I just thought of something. You know how when superhero movies come out, they tend to affect the public’s overall perception of the character(s) in question? Like, since Avengers got big, the team’s movie-roster shows up all over the place, or when Dark Knight became a smash, the Joker got a Glasgow smile for a bit – or, for that matter, when the Tim Burton Batman came out, and comics-Gotham quickly adapted the look of its cinematic version.
That hasn’t really happened much with Superman, has it?
Or rather, it has, but more in little ways. The original Superman was certainly influential with its depiction of Planet Krypton, and General Zod will forever be defined for many people by Terence Stamp’s performance, but otherwise… not so much.
There is, I think, a reason for this. Most Superman spin-off media that I’ve seen tends to keep the focus on him, not the people and places around him. Yes, Lois Lane has gotten some screentime, and, to a lesser degree, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White, but they’re all secondary to the Man of Steel. His supporting cast, in short, has always gotten short shrift – and he himself is too iconic to alter much, therefore his screen portrayals have remained relatively static.
To my mind, this is a bit of a missed opportunity. Yes, you watch a Superman movie to see Superman being his Supermanny self, but he has racked up quite a few interesting characters around himself over the years. A little focus on them could hardly hurt, and they would certainly do wonders to flesh out his corner of the cinematic DCU.
So with that in mind, here are my Top Ten Superman Characters That Should Be In Movies! Up, up, and away!
As always, a qualifier or two – only characters that have not gotten cinematic portrayals (and I mean big-screen live-action; for these purposes, the direct-to-DVD animated ones don’t count) meet the grade here. And as is ever the case, no particular order.
Who he is: Back in the day, cop Jim Harper pounded a beat in Metropolis’ notorious Suicide Slum. Taking responsibility for a group of young juvenile delinquents who termed themselves the Newsboy Legion, he donned the costumed identity of the Guardian to battle crime with a directness that no policeman could match – and to be able to rescue his charges when they got into trouble.
Cut to quite a while later. The Guardian, through ill fortune, is dead – but he lives on. Beneath those streets that Officer Harper used to tread stretch a network of secret tunnels housing Project Cadmus, a government research facility dedicated to uncovering and exploiting the mysteries of genetics. The Project’s top scientists are none other than the Newsboys grown up, and they have not forgotten their old protector. Preserving Harper’s dying mind, they cloned a new body for him, a body young and strong, fit once more for the job he used to do. Now he works as the Project’s head of security, but whenever the city needs his help, the Guardian will be seen once again!
Why he’s cool: OK, I’ll admit right off the bat that this would be a tricky character to work into a Superman movie. The Guardian is a good old-fashioned type of hero, which, yeah, is great, but so is Superman, and stealing the thunder of the guy whose name is on the poster is rarely a good idea. It would be difficult to give him a proper chance to shine.
That being said, I, for one, think it would be thoroughly worth it. Why? Because with the Guardian (at least, the modern depiction of him) comes Project Cadmus, and that opens up the doors for all kinds of groovy weirdness.
See, Cadmus is the brainchild (as is the Guardian) of a certain comics creator known for boundless creativity. It’s Kirby, baby, and he did not disappoint. The Project itself is interesting enough, but along with that, you’ve got the Hairies, the Outsiders, the Underworlders, the Mountain of Judgement, Dubbilex, Dabney Donovan, etc., etc. Who/what are these things? Endlessly inventive and interesting, that’s what, and to tell any more would take too long. For years it was one of the unique features of Metropolis that truly was unique, and spawned endless bizarre and intriguing creations for Superman to battle/befriend/team up with.
All this is more useful in a long-term narrative context, of course, but even in the short-term of a movie, genetic monstrosities and resurrected old-style heroes make for far more interesting material than we’ve been getting in Superman movies lately. Heck, I’d be fine with the Guardian getting a solo flick – he’s certainly a good enough character to handle one – but since that’s probably not going to happen, let’s make him an ally/foil of Supes. Let’s say, for instance, some hideous creature comes crawling out of the sewers and starts menacing the city, but before the Man of Steel can best it, up comes the Guardian. ‘Uh, yeah, hey, Superman; big fan, but I’m afraid I can’t let you beat up this monster. See, it’s government property, and as such, I’ve got to be the one to handle it – regulations, y’know.’ They ultimately team up, of course, and really, the scenario writes itself. Guardian! Project Cadmus! Make it happen, somebody!
