Why Zod Is A Good Villain for Superman ‘Man of Steel’

Published 4 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 8:46 pm,

Superman vs  Zod by Weier1138 Why Zod Is A Good Villain for Superman Man of Steel

Now that Boardwalk Empire star Michael Shannon has been cast as General Zod in Man of Steel – Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman reboot film – the Interwebs have been ablaze with the usual impassioned reactions, which encompass the typical range of “I hate it!” “I love it!” and “Meh.”

The biggest complaint – the one that has some fans making all sorts of dramatic/hyperbolic declarations –  is that the inclusion of Zod in Man of Steel essentially turns this reboot – which is supposed to offer a ‘different take on Superman‘ – into a rehash of Richard Donner/Richard Lester’s 1980 Superman II film, in which Zod was also the primary nemesis.

However, does the simple inclusion of Zod automatically mean that Man of Steel is somehow doomed to run circles around an already familiar track? Certainly not, and today we have a few ideas to offer about how this Superman reboot might employ the character to a much different effect than Donner’s film did.

Who Is Zod?

If you’re not familiar with the character of General Zod, he has a long history in the Superman comic book canon, dating back to the 1960s. His origins have been revised several times, and there many “alternate universe” versions of the character, but the latest incarnation (developed by famed DC scribe Geoff Johns and Richard Donner himself) paints Zod as a military general on Superman’s home planet of Krypton. Superman’s father, Jor-El, was working with another scientist named Non to uncover the planetary disturbance that would ultimately lead to Krypton’s destruction. When the Kryptonian government learned of Jor-El and Non’s doomsday theory, they sent Zod and his troops to shut down the research. Jor-El began working in secret on the rocket to save his son, Kal-El (Superman); Non, meanwhile, tried to spread word of Krypton’s impending doom and was punished by the government by having his brain tampered with, leaving him a mindless thug (as seen in Superman II).

When Zod and his lover Ursa (who we know is likely to be featured in Man of Steel) learned the truth of Non’s warnings and his unjust fate, they sided with the tortured scientist and tried to overthrow the Kryptonian government, earning all three rebels a death sentence. Not wanting to see the trio dead, Jor-El proposed they be exiled instead of executed, and so he trapped them in “The Phantom Zone,” a pocket dimension that Kryptonians used as a prison. Eventually the trio were set free on planet Earth, and gained their own Supermanesque powers from the planet’s yellow sun. Endowed with the strength of gods, Zod and his team seek to conquer Earth and get revenge on the son of Jor-El for their imprisonment.

Zod In Superman II

general zod2 Why Zod Is A Good Villain for Superman Man of Steel

In Superman II, General Zod was famously brought to life by actor Terence Stamp (see above) in a truly hammy performance that forever immortalized the saying “Kneel before Zod!” In Richard Donner/Richard Lester’s film, Superman/Clark Kent decided to give up his powers in order to reap the imagined rewards of a mortal life (read: marrying Lois Lane). When Zod and his cohorts showed up, Clark Kent realized that no matter what his heart may desire, there are certain threats in the universe that can only be stopped by Superman, forcing him to restore his powers in order to thwart Zod and ultimately serve the greater good.

This Superman II version of Zod was primarily used as an example of Superman’s own dark reflection – a suggestion that super-powered threats require a super-powered counter measure like Superman to deter them. Zod’s role in the film also reinforced a lot of the family themes that Donner and screenwriter Mario Puzo (The Godfather) started in Superman: The Movie – namely Superman’s father condemning Zod to prison in The Phantom Zone, and Zod’s subsequent views of Kal-El/Clark Kent based on his opinions of Jor-El, and what Jor-El stood for in the face of Krypton’s destruction.

General Zod in Man of Steel…

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  1. Here’s a comment for you:

    If people don’t step back, take a breath and start behaving like civilized people talking to each other about a MOVIE, I’m going to disable commenting this article.

    Don’t make me quote Bill Shatner from that old Saturday Night Live skit…


    • LMAO im waiting for them to break out the phasers and light sabers and start going at it, lol. good stuff. I guess they dont get that its just a movie.

      • Phasers are for petaQs; I use disruptors!


    • Did something get deleted here? Im only seeing a few mildly positive and negative opinions posted here (up to this point in the thread).

