Superman’s Rebirth – What Does it Mean for ‘Man of Steel’?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated June 17th, 2012 at 3:30 pm,

superman action jeans Supermans Rebirth   What Does it Mean for Man of Steel?

This past Saturday night at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, we were made aware of a very startling reality — for the first time in 73 years, Superman will wear his trunks on the inside of his pants.

In all seriousness, as we have discussed, the DC Universe is set to reboot (in a manner) with the launch of 52 number one issues (to be released in print and as a digital downloads simultaneously), beginning this September with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s origin story for the Justice League.

Johns and Lee were on hand to discuss the relaunch at the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival day 3 (a salute to Superman). Famed comic book writer Grant Morrison also made an appearance (via a pre-taped video) to discuss the release of Action Comics issue number one, which will coincide with the relaunch of the rest of the DC Universe.

The event featured a word from Mike Mignola on his return to Hellboy, a double feature screening of Richard Donner’s Superman 1 and 2, a conversation between the LA Times’ own Geoff Boucher and Donner (and the aforementioned DC team) with updates on, well, the updates.

The bulk of the dialog centered on amusing anecdotes about Geoff Johns’ time as an intern, and then assistant, for Donner and the inspiration for and creation of the first two Superman films. However, that talk eventually wove into a discussion on the rebirth of the DC characters and (as his was the character we were there to honor) Superman in particular.

dc universe reboot all new justice league Supermans Rebirth   What Does it Mean for Man of Steel?

The rebooted Justice League, coming this fall.

When Geoff Johns introduced his old mentor and friend Richard Donner, he recalled seeing a sign in the director’s office that simply read “verisimilitude.” When Johns asked why the sign was up, Donner told him a story about an early draft of Superman in which the Man of Steel was searching for Lex Luthor and swept down to a busy street to grab a bald man, only to discover that it was Telly Savalas. Donner felt that the gag  (like much of the original script) was campy and unrealistic, he wanted to make sure to ground his Superman, to make the character and the story relatable. In other words, to work toward to goal of verisimilitude, or “having the quality of realism.”

Donner confessed that (aside from the – at that time – shockingly high one million dollar salary) the reason that he ultimately agreed to direct Superman was because he grew up with the character and knew that, “It was going to be destroyed by the Hungarians.” The Hungarians in question were producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind who sought Donner out to direct Superman after seeing The Omen. As Donner tells it, the initial script was, “Ridiculous. It was a parody of a parody. It was being made by Hungarians with Costa Rican diplomatic passports (who had never been to Costa Rica) and was being directed by an Englishmen (at the time) who had never seen any Superman or read any comics and it was going to be shot in Italy. And it was like, ‘Hey, this is apple pie man, you’re destroying it.’ So I called them and said, ‘I’m interested, but the only way I will do it is if I can rewrite it.'” When the producers asked Donner which portions of the script he would want to re-write he replied simply, “Beginning, middle and end.”

Which he did, with a commitment to create believable characters and circumstances.

christopher reeve superman Supermans Rebirth   What Does it Mean for Man of Steel?

Christopher Reeve as Donner's Superman

Some would contend that Donner ushered in the formula for a successful modern Superhero movie. His Superman movie depicted  a world that stays true to the essence of the character and yet has a quality of timeliness and relatability for the audience it is being created for. He also was savvy about how to cast the film. Geoff Boucher recalled that Christopher Nolan credited Superman for creating a template for how he would cast his comic-book movies, noting that having well-established actors (such as Terence Stamp and Marlon Brando) in the supporting roles in Superman “lent a gravity to the epicness” of the tale.

Boucher also acknowledged that there is some concern today about how to stay true to the essence of a character while still adapting to modern trends and cultural mores – especially when it comes to the character of Superman. Many feel that he is in some ways simply too old-fashioned to work today without fundamentally altering the basic nature of the character.

Some theorize that this conundrum accounts for the failure of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.

