With Man of Steel notably absent from the Super Bowl lineup, though, we started to think: What else hasn't Man of Steel done that everyone expected it would?
Well, one of the things that seems to be a really odd decision is which characters have and have not been announced as appearing in the film. Who's missing?
Superman's arch-nemesis really needed to be relegated to the back seat for a movie, since he'd been a key antagonist in literally every live-action Superman movie made since 1978. He was the principal antagonist in three of the five, and the only bad guy in two of those.
But nobody expected to have a Superman movie where Lex wasn't even cast, and his name appeared nowhere on anything. It's even more surprising than having The Joker not appear in Batman Begins, since Batman has such a richer, more entertaining rogues' gallery than Superman does and since Lex--as a billionaire whose office building leaves an impression on the Metropolis skyline--is visible in every part of Superman's world in a way that other villains are not.
Deciding not to cast Lex Luthor is a lot like the recent decision to leave Norman Osborn out of The Amazing Spider-Man, even while using his company as the setting of much of the film. Will Man of Steel tease Luthor's upcoming role the same way Sony did Green Goblin's?
Perhaps part of the problem as it pertains to Lex is that his character is no longer as clear-cut as it used to be. In the years between John Byrne's The Man of Steel and Infinite Crisis or so, Lex was a well-dressed, crooked businessman who let the community believe he was a good guy while being insidious behind the scenes. Recent years, though, have brought back the green suit of armor and the whole idea of trying to overcome Superman by punching rather than master plans.
That might be the direction the series is headed in--rumors have consistently put Metallo in this movie, and Zod will presumably not make it out of the movie with his battlesuit intact, so don't be surprised to see Lex putting together a Kryptonite-based attack team for the presumptive sequel.
For years, Lois's dad was a minor-to-nonexistent character, but since about 1999, he's taken on increased prominence. "Lois the Army brat" turned into "Lois versus the government" when President Lex Luthor tapped Sam Lane to be his Secretary of Defense.
In the New 52, Sam Lane and his daughter are similarly opposed, with the military generally distrustful of Superman and Lois standing up for him. This is a dynamic that carries over to other comics, as well, since it was used in Smallville.
Of course, we've speculated that one of the military men seen taking Superman away in handcuffs might actually BE Sam Lane, carrying the conflict mentioned above through to the movie. So far, though, none of the casting notes support this and nobody has commented on it at all.
John Henry Irons
An important part of the Superman canon for the last twenty years, John Henry Irons was introduced after the "Death of Superman" story as one of the four potential replacement Supermen, none of whom made the cut because the real steel deal got better. Steel, though (formerly The Man of Steel), struck a chord with the fans and has been arguably DC Comics's most popular nonwhite hero created since the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Given that he's got a military and science background, it's been surprising not to see him in the trailers yet. Perhaps he isn's showing up, or maybe they're just keeping him as a pleasant surprise...but wherever Luthor is, you can bet John Henry Irons will show up, since that's how their relationship has been built in the New 52.
While nobody seriously expected to see Supergirl in the first film, possibly even in the first three, it seems worth mentioning that she won't be around. Superman is not only no longer the Last Son of Krypton--but we stand to see a dozen Kryptonians or more before his cousin ever arrives.
Yes, we know that IMDb lists a "Jenny Olsen" and that Warner Bros. won't deny they've gender-swapped the character. But whether they have, or if that's just his sister, or what...isn't it weird that nobody really batted an eye that Jimmy wasn't in the listed cast for so long?