain. Remember the abusive husband that Superman throws out a window in Action Comics #1? Well, writers Grant Morrison and Sholly Fisch brought that idea back in Action Comics Annual #1. Swearing revenge, the husband joins a secret government anti-Superman project and volunteers to become irradiated with Kryptonite. Man of Steel certainly focused on the military ramifications of the existence of Superman, and not everyone would have reacted so positively as those seen on-screen. The introduction of K-Man would establish Kryptonite in the new Superman mythos and also explore the fear and paranoia that a being like Superman would instill in those that had something to hide.
ConduitRemember that bully who Clark refused to stand up to in Man of Steel? That was Kenny Braverman. It may have been just an Easter egg, a nod to a great early 90s Superman story, but it is a nod that can be explored in future film installments. Created by Dan Jurgens in Superman: Man of Steel #0 (1994), Braverman, aka Conduit, was a villain from Clark Kent’s past who suffered from Kryptonite radiation poisoning when Clark’s ship landed in Smallville. In the comics, Braverman knew Clark’s secret and tried to punish his rival by killing his friends. In the film, Braverman was a cowardly bully who seemed to get his jollies by pushing around those that would not fight back…a trait that makes him a perfect foil for Superman, a hero that would never use his powers to make others feel weak. It may seem like a long shot, but using Conduit as a future villain could further examine Clark’s pas and can tie in Lana Lang and Pete Ross, two characters that kind of got short shrift in Man of Steel.Non and UrsaSuperman’s actions at the end of Man of Steel need to have ramifications. The way Superman dispatched Zod cannot be swept under the rug. Non and Ursa, Zod’s greatest and most loyal allies, can somehow arrive on Earth to avenge the General, forcing Superman to face his actions. Remember that scream of despair Superman made upon defeating Zod? It was a daring and deep character moment that may have taught Kal-El his most important lesson: that all life is precious and should be protected. This would give Snyder and company a chance to play with Non’s origins from the great Geoff Johns/Richard Donner/Andy Kubert comic Last Son of Krypton, and allow for exploration of Superman’s regret over his actions at the end of Man of Steel. C’mon, at least do it for Mark Waid.
The Legion of Super-HeroesThe connection between Superman and the Legion is deep and rich. The Legion only exist because of Superman’s inspiration, and what better way to show Superman’s impact on DC’s new cinematic world than by showing how Superman’s example inspired a legion of super-powered teens to essentially create a future galactic paradise? The ability to time travel was seemingly established in Man of Steel through the use of Kryptonian phantom drives, so a trip for Kal-El to meet the Legion would be plausible. You can even stay true to the Legion’s origins, as the heroes can travel back in time to meet Clark in his formative years in Smallville. It may sound like a pipe dream, but all the elements are in place for expanding the DC Universe far into the future. Look no further than Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (2007-2008) for inspiration on how to deliver the Legion to the silver screen.
The EliteCreated by Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke in Action Comics #775 (2001, ohmygod, this story is 12 years old?) the Elite’s first battle with the Man of Steel is considered one of the greatest Superman stories of the 21st century. Led by Manchester Black, the Elite are very different heroes from Superman. They are selfish, egotistical, power mad, spoiled, and not afraid to spill some blood. Their take-no- prisoners attitude enthralled the public and made them question whether there is a place for a magnanimous savior like Superman in an increasingly violent world. As Superman continues his journey of self-discovery, the Elite can be an example for the type of hero not to be, and show the world that real heroism is never uncool.
BizarroThere sure is a heck of a lot Kryptonian DNA all over Metropolis and within Superman’s bloodstream. All those Zod and Faora beat downs had to spill some of those super platelets, and wouldn’t an unscrupulous scientific genius just love to clone a being from the stars (and maybe that genius would be bald, more on him later.) Bizarro would create problems for the Man of Steel, not only because he is just as powerful as Clark, but because he would send a warning flair to the world on the consequences of a being with Superman’s might losing control. Bizarro is a super-powered Frankenstein’s Monster, one ripe for exploration. Thanks to Seinfeld, Bizarro is in the pop culture lexicon, and muggles and hardcore fans recognize the name. Plus, he’s a villain fans were robbed of seeing in the original Superman films (I’m looking at you Superman III). Imagine Henry Cavill raging in that craggy make-up. The portrayal of Bizarro by John Byrne in Man of Steel #5 (1986) is pitch-perfect for a more serious utilization of the character.
BrainiacJust to set the record straight, I do not get a stipend every time I type the name Geoff Johns, the man’s run on Superman is just that damn good. In 2008, Johns and Gary Frank presented the near perfect take on Brainiac (currently collected in the Last Son of Krypton graphic novel). The story could fit perfectly into what has already been established in Man of Steel. A being like Brainiac could be attracted to Earth after all those Phantom Gates opening, or he could have downloaded himself into on one of Zod’s ships. There are tons of directions that a film featuring Brainiac can go in, from the introduction of Kandor to the capture of Metropolis. His cold, alien presence is a perfect contrast to Superman. And if you are telling me that you wouldn’t pee your pants seeing the Brainiac skull ship arrive on Earth, you are fibbing.
