Comics on Film: Getting to Know Doomsday, Superman's Deadliest Enemy

Comics on Film: Getting to Know Doomsday, Superman's Deadliest Enemy

Dec 04, 2015

Although today a lot of people dismiss the 1990's as a watershed era for comics, there are a select few stories that rise above the decade's somewhat dubious reputation, and stand as definite highlights and turning points of some characters' entire histories. Perhaps no greater example of this is an arc that began in 1992, and would cause shock and sadness to fans all over the world.

That story was "The Death of Superman," which culminated in one of the most powerful beings in all of fiction literally beaten to death by an enemy who had only just appeared in the pages of DC Comics, but managed to make an immediate splash in a way many before or since have never managed.

He is a behemoth that has continued to plague the Man of Steel, and many other heroes (and villains) of the DC Universe, on an almost constant basis since his debut. Even if his reputation may take a dive from time-to-time, he will always be known as an absolute powerhouse.

The monster that killed Superman: Doomsday. And after the latest trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we now know for certain that he's about to spring into live action cinema for the first time in his existence.

Debuting in the comics in 1992, Doomsday burst onto the scene with little-to-no expository fanfare. Much like the shark in Steven Spielberg's classic blockbuster Jaws, Doomsday was a monstrous force of nature, tearing through anything -- and everyone -- that stood in his path. After taking on several lower-tier members of the Justice League, eventually Doomsday saw himself face-to-face with the Last Son of Krypton, Superman.

As one witness in the story put it, Doomsday leveled a punch that "looked like it could've caved in a mountain" at Superman's stomach, and the Man of Steel didn't move an inch.

Eventually, though, the rampage of Doomsday and his battle with Superman was made more and more difficult by the monster's increasing level of strength. Eventually, Superman would be hurt, and the bony protrusions extending from Doomsday's extremities would grow sharp enough to actually cut the normally invulnerable skin of the fabled hero.

As Doomsday began to get closer and closer to the center of Metropolis, Superman would make his final stand: he knew that if he didn't put Doomsday down -- and put him down for good -- then there would be no force on Earth that would ever hope to contain his raw and destructive power. It had grown abundantly clear that there was absolutely no reasoning with him, nor was it clear by that point that Doomsday was even capable of communication.

In one last effort, both combatants gave each other everything they had, and collided for a final time. The collision between the two was the irresistible force meeting the immovable object: windows shattered, people were blown clear by the shockwave, and the two beings crumpled to the ground, like their bones had crumbled to dust. Cradled in Lois Lane’s arms, Superman’s body went limp, and thankfully, it looked like he had taken Doomsday with him.

Of course we who are aware of comic book storytelling know better. Neither Superman nor Doomsday would be permanently killed by their historic encounter, but it wouldn’t matter. Doomsday automatically gained a great deal of notoriety for being the thing that ultimately stopped Superman, and did so in a manner that was a far cry from the Man of Steel’s generally more cerebral arch-nemesis. Throughout the 1990’s, efforts were made by producer Jon Peters and Warner Bros. to turn elements of the “Death of Superman” story into the fifth major cinematic outing for the character, but that never came to be.

Now, Doomsday will be debuting on film along with Wonder Woman, and the newest iteration of the Batman as played by Ben Affleck.

His Role in the Film and in the Comics

To be honest, it’s surprising that the studio showed their hand with Doomsday ahead of the film’s release, especially as it pertains to his origins within the film. The trailer heavily hints at the idea of Zod’s body serving as the foundation on which Lex Luthor creates Doomsday, which is a pretty fundamental shift from the character’s origins in the comics.

Because Doomsday appeared as Superman’s killer with little-to-no attention paid to his origins, it wasn’t until later that DC Comics began to explore who Doomsday is, and where he came from. Unsurprisingly, his origins are somewhat intertwined with Superman’s, insofar as he hails from prehistoric Krypton. The product of accelerated evolution and cloning experiments, the being that would come to be known as Doomsday was imprinted early in his development with a hatred for all life.

When he ultimately escaped Krypton, an encounter with members of the Green Lantern Corps left hundreds of the space police officers dead before he was ultimately stopped by a sacrifice from one of the Guardians of the Universe, whose death caused a shockwave that transported Doomsday to a different planet. It was there, after a years-long rampage, that he was seemingly killed by the inhabitants of another planet, who shackled his corpse and shot it into space. It eventually landed on ancient Earth, with the force of impact driving it deep underground.

The day he awoke and escaped was the day that Superman died.

A further revision to his origin was made during DC’s “New 52,” where his history included facing off against Zod on Krypton and being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone before his ultimate escape and new conflict with Superman.

 

Is This Movie Right for Doomsday?

It was easy to be somewhat skeptical about whether or not the gray behemoth was going to be included in Batman v Superman, but it shouldn’t come as a very big surprise to fans of the characters. That being said, Warner Bros. has been trying for almost 20 years to make a DC Comics movie with Doomsday, and it does make a degree of sense that an enemy as powerful as him would require the might of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman in order to defeat him.

Overall, the revelation of Doomsday’s presence in the film gave a nice jolt of excitement when watching the trailer for the first time, but the proof will be in how the film can sustain and accentuate the character’s involvement, while justifying the unification of DC Comics’ “Holy Trinity.”

Fan reaction to the trailer has been decidedly and expectantly mixed, with just as many fans shouting about how bad it looks as there are those who can’t wait for March 25th to get here. There’s likely a fair amount to get excited about concerning Batman v Superman, especially in relation to its unleashing of a DC Comics movie universe. Still, like Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises before it, Dawn of Justice will have to prove it deserves the loyalty of the characters’ fans and general audiences alike.

People won’t hand it over willingly, but that's not going to stop this writer from getting excited to see the three biggest DC Comics heroes in live action on the same screen, at the same time. Call me crazy.


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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