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  1. #1
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Default The Evil Superman Discussion Thread

    Clearly, this is an idea that movies, TV, and video games are obsessed with, so we might as well dive in and talk about it.

    Personally, I view it as the laziest and easiest route to take with the character. The whole appeal of Superman is that he's the most powerful man on Earth, capable to doing whatever he wants, but he chooses to only use all those abilities to serve rather than rule.

    That said, the roots of this approach to Superman have been there from the beginning. Seigel & Shuster's Superman was, when you boil it all down, a bully who happened to be on the side of the angels. He was very much "might makes right". That Superman was very much a power fantasy created by a bunch of nerdy Jews to work out their own feelings of powerlessness in a world that was going increasingly crazy.

    So, in a sense, I can understand why Evil Superman is a button that gets pressed so often.

    For me, it can work, but the conditions have to be exactly right, otherwise I tune out completely, as I do with the Injustice games because the basic thesis of that story is that Superman would succumb to evil as long as you inflict a big enough blow to him emotionally, like the murder of Lois and his unborn child. That's nonsense to me. Superman would absolutely be emotionally devastated by that, but the idea that he would allow that to warp him into a dictator is a complete misunderstanding of who the character is.

    However, there are times when it could work for me. I thought Superman TAS made it work by having him be brainwashed by Darkseid. I also think Snyder's notion of Superman sucumbing to the Anti-Life Equation could work in theory.

    What about you guys? Would it ever work for you or is it a dead end?

  2. #2
    Incredible Member
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    It would have potential, but it is typically uncreative and edgy, and they do it far too often to have any impact with it. And that is not even going into how often they manage to make other characters look bad with it, except typically Batman of course.

    And it frankly makes not even sense in the modern shared DC universe or even multiverse if not omniverse full of planetary and interplanetary supereroes, endless planetary, interplanetary and cosmical supervillains, with interplanetary Space Police in each sector, Superman would need to go full Prime One Million and at least start to conquer the whole Universe to even have the impact they typically try to portray.
    Last edited by Rightoya; 03-21-2021 at 06:22 AM.

  3. #3
    Extraordinary Member Gaius's Avatar
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    Next time they do one can they not toss Wonder Woman under the bus so he can have some arm candy to gawk at him in place of Lois?

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member DochaDocha's Avatar
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    I'll try to keep this short by saying if you're new to Superman, the idea of an evil version of himself sounds intriguing. If you've been following the character for decades (particularly the last few), every new incarnation of EVIL SUPERMAN! probably makes you think, "What, again?!"

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member sifighter's Avatar
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    It only works in elseworlds for me, because when it comes to those stories Iím already prepared for things to be different and I can accept them as they are, so with something like Injustice I can accept it because I know thatís not the real Superman. Hell the first game ends with the real Superman whooping the injustice version and then later Conner and Kara replace Clark so we have actual good versions of Superman.

    For me you can do anything in any elseworld because itís supposed to be a different world, I mean come on there is a world Batman turns into a monstrous vampire. As long as itís elseworld itís okay in my book.

    When it comes to main earth Superman, heís not evil and he can never go evil on his own accord. He can get upset but he can never cross that line, period.
    Last edited by sifighter; 03-21-2021 at 06:41 AM.
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  6. #6
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    That said, the roots of this approach to Superman have been there from the beginning.
    Evil Superman really began in the 1940s and 1950s. You had those famous "Superdickery" covers (https://io9.gizmodo.com/10-perfectly...ickery-5913760) where again and again Superman on the cover of the comic, which remember would be seen by far more people than the ones who read the interior comic, was a total mean a--hole and abusive person to everyone around him. Then you had the famous DC v. Fawcett Comics lawsuit, where Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero in America outselling Superman and in order to give Supes a leg-up, DC went to the courts instead. That gave off this impression of Superman as a bully who uses his unfair advantage rather than true word-of-mouth. In the 1950s, all the way through the mid-70s and sporadically after that, Superman was America's biggest selling superhero. He was associated with the establishment, and seen as "The Man". And people from different backgrounds used Superman as a vent for their feelings, or as an object for satire.
    -- Harvey Kurtzman's famous SUPERDUPERMAN parody, showed Superman as a clingy creepy dude with sexist attitudes to women, and also had him as a mean bully who beats Captain Marbles by fighting dirty, while their fight creates massive collateral damage.
    -- The famous "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" essay (which had a huge impact and influence on the Donner movie, showing Superman as this sexless monk).
    -- Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" which showed Superman as an agent of American might and imperialism.

