Warning: This article may contain spoilers for Justice League.
Justice League is almost upon us. It hits the big screen in just a few weeks, marketing is picking up with a number of magazine covers and interviews, and the final trailer is here. We know Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a team to combat Steppenwolf and we know Superman returns at some point to save the day, but he's been a conspicuous no-show in marketing thus far aside from a Clark Kent dream sequence at the start of the newest trailer. Despite Warner Bros. cagey approach to the Man of Steel's resurrection, we know Henry Cavill is in the movie, his mustache even caused a stir during some of the reshoots.
Despite his essential absence from marketing, he's still an overriding theme in the last two trailers, which depict a world without hope after his death and a Batman seeking redemption, inspired by his sacrifice. Even so, he's getting the same treatment in marketing as Luke Skywalker did for The Force Awakens, except the Jedi ended up only appearing for the final seconds of his movie, whereas we imagine Henry Cavill will be in a fair percentage of Justice League.
It's no secret he's going to come back. Superman has died a number of times in the comics, always returning to save the day, so his return isn't exactly lacking for precedent. The big question fans are wondering isn't if Superman returns, but how. While Justice League has a number of potential scenarios for his resurrection, considering how events of his death hewed so closely to The Death of Superman comics in many ways, it could make sense for his return to take a similar inspiration, however, the previous movies have also left a trail of breadcrumbs suggesting another route.
How does it happen in the comics?
Like many major events in comics, the story didn't originate in the way you'd expect. Clark Kent was finally engaged to Lois Lane and DC was planning a big wedding event, but there was only one problem - the Lois and Clark tv show was planning on doing something very similar at the same time. In order to offset the two Kent weddings. DC comics acquiesced and bumped their calendar back by a year, suddenly finding themselves in need of an extra year of story to bridge the gap. Thus, The Death and Return of Superman was born.
It all gets started when a mysterious creature from outer space crashes in Ohio and immediately starts carving a path of destruction toward Metropolis. Several members of the Justice League confront him, but they're no match for this "Doomsday," as they call him, and Superman soon rushes to the scene only to find he can't stop Doomsday either.
Finally reaching the megalopolis, Doomsday and Superman's fight causes massive destruction around the city as they repeatedly land blows on each other until eventually, expending the last of their energy, the two foes land one final punch before they both collapse, presumably dead.
Superman has a heroes funeral and the various members of the Justice League attend, but the events following aren't all explicitly covered in the pages of any comic, so it's not exactly clear what happened, but one thing's evident: Kal-El's grave is robbed. Superman was definitely buried in the ground, but his body may have been in the hands of several organizations and individuals before showing up again, namely Project Cadmus, who wanted to clone him, and The Last Son of Krypton, AKA the Eradicator, a being whose purpose was to seek out and preserve Kryptonian culture. Eradicator likely stole the body from Cadmus, taking it to the Fortress of Solitude to place him in the regeneration matrix where he functioned as a sort of battery to give the Eradicator power and Superman's appearance.
In the meantime, four new Supermen emerge, all claiming to be the real deal: The Man of Steel, AKA John Henry Irons, who also goes by "Steel"; Cyborg Superman, a Superman body double with the deranged mind of Hank Henshaw; Superboy, the Cadmus clone; and the Eradicator, going by the title of the Last Son of Krypton.
The four would-be Supermen alternate between protecting the world and fighting each other until Superman finally bursts forth from the regeneration matrix with a black suit and a full-on mullet. He's severely weakened, but during an ensuing battle, he's attacked with a blast of kryptonite fuel, which Eradicator attempts to block, transforming the kryptonite into something else entirely, restoring Superman's powers, and killing Eradicator. After this, Kal-El is finally able to re-assert himself as the one true Superman.
Obviously, the movie version of his resurrection will need to happen a little differently.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Cyborg (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020
- Green Lantern Corps. (2020) release date: Jul 24, 2020