Everyone has an opinion about the DCEU. One camp thinks that the universe is filled with great modern takes on classic characters, while the other thinks every film it has produced has been a joyless, heavily-edited mess. Either way, there isn’t much debate as to its best film. For better or for worse, almost everyone agrees that Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel has been the universe’s defining entry. That said, it’s surprising that it’s taken Warner Brothers so long to greenlight a sequel to the 2014 film. With the announcement that Man of Steel 2 is in “active development,” it begs the question: where does Superman go from the end of Batman V. Superman? DC has no shortage of iconic stories and moments to pull from the Man of Steel’s 70-year history, but which ones would be the best option for the DCEU moving forward? Which ones epitomize Superman while still providing enough wiggle room for Henry Cavill to do his own thing?
Obviously, this article contains spoilers for the DCEU so far, so proceed with caution! Here are 15 stories that Man of Steel 2 could adapt!
15. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Injustice: Gods Among Us is an Elseworlds story that asks what would happen if Superman ever let go of his code of ethics. After being tricked into killing Lois Lane and his own unborn child by the Joker, Superman goes off the deep end. He kills the Clown Prince of Crime and then issues the world an ultimatum: anyone who murders, maims, or starts wars will feel his wrath. He eventually becomes a dictator of the world, with half of the DC heroes on his side and half of them (led by Batman, of course) against him.
Now, this sort of story reads like the dream of the current DCEU runners. In all three films so far the topic of Superman as an enemy has been brought up. Hell, this question is the entire reason Amanda Waller created the Suicide Squad in the first place! It wouldn’t take much for Man of Steel 2 to take elements out of Injustice. Superman could easily be unstable after returning to the land of the living. Maybe after experiencing death first hand he will try even harder to prevent it on earth? Maybe he’ll go too far, prompting the Justice League to intervene? Obviously a direct adaptation of the story is unlikely, as the hero vs. hero thing was already done in BvS.
14. Superman: Fall of Metropolis
Preluded by the appropriately-named Battle of Metropolis, this 1994 story was one of the more cerebral. Instead of having a big bad villain for Superman to punch, it instead dealt with issues of viruses and corporate sabotage. After the action spectacles that were Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman, we think it’s time to have a story like this.
It all starts when a virus sweeps across Metropolis, infecting any being that had been created by the group Project Cadmus. This ends up affecting Lex Luthor and Superboy, who both become deathly ill. Lex decides that this attack had been planned all along and uses his resources to wage an all-out war on the company. Meanwhile, the criminal group known as the Underworlders take advantage of the situation and try to wipe Project Cadmus off the face of the earth. Of course Superman, Lois, and Jimmy Olsen get caught in the middle. This would be an interesting direction to take Man of Steel 2. The previous films mostly revolved around Lexcorp and completely ignored all the other shady dealings of Metropolis. Plus, it is revealed in this story that Lex Luthor had his brain implanted into a younger body by Project Cadmus, claimed to be his own son, and then ran his company as Lex Luthor Jr. Sound familiar?
13. Doomsday Rex
This is one that, while it makes sense, would probably anger a lot of people. One of the major complaints of Batman V. Superman was that the secondary villain Doomsday came out of nowhere and was completely unnecessary to the plot of the film. In Doomsday Rex, the Joker (who thought he was dying of cancer) breaks into the Pentagon and injects the body of Doomsday with a dose of his signature Joker Venom. This not only revives the evil being, but also makes him stronger and gives him an upgrade in intelligence. Thanks to some help from Superman and Martian Manhunter, Doomsday is eventually defeated and we find out that Lex Luthor (the President of the United States at the time) had set the whole scheme up as a sort of “weapons test.”
An adaptation of Doomsday Rex could add a new character dimension to the villain who everyone refers to as “the thing that killed Superman.” Besides, he wasn’t really around long enough in his last appearance to leave an impression on moviegoers. Using this story could also be a good way to introduce Martian Manhunter to the DCEU and further establish the shared universe by including Joker or a rogue from one of DC’s other heroes.
12. What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?
Everybody wants to see classic Superman in the DCEU, and this is the story that could do it. Very similar to Kingdom Come, the story of What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way? puts Kal-El’s code of ethics up against the test of time.
The story starts out much like Kingdom Come, with a group of violent anti-heroes rising to prominence in the eyes of the general public. Calling themselves “The Elite,” this team of metahumans does whatever it takes to bring down a threat, with no regard for collateral damage or civilian life. Obviously this clashes with Superman’s beliefs and he ridicules their methods. The team decries Superman as being “old fashioned” and “out of date.” Tensions rise between the two sides until one day, Superman subdues a group of villains without harming them or causing any major damage. During a confrontation heavily recorded by TV cameras, Superman allows himself to be attacked and pretends to be killed by the team. Suddenly, he reappears and starts brutally killing each member of The Elite one by one. As their leader panics and the world is horrified, he turns to the cameras and lets the world know that violence is never the answer. Turns out, he had used his super speed to make it look like he had killed the anti-heroes in order to send a chilling message to the people of earth about what these methods look like when left unchecked.
