Any incarnation of Superman on film is drawing from decades of story and tradition – whether the filmmakers want to acknowledge it or not. With Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer have made it clear they’re trying to do something brand new with the big blue Boy Scout, while staying connected to the most lasting elements of the character. As a result, while the plot and origin story may be tweaked, there are plenty of references to past films, stories, and the creators who helped make them a reality.
We’ve gathered all the Easter eggs we could spot, as well as the odd twists of fate these kinds of films seem to contain. Needless to say, there will be plenty of spoilers in our list of Man of Steel Easter Eggs & Trivia, so read at your own risk.
Not only does this easter egg fall under the ‘hardcore comic book geeks only’ banner, it’s only on screen for a second; when Jor-El first makes his escape from Zod’s forces, the remnants of what looks to be a shattered moon stands out in the skies of Krypton. Comic book geeks will recognize the moon as not just any heavenly body, but Wegthor, one of Krypton’s two moons that fell victim to the experiments of Jax-Ur.
In the comics, the brilliant scientist accidentally fired a nuclear warhead at Wegthor, destroying the moon and being the first Kryptonian eternally condemned to the Phantom Zone. While Jax-Ur eventually escapes with Zod’s forces in Man of Steel – played by Smallville alum Mackenzie Gray – his failed experiment caused Krypton to ban all space flight. This correlation isn’t stated outright in the film, but Wegthor remains nonetheless.
Kelex, the Robo-Butler
It was no surprise to see Superman’s parents Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van make an appearance in this origin story – they tend to be present in nearly every telling. But there was one inhabitant of the El household that us fans were delighted to see: Kelex, the robotic butler, and future caretaker of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Introduced by John Byrne in his “Man of Steel” reboot, Kelex is said to have served Jor-El for his entire life, and assumed to have fallen in the destruction of Krypton.
A recreated version of the trusted servant soon took over Fortress security and maintenance, and has cropped up continuously in random story arcs. Man of Steel adds even more functionality to Kelex, and even mentions him by name – along with fellow robot Kelor – to make the easter egg clear.
Princes of Thieves
We’ve pointed it out before, but that fact that Superman is able to claim two legendary outlaws as his father is too strange a coincidence to not mention here – Costner played Robin Hood in Kevin Reynolds’ Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves (1991); Crowe in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (2010). The connections don’t stop there: Reynolds would later direct Henry Cavill in his first major film role in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) starring James Caviezel.
Once a frontrunner for Superman, Caviezel currently stars on Person of Interest created by Jonathan Nolan – co-writer of the most successful Batman films in history. The theme continues, as Man of Steel casts both actors in roles demanding they do something ‘wrong’ in order to do what’s right. Jor-El breaks Krypton’s laws for the sake of his son, and Jonathan Kent claims Clark as his own offspring – both acting outside of the laws for what they see as bettering society (even if it’s not their own).
Weisinger Primary School
The image of a young Clark Kent winning first prize in his science fair was revealed early on, establishing the relationship between Jonathan and his adopted son. But a closer look reveals that Clark wasn’t enrolled in just any school, but ‘Weisinger Primary School.’ The image is a clear reference to comic book legend Mort Weisinger, who as editor of DC Comics oversaw much of the Golden Age of Superman comics.
While editing both Superman and Batman, Weisinger introduced key elements of the Superman story – like his powers coming from Earth’s yellow sun – likely stemming from his roots as a founder of The Time Traveller, America’s first magazine dedicated entirely to science fiction. Weisinger may be best known for his surly demeanor and creation of characters like Aquaman and Green Arrow, but Snyder and co. showed his work is still appreciated.
Sullivan’s Truck & Tractor
When Jonathan Kent tells Clark that he must “decide what kind of man he wants to be” while growing up in Smallville, one Easter egg is hard to miss: the massive ‘Sullivan Truck & Tractor Repair’ sign featured prominently behind them. Fans of Smallville recognize the nod to Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), one of the central characters in the WB series who was created specifically for the show.
The sign implies that Chloe’s father Gabe is no longer a Fertilizer Plant manager, but who are we to judge? The inclusion of the Sullivans is just one way Snyder’s production team and art department honored Smallville, including Clark’s childhood friend Whitney Fordman (Robert Gerdisch), a character also created for the TV series and previously played by Eric Johnson.
