So, Batman vs Superman was amazing/great/ok/bad/worse than a wrestling match between X-Pac and Piers Morgan, delete where applicable. As of writing it isn’t out yet, but already people are nervous about the future of Superman. After all, how badly did Man of Steel get received when you need to bring in Batman for help?
I know exactly how to cure Warner Bros’ curse of being unable to make a good film with any superhero other than Batman, in five easy steps!
#5) Superman the DC Character
Man of Steel was flawed. Very flawed. It was slow, very stupid and big space penises flew into the sky and neither the director, the effects crew or the QA team noticed. But one of the complaints that I’ve never agreed with is that it wasn’t very much like Marvel. It was dour, serious, miserable and dark. To which I say “Why do you want another Marvel film?”
A chicken makes for a terrible boat, and a film that isn’t a Marvel film but desperately pretends to be one is just as bad as a Marvel film that pretends not be one (looking at you, Iron Man 2). For Superman to work, it’s not enough for him to be different from the Richard Donner films, but also from what’s going on around him. This generation’s Superman needs to stand out from the crowd, and in the bright comic book hero landscape, a dose of seriousness might be what we need.
Of course, there’s serious, and then there’s depressing, and Man of Steel was depressing mostly because he wasn’t…
#4) Superman the Superhero
Hey guys, remember when superheroes were actually HEROES?
Where a film could take place in a city and the ending isn’t the city burning down? Where the body count isn’t greater than the number of cocaine pellets the producers are snorting? Where the good guys did good things and the bad guys did bad things?
One of the more consistent complaints of modern superhero movies is just how bloodthirsty they are. Avengers 2 was supposed to address that with its scenes of Captain America evacuating people, and that still had half a country ripped off the Earth and almost thrown at it. So to make Superman seem awesome, how about have him do his utmost to save everyone, and not, say, have a massive brawl in the middle of a city and kill millions? Maybe, just maybe, Supes should learn from that error and save people.
#3) Superman the Adversary
Let’s face it, Superman does not have the greatest Rogues Gallery in the world. It says a lot when an inter-dimensional imp by the name of Mr Myxlpltk is in the top five.
There are some cool villains who he’s fought, but they’re more Justice League villains; Mongul, Darkseid, Brainiac to an extent. One of the best Superman stories ever puts him up against the Joker, a damn Batman villain. Meanwhile, Superman’s got Lex Luthor, Zod and Bizarro, sure, but when those three run dry we’re stuck with the likes of Toymaker, Parasite, the Trickster and Atomic Skull. Those aren’t supervillains, they’re band names. So, clearly, we need to do the only thing we can to give Superman actual fights for his films.
Upset comic book fans.
The Trickster should be a Joker-copycat obsessive. The Toymaker could use the house robots from Robot Wars. Atomic Skull can just be a big skull in space that throws nukes at people. Fantastic Four might suck when it ignores the comic book, but Superman needs the total opposite.
Of course, we do need to keep the most important thing about the Man of Steel…
#2) Superman the Man
What makes Superman special compared to other superheroes?
Both Rogue and Captain Marvel can fly and have super strength. Wonder Woman is super strong and has her invisible jet and (sometimes) flies, which makes the invisible jet a bit redundant honestly. Hulk is the strongest there is. No, what makes Superman special is in the name; SuperMAN.
No, I don’t mean what you think I mean, although his red panties don’t leave much to the imagination. No, I mean that he’s an ordinary person.
Batman had to have his parents die to learn that crime is bad, but Superman didn’t learn about Krypton until he was 19, well after the point of caring. He has a loving foster family who are still alive and he’s got a job with an office crush.
Tragedy is not his motivator; altruism is, and we need to show that. We need to show that, ultimately, the story of Clark Kent is about someone with the powers of a god walking among men and deciding “Why not save the world?” The ultimate message is that absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, and that Superman does what is asked of him because it’s just nice.
And it’s that altruism that has to kill him.
#1) Superman the End
In Superman Returns, Superman picks up an entire mountain of Kryptonite to stop it ruining California’s real estate and then throws it into space (comic book movies are stupid). Yes, Superman is so stupidly powerful that Kryptonite, a ridiculous narrative device created specifically to give Superman a weakness, is as effective as a bag of potatoes. He’s just shy of reaching out of the screen and grabbing some popcorn to throw at Lex Luthor. Nothing short of the most powerful force on Earth could kill Superman.
And that force is Superman.
Superman can’t help but set a precedent he can’t match. After all, he can move faster than light but he still can’t be everywhere at once. Every moment he spends as Clark Kent is a moment someone he could’ve saved dies. Every time he saves someone’s life he dooms another. Then there are questions of what he saves people from; he can’t fix poverty or domestic abuse or political corruption, and if he tried he’d be railed for oppression and meddling with humanity’s affairs, just like Lex Luthor has claimed all along.
This plan is sort of coming into effect with trailers for BvSDoJ, having people worship Superman or claim he’s a false god, so this is the perfect way to end the Superman story. A defeat by his two greatest enemies, guilt and disappointment, as the world slowly but surely turns on him.
Maybe the people of his world turn towards more obscure superheroes, allowing to introduce the second wave of the DC cinematic universe…