Boucher posed the following question to Donner:

“Today there are so many Superhero films (there are four this summer) and watching a movie like “X-Men” we see characters like Wolverine — anti-heros. Magneto is an antihero in this film and you look at “The Dark Knight” films and they’re very, very dark. Superman is inherently different. He’s a daytime character, Batman is a nighttime character. Some people think that that presents a problem moving forward. Everyone knows that Warner Bros. is about to do another “Superman” film — do you think that Superman is a 20th century hero, or do you think that he’s also a 21st century hero?”

Donner said he felt he was a 21st century hero, that the film has a great director, and a good group behind it and he was sure they will “come up with the right way — whether it is dark, or middle of the road.” Boucher followed up by asking what Donner felt the was one thing they should not do with the character to which Donner replied, “I don’t give advice, I take it.”

Given the revised look of Superman in the upcoming Action Comics reboot (as seen below) and what we know of Henry Cavill’s intense physical training for his role in Man of Steel (from both Cavill himself as well as director Zack Snyder) we can surmise that there are clearly some changes in store for the character in both the comics and the films.

crop superman action jeans Supermans Rebirth   What Does it Mean for Man of Steel?

A Rebooted Superman

How these changes will be implemented beyond the physical plane remains to be seen. The language that Geoff Johns and Jim Lee and Grant Morrison were using at the event did feel like an attempt to educate and prepare the audience for a rather large scale paradigm shift for the DC Universe characters, Superman in particular.

As the Chief Creative Officer for DC Entertainment, Johns has the overview of the entire DC franchise (film, television, animation, interactive…) in mind when he is making decisions, and we can only imagine that his ultimate goal is to make a shift that re-energizes established fans as well as drawing in a new generation of comic-book readers and moviegoers.

As Lee said, it is about “re-imagining a lot of the things that established these characters and their backstories.” He continued by saying that there really had not yet been an origin story for the Justice League, which makes it a “prime example of something where we can go in and maybe add something to the lore, and add a really kick-ass contemporary story that feels modern and really shows why these characters really need to be together.”

Superman by John Byrne Supermans Rebirth   What Does it Mean for Man of Steel?

John Byrne's Superman

He continued by saying that the goal is to go through the entire DC Universe and make it “more contemporary and modern” to create space for new readers to come in. Lee fondly recalled the relaunch of Superman # 1 “Back in the days of John Byrne,” which he cited as a time that re-established his interest in the character, saying, “it felt like my own version.”

Lee emphasizes that, “these iconic characters are never set in stone,” and reminded the audience that Batman was at one time a more “whimsical character” who in the sixties became darker and grittier.

The question becomes: What is to become of Superman now? What is this generation’s version of the character? Does his essential nature shift? If the creators acknowledge that his manner may be disconnected from the sensibilities of contemporary audiences, do they try to change the character to fit the times, or try to remind audiences of the ideals he stands for? These are certainly hard questions facing the creators at DC Comics.

Grant Morrison stressed that in the world of Action Comics they are going to, “recreate the first superhero ever (Superman) for the 21st century and to do something new, take a new look at something that people have preconceptions about and to change some of the basics.” He continued by saying that they wanted to do a, “take on Superman that is so different that no one can expect what may happen next.”

superman 1 New Costume Supermans Rebirth   What Does it Mean for Man of Steel?

Superman's new costume/armor.

He indicated that Action Comics #1 would also be an origin tale when he said that:

“One of the things we are going to do in this book is to show you how Superman is who he is, why he ended up wearing the costume that he wears and to show a different side to the character than we’ve ever seen before.” He went on to say, “We want to approach this as the title suggests as a big action comic, to try and create a new language for comics, a new velocity, a new propulsive story — things only comics can do and movies can’t even catch up with.”

So they will (essentially) highlight the action in Action Comics, which may indicate a physically intense, combat heavy, classical action-hero version of Big Blue — exactly the sort of Superman who shows up onscreen in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, when it debuts in theaters in December 2012.

