While I was not the biggest fan of Man of Steel, I will always say that Henry Cavil’s portrayal of Superman is my second favorite after the iconic Christopher Reeve. With DC’s movie vision in flux and moving away from the DCEU as we know it (even with the critical success of the Snyder Cut), there have been reports of a possible reboot of Superman. This would be much like the upcoming Batman movie starring Robert Pattenson where it takes place on an Earth separate from the current DCEU Earth.
Further highlighting the potential reboot scenario is the inclusion of JJ Abrams as its producer and Ta-Nehisi Coates as its writer. While I love Coates’ work on Black Panther over the past few years, it is Abrams inclusion that has me worried as he as lost a lot of his luster (IMO) with his handling of the last Star Wars films. Compounding my worry are persistent rumors that Michael B. Jordan could be playing the Kyptonian. Supposedly he would not be playing the Earth 1 version that we all know and love, but possible black versions that inhabit Earths 2, 23, and beyond.
I have nothing against these creators, but do we really need a black Superman? Yes, there are many melaninated analogs of many prominent heroes, (John Stewart comes to mind for many) but these characters often are shown in tandem with the established “white” hero. They are typically not a replacement for the established hero. Yes, movies have changed the race of heroes, but did anyone really care that Black Canary in Birds of Prey was black? Yes, the transition to a black Batwoman was met with controversy, but that Batwoman show sucked before the change. The change to a black Nick Fury was a nonfactor because who does not love Sam Jackson? Also does it really matter if Hawkman is black, white, purple, or yellow? Nope!
The fact is that these examples are all lesser-known heroes. Superman is the granddaddy of them all. In my opinion Superman’s whiteness is an integral part of the character. No, it is not part of the character’s identity like the Irish Roman Catholic Matt Murdock, but Kal-El being white helps to push the narrative that he is a double fish out of water. First as being a boy from a small Midwest farming town that goes to the big city to make it. Secondly, he is an alien that has grown up in the human world, but still is not fully apart of it because of the power that he possesses.
His whiteness is a stereotype of American exceptionalism and morality that can be dissected and examined as time changes. Making him a POC will always make it about race for many, thus any sort of message or examination will get lost. More importantly, making Superman a POC robs DC of the chance to elevate and feature characters of color that deserve the limelight and would make for compelling movies. For instance, why not make an Icon movie? You will have many of the same tropes that Superman provides, but you will also have the bonus of a character who has lived in America for generations starting with slavery. The perspective of American exceptionalism and morality through the eyes of a character like this would make for an engaging series of films.
At the end of the day, a Superman movie starring Michael B. Jordan and written by Ta-Nehisi Coates sounds like an exciting Elsewhere worlds concept. Alas it is a concept that is not needed. I would much rather see creators like these use their talents to bring more prominent and lesser-known characters of color to the big screen. We do not need a black Superman, but we do need more icons!