      • Netshark,

        Actually some folks were ripping into each other pretty good. Nothing mild about it.


        • Where the heck was Michael Buffer when this got wtitten?


            Yeah, that would work. 😉

  2. “The suggestion that already having Zod in one Superman movie somehow makes Man of Steel invalid is a bit silly. After all, how many of you reading this saw The Dark Knight and felt that the presentation of The Joker (and all the themes surrounding the character) was just a rehash of all the previous Batman TV shows and films? Or did you feel like Chris Nolan and Heath Ledger managed to explore the character from a new and interesting angle? Just some food for thought. ” – BOOM!

    • People didn’t complain about Joker in TDK because we’d already seen Penguin, Catwoman, Two Face, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Bane, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Zassz since the last time the clown prince was used.

      In Superman, we’ve seen Luthor and Zod. And we’ll be seeing Zod again in what is meant to be a fresh start. Even in the new Spider-Man we’re getting to see a villain we haven’t before.

      • That’s b/c you can’t have a Batman trilogy or franchise w/o using The Joker at some point. Just like you can’t have Superman w/o Lex Luthor at some point. The Joker is just too important and associated with Batman to leave out completely.

        • And apparently the Superman franchise isn’t important since he only gets the same 2 villains, but Batman gets Penguin, Catwoman, Two Face, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Bane, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Zassz all before the Joker gets used again. So sad WB thinks Superman is so lame. I will be so happy when the heirs take Superman away from this company that treats Superman like dirt.

    • EXACTLY what i was thinking, but some people hear are too damn eager to find faults than to accept the idea of exploring the same villan in a different way ! The joker in Dark knight was done prefectly and i hope they do the same with Zod.

      • And the Joker had a break in which Batman got Penguin, Catwoman, Two Face, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Bane, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Zassz before the Joker was used again. Wish WB respected Superman like that :( But no. Superman is dirt :(

  3. Saying they HAD to use Zod because the other villains are not as well known to the general public is silly. Outside of Luthor and the Batman bad guys that were featured in the 60’s Adam West series, the general public has no knowledge of comic book bad guys. Still, that didn’t stop Ra’s Al Ghul, Sandman, Scarecrow, Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Iron Monger, Magneto, Mystique, Deathstrike, Red Skull, etc. from being used in movies.

    • I like your comment, I like it a lot.

  4. Zod needs a personal wardrobe specialist. That freaking outfit…

    • you mean the terence stamp outfit? hated it too. looked like a bunch of garbage bags being made into a suit.

  5. Great article! I want to see what Snyder can do with the fight scenes. Super, indeed.

  6. How long do you guys think it will take the mainstream media to run a story about how us nerds are up in arms about this?

  7. Who is Zod’s wardrobe person? Cause he needs a new one lol.

  8. Good article. You’ve clearly defined and articulated what a lot of fans are thinking (but mostly “feeling”). I was kind of thinking of a Zod who wants to impose what he considers a proper order on Earth, but you really explained it. And I like the connection you made to Superman’s purpose as well.

    The biggest improvement that Nolan made with Batman Begins was making Bruce want to honor his parents values, and therefore protect Gotham, instead of just seeking revenge on criminals. Something that was there for a long time but needed to be brought to the forefront.

    Anyway, if ScreenRant is planning a counter argument, I’ll read it, but I think this one will win IMO.

  9. I’m sat hear reading what people have said/bitched about this movie and about the hole concept of Zod being in this flick,and i cant help but laugh. Listen guys take a chill pill and relax !!! This will NOT be a remake of Superman 2 !! nor having Zod in this will affect the film. Zod was 30 years ago most people dont event know who the hell he is.
    Has Zod even been used to his fulliest potential ? the short answer is NO he hasnt, Zod can be explored a hell of alot more. With todays technology in visuals maybe we can all see what ZOd is truly capable off.
    If your going to start FRESH,then Zod is the way to go for the first movie !! in the sequel when they have established Superman in a new modern way, bring on Brainiac,Bizzaro or darksied then the final movie Doomsday !
    We all know theres rumors of General lane and Metallo, i really do belive if Metallo is added into this movie then its going to be nothing short of Epic and breath new life into one of the most exciting superheroes of all time.