Who he is: While the exact details of his origin are slightly hazy, one thing is clear about Winslow Schott – he used to be a toymaker, and he still is. Now, however, he makes crime toys – toy soldiers with actual guns, exploding teddy bears, that sort of thing – and uses them as tools in his criminal career. A genius – if eccentric – inventor and cunning strategist, Schott is better known to one and all as the Toyman!
Why he’s cool: To start with, I like the idea of the Toyman. A criminal mastermind who commits crimes with toys is an idea with possibilities (even though nowadays it’s more likely to summon up visions of Quackerjack from Darkwing Duck. But that may just be me).
Second, he makes an interesting foil for the Metropolis Marvel because he directly addresses something that’s been an issue for the franchise ever since its beginning – how do you come up with a villain who could beat Superman? I mean, sure, you’ve got yer Doomsdays and such, but part of the character’s basic appeal is that he is, by all normal standards, invincible unless Kryptonite gets involved. You can’t have opponents as strong as he is show up in every movie – so what’s to be done?
Have villains that can beat him with their minds, of course. Now, of course there’s Lex Luthor, but Luthor has been a tad overused. You need alternatives.
The Toyman would make for quite an intriguing alternative, all the more so because he seems so harmless, at least considering who he goes up against. A guy who makes toys – ha! What can he do to the Man of Steel?
Well, yeah – what can he do? Hmm…
When you take a character like that and make him as formidable as he’s proved to be over the years (when written correctly, of course), you have an exercise in contrasts. The fact that the Toyman can and does manage to be a thorn in Superman’s side despite such a seemingly incongruous theme makes him interesting, and an interesting character is far more essential to a film than a powerful one. There are script possibilities here.
Forget for a moment how physically formidable Superman is, and focus on another area. What does Superman do? Well, he protects people, of course – he stops the bad guys and saves the world. He’s quite insistent about that.
Okey-dokey. The issue, therefore, is not whether or not a character can hurt him, it’s whether or not a character can hurt us normal mortals who are under his care. All you need to do to make an effective Superman villain is give him the ability to hurt – or rob, or swindle, or otherwise inconvenience – average citizens, and make him smart enough to stay out of Superman’s way and maybe cook up a boobytrap or two involving Kryptonite. Toyman has all of those qualities, plus an interesting gimmick. I’d say he qualifies.
Just for starters, here’s a sample plot. All sorts of toy-related mishaps start taking place as the Toyman goes on a rampage for whatever reason (I actually did come up with one, but then I realized I was ripping off Quackerjack – that ain’t good). Meanwhile, Superman realizes that this is exacerbating some other problem that’s about to go blooey – perhaps the toys Schott uses are powered by a deadly isotope that should not be anywhere near human habitation, and the more of it is used, the greater the chances for something horrible occurring, a nuclear explosion, for instance.
Therefore, he’s got to find the Toyman and bring him down before disaster occurs. Only problem is, the villain is hiding somewhere that’s protected from his X-ray vision and immune to his super-senses. He’s got to use his brains to find this guy, and that means he’s got to table his super-powers and play detective. That’s an effective hook right there – you expect Superman to solve his problems via flying around and punching things; having these tactics be functionally useless against the threat he faces would make for a much more psychological sort of Supes flick.
It’s this sort of plot development that tends to happen when you put seemingly mismatched characters together. That’s why I like the Toyman.
Who he is: A science teacher at a Metropolis high school, Jose Delgado was dismayed at the level of street violence that was threatening his students. A skilled boxer and martial artist during his youth, he drew on his old skills to take on the problem under the cover of a masked identity. Now, whenever crime fills the streets, it will face strict opposition by the man known as Gangbuster!
Why he’s cool: On first glance, you might think that this guy falls into the same category as the Guardian, in that he threatens to steal the spotlight. But no – in fact, this is not the case at all.
