Fans are divided over the version of Superman seen in “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While some enjoy the film version, featuring a dark, somewhat brooding Supes, many fans are hoping for the upcoming “Man of Steel 2,” the filmmakers will go back and use some inspiration from the classic Superman stories.
“Man of Steel 2” directorial candidate Matthew Vaughn has previously said that his preferred version of Superman “is about color and fun, or it should be, to me.” So could we be on the cusp of seeing a DCEU version of Mr. Mxyzptlk? Perhaps he’ll go with a humorous villain like Bizarro? Either way, it looks like we’re going to get a very different version of Superman. Let’s take a look at 15 stories from Superman’s illustrious comic book history that would make interesting sequels!
15 WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY? (2001)
Released as a single-issue story in “Action Comics” #775, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” was an instant favorite among Superman fans. After comic book “superhero” teams like The Authority became popular for their more extreme tactics, including zero qualms about killing villains, there were many comic readers who considered Superman to be irrelevant. Sounds similar to what DC film fans say about Superman now, right? They consider him to be an invulnerable, boring Boy Scout.
“Action Comics” #775 shows exactly what makes Superman more relevant today than ever before. By taking on The Elite (the story’s version of The Authority), Superman proves that his style of heroics isn’t obsolete and is actually needed in the world today. “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” has already been adapted to feature length before via the animated movie “Superman vs. The Elite,” so it’s clear that the story has feature-film potential.
Using this story as the basis for “Man of Steel 2” would set a new tone for the character and separate Superman from the other heroes in the DCEU.
14 BRAINIAC (2008)
Perhaps the biggest Superman villain to not be featured in a feature film, Brainiac is primed for his big-screen debut. The “Brainiac” storyline featured in “Action Comics” #866-870 is a fan-favorite story featuring the villain. While the story isn’t the introduction of the character (more on that later in the list), this particular story does show the full power of Brainiac as he fights Superman, who is assisted in battle by his cousin, Supergirl.
The story would be an amazing way to introduce Brainiac, as well as Supergirl, to the DCEU. “Brainiac” is also a way to use the sequel as a soft reboot for the character, as it doesn’t involve Lex Luthor at all and has a very minor role for Lois. However, one major change would have to occur. For readers of the story, there is an important death that happens in “Brainiac” that wouldn’t work in “Man of Steel 2,” but a very similar death could happen to the other half of this couple
13 FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING (1985)
One of the most famous stories in all of Superman’s history, “For the Man Who Has Everything” would be a great sequel to the serious “Man of Steel.” Appearing in “Superman Annual” #11, the story is about Superman’s birthday. As Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman go to the Fortress of Solitude to give him gifts, they find Superman in a catatonic state with an odd alien attached to his body. While in his catatonic state, Superman imagines what his life would have been like on Krypton, including having a wife and kids. Ultimately, there’s a big battle, Superman wakes up and the heroes celebrate his birthday.
Admittedly, this would make for an odd movie, but could end up being a great way of showing audiences a new side to Superman. One of the biggest complaints about Superman’s appearances in the DCEU is that there aren’t enough character moments for Supes. “For the Man Who has Everything” is nothing but character moments, while also making audiences care for the character again. Plus, this is a way to include some cameos without overshadowing Superman.
12 UP, UP, AND AWAY (2006)
While stories featuring a de-powered Superman never seem to be that great, “Up, Up, and Away” is one of the rare times that it works well. The storyline, running through “Action Comics” #837-840 and “Superman” #650-653, tells the story of a de-powered Superman who is now focusing on being Clark Kent. Working hard as a journalist, he uses his news-reporting prowess to help defend Metropolis. With a disgraced Lex Luthor as the main villain, the story would fit pretty well in the current film series.
There are many reasons why this would make a great “Man of Steel 2” plot. Focusing on Clark Kent gives Henry Cavill enough opportunity to flesh out the Clark character, while also giving us the journalist we never got in “Man of Steel.” “Up, Up, and Away” is also an opportunity for Jesse Eisenberg to redeem himself as Lex, giving audiences a scary, smart version of the character, and not the bratty, almost silly version we saw in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
11 PEACE ON EARTH (1998)
“Superman: Peace on Earth” is one of the most revered Superman stories of all time. With no major supervillain, the story shows Superman trying to fix one of the biggest issues facing people across the world: hunger. After meeting a starving girl and deciding he wants to feed everyone on Earth, Superman begins delivering food to needy people across the globe. When he attempts to deliver food to a country whose military doesn’t want him around, a small battle happens, and Superman decides to end his mission. He realizes the biggest effect he can have on the world is to be an inspiration and provide hope.
