Come on DC, it’s not that friggin hard.
So, in my last post about Superman, I talked about how to fix Superman by fixing his villains. Essentially, I was examining the plot of potential future Superman movies. From this, I sort of made the assumption that if the villain and the conflict coalesced into a coherent plot then Superman would follow via a basic fucking understanding of the character that setting up the elements of a story would allow. I realise that that’s giving DC and Warner Brothers a little too much credit.
So, let’s be really simple to the studio that still trusts Zack Snyder with their cinematic universe for some reason. DC, like the Flash before him, you’ve already created a great adaptation of the character. Your perfect Superman story is in Supergirl (I’ve been binging the series and have enjoyed it immensely). Mild spoilers for Season 1 of Supergirl incoming.
So, in Supergirl, there’s a character called Max Lord (a minor DC villain in the comics). Max Lord is Supergirl’s Lex Luthor. He’s rich, diplomatic, and a smarmy son of a bitch. He seems to be working against Supergirl and she knows it. But she can’t prove it (Exactly the plot I suggested). Supergirl can’t kill him but the justice system can’t convict him. It’s the perfect moral quandary for a Kryptonian. Powers can’t solve it. It’s not the only instance but its one that shows how you can limit a powerful character via the right conflict.
Another conflict early in the show is Kara’s (Supergirl’s name in the series) desire to give up her normal life to save people 24/7. She struggles with this for an episode or two, network TV like and then she’s confronted by the fact that she needs her normal life to keep her grounded, to keep her sane. Superman doesn’t need to be Clark Kent strictly, but Clark Kent is what connects him to people. It serves an obvious narrative purpose as most of the ensemble cast comes from Kent’s life (which is why if you’re doing a Superman movie you should include more than five minutes at the planet).
Another issue Kara faces is that she feels compelled to save everyone, and the weight of that drives her mad sometimes. We’ve all been there, trying to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Kara is completely selfless and it’s a fault. Honestly, learning that sometimes you’ve got to be selfish for yourself is a lesson it took me a while to learn. Network television has a tendency to schmaltzy and life lesson-oriented, and it’s perfect for Superman. Superman could learn a thing or two from his cousin.
Some might think that this could be a little kitschy and it could be. You can turn that into narrative tension. Like the Avengers, make the metanarrative the narrative. Make people believe that Superman can work as a character in the 21st century by having everyone doubt him and have him disprove it. Hell, Clark Kent works with JOURNALISTS. The most cynical lot around. If you make Perry White as well-drawn a character as Cat Grant (from Supergirl) then you’re on your way. In fact, I feel that Lawrence Fishburne’s Perry White is halfway to being a decent character, he, like many characters in MoS and BvS, is almost an interesting character.
See, you don’t have to rebel against Christopher Reeve’s Superman, or even ape him. There is already a perfect example of Superman in the modern age. Perhaps it’s easier to explore the emotional turmoil of the character if you let them have emotions (which none of BvS’ characters really have, they have a simulacrum of emotions). Maybe audiences would resist a male character with the same emotional journey as a female character, but you know what, they’ll deal.
Another short one while I’m on holiday. Be back later this week.
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