For one thing, Jose Delgado and Clark Kent are very different types of people. He’s a streetwise, hot-tempered guy from the slums, as opposed to Clark’s homespun Kansas upbringing. For another, they may both be heroes, but the types of hero they are could hardly differ more. Gangbuster is strictly street-level – his adventures tend to take place in back alleys and such, and he has no powers at all, defending himself purely through his fighting skills and a pair of nunchucks. Again, contrast. If you want to build up Metropolis as a real place, showing its seedier side is a good way to do it, and Gangbuster is a good vehicle through which to show it.
Also! Also also. There is actually a fairly significant link between the two characters. At one point in the comics, Superman was forced to kill a trio of alien criminals (an alternate General Zod and his co-conspirators, in fact). He had no choice, but his actions haunted him, and ultimately led to a nervous breakdown – during which he suffered a fractured personality, and briefly took on the role and costume of Gangbuster, taking out his guilt on the street crooks and drug dealers.
Now, let me ask you something – would that make for an interesting Superman movie, or what? I can see the posters now – ‘Who is Gangbuster?’ It’s Supes, that’s who! All you’d have to do is initially establish Delgado as a former hero who had retired (as he actually had during the time his role was co-opted), then give Superman a reason for developing mental problems such as the ones mentioned above (heck, if DC wanted to – uh, spoilers if you haven’t seen Man of Steel yet – they could have them develop as a result of the battle with Zod; it’d certainly fit with the comics, and it might go some way towards redeeming that movie in the minds of fans, including mine). From then on, he’d be Superman by day, Gangbuster by night, getting increasingly brutal in the latter identity, until the real Gangbuster was forced to come out of retirement and bring Supes back to reality.
You could delve into some deep psychological territory with a story like that. The nature of what drives someone to be a hero, of what it takes to overcome mental issues, of inspiration VS punishment, i.e, the two different heroic approaches, and why the latter approach is wrong for Superman, even though it might work for other heroes – I mean, this is some complex stuff here. For that very reason, it’s a tad unlikely that it’ll ever make it into theaters – people tend to like their Superman flicks to be more on the uncomplicated side – but still, interesting, huh?
Who he is: Mitch Anderson was a somewhat surly, unmotivated teenager until his house was wrecked by Doomsday, during the cross-country rampage that would ultimately culminate in his ‘death’ at the hands of Superman (and vice-versa). Inspired by the latter’s heroics in saving him and his family from the monster, and grief-stricken at his seeming demise, he swore to live up to the Man of Steel’s selfless example in some way, however minor.
Not long after Superman’s seeming resurrection, Mitch learned that he was developing magnetic powers as the result of a latent metatalent. Delighted at the opportunity to finally live up to his promise, he donned a costume, dubbed himself ‘Outburst’, and went into action as a hero, hoping to persuade the Metropolis Marvel to take him on as a sidekick. Turns out Supes wasn’t interested, but did that stop Mitch Anderson? No way!
Why he’s cool: One of the reasons I enjoy writing articles like these is that it gives me the chance to talk about minor characters that seemingly only I remember. Case in point, Outburst. It’s difficult to find a character who’s a smaller blip on the radar these days, but I still think he’s cool, and by gumbo, I’m going to talk about ‘im.
If nothing else, Outburst is interesting because of his powers and how he uses them. True, magnetism is nothing new so far as powers go – look at Magneto – but it’s the way he uses them that I find unique. Instead of large-scale demonstrations of power, he tends to be more Spider-Man-ish in his approach – since there’s metal just about everywhere in a city, he uses it to ‘surf’ on buildings and the like, zipping up and down their sides, bouncing from here to there and being very physical about it. He does, I believe, have the ability to do the usual Magneto sort of stuff (I know he can fly, anyway), but as a rambunctious teenager, he naturally tends towards the more active approach.
That’s just a first impression sort of thing, though. What really makes Outburst intriguing as a character is his background and motivations – in short, just why he does what he does.
Basically, Mitch Anderson is a boy inspired. Much like the better-known Steel (who would totally be on this list if he hadn’t already gotten a movie), he and his family are alive today because of Superman, and he means to repay that debt by using his new lease on life to do something positive. And because he idolizes the Man of Steel, naturally he wants to be the Robin to his Batman. It doesn’t work out, of course, but that doesn’t stop him from carrying on along his heroic course – and all with an energetic, wisecracking attitude that, again, reminds one of old-school Spidey.