Instead of relying on the mass destruction that has been a part of Superman’s first two appearances in the DCEU, “Peace on Earth” provides the filmmakers a way to tell a small, personal story with the character. Showcasing his power in different ways, helping people instead of punching villains, Superman is shown being truly heroic. The real question is whether or not audiences would be interested in a superhero film with little action and simple acts of heroism.
10 REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN! (1993)
We all know that Superman is going to be resurrected in the upcoming “Justice League” film. However, we aren’t sure how much of the fallout of his death, and return, will be covered in the film, considering Batman and Co. are going to have their hands full with Steppenwolf. So why not cover that in “Man of Steel 2?”
“Reign of the Supermen!” tells the story of the fallout of Superman’s death. Featuring four “heroes” who all claim to be the true Superman, the story could make for a fun, epic film with only minor changes. Instead of the mystery of who the real Superman is, the film could have Superman returning to Metropolis after the events of “Justice League” where he sees that his heroics have inspired four new heroes that are protecting the city. After some of the heroes’ motivations are shown to be less than heroic, Superman could team with Superboy and Steel to fight the villains.
Showing just how inspirational Superman is, while also featuring a fun, somewhat silly story, “Reign of the Supermen!” would make for a truly memorable film.
9 PANIC IN THE SKY! (1992)
Another story featuring Brainiac, “Panic in the Sky!” would be a great way to introduce the character, while also giving Superman a truly epic film. The story features Superman teaming up with a variety of heroes to fight Brainiac as he tries to destroy earth with the help of Warworld.
At first glance, the story would seem better suited for a “Justice League” sequel, however with some changes, “Panic in the Sky!” could be a great standalone Superman film. Instead of guest-starring tons of big name heroes, the film could be Superman showing his power against a world-sized satellite piloted by Brainiac. The film would still be epic, and provide a good introduction for Brainiac, without having heroes fighting hordes of nameless aliens, which seems to be the common thread in many of the superhero films nowadays.
Like some of the other stories on this list, “Panic in the Sky!” would be an easy way to do a soft reboot of the character, with a new fun tone.
8 THE SUPER-DUEL IN SPACE (1958)
“The Super-Duel in Space” is the first appearance of the villain Brainiac, which is without a doubt the most obvious villain to be featured in “Man of Steel 2.” Featured several times on this list, the epic battle between Superman and Brainiac begins here. As Clark and Lois are boarding an experimental spacecraft in order to investigate and report on it, they come across a mysterious, powerful alien named Brainiac. With his shrink ray, Brainiac has traveled the universe collecting cities and storing them in bottles, and now he has his sight set on a few different cities on Earth.
This storyline might seem ridiculous to some, but it shows how strange Superman stories can be and would make for a fun film. “The Super-Duel in Space” also expands on the Superman mythology with the introduction of the shrunken city of Kandor. Of course, the campy nature of the story could be tamed somewhat, but showing audiences that some of the greatest Superman stories feature crazy, silver-age sci-fi allows future films to go even further.
7 SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (2007)
One of the classic parts of Superman’s history is his relationship with the Legion of Super-heroes. The team of heroes from 1,000 years in the future has been featured in many different storylines dating back to the Golden Age. The most accessible story for a feature film is “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” from “Action Comics” #858-863. In this story, Brainiac 5 comes back in time to recruit Superman to help the rest of the Legion in the year 3008. Superman joins the Legion of Super-Heroes in the year 3008, as they battle enemies and save their future.
Featuring a great team-up that brings Superman into a whole new world would make for an awesome film. Full of superpowers and spectacle, as well as a heavy dose of sci-fi, “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” would set up the “Man of Steel” films as completely different than the rest of the DCEU. The studio would love it as well due to its opportunity for a new franchise, with the Legion.
6 THE BATTLE WITH BIZARRO (1959)
Bizarro is one of the most fun and interesting villains that Superman has faced. His appearance in “The Battle with Bizarro” and “The Bride of Bizarro” from “Action Comics” #254-255 is, admittedly, not completely film ready, but the blueprint for a fun, sci-fi romp is there. When Lex Luthor gets ahold of the Duplicator Ray, he uses it to make his own Superman, which turns into Bizarro. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Bizarro isn’t quite an exact copy of Supes.
After Luthor creates Bizarro and Superman has to try to stop him, Bizarro creates New Bizarro using the same Duplicator Ray. When New Bizarro betrays him, Bizarro teams up with Superman to take down New Bizarro. Hey, it was the Golden Age, crazy stuff happens! What’s missing from the Superman appearances in the DCEU is fun. How could you not have fun with Bizarro in a film?