    But here's the thing...when Superman was actually popular and dominant, you couldn't do "evil Superman" outright. Making fun of Superman or hinting that there was something problematic and troubling about the character, that was an actually subversive and underground thing to do. It wasn't actually done in the versions intended for mainstream exposure. Attacking Superman back then worked as an attack on the superhero genre itself.Nowadays, Superman isn't really the big dominant superhero so making fun of him or criticizing him doesn't really constitute an attack on the superhero genre in any real sense. In the '80s, Teen Titans was for a while DC's biggest selling comic, and in merchandise Batman would overtake Superman by the end of the decade. Superman's declining fortunes was the reason why Frank Miller's TDKR and that final fight between Batman and Superman could even happen. No way would anyone have let that fly in earlier decades.

    One reason why Watchmen is the greatest anti-superhero story, and also the greatest superhero story, is that it recognizes that the genre isn't bound on Superman, and after all has the main enemy essentially be an Evil!Bruce Wayne. Even The Boys comics
    spoilers:
    has the Batman analogue, Black Noir, be the real bad guy
    end of spoilers.

    Nowadays in the last two decades using "Evil Superman" feels like kicking someone while they are down and feels a bit like bullying. Especially stories that make Clark look bad in favor of Bruce which plays like the office clerk who upon becoming the boss treats his former chief as a personal manservant so that they can play sadistic games on them. Today the biggest superheroes are Spider-Man in terms of merchandise, Iron Man in terms of movies, Batman in terms of DC and yet we don't have many satires showing these characters as evil jerks (Rick and Morty's superhero satire which spoofs IM a bit, is the only one). The Boys TV Show for instance, I like that, but again it's presentation of Homelander which isn't the same as the comics, plays a bit on deaf ears because the heroes they need to attack is Iron Man and Batman.

    The Watchmen TV Show which came and went, pivoted on Dr. Manhattan as the problem and had the "arsonist showing up as a fireman" with Ozymandias trying to stop the new big bad from becoming Manhattan, but again the show acts as if Dr. Manhattan was the main bad guy of the first story when in fact it was Veidt. You can see once again, people focusing on attacking the Superman analogue because that's an easier path to mass media success than saying that billionaire people with god complexes are the real evil bad guys or in the case of a show, having a non-white woman get access and platform to be part of that class.
    Last edited by Revolutionary_Jack; 03-21-2021 at 06:43 AM.

  7. #7
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    It's an interesting premise made into a redundant, tangled mess by conflated ideas. For all the expy stories and brainwashed stories... we're not looking at an evil Superman as often as we're looking at a character with a nearly identical power set or background being called Superman for the sake of convenience. Probably the most infamous story, Injustice, relies on the idea that he'll snap if pushed far enough with particular things happening. The problem being that even if they also point out how it's not expected within the story, it's still fighting against the character as he's been repeatedly shown to act in those same circumstances across his history. Superman is coherent and accountable.

    I like Red Glass, Armageddon 2001, and Dominus Effect a lot. Doomed was a very different approach to related tropes and had its moments, as did Red Lantern for Supergirl. I think the idea is good when still sparing and you're doing a slippery slope with a line just clear enough to cross. My favorite Marvel analogues aren't the obvious characters but Namor and Magneto when they're done well.
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  8. #8
    Astonishing Member Johnny Thunders!'s Avatar
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    Action Comics 311 is a great Silver Age Superman story. King Superman, James Tucker did a great version in the Brave and the Bold cartoon. Evil Superman stories all feel very Silver Age to me because of that elseworlds quality. I like all the homages, the Sentry, Miracle Man, Homelander, Irredeemable, the High, even that creepy James Gunn movie was good!

  9. #9
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuwagaton View Post
    It's an interesting premise made into a redundant, tangled mess by conflated ideas. For all the expy stories and brainwashed stories... we're not looking at an evil Superman as often as we're looking at a character with a nearly identical power set or background being called Superman for the sake of convenience. Probably the most infamous story, Injustice, relies on the idea that he'll snap if pushed far enough with particular things happening. The problem being that even if they also point out how it's not expected within the story, it's still fighting against the character as he's been repeatedly shown to act in those same circumstances across his history. Superman is coherent and accountable.
    The Injustice stuff is egregious because:
    a) They are the most successful games with Superman period. The most successful adaptations in a medium being an evil version of a character ought to be disturbing and a cause for concern, if there was anyone at DC who cared for such things.
    b) It paints Batman as this morally pure saint as a counter to Superman, which stinks. Not to mention the way they demonized Wonder Woman, made Hal Jordan a lackey to Sinestro, and have Superman fry Shazam like a piece of garbage (a way of Superman's brand asserting dominance over a character who once outsold him in a fair fight).
    c) The sequel doubled down and made it worse (at least the first game had a "Good Superman" come in at the end and clean house and be the one to defeat his evil version).