Now, as to how he would be best used in a movie? Seems pretty obvious, really; it’d be trotting out the old ‘what effect does this hero have – good or bad?’ trope. Maybe Supes could take him on as a sidekick for a while only for it to become immediately evident that it wouldn’t work out. He’d have to be constantly protecting the younger, less experienced hero, and while he’s concentrating on that, bad things could be happening elsewhere, which in turn causes people to bitterly talk about where was Superman when such-and-such happened, why isn’t he doing his job, and blah blah blah. Maybe Mitch himself could realize the effect his tagging along is having on his hero’s career, and feel guilty about it – maybe he should rethink his career, or at least revise it so that it’s more of a solo thing.
This is all very rough, of course, but the point is, there are definitely ways this character could fill out a movie. He probably won’t, of course, ‘cause most people have never heard of him, but hey, a guy can dream.
Who she is: Captain (later Inspector) Margaret ‘Maggie’ Sawyer is the head of Metropolis’ Special Crimes Unit, a branch of the police department that covers extraordinary circumstances such as crimes involving metahumans and supervillains – exactly the sort of crimes, in other words, that Superman routinely gets involved with. Though at first resenting what she viewed as his interference into police affairs, Sawyer grew to grudgingly admire the Man of Tomorrow’s selfless actions, and has since become his main contact in the MPD.
Why she’s cool: I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me about this one. Maggie Sawyer has been a constant presence in the comics for over twenty years now. Introduced as a gruff, chain-smoking cop with a no-nonsense attitude and a way of getting things done, she rapidly evolved into Superman’s version of Commissioner Gordon. She’s since been transferred to Gotham City, which was a decision I didn’t really agree with, but she’s still got a well-deserved reputation as a gutsy, never-say-die officer of the law.
She also has retained the status of being one of the foremost LGBT women in comics – and, in fact, one of the earliest. She was outed as a lesbian not terribly long after her first appearance, and her loving yet complicated relationship with reporter Toby Raines was a running subplot for many years (although recently they have broken up).
Now, this is not an aspect of her character that has to be prominently featured in a movie – there is plenty else about her that is interesting without involving her personal life – but I think it should at least be acknowledged on-screen, even if it would give a few bigots the vapors. This is Superman we’re talking about here, a hero who has stood for universal tolerance and acceptance virtually since day one – remember, he made one of the earliest public stands against the KKK back when such things were unheard of in fiction. If any superhero movie would have the guts to even tangentially tackle such issues, it should be one of his. Superman is not afraid of controversy, and neither should his spin-off media be.
All that aside, though, even if such things weren’t acknowledged, I still think Maggie should at least make an appearance at some point – just as a supporting cast member, which is her primary role, anyway. She’s a cool character who has paid her dues, and deserves her shot in the limelight.
Who he is: An ‘imperfect duplicate’ of Superman, the chalk-faced Bizarro has had many origins and incarnations over the years, but some things have remained the same. He has a skewed view of the world, thinking and speaking in reverse or at least in a halting, ‘backwards’ manner, which, combined with his Kryptonian powers, has generally made him a source of great havoc and confusion to the people of the world.
Why he’s cool: Bizarro, so far as I’m concerned, is one of the all-time great comic book characters, Superman-related or otherwise. He falls into the same general vein as Frankenstein’s Monster – he can be played for comedy, he can be played for tragedy, he can be a strange variety of hero/antihero, or you can just use him as a clear-cut antagonist, but whatever you do, he always remains at least broadly sympathetic.
After all, it’s not Bizarro’s fault that he’s a menace. Indeed, some of the best Bizarro stories are ones where he’s trying to emulate his heroic counterpart and do good deeds – it’s just that his idea of good deeds tends to be a little bit different than other people’s, and the poor guy has terrible luck at putting across what he was actually attempting to do. He might want to do good, but he only has a hazy notion of what that actually is, which doesn’t end up winning him a lot of friends, you can be sure.