If done correctly, Bizarro could turn into a new Groot. Audiences would go crazy for him.
5 CAMELOT FALLS (2006)
What if Superman’s good deeds were just going to cause destruction in the future? Should he stop? That’s the question posed in the “Camelot Falls” storyline. A mysterious stranger from the future visits Superman in the present day and warns him of a post-apocalyptic future Metropolis. The idea is that the escalation of each Crisis that Superman and the DC Universe faces is a direct result of the heroes winning each time. Over time, they’ll face bigger and bigger threats, and eventually, they’ll lose.
Some of the best Superman stories are the ones that deal with philosophical questions about power and heroes. Since Superman is almost god-like, just having him punch his way to victory each time gets old. Therefore, having a film where Superman has to decide whether or not him saving people today is hurting people in the future is an interesting concept. Fans love post-apocalyptic visions of the future, and big battles, which are both featured in this storyline.
4 THE TEAM OF LUTHOR AND BRAINIAC (1963)
What happens when Lex Luthor teams up with Brainiac? Obviously, they shrink Superman, de-power him, and put him in a birdcage. Well, that’s the story presented in “The Team of Luthor and Brainiac” in “Superman” #167. Featuring the first team-up between the hero’s two biggest villains, Superman has his work cut out for him.
Of all the Brainiac and Luthor stories on the list, this is perhaps the weirdest. While some major changes would have to take place for this story to see the light of day on the big screen, the idea of the two villains teaming up would make for a great film. What the issue does well is how they give the two big bads actual stories. They’re not just canon fodder for Superman to beat up, they’re developed characters that have complete story arcs. Lex Luthor and Brainiac would have the opportunity to turn into the DCEU’s versions of Loki.
3 THE MYSTERIOUS MR. MXYZPTLK (1944)
The weirdest, but probably most powerful, villain in Superman’s rogues gallery is Mr. Mxyzptlk. An imp from the 5th Dimension, Mr. Mxyzptlk first appeared in the story “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyzptlk” from “Superman” #30 all the way back in 1944. If people are bored with a Superman that is pretty much a god, how about put him against a villain that can literally do anything? Superman finds himself unable to fight the villain with fists. He ends up only winning after convincing Mr. Mxyzptlk to say the magic word, “Kltpzyxm,” which sends him back to his home dimension.
Yeah, Mr. Mxyzptlk is a silly character. That’s the point. Does that mean he could never be featured in a film? Absolutely not! Changes would have to be made, but the character could be a great villain for Superman to face, especially in a bright, colorful world that Matthew Vaughn is interested in creating. While it may not be safe to completely trust DC and Warner Bros. to do the right thing with characters, the right filmmakers could turn this into a really great movie.
2 THE PHANTOM ZONE (1982)
The Phantom Zone has been featured in quite a few stories throughout Superman comics and films for years. Serving as Superman’s supervillain “prison,” the Phantom Zone holds some of the scariest villains around. So what happens when prisoners escape and terrorize Earth while Superman get’s stuck in his own prison? That’s the basis of “The Phantom Zone” story in the self-titled mini-series from 1982. Superman eventually travels throughout the Phantom Zone, learning truths about its origins along the way, and escapes back to Earth to defeat the villains.
That story sounds like a great movie, right? Yes it does! It’s a great way to create a story where you don’t need any special guest stars, and audiences will get a glimpse of how sci-fi and strange Superman stories can be, with an awesome battle at the end. Think Doctor Strange meets Superman. Sounds almost too weird to work, but probably would be awesome in the right filmmaker’s hands.
1 FOR TOMORROW (2004)
While Superman is off-planet fighting a villain, a million people on Earth just vanish into thin air. Upon returning to Earth and finding out that all those people just mysteriously disappeared, Superman doubts himself like never before; why couldn't he save everyone? He makes it his mission to find out where the missing people are and to stop the evil forces behind the disappearances. That’s the basis for the Superman story “For Tomorrow” that was featured in “Superman” #204-215.
While the story received mixed reviews, and is perhaps best known for it’s beautiful Jim Lee art, the premise is strong enough to lead to a really interesting Superman film. Streamlined and adapted similarly to how Marvel Studios adapts their films, “For Tomorrow” could be an epic story with a ton of heart, showcasing the best parts of the Superman character. A serious story, without the gritty, dark tone of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “For Tomorrow” could still bring a little fun and bright colors to the DCEU while telling a thoughtful story.
Which stories from the "Superman" comics do you want to see adapted for "Man of Steel 2?" Tell us in the comments!