Lex LuthorBoy, Metropolis sure got its ass kicked by Zod and company, huh? Any billionaire industrialist that would fund the rebuilding of Metropolis sure would win the hearts and minds of the populace…an industrialist and media mogul who does not like sharing the people with an alien visitor. As Clark puts on the glasses at the end of Man of Steel, his Metropolis adventure begins. Luthor is the monster in the maze that is Metropolis, the worst imaginable example of humanity, a man who despises Superman because he’s an alien. Fans kind of turned on the Luthor character after Superman Returns, but rest assured that Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan would find a reasonably sinister take on Superman’s greatest foe. The Luthor in Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman story, “The Gospel According to Lex Luthor” could provide a thematic inspiration for any new film version of Luthor. And as much as we love him, please…no Otis this time.
Darkseid and the New GodsDC and Warner Bros. will have a complication moving forward. How will they avoid covering ground already covered in some of the Marvel films? The New Gods are wholly original creations by Jack Kirby, a mythological saga of massive proportions just sitting a boom tube ride away. Fans can learn of the New Gods’ conflict through Clark’s eyes, as Superman can become a hero and savior even to gods. Again, one of the better aspects of Man of Steel was the introduction of DC space, a vast and populated place holding many story possibilities. Darkseid and Marvel’s Thanos do share many similarities, but the vast array of awesome Kirby creations surrounding Darkseid should differentiate him adequately enough from Thanos. Like Supergirl, the introduction of the New Gods would offer many possibilities for the rise of a new heroic age, and culminate in the Justice League. In fact, just film the Superman: Animated Series episodes that culminated in “Apokolips…Now!” and you’ve got yourself a winner! Honestly, I just want to live in a world where the story engine that was Jack Kirby fuels both Marvel and DC’s cinematic universes.
DoomsdayMany people think they want a “Death of Superman” film, but they really don’t. Who wants to sit through a Superman movie where Superman is not in 3/4ths of the film? This does not preclude a Superman vs. Doomsday film, though. The destruction brought about by Superman vs. Zod sure was something to behold, made the Avengers vs. Chiturai war seem small by comparison. That would just be a drop in the bucket compared to Superman vs. Doomsday. The origins of the unstoppable engine of destructive rage go back to Krypton so it would fit in seamlessly to what was established in Man of Steel. Doomsday can even be a super-weapon left by Zod when things started to go south for the General. The image of Superman and Doomsday would be more marketable than free pancakes. Plus, since Doomsday threatens Metropolis, Snyder and company can use the battle to further establish the members of the Daily Planet. Jimmy Olsen,anyone?
Panic in the SkyIn 1992, creators Jerry Ordway and Dan Jurgens presented Panic in the Sky, one of the coolest Superman stories ever. The story centers on the arrival of Warworld to Earth and the subsequent alien invasion. Superman must lead an elite squad of super-humans to bring down Warworld. In the book, Braniac steals Warworld from Mongul, but in a film it could either be Brainiac or Mongul leading the assault, either villain would fit in the Man of Steel universe. Two things would make Panic in the Sky the right story to continue the Man of Steel saga: First, it shows Superman as Earth’s first and last line of defense against alien incursion. Second, imagine a film where Superman cannot handle the threat of Warworld alone, and sends a call out to those like him, a call goes out that can be answered in Coast City, Themyscira, Star City, Central City, Fawcett City, and maybe even Gotham City as beings with amazing powers and altruistic hearts who have not revealed themselves to the world yet..who suit up in outfits similar to Superman and fight by his side. Yeah, you see where this is going. At its core, Panic in the Sky is a Superman story, but it also opens the universe for the rise of the super-hero, and eventually the advent of the Justice League.
For the Man Who has EverythingSpeaking of Mongul, in 1985 Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons crafted one of the single greatest Superman stories of all time. Superman Annual #11 featured Superman, on his birthday, receiving the gift of the Black Mercy from Mongul. The Black Mercy was an alien plant that bonded to a victim and put them into a dream state where they would experience their fondest dream. In Superman’s case, a Krypton where he is happily married and the father of two children. In this dream world, Superman experiences time with his father, his cousin Kara, and sees a Krypton in upheaval over the morality of the Phantom Zone. The Phantom Zone and Jor-El aspects of the story would tie in in perfectly to Man of Steel, but it is the man who helps Superman escape the Black Mercy in the real world that would make this such a promising prospect for a film. In Moore’s story, Batman helps Superman defeat Mongul and the Mercy (along with Wonder Woman), but imagine a film where Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham to help solve Superman’s disappearance. The film can jump between Batman’s investigation and Superman’s Mercy fueled delusion before the two heroes team for a climatic showdown with Mongul. The story has room for the return of Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon, and it can serve as an introduction for the World’s Finest team.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!