11. Must there be a Superman?
This Superman tale would do wonders in DCEU world building, as it would link Supes to the Green Lantern lore. Maybe this would also give us the chance to see one or more of the Green Lanterns themselves on screen? The story is also one that deals with the core theme of Man of Steel and BvS – is Superman really good for the human race?
After being informed by the Guardians of the Universe that there is a large object of yellow light (the light of fear) hurdling through space, Superman flies off to another galaxy and hurdles it into the adjoining sun. However, the sun is red, which causes Kal-El to lose his powers. Luckily, the Green Lantern Corp are able to transport him to their base planet of Oa in time to save his life. While recovering, Superman overhears some of the Lanterns talking about how the Kryptonian’s presence on Earth has become a hindrance to the planet’s growth. When he inquires further they tell Superman that although he can do great things, he has become a crutch for the earthlings whenever disaster strikes. Instead of solving the world’s problems themselves, they rely on Kal-El to fix everything. When he returns to his planet Superman faces his dilemma as he witnesses an earthquake destroy a small village. After some reluctance, he rebuilds all the dwellings and says that this was something beyond human control, and that humans need to start being responsible for their own destiny.
10. Superman: Last Son
Adapting Superman: Last Son would be a very natural way to continue the story of Superman and his Kryptionian race. At the end of Man of Steel, General Zod is killed and Faora and the rest of the surviving aliens are sent to the Phantom Zone. Having them return in the sequel would give the series even more of a sense of continuity. With Steppenwolf and the evil Darkseid on their way, an easy distraction for the planet earth would be to release the Kryptonian outlaws and let them wreak havoc.
Last Son is also the introduction of Lois and Clark’s adopted son, who also turns out to be the son of Zod and Ursa (or Faora in this universe). The story focuses on (what else?) an invasion of Earth by Zod’s forces. Instead of world domination, the goal of this incursion is to reclaim the Kryptonian child who crash landed on earth. Interestingly enough, this arc sees Superman actually teaming up with some of his greatest villains. In addition to Lex Luthor, Kal-El joins forces with Metallo, Parasite, and Bizzaro in order to save the planet. After their sparring in Batman V. Superman it would be extremely interesting to see Luthor and Superman as allies. Likewise, this type of story (minus Zod of course) would be an easy way to introduce some of Superman’s lesser-known villains.
9. For the Man Who Has Everything
Based on a one-shot issue of the Superman comics, this story has become a beloved classic. Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman decide to visit Superman for his birthday. When they arrive at the Fortress of Solitude they are horrified to discover Clark covered with an alien plant in a comatose state. The villain Mongul arrives and explains that the plant is a species that imbeds itself into its host and causes their brain to have visions of their deepest desires. As the three heroes fight Mongul and try to break Superman free, readers are shown the visions of the Man of Steel.
Instead of being the champion for truth, justice, and the American way, Kal-El sees himself living a peaceful life on a still-intact Krypton. However, as the story progresses the vision gets worse and worse; Jor-El has his life in shambles after his prediction of Kryptonian doom failed to become reality. Discredited as a scientist and humiliated as a citizen, he joins a movement to bring down Krypton’s government. Eventually the plant is pried off of Superman and placed onto Mongul by Robin, although not before giving Batman a vision of his parents. The scenes on Krypton were some of the coolest parts of Man of Steel. The incorporation of this story could bring audiences back to the mystical world while also introducing us to one of DC’s better known villains.
8. Superman: Up, Up, and Away
In the aftermath of Infinite Crisis Kal-El was rendered powerless. Set a few months after this loss of powers, Superman: Up, Up, and Away is the story of Clark Kent adjusting to his new life as a regular human. Although he was still married to Lois Lane and was a reporter for The Daily Planet, Clark was finally freed of his burden as the Man of Steel. However, his thirst for justice didn’t go away with his powers. Naturally, Lex Luthor is still up to his old tricks even with Superman out of commission. Kal-El decides to take Luthor head on, but this time to do it by the books and with journalistic integrity. Lex eventually rebuilds a Kryptonian war ship and intends to use it to destroy Metropolis. Right about this time, Superman regains his powers and uses them to destroy the ship. The ship’s kryptonite core depowers him once more, and the story reaches its climax as Superman and Lex get into a fist fight on a deserted island.
