How To Reboot Superman

Published 5 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 9:39 am,

superman ross016 How To Reboot Superman

[Update: There’s word that the Superman Reboot is on the way!]

A lot of you may still be buzzing from the news that Chris Nolan will be “mentoring” the Superman franchise for Warner Bros., in order to get it back on track. Unfortunately, a huge dent was put in that news recently, when DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson stated that the Nolan/Superman connection is just a rumor.

Chris Nolan may end up being involved with the Superman reboot in some capacity – then again he may not. Only time will tell. However, this latest turn of the rumor mill has done us the the wonderful favor of rekindling the debate about what we, as fans, want to see in the next Superman movie and the inevitable franchise that follows.

We’ve had this debate again and again, but it doesn’t seem to get old. Last time, I asked you what should Warner Bros. do about the Superman reboot – it was a question. But that was then, and nothing has been done since (that we can confirm), so now I’m done asking – now I’m pitching some theories. Keep on reading and see if you agree.



You know what made a movie like Batman Begins so enjoyable? The fact that two-thirds of the film were dedicated to exploring the central character  and answering the two basic questions that should be at the heart of every superhero franchise: Who is this guy/gal and what is he/she about?

You know what tripped me up about Bryan Singer’s vision for Superman Returns? The cheesy, hokey, thinly-veiled metaphoric question of the central narrative: What does Superman mean to the faux world of the film, and by extension, what does Superman mean to us in the real world? YAWN.

superman sunset How To Reboot Superman

As a former fanboy, I know what Superman means to me – I didn’t go to the theater to take a friggin survey on it. A Superman film should demonstrate to the audience that the filmmakers understand what the character means and that they are able to communicate that understanding in a way that resonates with the audience.

You know why Richard Donner’s cut of Superman II is such genius? Because that film invests so heavily in exploring who Superman/Clark Kent is, both as a hero and as a man. And, so as not to weigh things down too heavily, three badass super-powered Kryptonian villains were thrown in there to provide the necessary blockbuster action, while still managing to expand the story of Superman’s identity crisis in a logical and meaningful way.

My point: If you want to reboot Superman successfully, keep the story focused on the man in the red, yellow and blue suit! How hard is it to mimic a formula that Donner clearly mastered way back when? Don’t just retell an origin story – explore what that origin means to the character. How does Superman/Clark feel as the orphan of another world? How did his Smallville upbringing and human adoptive parents make him more “human” than most people?

Exploring old topics from new angles opens interesting doors…


superman alex ross How To Reboot Superman

As contemporary movie goers, we need to be reacquainted with Superman. And I’m not talking the Superman of some nostalgic past (as Mr. Singer tried to resurrect) – I’m talking about a version of the character who exists in our day and age, when so much of the world seems to be advancing, and yet, simultaneously heading in the wrong direction.

Superman represents hope. That is the symbol he has always been, and, in my opinion, should always be. He’s the being who can do anything, withstand anything, rise above any challenge – and yet, he chooses to be a man (keyword) who stands for compassion, hope and all those other benevolent emotions. Just as incorruptible as Batman – but in a completely different way.

It doesn’t matter how much darkness Superman is surrounded by, because he doesn’t allow it to drag him down or corrupt that noble heart of his (a quality which makes some cynics roll their eyes). It’s why Supes is so famous and enduring: he’s an indestructible (read: indelible) symbol of good always triumphing in the end.

So don’t be afraid to drag him through the mud!

Continue on for story and villain ideas for a Superman reboot…

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  1. mchops, believe me, I'm aware of some of the issues some folks are having and I've been addressing them directly with Disqus. There was a bug in that last Cap article that finally got fixed, but what specifically was the issue here? You can email me with details if you like, you have my email address.



  2. You can't have a middle aged guy play Superman. Tom Welling doesn't look that young anymore and actually has the perfect look right now for the role. Superman is a young looking guy, he is not human, therefore he won't age like normal people would. Superman always looked young in the comics, its only when Alex Ross paints him, he makes him look old (which is the only problem I have with his painting style). Unless the story will be about an older, middle aged Superman there is no need for an older man playing The Man of Steel.

  3. Personally, I feel Batman can be “dark” allot of people argue that he is a darker comic character but they forget that actually he wore grey and blue and run about with the boy wonder in a pair of tights! Yeah very dark, so why did it work? It worked because Nolan made it work. He looked at the character and saw that a movie is not all about action but about character, Rob zombies Halloween however crude, and unnecessarily sexually graphic it may have been touched upon this, developing a plain character that kills into someone worthy of sympathy. While no one who sees Halloween is going to do a “Michael” we do see why he does what he does, and while we know it is wrong we can also see that he is not purely evil, we get to learn how he works and why.

