What Should Warner Bros. Do About Superman?

Published 5 years ago by , Updated December 3rd, 2009 at 11:32 am,

superman and american flag What Should Warner Bros. Do About Superman?

Anne Thompson over at Thompson on Hollywood ran a Superman post the other day that basically reiterates a lot of the things we’ve been reporting here at Screen Rant all throughout the Summer/Fall of 2009:

  1. The rights to the character are still being fought over by DC Comics/Warner Bros. and the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
  2. DCE/WB has NO plans to rush a Superman movie into production before a 2013 legal deadline.
  3. The franchise is effectively in limbo at the moment.
  4. As far as we can tell, ain’t nobody doin’ nuthin’ about it.

Comic book movie fans, right now one of our biggest icons is being benched because of some legal hangups, a loss of purpose and direction and a general sense of greed run amok. So what’s to be done about it? I have some suggestions and I know you do too…


A legal settlement is probably already in the works, maybe not. I tend to believe the former, because DCE/WB would have to be soft in the brain if they aren’t planning to hold on to the Superman property. This lawsuit with the Shuster/Siegel heirs is ridiculous: last we checked, the heirs were vying to get back everything their forefathers created – namely the first incarnation of Superman who appeared in Action Comics #1 back in 1938.

That early rendition of the Superman character doesn’t even include a lot of the now-iconic powers, supporting characters or villains – the heirs would essentially own a strong flying guy from an exploded planet called Krypton. No more, no less. Without those origins, however, DCE/WB would be left with an unnamed superhero who has a lot of familiar friends and enemies and is vulnerable to green rocks called Kryptonite, which are the exploded bits of some mysterious unnamed planet.

superman origins What Should Warner Bros. Do About Superman?

Sounds pretty sill either way, right? Even more outlandish – if another superhero-based company like Disney/Marvel bought a portion of the Superman rights from the heirs (not likely, but possible) then they could effectively shelve the Man of Steel indefinitely. It would make them total A-holes to pull something like that, but hey, this is business…

VERDICT: Settle the suit, guys, and get back to giving the fans access to one of their most beloved heroes.


Between this lawsuit and the divided opinion over Bryan Singer’s 2006 cinematic attempt to relaunch the franchise, Superman has a lot of dirt on his shoulder that needs brushing off. Right now, I’d say the only ones keeping the Man of Steel’s name ringing within the fickle bubble of pop-culture are the good folks over at Smallville. The show seemed to be on ratings decline last year, but they’re pulling out all the stops for this current 9th season, including in upcoming two-hour movie event featuring a whole gang of Smallville version DC Comics Superheroes. Of course, there’s the issue of that impending 2013 legal deadline and what (if any) options Smallville will have for remaining on the air afterward…

smallville season 9 poster clark kent superman What Should Warner Bros. Do About Superman?

For now, this is the only Superman we have…

VERDICT: Superman needs a to brush that dirt off his shoulder and start over with a clean slate. I’m talking total relaunch. No “Dark Superman” movie, no continuation of the mess Singer made – get a visionary director who seems to understand which core aspects of the character have made Superman such an enduring icon, give that director the necessary money (not too much) and let him/her go to work!

A wise man recently said to the world, “Allow me to re-introduce myself…” Another wise man (Chris Nolan) took that statement to heart and re-introduced the world to a Batman we never knew we’d lost touch with. Superman deserves such a re-introduction. For all the positives of Superman Returns, the film (IMO) was still basically a big-screen version of a geek’s lunchroom conversation: “Is Superman strong enough to stop a bullet with his eye? If Lois Lane got pregnant with Superman’s kid, would birthing a super-baby kill her? Would the kid have all Superman’s powers, or just some of them?” And no offense to the man who stepped into Christopher Reeves’ boots, but “geek Superman” was what that movie delivered (IMHO).

Superman, like Batman before him, needs to be taken back to the essence of what makes him great – because for the life of me, I’m beginning to forget why he was so great in the first place. Maybe I just need to pull out Richard Donner’s 1976 Oscar-nominated adaptation; even today, when movie budgets swell faster than a speeding bullet and special effects have improved by skyscraper leaps and bounds, Donner’s vision still holds up nicely and resonates clear and true when I think of all the things that make Superman who and what he is.

superman3 What Should Warner Bros. Do About Superman?

