We are nearing the reveal of some of the first wave of films in the new DCU headed up by James Gunn. This reveal should provide us with some idea of what we might get when this new era of DC Comics adaptations hits our big and slightly smaller screens. The Rock’s ego tried to highjack, and then derail, what Gunn had planned, but we are in for some shakiness while they release the last four movies in this era and simultaneously prepare for what’s next. What we do know definitively is that we are getting a new Superman movie and though Gunn plans to skip the origin, a strong argument could still be made for the new film to be an adaptation of Superman: Year One.
Superman: Year One is a 3-issue mini-series by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. that attempted to kind of modernize Superman’s origin while adding some more depth to a character that had been around for 80+ years. It provided some more information about Superman’s time on Krypton, and it provides a subtle shift to Kal-El’s mission to earth; instead of the destruction of Krypton being what propels him to be Earth’s savior, Miller and Romita Jr. make this future essentially pre-ordained. Kal-El will need to save Earth, and his parents need to prepare him for that on Krypton before he goes to fulfill his destiny. It’s a much weightier origin than Krypton’s destruction spurring Supes to save Earth because it means that there are more opportunities to show Superman learning how to use his powers in his environment and as a child. What does it mean for a child to be granted god-like abilities? How does that impact him growing up? And what kind of pressure does this child put on himself due to the knowledge that he will be responsible for saving a planet? These are all questions that Superman: Year One tackles really strongly, and this would give the fans a chance to see a new origin for Superman that would feel fresh.
Another change that is made to Clark’s origin is that he enlists in the United States Navy upon graduating from high school. Think about that: after spending his early childhood on Krypton knowing he was meant to save Earth, his first adult decision after being on this planet is to become a soldier. You have the traditional farmboy origin mixed in with some “of course a small-town kid would want to see the world”, and Superman at boot camp gives you the potential to really build up the hopefulness and love for his fellow man that Superman embodies since he’d be in literal fox holes with them. It would, also, make him remaining hopeful about Earth despite seeing the tragedies of war even more impactful. Zack Snyder made Superman this moody and angry and morose hero, and that’s just not who he is at all. In Year One, Miller and Romita, Jr. find a way to still show his power but to modernize his origin in a way that really keeps the essence of the character.
Year One, also, introduces Lori Lemaris, and this could be a way to start to build out the DCU in a subtle way. Lori Lemaris is a mermaid from Atlantis, home of Aquaman, who actually falls in love with Clark. In the comics, they meet while they’re both attending Metropolis University, where Lori is hiding her being a mermaid by appearing as a differently-abled person. The potential to show a Clark who had to go through all the things kids do before becoming a full-fledged Superman down the road would work so well on the screen; in Year One, he falls for Lori and actually asks her to marry him, which leads to her breaking his heart. She, also, dies during Crisis On Infinite Earths, in case James Gunn wants to plant the seeds for that from here. It could, also, lead to the beginning of the friendship between Arthur Curry and Clark Kent, and is the kind of minor character/big world-building approach that the DCU would benefit from.
This adaptation would be the perfect time to introduce Parasite, a S.T.A.R. Labs janitor who interacts with some chemicals and becomes one of Superman’s biggest threats. This accomplishes the approach we mention above, where it’s a smaller character introducing S.T.A.R. Labs and building out this world, but you also have Parasite taking Lori’s energy act as the catalyst for her breaking Clark’s heart and for Aquaman not trusting the surface world. Superman versus Parasite would look visually different than every Superman fight we have seen and would give us a fresh adversary versus some of the other ones we’ve seen multiple times.
Cut the check and make it out to Murphy’s Multiverse, James Gunn!