All-Star Superman Is A Very Weird Choice For Superman: Legacy

All-Star Superman is indebted to the deep lore of the character, which makes a weird inspiration for the reboot of Superman: Legacy.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

all star superman: legacy

If at first, you don’t succeed, just try, try again. That seems to be the approach of the newly formed DC Studios, which has been tasked by parent company Warner Bros. Discovery to reboot its DC Comics property after the shambling chaos of the Snyderverse. The new co-head of DC Studios, James Gunn, has definitively said the upcoming film Superman: Legacy will be the “true start” and we’re here to say that his avowed inspiration for the film, All-Star Superman, is a truly weird place to start.

We’ll put a slight caveat on that: All-Star Superman, the 12-issue comic book series by writer Grant Morrison, artist Frank Quitely, and digitally inks by Jamie Grant, is often thought of as one of the great modern Superman stories. The series (which originally ran from 2005-2008) is unquestionably a story of great emotion and depth and, in that, Superman: Legacy could do a whole lot worse. But the fact remains, All-Star Superman is a story that presents some of the deep (and goofier) lore of the Man of Steel to readers and then throws them into the deep end without much explanation. 

Given that audiences are coming off the confusion of Zack Snyder’s attempt at creating a DC Comics shared universe that ended up collapsing under its own weight (and attempts at stony gravitas), it is a risky gambit to hurl a whole bunch of references to the Silver Age of comics at moviegoers who are still weirded out that Henry Cavill snapped Michael Shannon’s neck like a twig that one time. It just might be a lot to ask fans to make the leap from the darkness of Cavill’s tormented, distant god of a Kryptonian to stories that involve Krypto the Superdog, Jimmy Olsen’s indestructible radio-watch, and something called the “Ultra-Sphinx.”

henry cavill superman

Now, to be clear, James Gunn has said that Superman: Legacy will not be a direct adaptation of All-Star Superman so much as a touchstone of concept and tone, much as Warren Ellis’ The Authority and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing will not be directly translated to screen for those projects. It is likely that the more humanistic, optimistic elements of Grant Morrison’s work are what Gunn wants to bring to Superman: Legacy; the title character’s journey to reconcile his human upbringing to his alien heritage seems to be of particular interest to the director.

That’s all well and good, but All-Star Superman is not a story that exists in a vacuum. Part of the emotional power of the story is knowledge of Superman as a character with a whole history (or, legacy, if you will) of adventures and feats, not to mention an entire plot point hinged on the idea that Kal-El learned to sew for a birthday present. If Gunn can translate that while avoiding the pitfalls of yet another origin story, as he has claimed not to be writing, good for him. If nothing else, asking fans woozy from whatever happened to the Snyderverse to hit the ground running is a bold move.

As a corrective to the violent Christ-figure of Henry Cavill’s Kal-El, Superman: Legacy could do worse than to focus on a Clark Kent with emotions beyond grim staring and pensiveness. Certainly, James Gunn has shown himself capable of balancing science-fiction goofiness with heartrending emotion with the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise for Marvel. If he can repeat that trick at the competition, Superman: Legacy could indeed be the birth of a new, warmer DC Universe.

But the Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively obscure group of heroes that most audiences were being introduced to for the first time with the MCU movies. Superman comes with a whole lot of expectations and preconceived notions, and Gunn has his work cut out for him. We hope he can make this try work for the farmboy from Kansas.