    • SUPERMAN II plus INCREDIBLE HULK is hardly fresh. Smushing together 2 old movies doesn’t make one new one. When Batman was starting fresh, he got the Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul. Two new FRESH villains. Wish WB respected Superman that way :( But no, he’s dirt. Only worthy of reheated leftovers :(

      • i knew how producers went on going for tim burton in directing a superman movie. i saw the pictures of the costume and it may be one of the reasons why the film never came into fruition. i guess WB respects the character. bryan singer’s film wasn’t all that bad, sure it was boring, but compared to other ideas presented, it could’ve been worse.

    • There are no sequels for Superman, only reboots.

      • Actually, there were four sequels for “Superman: The Movie”. One just happened to come 20 years later…NOW, we’re getting a reboot. 😀

  10. Zod will be a good villian in this movie ifthe plot fits him in correctly thats it

  11. Great article. Zod was not my first choice for this movie. He is an equal foe to Superman interms of the physical. So it should be action packed. I have faith that this film will turn out better than most are expecting.

  12. I was a comic book dork (NOT HARDCORE)when I was younger and I am a current dork to this day. I was really into marvel but Batman and X-men were my favs. read a little superman here and there and even watched the superman movies yeeeeeaaars ago, but dont rememeber much.

    Point is I never really followed superman as much though I do enjoy him. So to be honest when ZOD was named the villian it rang a bell, but couldnt really rememeber his role in supes franchise.

    Therfore, Zod is a FRESH START for me and im excited to see a modern supes movie that doesnt invole LEX.

  13. This is great! And I knew Zod was going to be the villain. I bet that Lex is a side villain he goes to the place that Zod crash when he came to earth and their he get his hands on some kryptonight and disscovers that kryptonight can kill superman. I think in the part 2 Lex will be the main villain and will creat the villain with the kryptonight heart METALO!!!. what you all think? Oh and another thing STOP TALKING SH** ABOUT SUPERMANS VILLIAN PICK!!!… I know we all wanted some one new, but it was never going to happen. Why? Because the 90% of them are to powerful. The only (alien) villains that could have been a starter was Lex, metalo and Zod and his men. Lex alone is boring, Metalo would be random and the people will be saying (who created this monster) and Zod has… Well… A good story to start with. And also can go toe to toe with the man of steel.

    • Don’t forget Brainiac =)

      • Idk, Brainiac seem like a big of a villian for a 1st superman movie. He is like a maybe. How can you start a superman movie with a big villian?… It’s like saying… Let’s start with Doomsday ??? lol yea… But Im just pointing out the villians that are good to start with.

        • Doomsday definitely not, he kills Superman. Brainiac isn’t that big, and it could work for a sequel too, just have him beaten in the first one, and then come back a couple movies later if the franchise is successful in conjunction with a second villain.
          I am not against Zod, I just think that there are plenty of Villains for him to go up against. It seems like we are going to get Lex in the second one just because he is Lex Luther.

          • Yea lex need’s to be in it. It’s like the joker. You all ways got to have the arch villian in it. Well what’s done is done and Zod is our villian for this wonderful reboot.

            • Agreed, but hopefully he has some kinda other villain with him when he is there. The problem is it will be Lex, Zod, Lex, Lex, Zod, Lex. I am glad I am a Batman Fan, it’s been a good couple of years for us, hopefully it will be a good couple of years for you Superman fans out there.

              • Yea I am a batman fan myslef. Superman… A little. Hope the get their good years. I hope the en the superman movie with doomsday and superman dead. It would be an incredible story. Have Lex in prison for a long time. I just hope brainiac has the chance to be in the big screen befor doomsday (that if they end it with doom)

                • Yeah, I think that would be cool as well, nice long arc with many villains!

                  • Yea man. I just think that for the part 2 lex and metalo should be the villians, part 3 brainiac and 4 doomsday (lex could have a cameo on part 4 in jael watching the big news of supermans death on tv) it will end super bad ass! (that if they do that)

  14. Oh no! It’s a villain that’s been used before! Fire and brimstone are falling down! The world’s gonna end now!

    C’mon people. Zod’s not gonna effect how the movie turns out. They want a villain that Superman can fight because that’s what most movie goers want to see. Fans of the comics
    might not, but the average person wants to watch stuff go BOOM!

