I realized just recently that the whole Superman story, as in the entire story of the Super Man, really only has three main parts. Fitting, because every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
But this post will contain all three. So, no need to check back for the rest of the story. This is going to be a simple post.
Superman, like most people, has a backstory. The part that is important to know, but not important to show. He is alien to Earth, sent from a dying planet to the safety of the Kent farm. The Kents raise him as their own.
This part of the story would focus on Clark’s journey from young boy who is like no other, to young man who has found peace and purpose. The Kents taught Clark everything he needs to know about how to be a good person. And he honors that, especially since his father has passed away, and there is no better tribute to the man who took him in, raised him, loved him… even when there was no reason to continue. Clark was an orphan who Jonathan had no responsibility to. Clark was obviously an alien, from space, who could be dangerous. And Jonathan did have a responsibility to his entire planet; and he took this responsibility very seriously. Instead of turning the dangerous alien over to his government, he taught this boy how to be better, how to love more, and how to learn to live a life of sacrifice yet purpose.
The Kents raised a good son, who would become a great man.
In general, part two will never work unless part one is understood. It could be said that part one is just more backstory; that understanding the Kents and how they raised Clark is important to know, but not important to show. However, I disagree.
We will never understand who Superman is until we understand who Clark is at a fundamental level. As invulnerable as he is, he is very much the product of one failure after another. We must see Clark encounter those failures, get beaten by them, and continually rise to meet the next challenge.
And that’s what makes part two so monumental.
This part of the story would focus not on Clark, but on Superman. Clark would get a job in Metropolis and the Superman would eventually settle there as well. Superman would pull cats out of trees, stop robbers, put out fires, stop traffic accidents, convince jumpers not to commit suicide, influence reporters to be more honest, and offer assistance to all sorts of organizations. He would show what a kind, loving, caring, and honest person he is.
No, the government would not like this. But, there’s not much the government can do. Superman makes that clear, while also remaining true to his word and obeying the law. I imagine Superman going to jail willfully to show that the courts have deemed him to be breaking the law (after all, he is technically a vigilante) and since that is how the law works, he will follow it. Then some government agency pulls some strings after public outcry and gets him released on good behavior.
The thing is, at this point, the story would be boring. It’s nothing more than a superhero version of Law and Order. Which is why the conflict would be much more exciting. You see, superman has proven that he is invulnerable. He has also proven that he will gladly work with law enforcement and rescue workers. So the only thing left to do is up the ante…
Criminals begin using bigger and bigger weapons to achieve their goals. Funded by none other than Lex Luthor, villains are being given the means to take down Superman… well, they try anyway. And while Superman is impervious to all manner of weapons the rest of humanity is not. The conflict here is not how Superman can overcome adversity or battle technology. It’s the idea that Superman is indestructible that’s really never been tested. Of course he has the big weakness, but nobody knows about that yet. However, he also has another weakness. His psyche takes a toll when he cannot save someone. That begins to happen more and more. The question now becomes, “is Superman helping or just making things worse?”
In part one we learn who Clark is and where Superman’s philosophy comes from.
In part two we learn who Superman has become and what he is really capable of. We also learn what humans are willing to do to stop him.
And really, there is just one other story to tell here. We’ve watched Clark develop. We’ve seen Superman deal with the fickleness of humanity. But now we get to the stuff everyone wants to see: Superman gets the crap beat out of him.
This part of the story would focus on a specific theme. Superman is still Superman even if the whole world hates him. He had no weaknesses. You could literally nuke him and he would bounce back just fine. There is no weapon on Earth that can penetrate his skin, cut him, bruise him, or otherwise damage his body. No poison works against him. He doesn’t need to eat, sleep, drink, or even breath. When it comes down to it, he has dealt with the psychological ramifications of putting Lois first above all other humans. He needs to keep her (and his mother) safe.
Now, though, he faces a new type of threat.
There’s a few ways to go here: Superman is weak against kyrptonite, so you could have Lex Luthor figure out what kryptonite is and how to weaponize it against Superman. This story would see part two play out again, only this time the weapons the bad guys use actually work against Superman.
Superman is also weak against magic. And quite frankly, this might be the most interesting way to go with the story. If Superman is weak to magical forces, spells, and conjurings then he will have to use his head to fight smart instead of just taking the brunt of the attacks and eventually powering through like usual. Here, he would need to stay a few steps ahead of his magical foe, laying traps, distracting them so he can confine them so they can’t do their magic.
Superman is also weak to other aliens, in a sense. There’s no shortage of alien species, including Kryptonians, who would be a match for Superman. And while they may not be a kryptonite bullet, they would be enough of a challenge…
And the challenge here would be for Clark to figure out how to beat someone he can’t beat. He can stop a robber. He can take a building falling on top of him. You can shoot him all day long and he won’t take a scratch. But a seven foot tall alien who can punch Superman across the city? A monster who can actually draw blood from the impenetrable Superman? A creature who is faster than the fastest man alive (assuming Flash is not around, that is)?
Clark would have to learn that he indeed cannot do this alone. He must work with others to take down the foe. He must think differently. He must become more super.
People have no doubt thought about how to make the perfect Superman story before. I mean, Superman has hundreds, if not thousands of comics. Storylines so crazy I could never imagine them working. But this isn’t necessarily my idea for the perfect Superman story, or the direction they need to take the next Superman movie. I was simply thinking of…
OK, I was thinking of the best way to make a good Superman movie. But then I realized there’s really just three main plots in most Superman stories: Superman’s creation, Superman’s psychological stability, and Superman’s realization of his true strengths (physical and mental). And I thought this would make a good trilogy. Yes, it would be near impossible to get people to sit through part one as an individual movie. And it would be a little difficult to get people to see part two when it’s basically Superman winning every physical challenge. And, yes, it would be near impossible to convince people that it’s worth it to sit through parts one and two just to see the CGI battle between Superman and his powerful nemesis (which, let’s face it, it really what we want to see: Superman beating up creatures almost as strong as himself).
It’s just my ideas, so feel free to disregard them or come up with your own. Or email a link to this post to Warner Bros., whichever feels right to you 😉
P.S. – I would love to be a writer, however, a co-worker/friend/family member-in-law who is a writer just quit her job at a newspaper to work at a frozen custard shop, so, it’s probably not the best job to try and get into. Especially with my limited vocabulistics.