How do you feel – does the character of Superman need to be changed? Or does the public need to be reminded of the ideals he stands for? Would you be open to a “new interpretation” of the character showing up in Man of Steel?

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  1. I highly doubt that DC’s reboot will do anything to the Man of Steel movie, however, I hope that Green Lantern’s Success (Fingers crossed) will make them rethink the whole Darkseid, Braniac, etc. are too unbelievable for movie fans.

    Oh and also,

    Down with Superman II – The Snyder Cut.

    • Agreed.

  2. This whole DC reboot thing man, I just don’t know. I can understand the thought behind it but… to just drop everything else to date? That’s insane.

    I’m 100% certain fans will keep the old supes alive and well through their own books and stories…

  3. Gotta look at it in a different perspective.

  4. That superman pic with him in the jeans holding up the boulder is freagin Sick!

    • That’s Rags Morales’ artwork for ya. He’s great. He’s said, though, that it is actually a promo piece done before further discussions, and that the actual cover will feature a younger looking Superman, although in the same duds.

    • Really? I think it looks really dumb. I sure hope that that is NOT the Superman outfit because it looks absolutely ridiculous. Patched jeans, a t-shirt and hiking boots? AND a cape? If this is going to be the reboot of Superman, then I am going to treasure the original stories even more.

      • Sigh. No, that’s not his new costume. Check out all the various articles about the DC reboot on Screen Rant to see the picture of the Justice League. Superman’s new costume is in that image.

      • It’s not the new costume.
        The new costume is worse.

  5. I’m open for new interpretion on Superman. After all, there comes a time when time itself is ready for a change. If Superman has to change to adapt and save this new Generation then let it be. As long as they stay true to his roots. Never forget where he came from, how and why he became…SUPERMAN. :)

  6. Superman is a timeless hero and his character should not
    change because the world around him appears to have.
    And just what are their perceptions of “modernizing”?

    There is not much encouragement to be drawn
    from the drawing of the new look Justice League.
    Superman looks like Taylor Lautner from Twilight.

    • Agreed but isnt this whole article what people thought when they first talked about the reboot. Everyone thought it was because the outcome of the court case could not be in DC’s favor.

  7. this to me is DC going into the offensive with their superman rights lawsuit, like “fine, we cant have him as is? we’ll just change up the ‘basics’ so we can use him then, see how you like that”. I personally think that its fun and refreshing to get different takes on stories and it does help bring new readers. but not like this. Marvel had the right idea when they created a secondary ‘Ultimate’ line to parallel their mainstream universe, so they could tell stories unhindered by continuity while at times taking inspiration from classic tales. To alter ‘basics’ about superman or any hero, albeit origin or costume appearance, is a risky move with fans, you run the risk of alienating people who not only love the character now, but love him for nostalgic purposes also, because its something theyve liked as kids and their hero hasnt changed while the world around them has. upcoming stories for ultimate spiderman have peter parker giving up his spidey duties and a new spiderman takes his place, including a new spidey suit, and not unlike this superman/dc shake up this could potentially push some people away if they are intended as permanent changes.

    • I think you are absolutely right. This is a way to get away from paying for the trade mark pieces they don’t own. All they gotta do is tear down everything and rebuild it and this time change his name to Carl Kent and say he’s from Kruton. (that’s so wrong, it’s funny)… I wonder how the world will take this. I’m gonna miss the classic Supes.

  8. The good/bad thing about comics is that you can always concoct a way out of a bad decision. Should this reboot prove to be a disaster they can always say that Darkseid tried to destroy the universe but would up creating an alternate timeline instead. That way we get a whole bunch of exposition from our heroes about whether or not they should restore things to the way they were and so potentially destroy the universe they know. In fact, very fact that they are rebooting 52 titles makes think that there could be some sort of connection with the 52 storyline of a few years ago. Makes me wonder if they’ve already thought of their escape plan.