    Superman needs this development of character. I'm not saying make superman dark or evil just make him a character who we can understand, sure keep some mystery it adds the interest, but don't make a substandard character out of a comic Icon that is all action but no substance.

    If I go to see a superman movie (and hey this movie would need an incredibly good trailer to draw me in) I would want to see superman fight a worthy opponent, who is fresh and new, equal to superman, but to see superman fight the choices in life we all make.
    Should it be an origin move? Yes, and No. I’m all up for an origin movie if its done right but its been done so many times why not start a little further in? We know his beginning, hey I can watch Smallville re-runs for that. What I want to see is superman.

    My suggestion would be that, we meet Mr. Kent, in a New York just like today’s. I would even stretch so far as to show several people at the start of the film, have the audience guess who he is. Make Kent as ordinary as possible, not the mis-fit that spidey is, not the billionaire that Wayne is but just a guy, a guy who does what he can to get by in a troubled world. Have superman already out there but not big, amazing superman a more grounded, less super superman. Let him earn his super abilities. Give him small challenges, fighting backstreet fights, against low merit criminals, he can take, make him popular with the people but not so popular with the law. Superman can take anything but the people are never going to hate him, hes too pure.

    My next idea would for superman to not have his costume, not for the film, not until the very end. Where would he get a blue tight suit with a cape? Unless he makes it himself, which is pretty unlikely, he’s sure to get noticed buying it right? Superman’s loved by the people show that, towards the end, have him be given the suit by someone who believes in him (he already uses the superman logo though) and maybe even have him toss it aside as a ridiculous fancy dress costume. Then as his character develops have him wear the suit for the final battle in the film because here he comes to realize he is superman, and its not his powers that makes him super, but the people behind him. He wears the suit to show that the people believe in him and there is hope even in the darkness.

    This to me is a powerful idea. I would have superman perhaps tired at the start, a little unhappy. He is superman he can do anything, yet he can’t. He can fight any opponent he has met and win, but he can’t make a difference to his own life. He cant be himself, he has to live a lie and hide who he is. He isn’t human and doesn’t belong and wants to be able to fit in, or be himself, he wants his home planet his home people. He can come to feel at home, realizing that he is the same as everyone else.

    I would leave aspects in Kents life that suggests he is a little less than ordinary, perhaps he saves a persons life as Kent without thinking at the start, and the person thanks him, remarking “You’re a regular superman arnt you?”. His reply? “I try to be”. Perhaps superman is expected too much off? I’d consider having Kent write negative articles about superman, and be one of those that “believe he does more bad than good”.

    As for his image, I don’t wan’t to see an unbelievably muscular man, make him look more believable, remember he needs to hide his muscles as Kent. Lex as his opponent? No way. Im tired of that, hey I’d consider giving Kryptonite a break tbh, he needs a fresh new enemy whose character we also learn. Besides if lex is surely his biggest opponent then save the best for a potential sequel. Using him later on will be more acceptable, and perhaps kryptonite can be introduced in this film, superman can discover it as his weakness, (as he starts off thinking he has none) but its not going to be heavily used, perhaps the main villain does not realize its importance.

    I would give superman a villain that causes him to change how he thinks, who he is. He is used to chasing bad guys and catching them not facing an opponent with bigger plans who is equal to him, superman has to change to stand a hope of defeating him.

    I personally would go for the idea suggested by screen rant on how to reboot superman and stage an invasion. Have destruction, chaos in NewYork, let him think that its regular stuff and find out its something more, New York is being prepared to be invaded, but the invaders, once stopped are not responsible, let it be the work of someone else, another being like superman perhaps? Braniac? Give him someone stronger and more intelligent than he is. This could give superman the moral issue of doing what is right (saving NY) or fighting one of his own people, (possibly having to kill him as the only way forward)something which will be hard for superman if done right.

    So picture massive destruction in New york, aliens invading, no one understands, terror, suspense where is superman? No one understands how this is happening. Total chaos.
    I would then if I planned to introduce Lex Luther quite simply give him a lesser role in the film, (though keep who he is a secret) giving at the end of the film the suggestion of who he is by having a bar of Kryptonite role to his, feet and he pick it up saying something and gazing at superman.

