Will Upcoming Justice League and Man of Steel Movies Borrow From Panic In the Sky?

A number of recent rumors about the forthcoming Justice League Part One and presumptive Man of Steel sequel films have been setting off some alarm bells in my Post-Crisis Superman fan brain.

Specifically, there are a few things we've heard (mostly from the good folks over at Heroic Hollywod) that seem to indicate that the DC Extended Universe could be drawing inspiration from the popular 1991 Superman storyline "Panic in the Sky!"

The Heroic Hollywood claims indicate that Supergirl -- first seen in the Man of Steel universe as part of a tie-in comic book sold digitally at Wal-Mart -- would be a big player in a planed Man of Steel 2, which would see her stuck between Superman and Brainiac, with the latter coming to Earth hoping to get his hands on Krypton's biological cortex.

Of course, in Man of Steel, it was established that the cortex is coded into Superman's own body, which would make him a target for Brainiac and put his ancestor (Kara Zor-El, in the David Goyer and Jerry Ordway version of the Man of Steel world, crashlanded on Earth thousands of years ago, her ship later being unearthed and serving as Superman's Fortress of Solitude in the movie) at odds with either, or both.

The Kara introduced in the digital comic was a member of the Kryptonian Explorers Guild, and organization tasked with seeking out suitable planets for terraforming and later colonization by Kryptonians...which basically means she wanted to do exactly what Zod wanted to do, except that back when she first arrived there wasn't a thriving human civilization.

Assuming a follow-up would retain the canon from the comic (it's not clear how many people actually ever SAW the book and, after all, it wasn't onscreen), that could present Kara with some really interesting moral choices to make, especially after her "cousin" smashed any hope of reinvigorating Krypton. It wouldn't be too terribly surprising to see her at least briefly take up against him.

The rumors also claim that Brainiac would bring Bizarro along to aid him against Superman and Supergirl. Bizarro, of course, is an imperfect copy of Superman who, depending on what story you're reading, can either be a failed clone, an alien or simply the Superman analogue of a twisted world in a parallel universe. He's typically depicted as kind of ugly and simple, and while his new miniseries from writer Heath Corson and artist Gustavo Duarte is an exception, he's been depicted in recent years as more monstrous than before.

But Birth Movies Death later reported that "a lot of this stuff is scrapped now." Why? Because "every whisper I hear about Justice League contains the word 'Brainiac.'"

That tracks with other rumors that Brainiac could be a threat in Justice League Part One, with Darkseid following in the second half of the two-part film.

As the rumors exist -- Brainiac comes to Earth looking for the Kryptonian cortex and Supergirl ends up pitted between him and Superman -- it would be another story like Man of Steel, where somebody comes to wreck up the joint because they are specifically looking for Superman. This puts the filmmakers in that same pickle of trying to explain how he's being heroic when the obvious choice would be to sacrifice himself to keep destruction from happening in the streets...

...But "Panic in the Sky!" involves a world where there's no Justice League (it had been disbanded following the events of "Breakdowns"), so Superman recruits a number of heroes to go meet Brainiac in space, battling him on his own turf (in this case Warworld) before he can reach Earth and start breaking stuff. Yeah, there's a little bit of chaos in Metropolis, but nothing that Gangbuster, Guardian and Aquaman can't handle. Most of the big fighting happens on Warworld and Brainiac is turned back without significant casualties.

This could be a perfect setup for a movie, in that it would allow them to minimize civilian casualties while still having a battle believably epic for a team as powerful as the Justice League. It's similar, in fact, to the way Avengers: Age of Ultron tried to isolate the team and the battle from onlookers by putting the final battle on essentially a giant, floating island.

And while "Panic in the Sky!" didn't feature Bizarro (he was rarely used in the 1986-1999 period of Superman's publishing history), it did feature an ugly alien character called Draaga, who hailed from Warworld and, for reasons too complex to get into right now, wore a Superman costume throughout the story. He worked with Brainiac, an alien princess named Maxima who had briefly been a Superman villain before, and Supergirl, who had been essentially brainwashed into helping Brainiac (she recovered pretty quickly).

Oh, and the "Panic in the Sky!' storyline culminated with Supergirl becoming a regular fixture among Earth's heroes while Superman re-formed the Justice League at Batman's urging.

In other words, whether it was a Man of Steel sequel or a Justice League film, all of these rumors seem to point in the same general direction. If they turn out to be false, it could be that this one old story has provided anonymous sources with a believable source for cover rumors. If true? Well, then it couldn't hurt DC to reprint this story, or fans to try and get their hands on an old trade paperback: it's aged remarkably well, and if you're excited about what you've heard the last week or so, this is probably a good story for you.

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Certainly one interesting thing to remember is that "The Supergirl Saga" -- John Byrne's final Superman story and the tale that introduced the '80s/'90s version of Supergirl, who would be a key player in "Panic in the Sky!" -- culminated with Superman executing General Zod and two other Kryptonian criminals who had committed genocide in another universe. It had lasting ramifications for Superman, including a self-induced exile into space, which is when he first encountered Draaga. Elements of Byrne's, Marv Wolfman's and Jerry Ordway's mid-'80s runs on the Superman titles have informed not only Man of Steel, but the Supergirl TV series as well in recent years, so drawing from one of the best-loved storylines of that era doesn't seem entirely farfetched.

Justice League Part One will open in theaters on November 12th, 2017, followed by Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019. The exact status of a Man of Steel sequel is unknown and somewhat debated.