  9. I’m skeptical that Grant Morrison will tell a Superman story that I will enjoy, because although there is no doubt about his skills in being able to capture a reader’s imagination, in his stories he always takes a wild left turn that nobody expects, and steers the story into confusing and unknown territory. Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires. He’s a very polarizing writer in the world of comics, and it does surprise me that they’re entrusting him with writing a modernized origin story of one of the most recognized superheroes in the world.

    Morrison loves comic book history and especially the oddities of the form and tries to preserve them, almost to a fault. He’s lost me very many times in his books. His Animal Man was revolutionary for its time – but since I had no previous interest in Animal Man, I was completely fine with that book. His X-Men, too, challenged everything we knew about the X-Men, which was harder to stomach, and made it more of a radical, inflammatory story.

    His Batman was an exercise in trying to get into the metaphysics of the character – and Batman R.I.P. totally lost me. Return of Bruce Wayne lost me. Batman & Robin lost me.

    All-Star Superman was a very good story, but he’s already said this story is going to be entirely different from that Superman – which was more inspired by Golden Age Superman. He has the best intentions, but something tells me his Superman story will be too far removed from the Superman stories I’m accustomed to reading about for me to enjoy it much.

    My favorite artist is, however, doing the stories, and I’ll probably be getting it – and I can only hope that I’ll enjoy the story, too.

    But expect the unexpected with Grant Morrison. He is a writer that you cannot predict what he’s going to do.

  10. This whole line “re-imagining a lot of the things that established these characters and their backstories.” says, so we can get around the law suit.

  11. In my opinion, th costume should’ve been left as it is. Of course the original look is far from the coolest, but the costume itself is just too iconic for any replacemnet to stand wit by comparision. The same probably goes for Wonder Woman and Spiderman.

    At the risk of causing upset, the All Star Superman storyline makes very little sense even for a comic book story and the animation itself should’ve made more effort in building a more logical plot.

  12. Its all good , cause when this does completely melt down, and it will, then all Dc has to do is have another “Crisis” and they will just reset it again. This whole Idea is to bring in new reader, yet it is truly alienating long time fans. The problem with this idea is that they are looking to bring in the new Generation by holding on to the Past, when really all they had to do is what has been done before and that is creat a new generation of heroes, oh wait they have, Look at the Bat Family, Look at the Flash Family, They are the perfect example of what should have continued and it should have been the direction that Dc should have taken, People Get old but Legends live forever. The Justice league Didn’t need to be rebooted they needed to be change in to the Justice Society the old Society should have been slowly killed off or retired, that’s life that’s what happened to people, the Next Generation Takes over this was the time for Dick, Wally, Donna, Kara, and Cyborg to take over as the League. They where the Heirs to the League and instead of giving them their dues they are being erased or restarted, Such a shame. Dc had proven that they they could continue making great stories without their Top two many times and the Best Excample was the Death of Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne , their Legacy carried on with Dick and wally and the books didnt suffer and in fact I think they Got better it was a fresh perspective, it was great. You want Modernization you want a new Generation of heroes then show them a little bit of respect, give the titles a little bit of reality and let them grow old let them pass the torch, and leave the Legends the way they are, as they where meant to be.

    • I agree. The fact that the few bold moves like killing Bruce Wayne never stick is one of the reasons I stopped collecting comics. As much as I love the old characters like Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, it would be great if they killed them or moved them on somehow and let it stick. They almost did that with Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner but the powers that be saw dollar signs and just couldn’t resist. Not that individually these “return from the dead” stories aren’t good but the larger picture they paint is pretty annoying.
      As you point out, DC has a great setup with the who “family” aspect of many of their characters. Added with the already established idea of the superheroes identities being bigger than themselves, becoming “mantle’s” that can and in many cases have been passed on to other characters, DC has a great framework to tell great stories within a truly evolving and continuious universe, without having to do the big resets every ten years or so.