It’d be nice if SOMEBODY out there in the wide-world of filmmaking could have the opportunity to show this new generation why some icons will never fade.

What do YOU think – what should DCE/WB do about this Superman quagmire?

Source: Thompson on Hollywood

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  1. Ah DrSam alas I don’t want this to be an argument either (considering its 5am and I’m pulling an all nighter for this exam) but I think TDK was pretty groundbreaking.. Oh and to clarify a few things.. I’m not an uber TDK fan but I do have enough respect for it to call it a gamechanger. As for Superman, heck I don’t hate him.. I enjoyed Superman Returns for the most part but for me what made TDK so sweet and groundbreaking was how grounded in reality it was. From the very moment I watched the opening scene at the bank I could tell it wouldn’t be like any other hero movie id seen before. I know its vague and sounds cheesy but everything just felt so real and believable to me, almost like it could possibly happen. I mean dang theirs nutcases in the world and its only a matter of time before one has an act for theatrics… man im tired..

  2. @Fenix

    Ah well, fair enough. If you like it that much then I’m not going to have a go at you.

    I think you and I are so opposite on why TDK was a success, you love the grounded in realism, I think it was the movies biggest detractor, it was too real.

    Get some sleep dude

  3. Oh and I consider “groundbreaking” to be something that hasn’t been done before in a specific genre. Name a movie that compares to TDK in that specific genre… Most people may not cough anything up but I will go so far as to say Watchmen in the fact that the story and characters were quite complex but the similarities end there…

  4. Haha yes I’ll agree to disagree. I will get some much needed sleep but I look forward to reading more of your thoughts :)

  5. I think one of my main problems with TDK, is that even in Batman Begins, the city of Gotham was as much a character in the film as anyone else. But in TDK, Gotham just looked like any other city, normal building and streets, nothing special. The city of Gotham should be brimming with personality and life.

    Does that make any sense?

    Also the reintrouduction of Batman to the audience, with the Scarecrow and fake Batmans, was a real wasted oppurtunity.

    Either one or the other please. They should have shown Batman hunting Scarecrow through the narrows, made it a terrifying chase. Bringing back the Scarecrow for two minutes was a huge waste.
    Or had the real Batman stopping the fakes.

  6. The Dark Knight is actually the first time Gotham is a fully realized city. We get to fully see it’s politics and citizens. Batman Begins’ Gotham was claustrophobic. That’s the same problem I had with Burton’s Gotham and one of the very FEW areas I feel that Batman Forever was superior in.

    About the “Scarecrow hunt”, that was talked about in the Gotham Tonight special and I felt like it was more of a missed opportunity for the Gotham Knight shorts to explore to tie it into the film. The film can’t possibly go into detail with everything (unless it was 3+ hours!) and I felt very diappointed that Gotham Knight didn’t follow through with it';s promise of bridging Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

    And yes, Burton’s films are uber-cheesy. Schumacher didn’t have to stretch very far to amplify the cheese factor.

    I think that with films like The Dark Knight that’ve changed the game, we can’t just go back to a standard cookie-cutter comic book formula with Superman or any other hero. Comic book films are going to get stale fast unless we have some more conventional ideas.

    If they reboot Superman, don’t do another lengthy origin story,we all know it. Just drop him in the action.

  7. Gotham should be an amazing, sprawling city, one of the most amazing in the world. More importantly it should be unique.
    In TDK it was just like any other, in BB it looked like somehting from a comic book.

    The success of TDK has nailed Superman’s lead line kryptonite coffin well and truly shut, if there really is no place for Superman ( the greatest superhero of all time )in the world anymore, then that makes me very sad. What kind of a world do we live in, where someone who is a beacon of all that is good, isnt accepted anymore?

  8. Also, almost every aspect of TDK has been lifted from one Batman comic or another, there is nothing terribly original about it.
    And the Batsuit was awful.