The Cassidy Pub
This one was likely only caught by the most studious of Superman fans. Before embracing his calling as a caped superhero in the movie, Clark Kent spends his days working alongside burly truckers at the Cassidy Pub & Restaurant in Cordova, Alaska. Superman historians will notice the immediate reference to artist Paul H. Cassidy (1911-2005), who may not have created the character with Joel Siegel or Joe Shuster, but did help shape his iconic appearance.
Joining Shuster’s studio in 1938, Cassidy was tasked with the inking and detail of Shuster’s artwork, making the cape more dynamic, and adding to it the signature ‘S’ featured on the hero’s chest. As it happens, the sign wasn’t added in by the art department at all; the scenes in Cordova were actually filmed in Cassidy, British Columbia. But we’d still like to think fate was at work.
With four Academy Award nominations under her belt already, Amy Adams is one of the most proven actors among Man of Steel‘s cast (and that’s saying something). But her road to portraying Superman’s love interest on the big screen wasn’t an easy one, having previously auditioned for the role of Lois Lane in both Superman: Flyby and Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006). The role of The Daily Planet’s intrepid reporter is finally hers, but it may not be the most memorable foray of Adams’ into the world of Superman. That honor undoubtedly goes to her role as ‘Jodi Melville’ on Smallville.
An overweight young woman using a Kryptonite weight loss shake to shed off pounds – granting an irresistible urge to eat. We still think unhinging her jaw to swallow a high school bully whole was some of her best work. Joining Adams is nearly a dozen other actors who made appearances on the TV series, even appearing in scenes with their newly-cast former characters.
With the filmmakers applying a twist on the classic of Fortress of Solitude, Kal-El’s retreat from Earth and into the culture and technology of Krypton is reimagined not as a cavern grown through crystals, but a crashed Kryptonian scout ship. In exploring the ship, Kal discovers a shriveled corpse in what appears to be a stasis pod of some sort.
Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that one of the pods is both open and empty, and those who read through the Man of Steel prequel comic know what was once contained within it. The pod, like the ship, once contained Kara Zor-El, known to comic fans as Supergirl. Unfortunately, since Snyder and Goyer’s version crash landed on Earth 10,000 years ago, a cameo isn’t likely.
Words of Wisdom
The places that Snyder, Nolan and Goyer were looking to for inspiration were evident from the very first trailers; assuming fans were paying close attention. The pair of Man of Steel teasers – one narrated by Kevin Costner, the other by Russell Crowe – showed glimpses of a young Clark, overlaid with words of wisdom from his father(s).
Jor-El’s speech – laying out the mission he has left for his son to complete – isn’t exactly new. In fact, the lines were modified version of those seen in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s “All-Star Superman,” hailed by many as one of the best Superman stories to date. As they appear in the comics:
“You have given them an ideal to aspire to…They will race, and stumble, and fall and crawl…and curse…and finally…they will join you in the sun Kal-El.”
Words of Wisdom
Although Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. wished to make a clean start with Man of Steel, that doesn’t mean the director didn’t take the opportunity to pay homage to Richard Donner’s original film. Audiences saw the ship that brought Kal-El to Earth was a sleeker design than in the past, yet when Jor-El walks his son through the process, the version of the ship shown is a clear reference to Donner’s.
Running With Zebras
As further evidence that Mark Waid’s “Superman: Birthright” was one comic arc that helped shape the DNA of Man of Steel, the early shots of Superman first learning to fly while in uniform feature him soaring over a scattering herd of zebras.
The flying montage may be too fast-paced and frenzied to notice the fleeing animals, but the scene is unmistakable for comic book fans, as the same scene was depicted in “Birthright” artwork by Leinil Francis Yu. In the comics Clark flies above the herd (and among the birds) during his search for identity in Africa, and although the context in the film is slightly changed, it’s no coincidence that the filmmakers found a way to pay homage.
It Means Hope
In a moment from the first full Man of Steel trailer that got hardcore fans squealing in their seats, and casual movie fans intrigued, Lois Lane asks what the ‘S’ emblazoned on Superman’s chest stands for. He replies that “it’s not an ‘S.’ On my world it means ‘hope.'” Past comic and film writers had explained that the symbol was Kal-El’s family crest, but it was Mark Waid who first made the letter stand for something… greater. Those who’ve read “Superman: Birthright” (and those who haven’t, do so NOW) already know it was Waid who explained the ‘true’ meaning behind the ‘S.’