    • Well no offense, but average movie goers need to watch Michael Bay films if they just want stuff to go boom. Plus there are plenty of villains that can take supes on one on one.

      Superman fans have been given crap lately, Singer made a movie that was personal and satisfying for himself. He tried to make a homage to Donner. Kinda selfish really, because Donner doesn’t define Superman.

      I can totally understand, fans just want something fresh. Change is good.
      Going with something tried and true isn’t always appealing, especially for fans, and especially when it come to Supes because in his movie career, he has only really fought Lex and Zod and well the tobacco industry.

      The movie probably won’t be bad, but whether or not it’s bad or good doesn’t seem to be the debate here. Variety is the spice of life, and I am down with that. With the exception of that new spidey suit =P

  15. I don’t even remember that many posts on the other thread saying that MOS would suck, just disappointment that Zod was a feature villain. It’s like:
    “hey! Christmas is coming twice this year! But you’re getting another pair of socks like you got the last 2 years”

    I wouldn’t have been disappointed if Lex was confirmed as a major role. I’ve said before that a Supes movie without Lex would just be odd. Of course he doesn’t have to be a big part, but Metropolis would be lacking without him in some capacity. Almost like Spiderman without JJ :) But this movie really does need another villain to set it apart from the previous films, just not Zod.

  16. @kofi – I really the analytic articles that you write,by the way this is a great article. Just keep them coming … Oh and i hope they implement the character of zod just as you have described here.

  17. The original movies will always be classic, they were fun for me growing up but looking back I can’t stand how cheesy they were. Zod was severely underutilized as the threat to mankind that he IS. I can’t wait to finally see Supes kick some A** for real. Snyder’s got my vote, as a fan of his work I know He WILL DELIVER! I predict some sick sick sick CGI in this one and a Superman movie that we all deserve. So far it has the ingredients to be incredibly entertaining.

  18. I would really like to see the Lex Luthor creating Nuclear Man idea from The Quest for Peace re explored. That was a killer concept but was poorly executed.

  19. LMAOOOO the ppl who comment on this site are hilarious. its like a lil war brewing. its just like music fans on other blogs i go too. its amazing. every form of entertainment has fans that do this

  20. i think Zod is good. i have never seen super man 2 and dont plan on seeing it and am sure there are ppl who love superman but aren’t comic book fans or die hard superman fans that watched every old superman flick. SO seeing Zod in a light is going to give a new generation a look at someone who is very special to Clark kent. plus those action scenes are going to be crazy!

    • Think I’ve seen that trailer 4 times now and was worth watching each time :)

  21. We’ve seen Zod already, bringus Doomsday! these Producers and directors dont have a clue. I’ll wait for it to hit Redbox

    • oh the doomsday clamor again and again. first, a film about superman is a film about superman. not doomsday, nor any of the villains. geez. it’s not as if we get a superman film with a hostage-taker as the main villain. stop complaining, the film hasn’t even begun shooting yet.

  22. I’ve been sliding down the negative side as time goes on and I learn more about Snyder’s vision.

    However, I like Kofi’s Zod and do think Snyder’s “more realistic” vision would do well within that framework. It certainly would be a new take on this.

    One positive note here – it’s about the potential action Snyder will present. I dont have to worry that every 20 second action sequence will be sliced into 20 seperate different angles (cough*greengrass*COUGH). Whatever the fights and super-effects we’re going to get will be crisp and presented so we can actually see what’s happening.

    While I still do not favor the young superman storyline one bit (I think just about every villian match up and dilema Superman faces would be done better under the mature middle aged Supes – but hey Im old and biased), Im willing to at least hold out hope this doesnt cater too much to the tweenie and teenage audience.

  23. You know, I wonder how many of you who have no problem with Zod being the major villain were also against Khan being a major villain in a Trek sequel? Hmmmm.

    • Khan in a Trek sequel would be just as unimaginative, unoriginal, and stale as this silly Superman movie.

      • But what if the Botany Bay was picked up by the Klingons and Khan became the Klingon Emperor? Or the Romulans, and Khan became Praetor? Kofi came up with some interesting scenarios with Zod; I think Khan could also be utilized in a completely different way.

        • Yes. Exactly.

      • @Dante and Panda

        I agree with you guys.

