Superman Set Photos Confirm the Movie’s Secret Villain

The latest set photo from James Gunn's Superman shows the Man of Steel with the movie's baddies, including one surprising reveal.

Superman DC Comics Blizzard
Photo: DC Comics

This Superman article contains spoilers.

Look, out in the internet! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a set photo!

James Gunn’s Superman has started shooting in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Man of Steel’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first met, and the set leaks continue unabated. Previous shots gave us looks at David Corenswet in costume as Superman and as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, as well as Rachel Brosnahan as Lois Lane and Edi Gathegi as Mister Terrific.

The latest leak, however, hints at a surprising main villain for this young new Superman. The image shows Superman arrested by the military (again?), escorted by Frank Grillo as Rick Flag Sr., María Gabriela de Faría as (presumably) big bad the Engineer, and a man in what can only be described as a gimp suit.

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While that last figure might suggest that Superman will finally battle Maynard and Zed from Pulp Fiction, that stylized “U” on his chest promises something far more devastating. That logo mirrors the insignia of Ultraman, the evil Superman from alternate reality Earth-3 in the comics. Introduced in 1964’s Justice League of America #29, the very first “Crisis” story, Earth-3 is a version of our Earth with flipped morality. It is dominated by the Crime Syndicate of America, which features Bruce Wayne aka Owlman, Lois Lane aka Superwoman, and the all-powerful Ultraman.

Ultraman has worn a few different costumes over the year, but none of which look like they’d be right at home in a BDSM dungeon, which does raise some questions. Within DC and Superman canon, the only baddie who ever wore something similar was Doomsday, who made his first cameo appearances wrapped in green cloth with red goggles over his eyes. Is this Ultraman costume perhaps a variation of that initial suit, and he wears a more traditional costume underneath?

Viewers would be forgiven for rolling their eyes at the prospect of Ultraman appearing in Superman. After all, we are oversaturated with multiverse stories. And even though alternate realities have traditionally been the domain of DC instead of Marvel, the MCU has leaned hard into the concept, which would make this newly-relaunched cinematic universe feel like a latecomer to the current trend instead of an innovator.

That said, Ultraman does fit with what appears to be the prevailing theme of Gunn’s Superman movie. With cynical characters such as the Engineer and Guy Gardner getting attention and, of course, the tone of the previous DCEU films, Gunn seems to be positioning Superman as a harbinger of hope and optimism for this new era of DC movies. Indeed, the most exciting reading of Superman getting arrested again is that the scene rejects the overt power fantasies of the prior DCEU in favor of something brighter.

Many of the super-characters Gunn has added to Superman have a more craven approach to power, seeking it for its own end, even if they use it for some form of good. Ultraman represents the furthest extreme of that desire for power, a super man whose tremendous might gives him the right to do whatever he pleases. Superman, then, is the apotheosis of Ultraman.

Of course, there may be even more to it than a visitor from another world. After all, Superman and the arresting entourage is led by Rick Flag Sr., a military figure closely tied to Amanda Waller and Task Force X aka the Suicide Squad. We know that Grillo will also play Flag in season two of Peacemaker and in the upcoming animated series Creature Commandos, in which he leads a military unit filled with monsters.

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Is Ultraman actually a clone, either of Superman or the Earth-3 tyrant, that Grillo (and probably Waller) has recruited? Is this a connection for Bizarro, the ultimate evil Superman? I would say that we’ll need to wait until 2025 to find out, but the way these leaks are coming in, we might figure it out later today.

Superman flies into theaters on July 11, 2025.