News broke in March that critically acclaimed journalist/author/comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was penning a “black Superman” movie for Warner Bros. Coates is a phenomenal writer who showed in his beloved award-winning runs on Black Panther and Captain America that he doesn’t just understand superhero comics, but also has an incredible way of blending fantasy escapism with hard-hitting real-world issues.
While WB sorts out whatever it is that they actually want to do with Henry Cavill’s existing Superman aka Kal El in the DCEU, we could get some cool on-screen adventures featuring one of DC Comics’ other Supermen who have never seen live-action adaptation. And it all fits in perfectly with WB’s plans to have the DCEU embrace the DC Comics multiverse as we already had two existing black Supermen in Earth-23’s Calvin Ellis and Earth-2’s Val Zod. Except that’s apparently not what is happening.
According to an in-depth report from THR, Coates’ movie won’t be tackling either Calvin Ellis or Val Zod but instead will feature a black Kal-El which could be considered a confusing move. The report does go on to clarify that the film will not be set within the mainstream DCEU, much like how Todd Phillips’ Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix did its thing completely separate from everything else. That may limit the audience confusion, but THR also mentions that “Coates is crafting a Kal-El in the vein of the original Superman comics and will have the protagonist hail from Krypton and come to Earth.”
So very much the traditional Superman story, but now just told from a black perspective. Admittedly, given Coates’ history, there could be a lot of narrative meat to chew on with that take. There’s even talk that while the overall pitch is still in flux, one possible narrative direction being considered is “for the film to be a 20th century period piece”, which will definitely add even more social overtones to it.
And to seemingly make sure this film has the right voice, THR reports that WB are looking for a black director to helm it. As was initially reported, JJ Abrams will be producing the film as part of his overall development deal with WB, but one of THR’s sources indicated that he was not in consideration for the director’s chair as it would have been considered “tone deaf”. No official shortlist of directors has been revealed but THR speculates that the likes of Regina King (One Night in Miami), Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah), and J.D. Dillard (Sleight) may all be in consideration.
One interesting factor to this black director search for WB is that rival Marvel is doing the exact same thing as the studio ramps up production on a feature-film reboot of Blade. The vampire-hunter movie already has a star in Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, as well as script in place from Stacy Osei-Kuffour and a new production start date of July 2022. There’s been talk for ages that Michael B. Jordan may be looked at to lead this new Superman film seeing as he actively pitched a Calvin Ellis movie to DC years ago and seems a perfect candidate for the gig. That would probably also increase the chances of Steven Caple Jr. getting the director’s nod as the two worked together on Creed II.
Whomever WB picks to either star or direct, there’s undoubtedly going to be some backlash here. While a black Superman movie is a massive step forward for diversity, the question some people will definitely ask then is why not just use the black Supermen from the comics? This is like Sony making a black Spider-Man movie but instead of using Miles Morales, they just change Peter Parker’s race. Of course, as reliable as THR is, none of this is official yet, and everything in this production is still “phenomenally early”, according to their own sources. So yes, things may still change.
Last Updated: May 6, 2021