On the other hand, as noted above, he can also be funny. Look at the famous ‘Bizarro World’ tales from the Silver Age, where Bizarro (or ‘Bizarro #1’, as he called himself) founded a community of Bizarros on a strange square planet, where society was dedicated to doing things according to reverse-logic – bathing in dirt instead of water, laughing when sad, passing tests by getting all the answers wrong, etc. (“Us do opposite of all Earthly things!”) Those were frequently hilarious, and plenty of subsequent writers have injected that sort of element back into the character. Some manage to pull off both at once – Bizarro can be a sad clown, hilarious and poignant at the same time, with his raw physical power making his every blunder a potential catastrophe. You can laugh at him, feel sad for him, and be afraid of him all at the same time. If that’s not character breadth, I don’t know what is.
In terms of how he could be used in a movie, I’d say it’s fairly obvious. He gets created, he starts blundering around, Superman has to stop him. The only devil is in the details, and with a long history of stories stretching back decades, I’d say there’s plenty to draw from. The only prerequisites are that A: Bizarro’s character should remain intact; he shouldn’t be turned pure evil or anything; B: he should retain his signature Bizarro-speak and the like, and C: he should hopefully get, if not a happy ending, at least a bittersweet one. We like Bizarro. This entry, him am begun.
Who he is: The last of the Von Frankenstein family, and the latest of a long lines of scientists, Frederick Von Frankenstein was under tremendous pressure to succeed, to the point where he literally needed to be in several different places at once to do everything that was expected of him. In order to bring this about, he began secretly experimenting with a device called a ‘phase shifter’ to snatch copies of himself from microseconds into the past and future, essentially making multiple copies of himself. In time, his body internalized the process, allowing him to duplicate at will (initiated, if necessary, by any application of force to his person).
At first this worked perfectly, and he was able to achieve great success in his research, including a means of adhering to virtually any surface. However, repeated duplication had some nasty side effects – his appearance changed, turning skeletal and cadaverous, and he became severely insomniac. This, combined with the great stress he was already under, snapped Frederick’s mind, and he turned to crime as Riot, the one-man crime wave!
Why he’s cool: OK, I’ll ‘fess up – I haven’t actually read a lot of stuff with Riot in it. He’s more a character I’ve been interested in for a while than one that I have a great deal of first-hand experience with.
That being said, for my money Riot is awesome. He’s a clear-cut case of a simple ability being used in a really interesting and unusual way. Picture this – every time you hit him he duplicates, and the force is distributed equally among the duplicates, so at the point where there’s a few dozen of him, each one is functionally unstoppable. At the point where the fight has dragged on for any amount of time, there could well be hundreds, if not thousands of him, each one bouncing off walls Spidey-style and gibbering like a lunatic. Eventually you’re facing a living tide of invincible maniacs – that’s kind of daunting even for Superman.
Also, Riot is interesting because he doesn’t look dangerous – he’s a short little scrawny guy, and yet he can and has taken on the Man of Steel at full power. Combine this with the fact that most of his motivation is simply the desire to get a good night’s sleep, and you have a really intriguingly idiosyncratic villain.
It’s possible that Riot is not well-known or complex enough to be a solo movie villain (also, while it’s never said whether or not the Von Frankenstein family are, er… those Von Frankensteins, the hint that they might be is perhaps a little corny for DC’s approach these days), but as a ‘B’ villain, he could be great. Perhaps he could be someone’s henchman or something. At any rate, I wish someone would try fitting him in, because the image of Supes going up against hordes of wall-crawling skeleton-men is interest-sparking, yes?
Who he is: A diminutive imp from the Fifth Dimension, the mischievous Mxyzptlk has plagued Superman for years with his chaos-causing shenanigans. Possessed of immense, reality-altering powers, the only way to beat him is to get him to say his name backwards (or, more recently, to fulfill a goal that he himself has set), which banishes him to his own realm. So far, the Metropolis Marvel has always found a way, but that crafty Mxy always keeps coming back for more…
Why he’s cool: One of the great comedic supervillains of all time, Mxyzptlk (or ‘Mxyztplk’, as he was originally) is just plain fun. Literally any type of story is possible with him around, ranging from bathtubs parading down Main Street to the continents of the Earth being altered in shape to just about anything in between. Furthermore, Mxy himself is refreshingly direct and uncomplicated in terms of motivations – he’s not actively malicious, he just wants to have some fun. As such, even the more serious Mxyzptlk tales are at least rooted in a light-hearted atmosphere, and the silly ones are freakin’ hilarious.
