Superman is one of, if not the most recognizable fictional characters ever created. Whether you’re a diehard fan or have little more than a passing knowledge of the character, his image alone is likely a familiar one. Which makes it rather strange that DC has seemed so hesitant to put him on the big screen, especially in a time when we’re seeing four to five big comic book movies per year.
And after years of dragging their feet on a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, Henry Cavill has allegedly walked away from the role due to contractual reasons. Or has he? Honestly, the whole situation is extremely confusing, even more so after a vague Instagram post from Cavill himself. But if the current big-screen iteration of Superman really has come to an end, where do they go next?
For now, it would appear that Supergirl is DC’s main priority when it comes to survivors of Krypton, which may be a smart move. But eventually, the time will come for the Big Blue Boy Scout to return to our screens. Our own Kendall Cromartie already broke down which actors could and should step into the iconic role (Michael B. Jordan is my personal choice), but how and when should the next iteration of the character be handled?
Give it time
Let the rest of DC’s characters have their time, give the Supergirl movie a shot and keep making Wonder Woman sequels. Don’t just rush into the next version of Superman, let audiences feel that enough time has passed before coming back with a bang. While the idea of getting a new Superman movie in the bag before the superhero bubble bursts may be tempting, letting time pass will make his return all the more satisfying.
Grounding the character
A common complaint about Superman is that he’s not relatable, that his issues don’t reflect our own because of his immense power. This is of course nonsense, but finding a way to ground the character is the essential ingredient to making Superman work. And how do I propose doing that? By giving Clark Kent a family.
We already saw the seed of this in Superman Returns, although the idea isn’t nearly as fleshed out as it could have been there. Instead, we must look to Dan Jurgens’ “Lois and Clark” comic miniseries, and the following run from Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, for a properly realized version of this. Here, we see Clark married to Lois Lane, with their son Jonathan in the early stages of developing his powers.
This would be the perfect starting point for a new Superman movie, giving Clark and Lois a relatable struggle in trying to raise a son, with the added pressure of him having superhuman powers. And speaking of Lois…
Lois Lane is more than a plot device
The character of Lois is an essential part of the Superman mythos, as important as Supes himself. And while nobody can fault the casting of Amy Adams, she was never given all that much to do in the role, often acting more as a plot device than an actual person. Which would need to change.
More than just a love interest, Lois is a dedicated reporter with a take-no-shit attitude, whose compassion always pushes her to fight for what’s right and look out for those she cares about. She’s the perfect counter-balance to Clark’s small town niceness, and the two always have something to learn from each other. When considering what direction to take Superman in the future, DC would be smart to think about how to properly utilize Lois.
Don’t be embarrassed
Let Superman be Superman. Clark is an earnest farm boy, raised by a kindly family who showed him right from wrong. And the way he conducts himself as Superman should absolutely reflect that. He’ll strive to do what’s right in every situation and do so with a smile on his face. Removing his inherent goodness and turning him into Batman with powers is a pretty boring choice, one that feels like a hangover from an era that passed long ago.
Superman’s world is weird. He comes from a retro sci-fi planet, one of his biggest enemies is a 5th Dimension Imp, and some of his best stories involve his most out there powers. “All-Star Superman,” for example, features Supermen from multiple realities and an entire planet of Bizarro Justice League members. And that’s to say nothing of his insane list of Silver Age powers. If the new version of the character really wanted to set itself apart, they’d fully embrace this weirdness, giving him some wacky powers in a bright, fun adventure.
Who is Superman?
Finally, a new version of Superman should really look at what Superman means to the world. He’s not just another superhero, and a Superman movie shouldn’t just be another superhero movie. A genuine look at how his actions have made the world a better place and how he’s influenced other heroes would be a great way to bring Superman into a modern context and potentially bring in cameos.
But more importantly, this approach would position Superman as the most important hero in a world full of them, both on and off screen. And in times where we could all use a hero like Superman, a bit of hope and optimism would go a long way.