    What makes Injustice!Superman worse is that...on the whole it's a fairly well-written character. It's one of the things where people do a job too well. Injustice!Superman whether in the comics or the games' cutscenes is the most interesting character, far moreso than its anemic and tired version of Batman (I intentionally chose the "evil" ending of Injustice 2 because I hate Inj!Bats that much) and the problem with making such a compelling exploration of a superhero-turned-tyrant to the point you can see and understand his logic a bit, and his evolution to his dark path, is that it make it harder to shake that this is an inherent part of the character.

  10. #10
    Mighty Member Ra-El's Avatar
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    The best Evil Superman version, or less bad, is the Justice Lord Superman from the JL/JLU. Simply because he wasn't brainwashed or become evil because Lois died, he was evil because he decided to. Superman wasn't broken by Darkseid, Lex or the Joker, he wasn't mind controlled. He made a decision.

    But still evil Superman, so not my favorite.

  11. #11
    Extraordinary Member Phoenixx9's Avatar
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    For my evil Superman, I like the original E-3 Ultraman. An evil version of our hero from Krypton and he gets stronger with each Kryptonite exposure.
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  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member Gaius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    The Injustice stuff is egregious because:
    a) They are the most successful games with Superman period. The most successful adaptations in a medium being an evil version of a character ought to be disturbing and a cause for concern, if there was anyone at DC who cared for such things.
    b) It paints Batman as this morally pure saint as a counter to Superman, which stinks. Not to mention the way they demonized Wonder Woman, made Hal Jordan a lackey to Sinestro, and have Superman fry Shazam like a piece of garbage (a way of Superman's brand asserting dominance over a character who once outsold him in a fair fight).
    c) The sequel doubled down and made it worse (at least the first game had a "Good Superman" come in at the end and clean house and be the one to defeat his evil version).

    What makes Injustice!Superman worse is that...on the whole it's a fairly well-written character. It's one of the things where people do a job too well. Injustice!Superman whether in the comics or the games' cutscenes is the most interesting character, far moreso than its anemic and tired version of Batman (I intentionally chose the "evil" ending of Injustice 2 because I hate Inj!Bats that much) and the problem with making such a compelling exploration of a superhero-turned-tyrant to the point you can see and understand his logic a bit, and his evolution to his dark path, is that it make it harder to shake that this is an inherent part of the character.
    Only time I played it, I did the same. Game threw so many characters under the bus to make Bats look cool I picked that ending on pure schadenfreude/spite.

  13. #13

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    Even if the premise gets on my nerve as a fan, I honestly think it has been done really awesomely more often than we'd care to admit. I've come to see that the multiverse angle becoming so central to dc as a franchise that these kinds of stories come with the territory. Theres always going to be universes where this character is evil or arcs where someone does a parallax. It happens to other characters but Superman kinda has a lot of the best ones. Fans are upset about anti-life superman setup in the dceu, now I'm largely indifferent for those movies, but isn't that all just the reverse of apocolaspe war? Gonna skip past the most controversial one Injustice Superman (I still like it, but also agree with a lot of the criticisms) I think Superboy Prime, Red Son and Ultraman are all really enjoyable characters. And I've never seen the Boys or read the comics, but I've seen enough on youtube to think the guy playing Homelander should get an emmy.
    Last edited by OpaqueGiraffe17; 03-21-2021 at 07:46 AM.

  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Johnny Thunders!'s Avatar
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    Earth 3 Superman, Ultraman might be the best, he’s like Michael Madsens Superman.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by DochaDocha View Post
    I'll try to keep this short by saying if you're new to Superman, the idea of an evil version of himself sounds intriguing. If you've been following the character for decades (particularly the last few), every new incarnation of EVIL SUPERMAN! probably makes you think, "What, again?!"
    Yeah for me it is just way too cliche at this point. Evil Superman no matter what the variation, is just sooo tired by now. I'm willing to accept ONE evil Superman types in the DCU; Ultraman, (he's the best of the bunch IMO).
    Last edited by achilles; 03-21-2021 at 07:58 AM.

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