  13. All I know is that once they send out issue number one, I will be one of the richest guys on this planet.

  14. Time moves on and so do our perceptions of all things from the past as to how they relate to the present. In terms of history , society and in this case pop culture. It’s time for Superman to move forward and catch up with the times. Think about it: Batman and The X Men , Captain America and so many other Marvel figure heads have had their images and costumes revised and altered and they remain successful and relevant. so , why not with Superman? Fact: Many of us didn’t like Bryan Singer’s take on Supes. But when you really think about it he was being as faithful to the character as Donner was back in the 70’s! Although Singer made a few minor adjustments to Supe’s costume , it STILL retained all the classic elements. Some people found the new costume to be MORE faithful to the legacy because it summoned the image of Superman from his Golden Age ( or even as far back as 1940) . I think that Rags Morales depiction of Superman is awesome and I’m open to seeing new interpretations.I firmly believe Superman will no longer wear his underwear on the outside anymore. Grow up kiddies. This is the 21 Century. I think that Zack’s upcoming Superman film is in accordance with ALL things DC including the revamping of the entire DC Universe. I look forward to it all. Because no matter what , Superman is the Superhero who defines all others.

  15. Changing Superman in any way is missing the point of the character entirely. He should never change, he’s meant to be unwavering light in the darkness. I’m quitting comics because of all this.

  16. I sure am glad I stopped buying and collecting comic books years ago. First, all the titles became convoluted and tied together so that you pretty much had to buy every single title of all the characters to stay in the loop of a story. Then they became almost as expensive as a brand new novel. A comic book shouldn’t cost more than $2. That is when I stopped. I still love the characters, like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man, but I will be limiting my support to seeing the films, maybe buying the Blu-Ray of said film, and buying the occasional novel based on the characters. My days of buying a comic book are far in the past.

    Still, this move by DC really seems like it was made in desperation. Marvel is now more popular than it has ever been, and the lawsuit DC is battling over Supes’ origins must not be going in their favor. Now they can start the whole process over and give him a similar, but different, origin story and not have to pay royalties.

  17. @ Andy S. The same thing happened with me. I used to enjoy the occasional crossover but once it became almost mandatory to buy issues of a couple different titles to keep up I stoped buying. Recently I started to buy titles that package them together as a novel but that’s only every once in a while.

  18. I dont understand the comic reboot. Personally, I think they if they are really gonna reboot they should start from the very begining. From what i heard Dick Grayson is Nightwing already & Barabra is Batgirl.
    I would start the reboot on a singular event titled THE EVENT that effect all the major characters. 

    THE EVENT would be Abin-Sur spaceship crashing on  earth which causes a planet side EMP burst which effects everyone differently. Hal Jordan recieves the ring and is transported to Oa for a 8-12 months of GReen Lantern training. Clark Kent is forced to expose himself as all powerful in order to save millions (catching planes, saving trains etc, etc) and becomes the first “Superhero” dubbed Superman. Batman who has been established as a crazed vigilante 4-6 months prior to THE EVENT starts to become seen as a hero in the public eye due to the EMP releasing all the criminals as well as Arkham Asylum (there are no “supervillians as of yet). The EMP causes the pilot (cant remeber his name) to crash land on the Themyscira  which the EMP has also somehow negated the effect that once made the island invisible. For this reason Diana is sent to the “mainland” as an ambassador with the pilot. The EVENT also effects Wally West who was at the time conducting his own experiment where he gains the power of supersonic speed. Intially afraid to use his powers he saves lives similiar to The Blur from Smallvile TV show. Martian Manhunter who has been hiding under human disguise for 10 years begins to investigate the Abin-Sur crash landing and the Gov’t interest in it, specifically Amanda Walker. The Gov’t has also taken in intrest in Atlantis which has basically made Aquaman a terrorist.This all leads up to another event 1-2 years later where the Justice Leauge will be formed. 

    I am actually have alot of this written down in detail with several story arcs planned out for this b/c I hope after i graduate next year (and gain more experience) I will convince some of the Execs in DC to start my own universe in 5-8 years (hopefully less). Let me know what you think and maybe we can collab together.

