Bookmark this page because it's the definitive list and you're going to want another look before you see the movie again!
Think you know Superman? Since Man of Steel came out this weekend, message boards on the Internet have been lighting up with claims that the story and references clearly follow one particular version of Superman, the candidates being the 1986 John Byrne reboot of the comics, the modern comics, Superman: Birthright, the TV series Smallville and so on. The truth is, it references all of them.
Although I can guarantee there are still some that I’ve missed or they went by too fast to be caught, here is the most complete list so far of “Easter eggs” and references that even Superman fans could easily miss.
Warning: This post will include spoilers
Other Notable Easter Eggs
One major cameo casting probably occurred on purpose. Aaron Smolinski was a communications officer in the scene where Superman surrendered himself to the military. He was the toddler Kal-El after landing on Earth in the 1978 Superman film as well as the boy at the photo booth that Superman gave a picture to in the comedic opening sequence of Superman III.
The Lexcorp logo can be seen at least twice in the film during the Zod fight in Metropolis. Once on the side of a gas truck and again when the Waynetech satellite falls to Earth in pieces. Lexcorp was first introduced in the 1986 comic book reboot that turned Lex Luthor from a mad scientist into a businessman/billionaire.
Of course the Waynetech satellite also bears mentioning. It most certainly belongs to Bruce Wayne. The logo flashes upside down and it happens quickly, so it can be difficult to catch.
There may be many fast references in the moment when Superman is chasing Zod between buildings in Metropolis, but I’m almost positive I caught a lit up sign that said “GBS,” which has been the TV news station located in the city since the comics of the early 1970s.
In the Zod fight in Metropolis one of the lit logos was “Blaze Comics,” which is a fictional comic book company in the DC Universe that publishes Booster Gold stories.
Also during the Zod fight at the end, the "Utopia Casino" can be seen in Metropolis. In the first five issues of "Superman Confidential," Darwyn Cooke suggested that the first piece of Kryptonite was stored there.
The bar in Metropolis is called Ace O’ Clubs where Lois met with Woodburne and downed her Scotch. The bartender is unnamed, but could be Bibbo, a creation of Jerry Ordway after a real-life dock worker/drunkard who used to watch over him as a child. Almost every version of Superman since 1986 has included this particular bar, including Lois & Clark, Smallville and Superman Returns.
In the bar scene early in the film, the waitress refers to a truck driver as "Lobo," named after the antihero from the comics. Lobo is the last of the Czarnian race because he killed the rest and his name means, "He who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it." But he likes dolphins, so it's OK.
(UPDATE: According to the novelization, the character's name is "Ludlow," and it simply sounded like "Lobo" to many of us.)
A few lines are taken directly from comics like Superman: Birthright and All-Star Superman. Jor-El’s speech that became part of one of the teaser trailers is strikingly similar to lines from All-Star Superman. And Jonathan Kent’s speech that was showcased in the alternate teaser was from Superman: Birthright. Both were also used in the film itself
Sullivan Tractors appears when bullies threaten Clark in a Smallville flashback. It is named for Vincent Sullivan, who green-lit the first appearance of Superman in 1938. Special thanks to Mike Carlin (editor of my favorite era of Superman comics from 1987-1996) for reminding me.
In the sequence on the ship where Jor-El teaches Clark about Krypton, one of the past versions of Kryptonian people look like they’re dressed in suits similar to Lex Luthor’s classic armor from the silver age comics. This could be a hint for the future or a simple similarity.
Themes and Plot Points
The idea that Superman’s “S” shield stands for the “House of El” came from the first Superman movie, but that it also means “Hope” comes from Superman: Birthright. The text from the comic reads:
"I thought it was a family crest... but if it was, it certainly came to mean more than that to these people. Wars were fought over it. Entire cities were built on it... It became a promise. A sign of people fighting to make a better world. A symbol of hope."
The moment when Superman has just learned to fly and soars through herds of wild animals may also be a reference to Superman: Birthright where Clark did the same thing flying through a pack of scared zebras in Africa.
The 1986 comic book reboot suggested a similar form of artificial population control on Krypton. Kryptonians tend to live for a very long time, so a death or birth were both fairly rare. Most never met their spouses in person, but Jor-El and Lara fell in love. Kal-El was born the same way others on Krypton were, which was in a gestation chamber/birthing matrix. That matrix was sent to Earth where Kal-El was born just as Jonathan and Martha Kent found the landed ship. It was important to John Byrne that Superman be born on Earth, so gestation matrixes were created to avoid the problem of Lara being the one to come to Earth in the ship, give birth and then die, as an earlier draft would have had her do.
The caste or guild system which separated Kryptonians to perform certain kinds of jobs like military, science, worker or governmental, came about in the comics from just a few years ago, around the time of the “New Krypton” story.
Before Superman learned to fly in Man of Steel, he began to jump very high and far. In the early comic books of the 1930s, Superman had not yet been given the power of flight. Instead he could jump approximately one eighth of a mile. The same can be said in the film for the other Kryptonians who did not expose themselves directly to Earth’s atmosphere and the light of its yellow sun.
Kevin Smith, in his DVD An Evening with Kevin Smith, told the story of his time working with producer Jon Peters at Warner Bros. on a script for Superman Lives, which was never made. Peters apparently thought it was important that Superman fight a giant spider in the third act, and in a roundabout way, he finally got his wish with Man of Steel. When Superman fought the terraforming machine in the South Indian Ocean, it certainly has a lot of legs, or tentacles to give Superman a hard time. Plus there were polar bears outside the ship when Clark landed it and started talking to Jor-El, even though he didn't have to fight them. While it may not have been the filmmakers’ intention, it’s still funny to consider the implication.
Fans complained about Lex Luthor’s land-grabbing attempts being repeated so many times from the first Superman movie, Superman II, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Superman Returns. And yet Zod’s endgame in Man of Steel is essentially a landgrab, just for the entire planet.
The idea that Clark and other Kryptonians need time to hone their powers first came out in TV’s Smallville. In previous continuities, whenever a Kryptonian came to Earth and gained powers, they could immediately use them all as though they’ve always had them. Both ways work, but I prefer the new way.
One specific moment that is dividing fans is that Superman had to kill Zod in order to stop him. There is a specific rule that Superman can never kill his enemies. However fans were divided in 1988 when something similar happened to a different version of Zod. In an alternate universe, Zod, Faora and another Kryptonian named Quex-Ul came to that Earth to rule and killed the entire population by burning off the planet’s atmosphere. Superman used gold Kryptonite to permanently rob them of their powers. Because they were still too dangerous, he opted to execute them with green Kryptonite. This decision haunted Superman for years.
Behind the scenes of that story, John Byrne, who had been writing the majority of Superman comics for a few years, abruptly left Superman and other writers were forced to deal with the aftermath. Some of those writers continue to disagree with the decision, but fans got some amazing stories afterwards.
That’s it, folks. We know there are still more in the film. If you notice any we missed, be sure to point them out in the comments.