Read that last sentence again. That alone would make Man of Steel 2 worth the price of admission! A story such as this one would allow the sequel to focus more on what makes Superman who he is; is Clark Kent the disguise, or his real self? How can Kal-El make a difference in a world where he is powerless? It would also do wonders in furthering the relationship between himself and Lois (which is something the last two films have been criticized for).
8. World Without Superman
The title alone should be enough justification for this entry. The DCEU is going to have to address Superman’s absence in Metropolis some how. Maybe Batman and Wonder Woman take turns guarding the city while Supes is gone? Or maybe, like in this story arc, another mysterious Kryptonian steps up and takes on the role normally filled by Clark Kent.
In World Without Superman, the Man of Steel decides that it is best if he takes up residence on New Krypton (a rebuilt version of his old planet) in order to keep the evil General Zod in check. While gone, he appoints his long-lost Kryptonian relative Mon-El to watch over Metropolis. He also asks Nightwing (not to be confused with the former Robin) and Flamebird, two secondary heroes, to keep an eye on his city. The duo are charged with hunting down Zod’s sleeper agents who have been scattered all across the globe. They also come into direct confrontation with Ursa, who nearly kills Flamebird. The idea of Kryptonian sleeper agents on earth seems like something that would make for a good Lois Lane plot in Man of Steel 2.
7. Superman: Camelot Falls
Unless the issue is somehow resolved in Justice League, the second Superman movie will most likely deal with the fallout from the Man of Steel’s death. This allows the writers to go in a different direction than most comic book films, as the focus can now be shifted to focus on more minor characters, with the climax of the film being Kal-El’s return.
Superman #657, entitled “Camelot Falls,” deals with a world in which Superman has been dead for an unspecified period of time. While gone, the world has fallen to shambles, with an army of aliens taking over the planet and a resistance led by surviving members of the Justice League. In Metropolis, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and villain Parasite lead the battle to recapture their city. Hmm… didn’t we already see something similar to this in Batman’s “Knightmare” vision? It’s been confirmed that the DCEU is leading up to Darkseid’s invasion, and Steppenwolf has been confirmed as the villain for Justice League. Maybe the first step of this invasion leads to the symbolic takeover of Metropolis, and Man of Steel 2 will deal with the repercussions? At the end of the story arc Superman makes a triumphant return to save his city; Camelot Falls would make for the perfect story to continue the overarching story of the DCEU set within the confines of a Superman tale.
5. Superman: Peace on Earth
Superman: Peace on Earth doesn’t involve an end of the world crisis or a menacing super villain hellbent on conquering the earth. Instead, the story focuses on the humanitarian efforts of the Man of Steel, and the sad reality that even Superman cannot solve all the world’s problems. This is one of the defining themes of the series’ lore; despite having the power to save everyone and being an inspiration to the entire world, Superman is still only one man. Tying this idea into the resurrection story that would surely encompass Man of Steel 2 is a must.
It’s Christmas in Metropolis, and Superman is leading the festivities. During the celebration he witnesses a young girl on the brink of starving to death. He saves her, but then begins to ponder just how many others are out there in the world without food or clean water. After a few flashbacks to his youth and conversations with his father, the Man of Tomorrow vows to end world hunger once and for all. However, foreign dictators refuse to give the food to their citizens. In other countries people trample each other and fight over who gets to eat. In the end a depressed Superman decides that this mission is too big for even him. The story ends on a hopeful note with Clark Kent addressing the media, repeating the old adage that, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
4. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Obviously, using Batman again in what was supposed to be Superman’s movie probably wouldn’t sit well with fans of the Man of Steel. However the story of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a great story that fits perfectly into the mythos that the DCEU is trying to create. A direct adaptation probably won’t happen, but there are too many good elements of the arc to simply pass it off!
Lex Luthor, as it so happens, is elected as President of the United States. Although many of the DC Universe’s heroes fall in line, both Superman and Batman refuse to trust him. Meanwhile a meteor made of pure Kryptonite is hurtling towards earth. President Luthor decides that action must be taken to save the earth, and asks Superman to meet him in Gotham to form a peace treaty. When the Man of Steel arrives he is attacked by the villain Metallo. Batman shows up to help, and they force the cyborg to retreat. Later, Luthor has Metallo assassinated and uses hidden camera footage to frame Superman and Batman; the two are now wanted criminals. After they survive both an onslaught of villains as well as attacks from their fellow heroes, the duo are given proof of Luthor’s plot by Amanda Waller. Batman ends up flying a rocket into space to destroy the meteor while Superman fights Lex Luthor in Kryptonite-powered armor. Even if Batman’s role was severely reduced, this would make an awesome story for the big screen.
3. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
This one is kind of cheating. Obviously, Warner Brothers isn’t going to retread a story about Superman leaving. Even so, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is a legendary tale that is considered one of, if not the best, Superman stories ever written. Elements of the story would fit into the current DCEU, as it follows Lois Lane recounting the final days of the Man of Steel for a reporter and could be used as a sort of meta-commentary on the state of the Kryptionian in the film universe. It would also go far in introducing new Superman villains into the DCEU.
It has been over ten years since the last appearance of Superman, and a Daily Planet reporter wants to get to the bottom of it. Lois explains that a major series of events led to his disappearance. Two of Superman’s rogues torture Pete Ross and get him to spill the Man of Steel’s secret identity. After they project it to the world, Superman takes all of his friends and loved ones to the Fortress of Solitude in order to keep them safe. Meanwhile a dead Brainiac revives himself by taking over Lex Luthor’s body and using it to attack the fortress. Superman eventually discovers that all of the horrible things happening to him have been the doing of the villain Mr. Mxyzptlk. The two adversaries face off and Mxyzptlk is accidentally killed. Superman, his enemies dead and haunted by his actions, uses a special form of Kryptonite to permanently depower himself.
2. Superman: Brainiac
This is a no brainer (pun intended). This was a story written by Geoff Johns, who has recently taken over as the showrunner of the DCEU. It also would introduce one of the few legendary Superman characters who has not yet appeared on screen, the titular Brainiac. It also featured the heavy representations of the parent-son relationship between Martha, Johnathan, and Clark Kent.
Superman, along with his cousin Supergirl, makes the horrifying discovery that the Brainiac he has fought for all these years wasn’t the real version of the alien. Instead, Superman has been facing off against simple drones and the real Brainiac is ready to launch his full-scale attack on earth. He starts off by taking the city of Metropolis and putting it in a bottle. He then fires a missile at the sun in an attempt to destroy the entire solar system. Superman is able to escape the bottled city and fight Brainiac while Supergirl tries to stop the missile. After he is defeated, Brainiac hatches one final sinister scheme; he uses one of the reserve missiles to destroy the Kent farm. Although the blast doesn’t hurt anyone, it causes Johnathan to have a heart attack. He dies right as Superman arrives. Of course, Johnathan Kent is already dead in the DCEU. But this could easily be changed to any one of Superman’s comrades.
1. Reign of the Supermen
Wouldn’t it be obvious that the follow up to a movie based on The Death of Superman would be the arc that actually followed the original comic story? Entitled Reign of the Supermen, this arc followed four Superman imposters while at the same time putting into place the events that would lead to Superman’s eventual return. The characters introduced in Reign of the Supermen have gone on to become major players within the Post-Crisis DC Universe, and would be a welcome addition the DCEU.
With Superman gone, four different individuals try to carry on his legacy. Steel (an engineer who built a powerful metal suit), Last Son of Krypton (a powerful and stoic Kryptonian), Superboy (a clone of the Man of Steel himself), and Cyborg Superman all try to fill in the gap. The exploits of these new heroes stir rumors that Superman has returned from the grave. This rumor catches fire even more when it’s discovered that the Man of Steel’s body isn’t in his coffin. Although good at first, over time Cyborg Superman goes crazy and Last Son of Krypton discovers that he is really the villainous Eradicator. The two of them quickly turn to the side of evil and come up with a plot to destroy Metropolis with the help of longtime DC villain Mongul. Steel, Superboy, Lois Lane, and Supergirl team up to try to stop the villains, but they are too much. Right when all hope appears to be lost, Superman himself returns bearing a Black Suit and an inexplicable mullet.
Honorable Mentions: Kingdom Come and All-Star Superman
It’s a shame that the two best Superman stories of all time aren’t appropriate for a Man of Steel sequel. Kingdom Come takes place decades in the future, after all of the Silver Age heroes have been replaced by darker, more violent vigilantes who the general public finds to be more desirable. At the behest of Wonder Woman, Superman comes out of retirement to stop the vigilantes and rekindle the spirit of truth, justice, and the American way. It’s awesome.
But the problem comes with the time period – Kingdom Come would have to wait until years down the line, when the DCEU has been around for a while. Similarly, All-Star Superman’s plot revolves around the Man of Steel’s imminent death; for obvious reasons this would not be an appropriate story to use in the next film. Of course, elements from both tales can and should be incorporated into Man of Steel 2. All-Star Superman and Kingdom Come are both praised for the way they portray Kal-El, turning the alien into a complex character whose humanity may just outclass our own. He’s caring, charming, and burdened, but not in a mopey way like the one seen in Batman V. Superman. This is the version of the Man of Steel we want to see on the big screen, and the second film better deliver!
So what do you think of our list? Agree? Disagree? Did we miss out on any major Superman stories? Let us know in the comments!