One look at the history of the Supersuit may convince anyone that Man of Steel has little in common with George Reeves’ version seen in Adventures of Superman (1958). But when production started to get off the ground, the film’s sound department was contacted by several previous artists. Their message: “we’ve got the wind!”
The reference was to the rushing wind sound effect used in the TV series, played on a loop whenever Superman would take to the skies. The sound designers found a place to include it when Kal-El takes flight (among the rest of the film’s sound effects) as an homage to the incarnations of the superhero that came before theirs. It won’t be obvious to everyone, as the team claims the sound effect was placed so that it wouldn’t seem out of place to the unfamiliar, but would be impossible to miss for fans of the show.
The Kent Family Dog
The Kent farm is about as small-town America as comic books can get, complete with the loyal family dog. It may seem strange to think that the family wasn’t always complete with a four-legged member, but the version of the family seen in Man of Steel actually has two. One of which is immediately recognizable as ‘Shelby’; Smallville fans will remember the name applied to a Golden Retriever, but it was Jeph Loeb and Time Sale who gave the Border Collie its place on the farm in “Superman For All Seasons.”
She was one Air Force officer famous before the movie even released, due mainly to TV spots in which she claimed to find the titular Man of Steel “kinda hot.” The actress in question is Christina Wren, who caught the attention of Zack Snyder after her role in a memorable commercial for Athenos Hummus, and wound up on screen playing one of several military officers monitoring Superman’s activities.
If the name on her uniform gets the wheels turning for DC fans – who also recall Snyder’s promise that there would be plenty of Easter eggs in the film – it’s for a good reason. Her full name is Captain Carrie Farris, a slightly modified version of (but obvious allusion to) Caroline ‘Carol’ Ferris, the longtime love interest of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Ferris’ skills as a combat pilot in the comics are superb, and her outspoken appreciation of…attraction fits with her alternate identity as Star Sapphire.
When Superman first loses consciousness on Zod’s ship, the hallucination that follows is never clearly explained. But for longtime fans of Superman, the fever dream used to manipulate him has Bloodmorel written all over it. The brainchild of Alan Moore, “DC Comics Presents” #85 paired Superman and Swamp Thing in “The Jungle Line,” introducing Superman to the deadly virus known as Bloodmorel.
When Clark has a flashback to his youth (before deciding to surrender himself to General Zod) an easter egg appears that most fans would be likely to miss, since it appears for just a second on screen. No, it isn’t the copy of Plato’s “Republic” that Clark is reading in his father’s car (although the book would have plenty to say about Krypton’s society), but the number worn by one of his would-be bullies: 52. The same number of regular titles in Dc’s ‘New 52’ relaunch, and a number bearing serious significance to DC’s multiverse.
We could go into detail on each of General Zod’s Kryptonian cronies, since most of those named in either the film or credits are pulled from the comic book pages. But if one stands out among them, it’s the towering giant, Nam-Ek, first appearing in the December 1974 “Superman” #282 story entitled “The Loneliest Man in the Universe.” Although his hulking size is never explained in the film, the comics do offer an explanation for his odd physiology.
Nam-Ek, a scientist, attempted experiments on the endangered Kryptonian Rondor Beasts, injecting himself with serum from the animal’s horn in pursuit of immortality. He got it, but became a horrific Rondor/Kryptonian hybrid in the process. No way to know if this is the explanation for the film version, but the large-horned Rondor Beasts can be glimpsed roaming the plains of Krypton early in the film.
Otto’s Barber Styling
As yet another tribute to the DC writers and artists (not named Siegel and Shuster) who helped shape Superman into the hero the world now knows, Smallville’s prominently-featured barbershop bears the title ‘Otto’s Barber Styling’ – a reference to Otto Binder, who wrote for the company in the 1940s. If Superman fans aren’t familiar with the name, it’s about time to be: in his run at DC, Binder wrote the introduction of The Legion of Super-Heroes, and came up with the idea for Supergirl, Brainiac, The Phantom Zone, Krypto the Super Dog, and even Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch.
Prior to DC, Binder helped Captain Marvel rival the success of Supes himself, adding Mary Marvel and Black Adamto the series’ fiction. For this particular Easter egg, the production team decided to pay homage to an even lesser-known invention of Binder’s; Quality Comics’ Mighty Samson (named for the Biblical hero who drew strength from his hair).
Ezra’s Mail Depot
During Faora and Nam-Ek’s attack on Smallville, there’s plenty to keep viewers from taking in the background (we can forgive missing Easter eggs when fighter jets are being shredded). As the town’s residents scamper for shelter, many are seen taking refuge in the local post office, bearing the name ‘Ezra’s Mail Depot.’
