The Justice League movie is almost upon us, and there is still no sign of Superman, one of the founding members of, well, the Justice League. All the other core members are there, with even the more obscure ones like Cyborg and Aquaman getting prominent movie poster real estate.
At least that is what comic canon dictates, and it could be an entirely different story with DC / Warner Bros’ DCEU (DC Extended Universe). Still, it is a strange direction to take especially given the fact that this is the Justice League’s debut on the big screen.
Let us unpack all this speculation to make a little sense of what director Zack Snyder and co. are up to with the Big Blue Boy Scout.
Man in Doubt
The DCEU movies have historically painted Superman in a dubious, reluctant hero role. This all started with Man of Steel, a movie that depicts Kal-El as a powerful alien child forbidden by his foster father from using his powers – even if they are used to save people.
Growing up as Clark Kent, he struggles throughout his life between fulfilling his sense of duty to his adopted planet and honouring the wishes of his earthly father. Even then, after saving the Earth from cruel alien invaders, the existence of an all-powerful being not having to answer to any authority does not sit well with the world.
Feared or Respected?
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice explores this paranoia further, personified and pushed to the extreme in the form of an ageing Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Lex Luthor. Both characters relentlessly pursue the destruction of the Last Son of Krypton, and the world is even more divided between believers in Superman’s altruistic mission and the critics who need him to answer for his perceived crimes.
In the end, Superman does sacrifice himself to save the world and made allies out of Batman and Wonder Woman. The world mourns his death, but not before seeing dust on his coffin rise very suggestively.
Hype by Absence
Now we happen upon the Justice League trailers and teaser images. There is less than a handful of signs of Superman’s presence in the movie: in some early concept art, a group shot, and an Instagram post by Superman actor Henry Cavill. All three trailers show no sign of him, but we do get some sweet action shots of Jason Momoa as Aquaman.
What is happening? We know for sure this is not to spoil Superman’s surprise appearance because we are aware he has been cast, and the aforementioned telltale dust in his coffin in BvS. Moreover, seriously, no idiot would make a Justice League movie without Superman.
Source Material Evidence
This leaves our sleuthing to arrive at a rather obvious, if not unoriginal deduction: Superman might just be the Justice League’s villain. Maybe not the main one because there are Mother Boxes and Parademons – comic villain Darkseid’s foot soldiers. We say unoriginal because it has been explored before multiple times in the comics, and the Injustice/Injustice 2 video games portray Superman outright as ruler of the Earth.
More clues in previous movies suggest the same. In BvS, the Flash apparently travelled back in time to warn Batman about Lois being “the key to all of this”. That scene was preceded by Batman’s vision of a Parademon-infested future – the planet laid to waste and ruled with an iron fist by Superman. These plot elements are the foundation of the Injustice comic/video games.
Now he does not appear in promotional material, probably because DC does not want to repeat the same mistake they did with Doomsday in BvS, by revealing him too early.
What do you guys think? Will Superman battle it out with his teammates first, then join them by the end to kick Parademon butt? Or is he merely appearing in the movie in an advisory capacity? We will know soon enough when Justice League hits theatres.