    • Arent all Star Trek villians the same though? They stand at the bridge in their own space crafts and angrily argue with Kirk and then laser beams shoot from each other’s spaceships? LOL

      • You do realize that Kahless has declared a blood feud on you? :-)

        • Star Trek is kewl k?


          Data would kick Spock’s butt.

    • Kahless…

      I have no problem with Zod appearing in “Man of Steel”. If they do so logically, I also have no problem with Khan being a major villain in the “Star Trek” reboot. In fact, it’s kind of like watching the Superman/Lex dynamic almost in reverse:

      Khan (Lex) has the “super powers”, being genetically superior AND his obvious brilliance.

      Kirk (Clark, more than his alter ego) outsmarts the vastly superior foe, using his OWN natural brilliance and mischievous cunning.

      This, actually, sounds very cool to me.


  24. “The Last Days of Krypton” by Jerry Siegel, & Joe Shuster came out in 2008. If you read that one book, awkward as it is, you will have a general idea about the story of Zod, Jor-El, and Krypton. Regardless about what version you follow, its a very-very boring origin and Armageddon story. I can see how “Superman: Man of Steel” can mirror “Batman: Begins”, but I do not think it will be an entertaining experience. Even though the original Zod was dramatically grandiose, the new version is too far into the other direction. When we start seeing clips of the movie, I think everyone will get the general idea. If I had to make a psychological comparison to other characters, I would have to go with: Praetor Shinzon (StarTrek: Nemesis) meets Grand Admiral Thrawn (SW: Heir to the Empire). Zod’s latest incarnation in novels is one that should stay in novels. Some books and characters should never be made into movies. Zod is one of them.

    • Zod is an opportunist who comes off cunning. As his character begins to shift from good to evil, Zod manipulates everything in his environment. Within this particular origin story, Jor-El comes off like an intelligent-moron who can be manipulated into anything. Gullible. If they chose this direction, people will be throwing things at the screen.

    • Marcus…

      I loved the novel and thought it was a great mash-up of the variations on the origin story of Superman. Also, from your below comment, I agree that Zod was cunning, but I do not think he shifted from good to evil; I believe he simply became better at taking advantage of situations…and people. Jor-El did not seem moronic in the slightest. He WAS gullible, only to the extent that his focus on science blinded him to political machinations. That, coupled with his absent-mindedness, made him the perfect mark for Zod, whose focus was just as precise but not nearly as beneficent.

    • Marcus…

      Ummm, I also just realized what you wrote about the authorship of this novel; wasn’t the author Kevin J. Anderson?

      Siegel and Shuster CREATED the character of Superman.

      I’m guessing you knew that and just didn’t realize what you had typed.

  25. hell of an article Kofi, I’ve never really had a problem with Zod being the Villain because at least it’ll give us a chance to let Supes show his chops I just would’ve preferred Brainiac or Metallo

    • well, not for the star trek sequel. not now at least. i’m sure there’s a third one.

      • that’s a reply for the thread on star trek and khan. sorry.

  26. I keep thinking to the quote from Snyder (or maybe it was Goyer, I don’t remember) saying there is a scene in his Origins novel where Clark tells Pa Kent that he doesn’t want to be different and wants to just live his life. It just seems like a borrowed theme from Spiderman. Sure that sort of theme has been explored in Superman comics before, but after 70 years, what theme hasn’t?

    It all comes down to: what do we want to see in a movie? I for one prefer the “God among many” / “symbol of all that is good in the world” approach. That can include any villain, not just Zod.

    Could Zod work in this reboot? Sure, of course, without question. Is that the best villain for the reboot? Not IMO and I think that’s what the fanboy criticism and debate is really all about.

    • no. i think not. the fanboy criticism is all about, “hey, we want this villain because we have never seen them before.” without even understanding the story they put into the film. villains play an integral part in the story. you just don’t get one from a list and stick it in the story. it’s always about how the characters relate to the story. and with the log line of david goyer, it’s about the doubtful superman who seems to think that he doesn’t want to take the responsibility. yeah, spiderman had that, etc2x. but themes are themes, not story. who’s to say it would be like spiderman? no one did.

  27. In this reboot would be cool if Superman face Zod once again and Zod could release Doomsday for the next sequel, along with Bizarro.