Superman may not have quite as extensive or iconic a rogue’s gallery as Batman or Spider-Man, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a wide assortment of characters that Zack Snyder and co. could choose from to be the villain in their upcoming movie reboot.
It’s a character set that’s been woefully underserved by previous films, with only Lex Luthor, General Zod and a handful of movie original creations ever being used.
But in seventy years of comics there have been a number of great baddies that could easily give the new Supes a run for his money.
The likes of the Prankster and The Toyman need not apply, but try some of this lot…
Lex has been in more movies than any other comic book villain, four, to the Joker’s three. And when you consider that there have been at least three Batman films without the Joker, and just one Superman without Luthor, it’s clear the general public must be crying out for something different.
But if we do have to have Lex, let’s hope that Snyder/Nolan/Goyer go with one of his myriad other interpretations (say, mad scientist, or billionaire tyrant) rather than going back to Mister “Oh Look I’ve Only Got One Plan And It Involves Selling Newly-Created Land To People”.
Who could play him? Mark Strong
Perhaps the most obvious choice, as a character never immortalised on film before. There are actually countless interpretations of Brainiac to choose from. He’s been variously human, Kryptonian, Coluan, a scientist, a robot, but the recurring theme is that he’s a city-bottling, mental, rather than physical match for Superman, and his alien origins would allow for all manner of sci-fi inventiveness.
But he’s also generally worked best when teamed up with Luthor, and the rule is that you don’t generally get two villains until the second film in a series.
Who could play him? Paul Bettany
Another one who’s had his crack at a film version before, but crucially, Zod proved immensely popular while doing so.
There’s simply something very appealing about the idea of a foe whose power set matches Superman’s exactly, especially if played as a’dark mirror’ of the hero, and memories of the awe-inspiring fight sequences in Superman II must surely be on Zack Snyder’s mind (although with his directing style, they’d probably last about three hours each).
We’ve reported this very week on the rumours that have emerged about Zod’s sidekick/consort/whatever Ursa being in the film, so this one looks a very strong bet, indeed.
Who could play him? Jon Hamm
Of course, if the filmmakers wanted an immensely powerful foe that didn’t just involve doing Zod all over again, they could always go with Darkseid.
To many Super-fans, the Jack Kirby-created ruler of Apokolips is the Man of Steel’s greatest nemesis, although the detailed backstory and cosmically-orientated nature of any story involving him and his people would make him a difficult sell to the casual moviegoer. To say nothing of his fetching skirt and knee-high boots costume combo.
Who could play him? Michael Clarke Duncan
A good character in the comics (his single-minded and self-important loathing of Superman is always a laugh), the Warworld ruler Mongul would be visually interesting, but faces similar problems to Darkseid in that any story about him would probably have to be set away from Earth, and that risks putting off the non-fans.
You could have him launching an invasion of this planet, but the risk is losing the backstory of his relationship with the character that makes him worthwhile in the first place.
Who could play him? Gerard Butler
Famous as the creature that killed Superman, and, well, very little else, actually, despite various attempts by writers over the years since to do something interesting with him.
Unlike Bane, he never had much background character in the first place. His only purpose was to unrelentingly keep fighting until Superman dropped, and so he could never carry a film as its main antagonist.
Could he, perhaps, be pressed into service as the creation/tool of somebody else (Brainiac, maybe? That’s how Kevin Smith employed him in the unmade Superman Lives script), but there are far more interesting options out there.
Who could play him? A heck of a lot of CGI
A slightly left-field choice, but although it would require a lot of changes and simplification (all the stuff about impersonating a dead Superman would have to go), there’d be something in the story of a brilliant, but insane scientist blaming Superman for the accident that killed his family, granting him bizarre technology-controlling powers, and using those powers to pursue a vendetta against him.
Might want to tone down the obvious Fantastic Four pastiche, mind.
Who could play him? Hugh Laurie
Another one who wouldn’t really carry a film in his own right, but could perhaps work as muscle for another character.
John Corben’s main schtick, aside from being, you know, made largely out of metal, is his heart of Kryptonite, and any device that threatens to weaken Superman’s perceived over-poweredness is always going to play well to the audience.
Metallo recently played a major part in the character-rebooting Secret Origin series, which could help refresh his popularity.
Who could play him? Jason Statham
It may sound daft, but the little trickster from ‘the fifth dimension’ was made into a pretty serious foe by Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?, and with his basically unlimited powers, it’d be possible for all manner of crazy and elaborate scenarios to be thrown at the screen.
Oh, okay, it’s daft. It’d be fun, though.
Who could play him? Verne Troyer
Okay, so, Lex Luthor decides that a combination of nuclear power and haute couture is the best way to defeat Superman. So, he combines a bit of his own DNA with some DNA he takes from a hair sample Superman gave to a museum, throws in a little bit of gold cloth, then attaches it to a nuclear missile just before it gets thrown into the sun by Superman.
As if by magic, a 1980s nightclub bouncer with bouffant hair and slightly elongated gold fingernails emerges, and, hey, wait, where are you going?
Who could play him? Nobody in their right mind