    Picture, the streets, cars ablaze, storm stricken skies, and Superman emerging a crowd of people around him, all this in the distance with someone watching, a bar of Kryptonite rolling towards his feet, a gloved hand picks it up (maybe superman even from thisdistance expresses a sign of pain, as if he is having a migrance or something) and then the man whispers “well what do you know Superman” and perhaps a low chuckle. Its Luther, he’s been involved in the whole business all the time (but not as a villain, more a side guy, assistant that we didn’t know about) and his presence at the end gives him the potential to feature in the next film either as a main villain or sub character to then appear as the main villain in the third?

    A sequel could pick up where this leaves off. I could spend hours listing ideas tbh.

    • that sounds like a good else worlds alternate universe superman story but there are things that are essental to a superman story.the costume made by his mother with the help of his heat vision in the sewing of it.therefore he begins with the costume.the first appearence of superman (if the movie begins in the begining that isn`t necessary)in costume and the reaction of the people to superman.metropolis not new york as the location.

      the ideas were interesting as an alternate world superman`s story.

  4. Superman Doomsday stunk. Not shaky cam like Cloverfield. Just the news report and thats it. Yea as you said animated. Not live action

  5. This is why fanboys are largely ignored. This is horrible. The dialogue isn't what Superman would say. It's long winded. Try reading it out loud. Blah!

    Your opening images are weak. The use of going back in time to explain the story is unnecessar in this case. It's used more like Astro Boy, not Iron Man.

    My suggestion to you is to study films. Not just watch them. Learn the cinematic language.

  6. Your ideas sound terrible. I'm just glad you have no say in this.

  7. While you are entitled to your opinion, i hardly think four lines of dialogue can be considered long winded. And in the comics Superman often has monologues similar to the one I wrote. it was something I came up with in 5 minutes.

    Just for the record, I am a published author, and write for television.

    And whats that old saying? If you havent got anything nice to say? Don't say it at all!

  8. I totally agree right there. Part of the problem with singer's Supes is that he looked like a sophomore in college. I mean come on. All the picks (comic books, posters, and paintings) I have seen of SuperMAN are that of a man, who looks to be about in his late, late 30s or 40yr old, like the picks above.

  9. I disagree. Supes doesn't always “look young” in all of his comics. Tom Welling, in my opinion, has a good superman face when it comes to Television, but for the big screen, i say no. Welling still looks like a kid in college. I don't understand why people want actors who look like highschoolers to play these types of roles. This is not SuperBoy we are talking about here. He is known as SuperMan. Therefore, let the actor portraying SuperMan be an actual man who actually looks like a man.

  10. I'm not so much worried about what he looks like (although it is a minor concern). I'd be worried more about his acting chops. I'm not saying I think he's a bad actor, but could he handle playing Clark Kent/Superman on the big screen? I don't know.

  11. They are doing pretty much the same thing with the Green Lantern movie. The origin/Sinestro thing from Green Lantern: First Flight.

  12. All good, im not complaining. just wanted to let you guys know of different errors that are out there. think the same thing is happening with the Flash article right now. not just this site though, its also other sites that use disqus as well. not u guys :)

  13. Sorry Sam, I didn't like that intro either.

    Also, unless it's for Chuck writing for television is no recommendation. ;)

    To even start writing a beginning for Superman VI we'd have to have an idea of what the movie will be about, who the villain will be, that sort of thing.

    Bizarro is one possibility, Brainiac another. We could go in alphabetical order and have Supes have to fight all his comic book enemies from A to Z… Doomsday might be regarded as a climax though. Spread it over ten movies and the franchise is set.

    Remember that while monologues work in comics, that's generally because people have the option of skipping them if they already know the story. I seldom bother reading the X-Men's introduction of mutants fighting for a world that hates and fears them because I know that bit already.

    Movies are a visual medium, and if we were going to go with that kind of beginning I'd look to only use the visual medium.

    Zooming in on the planet (starting out by Uranus) then down onto America, then Metropolis, then a tall building, then Superman, then a fist to the face… see Superman take a rapid trip to outoftownsville, see the shock on his face as he looks up into the face of Bizzaro, fade to black, big title Superman VI.

  14. there's no need for an orign story, smallville was good enough origin story, infact they can incorprate some smallville scenes into the movie if they want.

    Batman begins was like smallville

    infact the dark knight was more like an first batman movie, thats why they used the joker in the 2nd movie, infact there werelot of people who didnt see batman begins when the dark knight came out, but loved the dark knight, after watching dark knight they started to watch batman begins to see batman origins

    and they could do the same with smallville

    they should introduce tom as superman from the start and that would be fine.

  15. there's no need for an orign story, smallville was good enough origin story, infact they can incorprate some smallville scenes into the movie if they want.

