Superman Returns Softened The Car Smash
Even if Batman v Superman and Justice League's adaptations are fresher in fans' minds, we're willing to wager that it's the homage to Superman's classic car smash seen in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns that will be recalled most vividly. Partly because the moment was showcased for nostalgic fans, but re-imagined without any of the violence and impact of the original cover. Instead of smashing the front of a car into a boulder, Brandon Routh's Superman caught a speeding vehicle from beneath, and gently placed it onto the ground (front first, of course).
It was a fun moment at the time, and one of several wistful nods to the past that Superman Returns took time to deliver. But it did lead plenty of fans to ask: why was Superman smashing the car on that first cover, anyway? It wasn't mindless destruction, for those curious, but a means to frighten and flatten the criminal operations of some 1930s gangsters. Superman first lifted the car, shook out the crooks, and smashed it with minimal effort to drive the point home (and sent them fleeing in righteous terror).
Less than violent or villainous... but still not exactly the un-intimidating image of Superman that took hold over the following century. Until Batman v Superman adapted the image a little differently.
Snyder's Homage to Superman's Car Smash
No matter how you feel about Snyder's approach to Superman, you can't say he doesn't demonstrate the superhero's raw strength - which was exactly what the original cover to Action Comics #1 was meant to convey to its own audience. Times have clearly changed, with wanton violence from Superman or Batman something comic fans will reject, as evidenced by the opposition to Batman V Superman's level of violence. That divide - between who Superman was on that first cover, and who he's become to modern fans - is largely a matter of perspective. Which is just what Zack Snyder's version of that cover image is meant to convey, as well.
Viewers will almost certainly have missed the BvS Easter Egg, since it's found among other news clippings in the home of Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy). As a victim of Superman's collateral damage, Wallace has made Superman the target of his suffering and revenge, and that includes an illustration of him with a car held overhead, being smashed - an image of fear, intimidation, and destruction. An opinion held by him, and as the film would go on to demonstrate, an opinion also held by countless other people (both in the DC movie universe, and real world).
The question for comic readers is exactly how Bendis and the other DC storytellers are going to contextualize this primary piece of evidence. The history of DC's timeline, and the Superman now living in it have changed too many times to count. So it's up for discussion: will the green sedan now owned and maintained by Leviathan be a memento of Superman's debut into the world? Or will it be a reminder of what a monster he could be, if he decided to unleash his full power? Only time will tell.
Action Comics #1006 is available now from DC Comics.