They’ve been trying to get Superman right for years.
Ever since Christopher Reeve embodied the character in Richard Donner’s classic (and its classic sequel), Hollywood has been trying to recapture that magic. It was gone as early as Superman III and hasn’t really been back.
Maybe you love Dean Cain or Tom Welling’s TV versions, maybe you ride for Zack Snyder’s gloomy, homicidal hero, but none of those versions have erased Reeve’s seminal take or brought the hero back to prominence. He continues to take a backseat to Batman, Spider-man, and most recently, the Avengers.
It’s time for some new blood, and now we’re gonna get it.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, the celebrated black writer who helped shape the MCU’s Black Panther and has been at the forefront of America’s discussions about race for the past decade-plus, has been tapped by DC and Warner Bros to write a new Superman movie. The movie is being produced by JJ Abrams, who once wrote his own controversial script for a Superman reboot before Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh revived Richard Donner’s version with 2006’s Superman Returns.
“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” Coates said in a statement. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”
The first question that’s going to come up is: are we getting a black Superman now? No one knows. They don’t have a script or a director yet, and casting is a long way away. But just because they’ve hired a black writer does not mean he has to write a black character (in fact, aside from the celebrated take on Black Panther, Coates also wrote a recent series for Captain America). Especially when that character is an alien inherently different from, and often at odds with, the culture he adopts. That said, a black version would certainly be a change of pace, and would offer some interesting opportunities.
“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Between the World and Me’ opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” said Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”
Either way, there is plenty of metaphorical space to explore with this character, who was conceived by marginalized Jewish artists as a representation of American, and human, ideals and whose own outsiderness has been used to comment on plenty of societal issues, including immigration, civil rights, and more. As a symbol for America, the Big Blue Boy Scout is well within his rights to engage with the modern state of the country, and the world. And Ta-Nehisi Coates is a gifted writer with a keen eye for human issues, and will surely write a compelling character, whether they end up casting Michael B. Jordan or some blue-eyed kid from Riverdale.
The biggest question isn’t what Superman looks like, it’s how he acts, and what kind of tone the film has. For the past 10 years, the cinematic version of the most famous superhero of all has been focused on darkness, and grit, and inner turmoil. I think it’s time to move on from that.
Superman can exist in a complicated, troubled world without succumbing to that darkness himself. He should be a hero who strives to lead by positive example, who inspires us to be better, who shows us all what we can be.
No matter what color he is.