Regarding how he could be used in a movie – dude, how couldn’t he? You can do just about anything with this guy. So long as you don’t try and make him overly dour or grim n’ gritty, Mxyzptlk is a one-man plot delivery system. Make chaos reign for the length of the film, then send him back to the Fifth Dimension with a promise to return – there’s yer flick.
Who she is: While flying through a storm, a Metropolis-bound plane was struck by lightning. The only survivor was a creature comprised of pure electromagnetism, a creature in the shape of a woman, a creature who had most decidedly not been on the plane when it took off – at least, not in that form. Baffled and amnesiac, struggling to maintain cohesion as her body threatened to dissipate, she ultimately found her way to the laboratory of Dr. Emil Hamilton, a scientist friend of Superman’s. Luckily, the Man of Steel had recently been in a very similar predicament to hers, during which he had used a containment suit of Hamilton’s creation. With a few alterations, the suit soon stabilized her, but the amnesia remained.
Ultimately, though, memories returned. She was – or had been – Sharon Vance, an old friend of Clark Kent’s, who had been coming to visit him when the lightning struck. When she was exposed to it, it had not killed her, but rather, through some mysterious means, combined her with a mystic creature known as Kismet into a gestalt being of immense power. With memories returned, but many questions yet to be answered, Vance/Kismet decided to make the most of her new situation and fight the good fight as Strange Visitor!
Why she’s cool: For those of you going ‘he put who on the list?’, let me assure you that I did not make this decision lightly. For the longest time, I was split between her and Supergirl – and while the Girl of Steel is more than worthy to feature in a Superman film, I ultimately decided that she didn’t fit on this list, since, like Steel, she already had a movie of her own. (Mind you, if anyone ever does include her in a movie, you better believe I’ll be excited about it, but for now? Nah. Sorry, Kara; better luck next time.)
Having said that, why do I think Strange Visitor deserves the spot instead? What makes her so good?
Well, it’s partly a purely personal thing. SV is one of those characters that you encounter at the very beginning of your life as a fan, and which for that reason forever hold a special place in your heart. In my case, I remember leafing through the last issue of her origin story while standing at the spinner rack in the local grocery store. It ends with her joyously flying off, proclaiming her new name. ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ I thought. ‘I wonder what else she’ll do?’ Annnnnd then the next time I hear about her she’s dead, and now the continuity’s been rebooted, so she’ll probably never come back. Phooey.
For those reasons if no others, I would be seriously stoked if I heard about Strange Visitor making an appearance in the movies – or, for that matter, anywhere. However, I do think she has some interesting qualifications for the role of filmic supporting character, which I shall proceed to list for you like so.
To start with, let’s write off the whole Kismet thing. In the comics that’s cool, because she’s an established part of the DCU and it gives one story possibilities to delve into with mystical stuff and the like, but in a movie it’s just too complicated and it really doesn’t lead to much. So no Kismet, just Sharon Vance. Right. What’s Sharon got going for her?
For one thing, she’s a name from his childhood. That doesn’t sound like much, but honestly, most of the main characters from Clark’s past have already been delved into ad infinitum. I hear Smallville has added a few to the mix, but none of them have shown up in the comics or the movies that I know of, so they don’t really count.
Sharon Vance is a relatively new and unexplored character, which means there’s lots about her that we don’t know – and along with her, Clark. You can expand his past and gain new insight into his character via flashbacks to their old relationship as kids. And that’s just as she was; now comes the bit where she’s a freaky electro-lady.
One of Clark’s defining characteristics in regards to his friends and family is that, fellow heroes aside, he is forever divided from them by a subtle but ever-present dividing line – his powers. In all other respects his relationships are still normal, but he’s either got to lie to his old pals or, if they know about him, have them deal with the fact that he’s this super-powerful being who is inherently different from them, a difference that can never be bridged. This latter fact has caused some tension over the years – how do you react when dorky ol’ Clark who you’ve known forever turns out to be an invincible alien?
