Is Man Of Steel Changing Superman's Origin?

When ComicBook.com took our theory that Man of Steel might be reverting to a 1930s status quo for Superman's origin--with Krypton being a world populated by supermen, and the powers and abilities far beyond earthmen common to all Kryptonians--to Reddit, something strange happened: nobody got it. "I believe it was established that it's the effect of our yellow sun on the Kryptonian biology that gives Superman his powers," said one user. "It's like the author hasn't even seen Superman II," said another. (I have. I prefer the Donner Cut.) Even once the idea--that the apparent "change" would in fact be a reversion to the character's original backstory as created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--was explained, one of the Redditors poo-pooed it, saying, "Considering the powers from sun has been canon forever, I think it would be a mistake to try that, especially as this is another reboot." And it's hard to argue that; when you have something that's widely taken for granted by the audience, you don't want to dismiss it without good reason, or without clearly explaining the change in-story.

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That said, there are a couple of additional factors that have come to our attention since the original story ran that support our theory that the Kryptonians we see in Man of Steel might be very different from the ones we're used to. First, we've got the image shown above, from the New 52 (Action Comics #7, to be exact), in which Brainiac refers to Krypton as "a mighty race of super-beings." It's been widely speculated that he's talking about their technological and intellectual advancement and their capacity for knowledge, particularly since it is after all Brainiac that we're talking about. But "mighty" and "Super-Beings" sounds distinctly different from that sort of "advanced race." This is significant because the New 52 comics are reportedly being scrutinized by Warner Bros. and the filmmakers, with creators seeming to imply that Hollywood had some influence over the relaunch, and over some of the plot threads in Superman. If that's the case, then what goes in the New 52 may well be a good indicator for what goes in the movies. There would likely be little or no debate as to what Brainiac meant in that panel, except of course that Supergirl, who lived for a time on Krypton, crashed on Earth and was not accustomed to having super-powers. That said, her powers appeared almost immediately, meaning that the yellow sun works more like a magic trick or a light switch (immediate gratification) than it used to, when Superman's cells were described as "living solar batteries." The second major point that's occurred to us is this: The mainstream (non-comics) entertainment press would have you believe that, in spite of having been in litigation for more than 30 years with Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and their families, the most recent suit that put DC's rights to the contents of Action Comics #1 at risk stood to have a major impact on Man of Steel. That, of course, never seemed particularly likely to anybody familiar with comics, with the Superman case or with the history of litigation between comics creators and their publishers. Still, what if part of the concern was that more and more, both the comics and the films, as part of a "back to the roots" mentality, are embracing elements of the original Siegel/Shuster stories that have long been out of canon? The "super" Kryptonians aren't all that much of a stretch when you consider the fact that Grant Morrison recently reintroduced Superman as a being who can't fly, but can leap tall buildings. The Steinbeck/Springsteen version of Superman seemed to derive some of his powers from his impermeable cape--and after all, there's no physiology in the cape to be enhanced by the yellow sun. That's something that happened on Krypton. Ditto for the suit, which has demonstrated any number of abnormal capabilities. Most recently, during the H'El on Earth story currently ongoing in the Superman family of titles, it was used to "heal" Superboy, whose genes were essentially unraveling. Wait, wasn't that a story they've already done with Superboy? I digress. If DC were to lose the contents of Action Comics #1, but retain the trademarks to the character names and the like (which were never really in jeopardy), the option then would have been to rewrite continuity to suit a different version of Superman. There's been some speculation over the years that, during the litigation over the copyright to Superboy, the creation of Connor Kent--a new character totally distinct from Clark and with a different backstory entirely--was designed to give DC a Superboy to latch onto even if they lost the suit. Could something similar have been at play with this more recent suit? It would certainly seem like terrible timing if, just as DC was fighting over Golden Age material, they were making a movie that drew more heavily from that material than any before it. We'll see as the countdown to the film gets really underway; it seems from rumors, reports and more that there won't be just the three Kryptonian villains we know of, but at least a couple and probably many more. If that's the case, the studio won't be able to hide for long how it is that they interact with the world around them.