'Man of Steel' Countdown: Villains Unite! (Part 1)

'Man of Steel' Countdown: Villains Unite! (Part 1)

Sep 28, 2011

Jeffrey Taylor is a staff writer/moderator at The Superman Homepage, co-host of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast, available at the Superman Homepage, iTunes and The Superman PodcastNetwork.You can find his new Man of Steel Countdown column here at Movies.com every other Tuesday.

The Kryptonian villains Zod and Faora have already been announced for the upcoming Man of Steel film, but remember that the creative team on the movie is the same that brought us the Batman films. Batman Begins brought to life major villains like Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow, but also smaller ones like Zsasz and Henri Ducard. Zod and Faora will not be the only villains in the film, but if Man of Steel is successful, we can expect two sequels. In fact, there are already rumors about possible villains for the next installment.

If Superman follows the trilogy formula that Batman has already established, we could see as many as ten major and minor villains in the entire trilogy -- so who are we looking at?  Here is a list of 32 antagonists from Superman’s history and a discussion of their potential for being somewhere in the three films.  Look for part 2 in the next column.

Atomic Skull – Likelihood: 1 out of 10

There have been two Atomic Skulls in the comics. First there was a scientist named Albert Michaels who experienced painful seizures due to uncontrollable impulses in his brain. He teamed up with a criminal organization that promised to stop the seizures and turn his disorder into a powerbase where he could emit atomic brain blasts. After the 1986 DC reboot, a new Atomic Skull first appeared in the form of Joseph Martin. He exhibited a dormant Meta-Human Gene which was activated during an attack on a laboratory. As his body transformed over the next several hours, he lost his grip with reality and believed he was living in a 1940’s Atomic Skull movie serial that he was already obsessed with. Although it’s unlikely he will appear in the films, if he did, I expect he would be a Jekyll and Hyde type of character who isn’t innately bad, but transforms into a powerful being and has to fight those tendencies.

Bizarro – Likelihood: 5 out of 10

The Bizarro most people know and love is the opposite of Superman in almost every way. He was created when a duplicating ray hit the Man of Steel, but was unable to make a perfect copy. His powers are similar to Superman’s but sometimes opposite, so instead of heat vision and freeze breath, Bizarro has heat breath and freeze vision. Bizarro might have the highest number of origin stories in comic book history, so there are a million ways the films could deal with the character. My personal favorite is the kind who simply wants to help and doesn’t understand that what he’s doing is hurting the people around him instead of helping. Chances are that if he is used in a film, he will be a new take on the character anyway.

Technically, Bizarro has already appeared on film one and a half times. In Superman III, Superman was affected by a man-made version of Kryptonite that affected his personality instead of his physical body. In the end, the good and bad Superman split and fought each other. Then in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Nuclear Man was created using Superman’s DNA.  I call it a half because there was an entire side story that was shot and then not included in the film which had Superman fighting an earlier version of Nuclear Man that was not so different from a Bizarro kind of character.

Bloodsport – Likelihood: 2 out of 10

There have been three Bloodsport’s in the comics, but the mainstay of this character is that he can teleport weapons to himself simply with thought.  “I want a grenade,” and a grenade appears in his hand. But he is most famous for shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the bullet somewhere in a trilogy of Superman films, but Bloodsport himself is about as likely as Zsasz was in Batman Begins, so who knows.

Brainiac – Likelihood: 10 out of 10

I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that Brainiac is going to be a MAJOR antagonist at some point in these films. His first origin was as an evil Alien from the distant planet Colu who often teamed up with Lex Luthor to fight Superman, but he and Lex often had different final plans that would eventually bring them to odds and allow Superman to escape their clutches and defeat them. Then in 1996, the creators of Superman: The Animated Series proposed a version of Brainiac that Superman’s father Jor-El created on Krypton. This computerized take on the character allowed the planet to explode without warning the populace in order to waste as little time as possible saving every piece of data about Krypton and thus preserve its memory.  He then bottled the information into an information globe and set off about the universe destroying other planets and saving their information as well.  Since then, this has been the prevailing origin for Brainiac and rumor once had it that this version would have been the villain if the sequel to Superman Returns was ever filmed.

But then the question remains, after a number of Kryptonian villains in Man of Steel, would a sequel need even more?  My best guess is that if Brainiac is a Kryptonian construct in the Nolanverse Superman films, he will most likely be saved for a third film, just so the audience can see something else in between.

Conduit – Likelihood: 1 out of 10

Kenny Braverman was born in Smallville on the same day that Superman’s ship landed and was found by the Kent’s. Due to the radiation and his young age, he became stronger than normal and competed with Clark Kent in all the school athletic programs, but he always came in second to Clark.  Over time, he became extraordinarily jealous and eventually became Conduit to use his Kryptonite based powers to attempt to assassinate Clark Kent.

We won’t be seeing him because he wasn’t a very good villain; he looked terrible and about a year after his first appearance, he was killed and unlike many comic book characters, never came back.  The best we can hope for is a young Kenny Braverman cameo in some Smallville scenes, but don’t hold your breath.