    Batman begins was like smallville

    infact the dark knight was more like an first batman movie, thats why they used the joker in the 2nd movie, infact there werelot of people who didnt see batman begins when the dark knight came out, but loved the dark knight, after watching dark knight they started to watch batman begins to see batman origins

    and they could do the same with smallville

    they should introduce tom as superman from the start and that would be fine.

  16. Yeah I own it……I meant the story that follows comic book series, not the animated DVD. The 4 Supermen…..

  17. I was waiting for him to bust out with a 'Kazaam' during the movie…..

  18. Batman Begins was like Smallville? lol

  19. I just watched Superman Doomsday. It wasn't canon, but it did offer a reasonably interesting view of the Superman/Clone Superman thing.

  20. Ummmm… By my count the post is structured as such:

    • Describe the core values of the character.
    • Discuss how to creatively explore those core values.
    • Propose Villains/plots that would best expose those core values.

    A lot of pre-editing goes into these posts. So I'm not sure what your complaint is. We're also discussing a reboot, the point of which is to restate the core values (the basics) of a character/story.

    If you disagree with the fact that I'm harping on one idea throughout the essay, that's fine. But it is how good essays are structured: constantly referring back to their core point.

    I don't appreciate your frivolous assertion that this is somehow a sloppy or unedited piece of writing – it isn't. I also don't appreciate your unnecessarily aggressive tone about my freedom to respond to your claims.

    If you throw your opinion around, be ready to defend it. I'm not one of these guys who thinks that “everybody should get a say.” I look for intelligent comments, backed by evidence.

    Thanks for reading!

  21. Kevin Spacey is also set to star in the next Superman sequel. Maybe his villain role as Lex Luther looks similar to Gene Hackman. If the John Byrne's SUPERMAN version makes a decision to see who will play the new Lex Luther instead of Kevin Spacey. It will be Terry O'Quinn. Now Terry O'Quinn has played the villain in the Stepfather movies. He will be a great choice to play Superman's arch-nemesis enemy Criminal Mastermind Lex Luther of LexCorps. Remember this Lex Luther is also a Scientist and a Billionaire.

  22. Danny

    what are you talking about? Spacey is not in the next Superman movie and it's not a sequel. Did you even read the article?

  23. A lot of people say that Superman is a lame character because he is invulnerable to anything except Kryptonite. WRONG! Superman tries to be human and its often his human side/emotions that cause him to make accidents and also enable him to be the greatest superhero ever. Check out Superman 2 (when he helps the humans instead of just hammering the Kryptonian baddies) or even Smallville when he continually lets his human emotions rule his decisions. For a really good story to base the next film on, look at The Death of Superman storyline (The main reason they got involved in trying to stop Doomsday was to help a family at risk) or even The Death of Clark Kent storyline. To make Superman a really great character the film needs to explore his human emotions AND his feeling of loneliness from being an alien on another planet!

  24. I would agree on Tom Welling's acting chops. He can get the job done on TV but he is extremely stretched… We've seen the upper limits of his ability on Smallville, and while he looks the part in many ways, he does not have what it takes to command the big screen – sorry fanboys, but that's just the way it is… Bigger actor needed (I thought Routh did a fine job by the way…)

  25. what Superman REALLY needs is JJ Abrams and Co.!!!

  26. okay, I know that Joe Jonas is almost 21 and is 5'10'', but I'D like to see him take to the skies as this generation's Man of Steel, he is physically and mentally fit for the part and looks very much Clark Kent like Peter Parker, no matter what anyone else says. He may be too young for the part, but I say if you want it gofor it Joe. We're with you all the way and 100%!!!!!!!!

  27. I agree with what you are saying that the focus should be about hope. Brings to mind the conversation between him, Bats and WW in the last pages of Kingdom Come trade paperback.

    As far as looks are concerned – Alex Ross' version is the one I think about when I picture Superman. It just clicks.

  28. I agree with what you are saying that the focus should be about hope. Brings to mind the conversation between him, Bats and WW in the last pages of Kingdom Come trade paperback.

    As far as looks are concerned – Alex Ross' version is the one I think about when I picture Superman. It just clicks.

  29. In the Nolan-universe of the 'grounded-in-reality' superhero, Superman could exist in only one way… grounded in reality. How would a real world react to the existence of a powerful alien? The remake of “the day the earth stood still” (I know, i was just an ok movie) is a good example of what I mean. Just substitute Keanu Reeves with 'Clark Kent' and his robot with Brainiac. Add some spectacular action and riveting drama and you got a great Superman reboot.

    • there is no comparison between the day the earth stood (either version)and superman otherwise that both involved aliens.

      also i find any comparison to the alien in the stood remake to superman an insult to superman.

      • i mean other that both involve aliens.