Well, with Sharon Vance you’ve got a new twist on all that – how do you react when your best friend from childhood has super-powers, and now you do, too? It’s like you’re now part of a subculture that you never would have considered even applied to you, but now here you are, and what do you do? For that matter, it’s more extreme for Sharon because at least Clark can conceal his superness – she’s a glowing blue energy-creature; ain’t no way she’s concealing that.
‘That’s all very well’, some may be saying, ‘but she’s also directly connected to the ‘Superman-Blue’ period, which many fans vocally hate; the chances of such a period being evoked are approximately one in eight gazillion’. That’s true enough, but you’re forgetting someone else she’s directly linked to – Livewire, a similar character in many respects, and a fan-favorite. Yes, she’s a villain, but she was also a hero for a while, and, in fact, wore Strange Visitor’s old suit – nobody seemed to have a problem with that. There is room in Superman’s life for a glowing blue energy-woman, is what I’m saying, and while you could just make her Livewire, I think it would be worthwhile trying for an amalgam of the two. Most fans would assume you were just doing Livewire, and you’d be able to add SV’s character complexities to the mix. People who like Livewire would be happy, people who like Strange Visitor would be happy – I’d be happy. Come on, DC, don’t you want to make me happy?
Who he is: Born at the exact moment that the rocket carrying Kal-El of Krypton passed directly overhead, Kenny Braverman was exposed to a high level of Kryptonite energy from the rocket’s backwash. As such, he suffered from severe radiation poisoning, which, although he survived it, caused him to suffer periodic bouts of weakness throughout his life, ones not suffered by Clark Kent, who he always came in second-place to in sports and other activities. Pushed on by his bullying father’s ‘second place is second-best’ attitude, Kenny quickly came to resent Clark, and became obsessed with outdoing him – though he never did.
Ultimately he became an agent for the CIA, which in time brought him into contact with his rival once again. It also brought a revelation – Clark Kent was Superman! Enraged by this, and convinced that Clark had been “cheating” in all their earlier contests, the mentally unbalanced Braverman, whose body had been metabolizing the Kryptonite energy since birth, vowed to use it to wipe out the hated Superman as Conduit!
Why he’s cool: This, I’m fairly sure, will not be a popular entry on the list. ‘Dude,’ I can hear you saying, ‘are you crazy? Look at this guy! How much more ‘90’s can you get?’
Well, yes, that is true. But A: I don’t really mind that type of character, as long as they’re well-executed, and B: Conduit is actually one of the more significant B-list Superman baddies out there.
See, he’s actually been in at least two Super-spin-offs already – not as Conduit but as Kenny Braverman. He was in the DCAU Superman and he had a bit part in Man of Steel (which technically should disqualify him, I know, but A: he didn’t actually show up in costume or have any powers, and B: my list, I can bend the rules if I want to, so ha-ha). Kenny fills the role of Smallville town bully – it’s not huge, but it’s something.
Also, he’s interesting in that he falls into the category of people whose lives Superman has changed for the worse, not better – or, at any rate, who are completely convinced that he has. Conduit is almost literally powered by poison, much as Bane is, only in his case it’s been with him since birth. The physical poison that powers him (those cables on his arms are part of CIA-built armor that channels his Kryptonite into strength and energy blasts) is matched in intensity by the poisonous hatred that fuels his quest for revenge against imagined ills. And such petty ills they are – Conduit ain’t mad at Clark because he stole the love of his life or got him fired from a prestigious job or something like that. He’s mad at him, to the point where he will do his utmost to ruin his life before killing him, because the man was better at sports than he was back when they were kids. He will stage what are essentially terrorist plots against him solely so he can satisfy his own stunted sense of self-worth – so he can stand over Clark Kent and go ‘I win!’
This makes him particularly unique as a Superman villain because the Man of Steel rarely goes up against people like him. Lex Luthor, for instance, may be fueled by jealousy, too, but he’s also fueled by magnificent-bastardry – he can remain relatively unscathed by his clashes with the Last Son of Krypton because he’s just that awesome. Conduit, on the other hand, is just twisted and pitiable, while remaining a legitimately dangerous threat. Even though Superman can beat him – of course he can; he’s Superman – he can never help him; he’s a mad dog that needs to be put down – and for someone like Clark Kent, whose dearest wish is that even his vilest of foes might reform one day, that is a bitter, bitter blow.