Recently, Variety reported that DC Films is having trouble figuring out how to make Superman relevant to modern audiences. This brings to mind the immortal words of Marvel Comics head honcho Joe Quesada, who in 2002 eloquently said:
izQuotesSorry, "Disney Comics" head honcho.
That article sent the nerdiest part of the internet into a long debate about whether there's a way to make Superman "work" today. Well, I know a little bit about the character, and it's my professional opinion that no, there isn't a way to do that. There are shitloads of ways. And despite the fact that Warner Bros. isn't paying me millions of dollars (yet), I'm going to go ahead and volunteer a few. Take notes, DC.
Play Up The Fact That He's A Journalist ... For Better Or For Worse
I'm not the first or the 500th to point this out, but Superman's origin story reads like a Mad Libs filled out with topical 2019 stuff. He's a refugee orphaned by a natural global catastrophe who comes to America illegally and becomes an embattled journalist trying to take down a corrupt rich egomaniac. If Superman didn't already exist, someone would have invented him this year.
DC ComicsThe main difference from that other guy is that Luthor has enough dignity to own his baldness.
Remember how Captain America: The Winter Soldier was basically a political thriller starring jacked people in colorful costumes? A Superman movie could do the same with the investigative thriller genre. In previous movies, The Daily Planet is pretty much a plot device to get Superman to hear about earthquakes before undressing in the broom closet and flying off. But in the comics, there are plenty of examples of Clark Kent taking down villains through reporting work instead of just punching them. Or, you know, before punching them. That part's important. He's still Superman, come on.
Of course, any movie about journalism made today has to acknowledge the dark side (Darkseid?) of the profession: the fake news, the manipulation, the infuriating auto-play ads, etc. That's where Morgan Edge, one of Superman's most neglected villains, comes in. Edge is the owner of a major TV network (and at one point, The Daily Planet) who moonlights as the leader of Intergang, a criminal organization created by evil space gods to destabilize Earth. While investigating Intergang, Clark Kent could stumble upon the Edge connection, realize the role the media has played in a sinister space plot, and question his professional calling. Spacegoddamn, I can taste that Oscar already.
And speaking of wacky space stuff ...
Related: 3 Reasons It's So Hard To Make Superman Interesting
Give Us A Completely Bonkers Superman Space Opera, You Cowards
A common (bullshit) complaint about Superman is that he's too powerful, so there's nothing you can do with him. But the solution is obvious: Simply put him in a context where everyone is stupid powerful and he's just a regular chump. In fact, there's already a good example of a Superman movie that takes this approach. It's called Thor: Ragnarok.