    I still think it is a good film though, before anyone jumps down my throat.

  9. Just like if it was a completely original idea in TDK you’d be complaining that none of it ever happened in the comics. Some fans are impossible to please.

  10. Exactly. It looks like a city, one that everyone can relate to. It’s just like one in the real world. Batman Begins’ city was too small and confined. Not the bustling metropolis that was superior in The Dark Knight. Besides, there’s a quadrillion different Gothams in the comics anyway, no single one is more valid.

    And of course everything comes form the comics! Doesn’t mean that it’s “unoriginal”. Nolan and co. had to distill 70+ years of convoluted and contradictory continuity and represent that on screen AND appease both general audiences and Batman fans. No easy task. Adaption is hard. It takes massive creativity to bring the page to the screen.

    There’s always a place for Superman, WB just needs to get their stuff together and bring the Man of Steel back to the big screen.

  11. @Daniel F

    No I wouldnt be complaining if there had been more original ideas.


    Yeah youre right, it did just look like a city. Any city. Not the amazing city of Gotham.

  12. And what is Gotham “supposed” to look like? Who’s to say you’re idea of it is any more valid than the gazillion other interpretations.

    People can say that Schumacher’s Gotham looks like Gotham, it’s no less valid than Burton or Nolan’s interpretation.

  13. Gotham is supposed to look special. I dont know. It was devoid of any personality.

    Just my opinion.

  14. “Keaton was a better Batman. To quote someone else “Really not even debatable when you look at what it’s competition is.””

    I couldn’t buy Keaton as Batman. IMO Bale is the only person to give a great performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman.

  15. Thats tricky with the whole look of gotham thing. One thing I will say I actually enjoyed about the previous movies (before BB and TDK) is the look of gotham. It was def a little bit darker and they had some crucial and unique architecture. The new gotham is supposed to look more real and less like the comics due to the nature of the film. Like when I first saw it I instantly noticed that it was Chicago which is an amazing city none the less. I wonder what city they filmed the previous movies in.. looks like Manhattan to me but idunno.

  16. I would like to narrow down the “groundbreaking” premise for TDK. It was, indeed, groundbreaking …for Batman.

    The darkness of TDK wouldn’t work for other superheroes. It would never work for Supes, Spidey, Iron Man, etc. The only other hero it could work for is Daredevil, which I believe could still be a very good franchise.

    I believe that Superman should be brighter, as it is. Too gritty & you have Smallville, which works great on TV, but would not translate well, in that same form, to the big screen.

    Superman should be more serious. Stop showing Clark as a bumbling idiot (ala Reeve & Routh). Make him more like the George Reeves Clark, seeming to be a little cowardly, but still very competent.

  17. I don’t know, Gotham in TDK just looked like… Chicago…

    And personally, I felt that Batman Begins was more entertaining. TDK was a bigger movie, but not as rewatchable by far compared to BB. I felt that BB flowed much better and seemed more cohesive of a story especially considering the way TDK ended. That was simply sloppy…

    And that shattering bullet sequence was completely retarded… Man I wish they would have cut that scene…

  18. As much as I love TDK and BB I do agree not every movie should be made that way. I’m not a superman fan at all, but even I would be pissed if they modeled a superman movie off the TDK style. Superman isn’t a dark gritty character and should never be handled that way.

    As far as liking the older version of gotham in the other craptastic movies well I find that funny because they just looked like a cartoon. It looked like Halloween town for crying out loud. It was a joke of a design.

  19. I mean yes you say that now when you compare it to the new ones but I remember seeing that when I was younger and thinking it was kinda cool. Those movies were geared to a younger audience I feel where to new Batman is watchable by any age/gender.

  20. When I was younger I still thought the city’s looked like a cartoon and didn’t like them. I didn’t like Tim Burton movies i didn’t know who he was but every live action film he did that I saw as a kid I hated. He just recycles his set pieces and is always overly cheesy. He is one of the most unoriginal people in hollywood and pretends he is the most original. He also wouldn’t know darkness if it bit him in the butt. The only thing dark about his movies is that they have twisted cartoony set pieces and he uses dark lighting lol.

