A Brief History of James Gunn’s Love of Superman

Weeks after ascending to the top of DC Studios, James Gunn made a major statement about the future of the DC Universe when he announced that he was writing a treatment for an all-new Superman film. Gunn’s project, which he may ultimately direct, has no ties to Henry Cavill‘s Man of Steel or the Snyderverse and should be a signal to fans about the direction of the newly minted studio. Superman is a priority for DC Studios and by taking it on himself to write the script, Gunn is making sure his vision is the one that defines the character.

Telling a good Superman story isn’t easy in the 2020s which means Gunn’s taking a lot of responsibility in his new role as co-chair. If fans don’t respond well to the new project, Gunn will take the heat. That’s a long way off, however, as the script is obviously just being developed now but that doesn’t mean that Gunn hasn’t had Superman on his mind for quite some time. In fact, he’s been very vocal about his love for and interest in the character over the last several years and has come close to either developing a Superman or Superman-adjacent property more than once! Here’s a look, albeit a brief one, at Gunn’s love of Superman.

For Gunn, it likely all started in 1978 when, as a 12-year-old, he saw Richard Donner‘s Superman at a theater in Des Peres, Missourri. Gunn called Superman a “great movie” that “rivaled Star Wars” for him and, in a 2021 interview, credited it with getting him “really excited about the genre.”

Before becoming the driving creative force behind Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn wrote and directed 2010’s Super, a black comedy about a hero with no super powers which may or may not be a part of a cinematic universe where the “evil Superman” character from Brightburn exists, but even while he was tied up at Marvel, he remained a fan of Superman. In a long Twitter thread from 2016, Gunn made it clear that he enjoyed 2013’s Man of Steel despite some of his criticism about how it portrayed the hero, citing a lack of empathy as an issue.

Gunn has always kept up a major presence on social media and in 2016 during a live Facebook Q&A, he was asked who would win in a fight between Hulk and Superman. At the time, Gunn was very much believed to be one of the architects of the future of Marvel Studios, making his response a bit surprising.

Hulk vs Superman, who wins? Probably Superman, right?“He’s much more powerful than Hulk.

James Gunn via Radio Times

In 2017, after congratulating Zachary Levi for landing the lead role in Shazam!, Gunn was besieged on social media by fans for even mentioning a DC property. His response was pretty epic as he urged fans to drop the “Marvel vs. DC” mentality.

Every time I mention anything DC, no matter what, my feed becomes an endless screaming match about BvS. You guys are never going to convince each other – it’s just a bunch of wasted energy. At least when you’re screaming at each other about Trump, it’s something of international importance. But it’s a 2 year old movie that some people like and some people don’t. Why is someone else’s opinion so important to you? As Marvel and DC super fans you have way more in common with each other than you do with the rest of the world. So why do you spend so much time raging at each other? It’s silly. Please just stop it. Stop engaging in that way.

James Gunn

Less than a year later, Gunn had been fired from Marvel and hired by the old guard at DC to direct The Suicide Squad. Interestingly enough, before moving forward on The Suicide Squad, Gunn had his pick of projects including a Superman film that he turned down. Gunn also indicated that while he ultimately chose not to direct it, he briefly considered a project centered around Superman’s dog, Krypto. Though he passed on the Superman project, Gunn later revealed that he nearly ended up including the character in The Suicide Squad…as the bad guy until he settled on Starro.

I thought that was a very interesting story. But when I came up with Starro…he’s a character I loved from the comics. I think he’s a perfect comic book character because he’s absolutely ludicrous, but he’s also very scary in his own way … He used to scare the crap out of me when I was a child, putting those facehuggers on Superman and Batman and stuff. So, I thought he was one of the major DC villains that was probably never gonna be put into another movie. And if they did, they would do it like the ‘black cloud’ version of Starro — not a giant, walking starfish that’s a kaiju, that is bright-pink and cerulean blue. Just a ridiculously bright bad guy.

James Gunn via Script Apart Podcast

It’s safe to say that Superman, and the state of DC’s films, has been on Gunn’s mind for some time now. In that sense, it’s no surprise that he’s decided to make the character a priority in his early days as the co-chair after seeing him mostly sidelined by the previous regime. It looks like Gunn is going all in on that character as one of the building blocks of the DC Universe and given his love for the character, fans should look for a return to the character’s roots as a symbol of pure goodness and hope.

Sources: THR, HH, Radio Times, Deadline, SYFY, Flickering Myth, Script Apart

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