    • thats a brilliant idea… if they don’t like that idea as a reboot… it would be a great miniseries… or graphic novel… or animated feature

  19. PLEASE, please do not screw Superman up just because you want to be cutting edge. That silly picture of Superman in jeans, work boots, and a short sleeve Superman shirt is ridiculous. Please do not mess this beloved character up.

  20. I say why change a good thing.

    • I Agree!

  21. That said for justice league they should go with the route they started in Smallville.

  22. Yeah lets change the costume 63 years after the fact.

  23. to be honest I don’t care how the character looks or what his backstory is-as long as he continues to fight for “TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY”-not “truth, justice and all that other stuff”

  24. I really hope that they don´t ruin the mytho!!! Superman is my favourite comic character. I´ll be reading this comic (Action Comics #1), since i don´t read a comic book in a looooong time… i miss read comic books.

  25. When Marvel Comics alters their character outfits, they do not reset all of their comic book franchises. Marvel quietly alters their character backgrounds, outfits, and powers without making a mess. As a result of a continuously flowing storyline structure, the changes come off natural and well received. If some story element does not workout, Marvel creates an intelligent science-fiction reason for its removal. Almost every character in Marvel’s roster has undergone changes. Sometimes they win, and other times they lose.

    Approximately six months ago, DC Comics said the following during an interview, “Our characters are more successful than Marvels due to their in depth backgrounds.” If this statement were to be true, why did they suddenly decide to reboot everything.

    Advertising this massive reboot is a public relations stunt. Here is the kicker… Regardless about how many changes DC Comics makes, I will not suddenly decide that its time to buy more comics. My comic book collecting days died in the late 1990s.

    I do not think they have a clue.

  26. Superman has always been the character that writers have a problem telling stories about due to the character itself. I think if you approach Him in a certain way, you may complicate the issue at hand. The old mythologies have central characters but writers have always seem to pen a good story.
    There are far and few many *memorable Superman story archs that stand out over the years. While He’s the pinnacle of class..He dosnt have the 1-2-3..etc..etc..story archs that are attached to Him.

    That’s always been the problem..rebooting the Origin over and over dosnt explain why ‘Batman, Daredevil and Wolverine sell better. There are different versions of the Batman origin but its the same story from a different view. So now DC/Warner will do it again (maybe due to the *Law suit) and give it another go…but until you start writing better stories attached to the character..I guess changing His costume and His age..or Amnesia (thats next) will be plan going forward…

  27. “If people have been following it (comics) for 40 years, because there are still some people out there, then it won’t negate their previous experiences and alsoallows you to sell old 1960’s comic books because they are relevant to the current story.”

    This was a direct quote from Grant Morrison on the Emerald Knights Special Features..I guess they are full of $hit at DC because it has taken then less than a few months to toss that philosophy right out the window..ESPECIALLY with Superman..Is Morrison writing the Superman comic reboot? If he is well then I say “You Grant Morrison are full of crap, you and Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are so full of yourselves that you actually let Dan DiDio talk you all into this just to screw the estate of Superman creators out of cash..I hope it is an epic fail”…Restarting Action comics and Detective comics is paramount in the comic book industry to rewriting the bible to bring in the younger readers/followers. If the younger readers don’t get it already and don’t think these characters are relevant then so be it..leave it alone .. SO the events of Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Generation Lost are all irrelevant now?

    Leave Superman alone..he is and always will be relevant in the world..he is a moral “ground”, THE good guy, THE ORIGINAL AND STILL THE BEST!!

    Shame on you DC…

    Rant done

    Nuff said!!

    Thank you for listening/reading..

    • Naah, you mistake him for Batman i guess. He is ALWAYS the ancor.

  28. I think the Superman Rebirth is based on the Secret Origins on “The Man of Steel” how his life started back on Planet Krypton growing up on Planet Earth in a small farm in the state of Kansas called Smallville where he gains Supernatural Extraordinary Powers from the Yellow Sun and he becomes Invulenarble being made of steel and learning how to levitate to fly.

    • joke post.