  21. You have to ask yourself a couple of questions.
    Why was Burton’s “Batman” popular in its day?
    It made too much money in 1989 to say it wasn’t popular.

    Today though its talked about with at least mixed feelings, mostly derision here. So let’s talk 2014 or 2015.
    Nolan’s third Batman movie is history. It’s been two years since it’s release. If super hero movies are even still popular at this point will people feel the same way about these characters as they do now? If Superman has been out of the picture for this long and by this point DC is finishing up a run of single super hero movies would it be such a stretch to think that Superman would make a comeback then? It would be coming up on ten years since the man of steel was in theaters.

    “I am the light in the darkness”

    Batman faces Superman whose costume appears as white as his fathers.

    Batman: You’re not a god!
    Superman: No, but I am an alien! A light from a distant world…

    In order for Batman and Superman to reconcile Batman must recognize the other in Superman, and Superman must recognize that something that moves in the darkness can still represent light.

    In all of Superman’s incarnations when has the metaphor been manifest? His power comes from the light of Earth’s sun but when has it embraced him like a cloak and a shield? When has the yellow glow emanated from his face? When he strikes when has it looked like the corona of the sun? He cannot wait for the light to fight evil for evil may wait for darkness supposing, that is, to its advantage, but Superman goes forth into the darkness, the representative of light.

    As dawn grows ever closer and Superman’s struggle becomes ever more urgent and grim his light begins to diminish until only the red, yellow, and blue of his costume holds a faint glow. However, it is enough! For now the light breaks forth, a new dawn has come and banishes the darkness. That which moves in the darkness unseen, whether it be good or evil in nature may retire for another day, but the man of steel must press on. A grim expression passing from his face as a renewed hope breaks over the world and he sails over mankind by the grace of a yellow sun and the true God that keeps it alight!

    That’s the best this poor old man can do on such short notice…

  22. In the 80’s very cheesy things were popular and Burton/ Keaton were on the rise. Not only that it was the first real Live action Batman film. Ask your self why the second one had a far less take at the BO than the first. Also the first Batman was tailored for kids it was very much made for the very young audience which is another reason why it made so much.

  23. Uh as for the first Batman being tailored towards kids, not even slightly true, as it got a 15 certificate in the UK. And still has so on DVD, so not for kids at all then! Nor was Batman Returns, in fact they were more geared towards adults than either of Nolan’s films.

  24. Sometimes it’s good to look at films through the lens of its time, on that point i can agree with you Daniel. I suspect the same can be said for Nolan’s Batman too, in another five or six years. I hope at some point audiences can see the two super heroes that seem to be on opposite sides of a coin, as on one coin. They could appear in a single movie and they don’t necessarily have to work hand in glove. Batman and Superman have been shown to falter on occasion. Having one watch the other is like Earth as it rotates on its axis as the Knight follows day. Day follows the dark Knight. They’re always so close they sometimes enter each other’s sphere. A shadow, an eclipse, powerful revealing light reflecting from a full moon. A blazing comet streaking across the pitch black sky…

  25. @the old man

    That was very poetic.

    And I really hope one day Superman and Batman can appear together, but with Bale and Nolan around it isnt going to happen. Maybe with the next incarnation of Batman in a few years.

  26. Of course, Superman isn’t ready to fly again anyway. It’s a moot point…

  27. I’ll stick to Smallville, and the new Secret Origin comic series.

  28. I have to ask if you have even seen Batman 89. The Cheesy dialog geared toward children the kid hummor. Guy doing all the flips and going crazy with over exaggerated martial arts similar to what you would see in the TMNT films and then Batman just punches him. The joker’s corny dialog and performance. The Joker wasn’t even scary in Batman 89. The movie was clearly very kid friendly and not the least bit off putting toward bringing your child to. Batman had the classic cheese and corn introduction as did the joker. It was a very unintelligent film with very kid friendly elements.

    I would also like to point out to you Old Man that I never said only kids saw it and I never even said mostly kids saw it. Plenty of adults watched it. I said that it was kid friendly and it opened up the box office even more.