With the arrival of The Monitor in The CW's forthcoming "Elseworlds" crossover event, fans have been wondering how long until the other shoe drops and we get a hint that Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-villain The Anti-Monitor might show up...but comparably few fans have been asking about another character who plays a huge role in that story.
Superboy-Prime, one of the multiverse's Clark Kents, was one of a handful of characters saved from being erased from history at the end of the first Crisis -- and he would return later to serve as the main antagonist in Infinite Crisis as well as a handful of other events, including "The Sinestro Corps War" and Countdown to Final Crisis.
In the latter, Superboy Prime took on the identity of "Superman Prime," as well as donning the black-and-silver costume that the Man of Steel wore when he returned from the dead.
One big difference between the "regeneration suit" worn by the main universe's Kal-El and the one worn by his demented doppelganger? Earth-Prime's Superman added a black cape to the outfit.
That version of the costume -- featuring the cape and with "Superman" wearing his hair short -- was the visual inspiration for Zack Snyder's nightmare sequence in Man of Steel, and now will also be brought to life by Tyler Hoechlin's Superman in "Elseworlds."
So -- could the Superman seen in "Elseworlds" promotional materials be Superboy-Prime, all grown up?
A few things: the black-costumed Superman of "Elseworlds" has been spotted facing off against heroes, including the more traditional Superman, in behind-the-scenes photos snapped on the streets where they were filming crossover scenes. This suggests that he is likely evil, or at least mind-controlled by Dr. John Deegan, the Arkham Asylum scientist seemingly in league with the Monitor as part of "Elseworlds."
Hoechlin has played a mind-controlled Superman before -- during the season two finale of Supergirl -- but that version was ultimately overpowered by Supergirl and it is unlikely that he could stand up against the impressive assemblage of heroes seen in "Elseworlds."
So...why could Superman Prime?
In the comics, Superboy Prime is the only superhero who hails from Earth-Prime -- that is, the non-fictional Earth on which the readers exist and read the comics. He is, literally, "our" Superman. He was created prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths and has pre-Crisis Kryptonian power levels, which are significantly higher than the power levels for post-Crisis Kryptonians.
On The CW, the Crisis on Infinite Earths has not yet happened -- The Flash has pegged its arrival as 2024 -- but given that the Kryptonians we have seen on Supergirl do not appear to be wildly more powerful than other, comparable aliens and metahumans, it could be argued that the rules of the shows are closer to the rules of the post-Crisis DC Universe and that if The Monitor and/or Deegan somehow imbued Superman Prime with, relatively speaking, pre-Crisis level powers, he could withstand quite a bit.2comments
Superboy Prime's turn to evil was a huge surprise in Infinite Crisis, but by the time he was written almost completely out of DC just a few years later, he had appeared in a number of significant stories and had become increasingly unpopular with fans. The character -- who, again, hailed from our Earth -- was depicted as a whiny, entitled fanboy for whom nothing was ever good enough and everything was better and perfect in a mythical time "before." For some fans, this struck a little too close to home (or maybe just felt a little too on the nose). Such a motivation would be difficult to sell and explain in the context of the TV shows, where the idea of an Earth-Prime hasn't even been introduced yet, but do not be surprised if the black-costumed Superman were to take on the name of Superman Prime, if only to help the characters tell the difference between the two in conversation.
The Arrowverse crossover event, "Elseworlds", will begin on with The Flash in a temporary time slot on Sunday, December 9th and continue with Arrow on Monday, December 10th before concluding with Supergirl Tuesday, December 11th.