Fans are waiting on the edge of their seats for the latest Superman movie to hit the big screen, Man of Steel. The new reboot from director Zack Snyder has everyone talking, and Henry Cavill's turn as Big Blue looks to be the refreshing take on the character that we have been waiting years for.
There is no shortage of footage out from the film now, with multiple TV spots, featurettes and trailers released, leaving little left to the imagination. All of this pre-release footage has given us a unique look into the source material used to craft the story for Man of Steel, which is what we are here to talk about today. We previously took a look at the Comics That Came Before Iron Man 3, which helped flesh out some of the movie moments by examining the comics. It only makes sense to repeat the process for the next big superhero hit of the year, Let’s take a look at some of the comics that Man of Steel draws from to get you ready for the June 14 release.
(The Man of Steel / Superman: Birthright / Superman: Secret Origins)
Superman is a character who has been rebooted a number of times, making the film reboot nothing out of the ordinary. One of the biggest reboots came in the form of John Byrne’s mini-series The Man of Steel, which effectively rebooted Superman’s origin and gave it a more modern feel (circa 1986, of course) after The Crisis on Infinite Earth’s reshaped the rest of the DCU. This origin was further developed in Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid & Leinel Francis Yu. It was then retold again Superman: Secret Origins by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, following another universe reboot in Infinite Crisis.
Both titles touched upon the already created origin from Byrne’s The Man of Steel while offering differences in Clark’s upbringing and powers. While the full origin story from Snyder’s Man of Steel remains a secret, moments from Birthright are evident, such as Clark’s time spent travelling around the world to find himself. These three origin tales all retroactively try to produce a cohesive origin for Superman, so expect Man of Steel to pick and choose the best parts.
(Justice League #1)
Superman’s new duds are probably the biggest visual departure from the previous films, and it all comes down to that one little bit of clothing. The iconic red trunks on the outside of the uniform are now gone, and the first time we saw this in the comic world came about with the latest reboot in DC history, the New 52. As the DC timeline was shortened and all the characters modernized, there was no longer a place for outside undies. The first appearance of the new trunk-less uniform was in Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, where fellow lover of underpants Batman also made his debut sans undies.
The movie costume is similar in appearance to the New 52 with some minor changes. What is clear is the fact that the suit looks to be Kryptonian in design, whereas in the comics (until recent changes) the costume was made by Martha Kent, Clark’s adopted mother. Throughout different versions of the origin the suit then came to be made from material that had come with Clark from Krypton until the New 52 version, which was a futuristic armor that formed out of the ‘S’ shield. Speaking of…
The ‘S’ Shield
Superman’s iconic logo has had many interpretations over the years, and interestingly enough, none of them are because he is named Superman. The S has always meant something larger than his name, and is usually represented as a ‘coat of arms’ for the House of El, of which Superman (Kal-El) is a part of. It wasn’t until Superman: Birthright that the insignia was said to be a Kryptonian symbol for ‘hope’, which Man of Steel has clearly adopted. One of the most unique versions is from Byrne’s The Man of Steel, which explains that Jonathan Kent based the logo off a symbol from a Native American blanket in the Kent family.
(Adventure Comics #283/ Action Comics #844)
Zod (played by Michael Shannon) has a long and somewhat confusing history in the Superman titles. He first appeared in Adventures Comics #283 as a prisoner of the Phantom Zone who was released by Superboy. This was erased after the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, when DC chose to adhere to Superman’s designation as the last Kryptonian, so any other Kryptonian character was erased or changed so as not to be from Krypton. This left Zod in a difficult position, and his appearances always had to have an alternate explanation.
Alternate reality versions of the Kryptonian General appeared a few times, along with phantom zone spirits and even a human born Russian who took on the role until Action Comics #844 by Geoff Johns, Richard Kronner and Adam Kubert. This followed the accepted origin that Zod had been trapped in the Phantom Zone until released to wage war against Superman and Earth. His role in the comics still continues to be shadowed by the phenomenal performance of Terence Stamp as Zod in Superman and Superman II.
The Alien Invasion
(Superman: Earth One)
As the trailers, TV spots, and featurettes have all shown, it isn’t just Zod who is bringing the hurt to Superman, but what looks to be a Kryptonian army as well. This notion also cropped up in Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, a non-canon re-imagining of the character that wowed readers and spawned a new universe, similar to Marvel’s Ultimate universe. A sequel was produced as well as a look at the Batman of Earth One, both of which were well accepted by readers.
In the original volume of Superman: Earth One, an alien invasion led by Tyrell comes to Earth looking for the Kryptonian who crashed on earth, namely Clark Kent. Tyrell is from the planet Dheron, which is actually responsible for the destruction of Krypton. It’s a great graphic novel that takes another look at how Clark Kent could have become Superman, and his battle against those responsible for the death of his planet. This plot seems to be mirrored slightly by Man of Steel, which has Zod looking for Kal-El for whatever reasons, with the force of an alien army behind him.
With the release of Man of Steel a little over a week away, it seems like more than enough time to give a few of these issues a read and develop your own understanding of the history of these characters. While we are sure to see a unique version of them on the big screen, it never hurts to enjoy these stories, especially when they might help you enjoy the movie that much more.
We`ll see you in theaters on June 14th.
Images: DC Comics, Warner Bros Pictures, Legendary Entertainment