Cyborg Superman – Likelihood: 3 out of 10

After Superman’s death in 1992, four Supermen began patrolling Metropolis, although none of them were the real deal. The Cyborg Superman was the evil one who turned out to be the bad guy at the end of that story arc. Before that, he was Hank Henshaw and he blamed Superman for his transformation into an energy being as well as the death of his friends and his wife’s suicide. In his fragile state, he discovered the ship that brought Superman to Earth in orbit where it had been left in a previous story.  In energy form, he took over the controls and began to travel the Universe. When he returned, he had used some of Superman’s DNA to create a cybernetic body and tried to destroy the world.

He still shows up in the comics every couple of years to give Superman and other heroes a run for their money. If he were used in the film, we would certainly be in for a fight, but he would probably be a creation of Brainiac or be brought into it some other way because his full origin is entirely too complicated for a film.

Darkseid – Likelihood: ? out of 10

Darkseid (pronounced Dark-Side) is the evil dictator on the planet Apokolips. His origin is complicated, but equivalent to the Titans of Greek Mythology.  He’s a wildcard for a villain in these films because even though Superman comes from another planet, it’s unlikely other aliens will be used. Even TV’s Smallville series used him as more of a threat or an idea that was infecting others than his comic book counterpart.

Dominus – Likelihood: 0 out of 10

He’s a force of nature who gave Superman horrible dreams that became premonitions of real life disasters. Eventually Superman realized he could do more good by being proactive, so he became a cold-hearted dictator of Earth, which pitted him against the rest of the heroes in the DC Universe.

Dominus was essentially “Father Time” compared to his sister Kismet who represented “Mother Nature.” We won’t be seeing him in this trilogy because the Nolanverse is no place for astral or cosmic characters.

Doomsday – Likelihood 4 out of 10

Doomsday is the guy who killed Superman, which gives him major credibility as a worthwhile villain for the films. If used, don’t expect to see the entire death and return story, but boy oh boy will there be action. Doomsday turned out to be a genetic experiment from ancient Krypton, so once again, it’s a question of how many villains from Krypton an audience can handle.  Plus even though it would be an epic battle, Doomsday is an unstoppable force of nature with little motivation or story arc.  If the death story became one of the films (which I wouldn’t count on), they could use the battle in the first 30 minutes before moving into the rest of the events about the return.

Eradicator – Likelihood: 5 out of 10

I give this a 50/50 chance as a concept, but not necessarily the character. The Eradicator was a computer program created by one of Superman’s ancestors on Krypton and its job was to preserve Krypton. Once Superman brought it to Earth, it tried to recreate the conditions of its home world here, which was only possible by altering so much of Earth that people were dying.  Eventually Superman threw it into the Sun, but it came back in a humanoid form and later became one of the four Supermen who appeared after Superman died.

We already know from the many leaked pictures on the internet that Superman will be fighting Faora in Smallville at some point in the film. The very idea of using a machine to recreate Krypton on Earth is completely valid.  So even though we probably shouldn’t expect the term “Eradicator” to be used, the idea of it is perfect for these kinds of films. If not, it could be something Brainiac will try.

Intergang – Likelihood: 6 out of 10

Intergang is a worldwide network of gangs that works with Darkseid and Apokolips, especially for weapons. It’s usually led by Bruno “Ugly” Mannheim. If Darkseid is a villain in one of the sequels, Intergang would help put and Earthly face to his reach and give Superman something more to fight on a street level  But they can be used regardless of where they get their weapons from.  The Batman films have dealt heavily with gangs in Gotham City. So why not a gang based in Metropolis for Superman?

Jax-Ur – Likelihood: 2 out of 10

Jax-Ur is another Phantom Zone villain who was actually used more than Zod in the comics of the 60’s and 70’s. He was a scientist on Krypton who blew up their moon. After surviving the planet’s destruction, he turned his attentions to Earth and Kal-El, the son of his jailer.  If we see Jax-Ur at all in these films, I expect it will be a cameo in the Krypton scenes in Man of Steel.

Kryptonite Man – Likelihood: 1 out of 10

The Kryptonite Man is exactly what he sounds like: a man with Kryptonite in his body. Originally he was an alien, but later stories turned him into a human who had an accident involving a piece of the meteorite. The reason we won’t be seeing him is simple: he’s too much like Metallo. And chances are we’re going to be seeing Metallo at some point (look for his entry in part 2).

Lobo – Likelihood: 0 out of 10

In the Khundian language, his name means “He who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it.” Lobo is the last of his race of Czarnian’s, because he savagely slaughtered every other person on his planet. He throws around terms like “Fraggin’ Bastitch” and rides a space motorcycle. Why won’t we be seeing this character? He’s too fraggin’ weird for the Nolanverse. The best they could do it completely alter his character, but then why would they bother using him in the first place? No chance.

And that wraps it up for this week. Next time we’ll be looking at the other half of the list. What sort of villains would YOU like to see in a trilogy of Superman films?

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