The name is a reference to the town’s founder Ezra Small, whose unique history was crafted by the makers of Smallville. Surprisingly, Ezra isn’t best known for his skills as a farmer, but for his prophecies. The film leaves out the many mysteries uncovered by Small while obsessively exploring a nearby cave system filled with Kryptonian relics and wall carvings. But with this inclusion, who knows how much of the show’s fiction is still plausible…
The first comic book adaptation that put Zack Snyder’s name on the Hollywood map (and remains synonymous with the director for many) was the bloody and CG-filled take on Frank Miller’s 300 (2006), chronicling the Battle of Thermopylae between Spartan King Leonidas and Persian King Xerxes I.
Although Man of Steel may have little in common with that period war film (besides gruelling workouts for its leading men) Snyder’s crew did find a way of paying homage. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice several storefront signs supporting the town’s high school football team — the ‘Smallville Spartans.’ That name is a lot more intimidating than ‘the Crows,’ so we’ll take that allusion over speed-ramps or immaculately-shaped beards any day.
This Easter egg made its way online before the film, once viewers realized that the Zod/Superman collision seen in the trailers began to look a little…different. The main difference was the inclusion of a nearly-indistinguishable logo along the bottom of the frame: ‘Blaze Comics.’ In the DC universe, Blaze was the publisher of the fictionalized comic series centering on Booster Gold; a real-life superhero who had travelled back in time from the 25th century to fight crime with future technology – and, obviously, get famous in the process.
Signing sponsorship deals and playing for the camera helped earn Booster the money he desired in his own time, and the inclusion of Blaze Comics proves that even if he has yet to arrive in our world, the stage is set.
When General Zod first discovers his ‘heat vision,’ his lack of control brings a skyscraper down around both he and Superman. Moments before it turns to rubble, a poster is visible on the left of the screen that should be impossible to miss for anyone who has seen it in the real world – and one which confirms that not only does Batman exist in the film’s universe, but he’s already become a pop culture icon.
When Zod spins Superman like a top before sending him flying through skyscrapers like sheets of paper, the Utopia Casino is featured quite prominently. While it’s not as immediately recognizable as a Batman poster, the casino is a notable location for comics fans as the enterprise of Tony Gallo. Featured prominently in the “Superman Confidential” comic, the unscrupulous entrepreneur played a key role in Superman’s first run-in with Kryptonite (although this easter egg is the work of the VFX team, so don’t take it as confirmation of the radioactive element’s existence).
Even before Man of Steel was officially announced to the public, comic book movie fans had long been debating whether the film would – or should – seek to incorporate Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Now that the film has arrived, we know for certain that Batman isn’t a player in the story. Not at this point, anyway. But that doesn’t mean Bruce Wayne isn’t alive and well in the world of Man of Steel.
When the film entered advanced screenings, fans soon noticed what may be one of the most controversial Easter eggs contained within. During the film’s climactic battle, General Zod tears a satellite to shreds – a satellite bearing the ‘Wayne Enterprises’ logo. Zack Snyder has since explained that the inclusion was nothing more than an Easter egg, and a means to thank Nolan for his assistance on the film. But we doubt that will stop online rumor mills from making the most of it.
Although Superman’s arch-nemesis never makes an actual appearance in the film, Lex Luthor does get a mention – albeit an indirect one. Featured both atop a skyscraper close to Zod’s initial attack on Metropolis and painted on a pair of tanker trucks, the LexCorp logo is hard to miss. While that confirmation that Lex is alive and well in Snyder’s world is something of a comfort to fans, previous rumors that Luthor would be featured briefly – and had even been cast – proved fruitless.
The nod leaves the door wide open for Luthor to play a larger role in the sequel to Man of Steel, especially if he’s able to scheme in the wake of the devastation.
Those are all the odd bits of trivia and easter eggs we’ve spotted, and invite every Superman fan to add their own to the discussion. Given how highly DC counts on Man of Steel to launch their shared movie universe, there are sure to be more uncovered in the coming months. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out:
- Our Man of Steel Review
- Our Man of Steel Spoiler Discussion
- Our Man of Steel SR Underground Podcast
- 4 Comic Books to Prepare You For Man of Steel
- Man of Steel Prequel Comic Answers Big Questions
Man of Steel is in theaters now. —– Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.