The upcoming Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder‘s third comic book adaptation (after 300 and Watchmen), is set to reintroduce Krypton’s decorated war leader General Zod as the villain, played by Michael Shannon alongside Henry Cavill‘s Superman. In some ways, Zod is the natural choice. As a Kryptonian on Earth, he will be one of the few beings capable of testing Superman physically. He also, importantly, provides a link to Superman’s alien past: Kal-El may have no memory of his home planet, but Zod was exiled from Krypton in his adulthood, and feels strongly about his race and his dead planet.
The choice of Zod also means, however, that in the six Superman movies to date, only two Supervillains from the comics have been used: Zod and Lex Luthor, the evil genius and the most iconic of Superman’s foes. To put this in context; four Spider-Man movies have used five of Spidey’s villains (with at least two more to appear in the next film), and seven Batman films have used eleven of his. There is a wealth of material for Superman filmmakers to work with, and it’s my feeling that retreading old ground is not necessary to create a great Superman film. The character and theme are strong enough to go a little further afield.
With this in mind, here are the five of Superman’s opponents I’d rather see on the big screen than Luthor and Zod.
In 1992, DC comics introduced a villain who was more than a physical match for the Last Son of Krypton: Doomsday, a biologically-engineered creature of Kryptonian descent himself. When he first appeared, a lot was left unexplained: where he came from, what drove him to his rampage, why he had been bound beneath the earth. All that was clear was that this creature was a match for the entirety of the Justice League, and Superman’s strength would not make this a one-sided fight. Doomsday is a villain that cannot be defeated for good; when recovering from defeat, his body adapts, granting him immunities to whatever brought him down. Because of this, he presents not only a near-impossible physical challenge for Superman, but an inescapable catch-22, as well.
Doomsday is not clever. In most portrayals, he can barely talk, if at all; he is mostly a creature of rage and boundless strength. He could not act as the sole villain in a Superman film and keep that film interesting, as he could not offer dialogue or intrigue. That said, he offers a director the chance to have Superman explore the creature’s roots as a bio-weapon on Krypton, perhaps provoking a crisis of conscience and identity: was Kryptonian society not as idyllic as a younger, more naive Kal-El believed? This is all interesting material to explore with the Man of Steel, but as I’ve said, a film featuring Doomsday would likely need another antagonist to be a little more scheming. Be it one of Supes’ human foes seeking to use the bio-weapon for their own purposes, or something else, this possibility has a lot of mileage.
When Doomsday faced Superman and the JLA first in 1992, he left Superman temporarily dead. He was the first villain to properly defeat the Kryptonian, and his impact earned him a place among Superman’s most resilient enemies.