Can Michael B. Jordan Pull Off a Black Superman?
Yesterday, word started getting around the net that Henry Cavill would be leaving his role as Superman. Admittedly, it was clumsily handled by Warner Bros. with a very noncommittal statement that did nothing but stoke the flames.
What followed is something I suspect that Warner Bros. didn’t really expect. Rumors of the Black Panther actor, and star of the upcoming sequel to Creed, Michael B. Jordan, started to circulate and fan reaction was… mixed.
There was a lot of confusion, but outrage seemed to be the flavor of the day. Many claimed it to be some version of racism, political corrective-ness, and SJWing. I, for one, was disappointed. Not at the rumor, but that there was so much unrest at the very idea of having a black Superman in the DCEU, or as they are now calling it; Worlds of DC.
I’m not much of a DC-buff, but even I know that either through a spin-off, an alternate universe, or the result of DC/WB acquiring other properties- there are at least three-versions of Superman that happen to be black. Here are three-options available to Warner Bros. if they choose to utilize Michael B. Jordan as the titular Man of Steel.
After Superman died at the hands of Doomsday in the classic Death of Superman comic back in 93’, several characters stepped up to fill the vacuum created by Kal-El’s absence. One was John Henry Irons (his name originating from the folk-hero John Henry). Before dawning his silvery ‘S’- John was a genius level engineer. This is where his story starts to sound comparable to a particular Marvel character. He was employed by weapons manufacturer Amertek Industries when one of his creations was used to harm innocent people.
With no other way out of his situation, John faked his death and relocated to Metropolis. After briefly meeting and getting some words of encouragement from the Man of Steel himself, John developed an armored suit that granted him super strength, durability, stamina, and the ability to fly. He even started calling himself The Man of Steel but eventually just shortened it Steel. There was also a movie starring Shaq back in the day, but let’s not talk about that…
Like their main competitor, Marvel, and just about every other shared universe comic imprint out there, DC has a multi-verse. However, no one uses the concept as often or better than they do. It’s easy to argue that most of their greatest characters don’t even hail from the main DC universe. This isn’t a new concept they’ve been exploring. DC has been utilizing the idea of alternate realities since the 60s with stories like Flash of Two Worlds (1961). Just about every active member of the Justice League has, or have had, an alternate reality version of themselves running about the main DC universe. And that goes quadruple for Superman. Val-Zod is the Superman of Earth-2.
Val-Zod originates from the Krypton of his universe. Unlike in the main universe, Kal-El and Kara (Supergirl) were not the only children to escape the dying the planet. Once he arrived on Earth he was taken in by Terrance Sloan under the guise of offering “help”. With some coaching from Lois to get over his fear of open spaces (he spent a large chunk of his life in a capsule during the journey to Earth) and some insight on how his powers work, Val aided the Wonders (that universes version of the Justice League) in fighting Kal-El who was currently Superman (actually a clone), but had been brainwashed to fight for Apokolips.
Unlike the last two examples, Icon, or his true name, Arnus, has little connection to any version of Superman, proper. Though, their stories do share many similarities. Like Superman, Icon left a dying planet and crash-landed on Earth as a baby. However, instead of modern-day America, Icon arrived in 1839. The pod he occupied changed his appearance to imitate that of the first intelligent being within its range. That being a woman named Miriam, a black slave. She took baby-Arnus in as her own. Outside of aging much slower than humans or Kryptonians, Icon basically has all the powers of Superman, though his abilities are more like Marvel’s Wonder Man in function. Icon can also project and manipulate energy in various forms, further separating him from the Kryptonians.
Icon was originally created by Dwayne McDuffie and M. D. Bright in 1993 for the comic imprint Milestone Media. The same group of creators responsible for the more popular character of Static Shock who later received its own cartoon show as part of the WB Kids block of programming. The imprint was published by DC Comics until 1997 when it closed its doors. In 2008 DC brought back the imprint in name and retconned it as part of their multi-verse, making the Milestone Media (also known as the Dakota-verse and Earth-M) and all their characters part of DC Comics actual. Icon was also featured in the TV series Brave and the Bold and in Young Justice alongside his sidekick, Rocket, and again, Static Shock.
These are just three examples. With the vastness of DC’s multi-verse in play, there have been other examples seen, if only in passing. Keep in mind, this is just a rumor, but the idea and concept are sound. It’s canon. It’s been done. Those concerned about Michael B. Jordan outright replacing Cavill… yeah, I can see how that can be annoying. On the other hand, I wouldn’t let it bother you too much. Warner Bros. has already shown signs of abandoning the idea of a large shared cinematic universe. Especially with the rebranding of their movies under The Worlds of DC banner. I implore everyone to keep an open mind and just wait to see how this plays out. Who knows, it just might not be the end of the world? Or hey, maybe it will be. #crisis