Comics on Film: Why We're Ready to Believe in Superman Again

Comics on Film: Why We're Ready to Believe in Superman Again

Nov 10, 2017

We're now only one week away from the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment's Justice League, a film that will bring together the fabled superhero team for the first time in an official live-action production. While pre-release buzz on the film is decidedly mixed in virtually every perceivable way, it's become clear from some semblances of fans that, particularly after the critical and commercial success of Wonder Woman this past summer, audiences are ready to root for the DC Universe's cinematic incarnation.

More importantly, though, it seems like people are ready to root for Superman.
The iconic Last Son of Krypton has had a hit-or-miss relationship with general audiences and comic book fans at the movies for over ten years now, ever since he was brought back to the silver screen by Warner Bros. in 2006. With fans lambasting Superman Returns for not having enough action, and with critics lambasting Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for being too dour, more and more people seem to have developed an interest in seeing the original superhero represented as a beacon of aspirational heroism, especially considering that modern depictions have seemed to emphasize Superman's raw power over his ability to inspire.
With pre-release materials and some elements of trailers seemingly emphasizing Superman's absence coming with a distinct lack of hope, Justice League may be winding audiences up for quite a heroic homecoming for the first guy to put on a cape and do battle with the forces of evil in the pages of comics. With a lot of new people seemingly clamoring for a hopeful Last Son of Krypton, all eyes are now squarely focused on Justice League, and whether or not it will be able to deliver a return of Superman that would fit that bill.
Hope is the Best Medicine
Our popular culture has the reflexive ability to represent a lot of different aspects of humanity. Wherever someone may lie ideologically, it's clear to see that these days come with unique difficulties that people have simply never faced before. All the rhetorical discord and tribal polarization can cause a very natural longing for even just a hint of optimism. A small microcosm of this natural feeling can likely be observed in the most popular films these days, which – when they don't include a lightsaber – likely rests on the shoulders of the titans we refer to as superheroes.
While characters like Batman will always be fascinating because of a very human and tortured perspective on justice, and characters like Deadpool will always be funny because of the off-the-wall interpretations of superhero stories that come from his zany perspective, people also generally gravitate towards the kind of icons that, at their best, make us believe in ourselves, too. This is one of the likely reasons why Marvel has seen a lot of resonance with Captain America as depicted in the MCU, and seemed to be a huge overall boon to the resounding success enjoyed by Wonder Woman earlier this year.
Still, the unequivocal champion of inspirational superheroes is and always has been Superman. As the character who innovated the genre upon which these comics and their films are based, Superman has enjoyed varying levels of waxing and waning popularity over the last 79 years, but that fact has largely never interfered with his status as the single most ubiquitous icon in the entirety of a whole segment of modern popular fiction.
This is because, at his best – whether it's in comics, animation, movies, television, radio, video games, etc. – Superman represents the absolute best of humanity in a way that, contrary to popular belief, doesn't talk down to you. In troubled times, hope is the best medicine, and you simply can't distill hope down any further in the realm of superheroes than you can with the Man of Steel.
Will Justice League Deliver?
This is, of course, the million dollar question. As of right now, fandom at-large has very few concrete ideas of what to expect from the finished film when it arrives next week, and like most people, I believe I'm making a decent effort at going in as cold as possible. There are certainly a number of factors that could make Justice League go either way, not the least of which being both its troubled production, as well as the relative inelegance that the DC film series thus far has exhibited in handling Superman as a beacon of hope.
Still, there are reasons to be optimistic. The trailers are bathed in light, the characters speak about their fallen brother in tones of hushed reverence, and Batman's entire perspective has been changed by the selfless act of sacrifice he saw Superman perform at the conclusion of Dawn of Justice. Hopefully, this will all lead to the triumphant return of Superman that so many fans are pining for.
More importantly, though, we need to hope again.
If anyone can light up our hearts in a way that we could certainly use right now, it's the World's Greatest Hero. We'll see if it succeeds all too soon, since Justice League hits theaters next Friday, November 17.

Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Comics, Features, Geek, Editorials
blog comments powered by Disqus

Facebook on