Rumor has it that Superman: Legacy will feature a Black Kryptonian Superman.
The latest Superman rumor is that Kal-El will be replaced by a Black Kryptonian in James Gunn‘s Superman: Legacy. As shared by Bounding Into Comics, the production and its script are under tight lockdown at Warner Bros, so it’s highly unlikely that this information is true, but it is an interesting story nonetheless. There has been a massive amount of speculation, not only about this film, but about the entire future of the DCU, which is all set to change under Gunn’s leadership.
In this particular bit of Superman scuttlebutt, a YouTuber known as Middle Grounded claims to have insight on the new script for the upcoming Man of Steel movie, allegedly from an insider. We don’t consider Middle Grounded or this supposed leaker anywhere near as trustworthy as our usual proven sources, but it’s interesting to consider what might be in store. This Superman: Legacy script reportedly shows two rockets headed from Krypton to Earth in its opening scene.
One rocket apparently carries Kal-El, while the other carries a baby who is shown to be a Black Kryptonian. As Kal’s ship veers off course, the second ship crash lands in Kansas, where its occupant is adopted and raised by the Kents, who are, as Hollywood luck would have it, working hard to battle racism. Bounding Into Comics further reports that this version of events purported to occur in the upcoming Gunn film, however, might actually be a case of confusion with another film.
Apparently, there will be a Black Superman, but not necessarily this one. Warner Bros is reported to be pursuing a standalone film with that theme, produced by JJ Abrams and written by acclaimed anti-racist public scholar and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. We have a lot more hope for that project being actually good because of Coates’ involvement, and more justified as it might well be an Elseworlds tale, not unlike DC Comics’ Russian Superman of Red Son or Medieval Superman of Kal. In that case, the prospect of a Black Superman could be quite interesting, though not entirely unprecedented.
It was in the Reign of the Supermen comics that DC explored several new iterations of their flagship character, each a different self-appointed heir to the name, after Superman’s death and—25-year-old spoiler alert—return. In that series, which also had an animated adaptation in 2018, there was a Black man who took on the mantle, later the inspiration for the ill-conceived Shaquille O’Neal clunker Steel. Other white comic book heroes have had their mantles picked up by people of color as well, including Iron Man and Spider-Man, but there is something to be said for allowing Black characters their own spaces, like the one carved out by Black Panther, rather than shoehorning minority identities into existing roles.
Superman is certainly a character who appeals to audiences of all races already, and while specific representation is important, it needs to feel valid and earned and to reflect the culture represented by the character, or it can easily slip into being a giant show of inclusivity that ends up actually being tokenism. While all this Black Superman speculation is still merely rumor, it can give us pause to think about the role of race and inclusivity in comics and films, including which steps toward diversity are helpful and which aren’t.
A Black Superman could be a great opportunity for diverse representation and a way to explore the Superman concept through a different cultural lens. So, we’re hopeful about the Abrams/Coates project, and that the rumor about the Gunn film’s contrivance is just a rumor.