On Friday afternoon Collider broke the news that the long-rumored Superman project with Michael B. Jordan is being revived at HBO Max. This project is separate from the previously announced Superman project that would be produced by J.J. Abrams with Ta-Nehisi Coates as the scribe.
Collider posted a clarification with an update that Michael B. Jordan’s Black Superman project is being written as a limited series for HBO Max, according to sources that had reached out to them.
Hours after Collider’s story broke, Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter (THR) filled in some details about the project in the weekly Heat Vision newsletter. It is known that Michael B. Jordan is keen to adapt the Val-Zod incarnation of Superman. THR reports that the star had signed a feature first-look deal with Warner Bros. for his production company Outlier Society back in early 2019, after his film “Just Mercy” with Warner Bros. Jordan has gained a following after such stand-out roles as the antagonist Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in 2018’s “Black Panther” and Adonis Creed in “Creed” from 2015 and “Creed II” from 2018. Interestingly, Michael B. Jordan has already dipped into the world of DC Comics, having voiced Victor Stone / Cyborg in the 2013 animation film “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox”.
Borys Kit reported that Jordan’s Black Superman feature had fallen apart because Jordan wanted too much control over the project at a time when Warner Bros. was shifting away from actors having control as producers.
For context of the timeline, let’s go back and review the gestation of a Black Superman.
As early as September 2018 with Deadline’s article, Michael B. Jordan has been discussed as possibly donning the cape of Superman. Deadline reported that the studio had shifted away from Henry Cavill’s Superman towards Supergirl, with Oren Uziel working on the Supergirl script. In February 2021, Latina actress Sasha Calle was cast in her first film role as Supergirl for the upcoming “The Flash” movie set for 2022. Earlier in the week, Leslie Grace, a breakout star from “In the Heights”, was announced as being cast to play the titular Batgirl in an upcoming feature film for HBO Max.
With the Warner Bros. deal expiring, Jordan would later pair up with Amazon for a first-look film deal and overall television deal. In April 2021, while promoting his film adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse” for Amazon Prime, Michael B. Jordan dispelled talk that he would suit up as the next Superman: “It’s smart of DC to grab Ta-Nehisi to go ahead and adapt that project. He’s incredibly talented. It’s going to be worth checking out. I’m flattered that people have me in that conversation. It’s definitely a compliment, but I’m just watching this one.”
Jordan had given a similar non-committal response months ago to Jake Hamilton on Jake’s Takes during the “Without Remorse” media tour, saying “You hear the whispers and the rumours and stuff like that and it’s just a compliment. You know, I appreciate people that think about me in that type of way for these roles. I don’t really have anything more to give on that other than it’s just flattering and I appreciate it. But, you know, whoever they get or if it goes that way, I think it’ll be an interesting thing to see.”
With Jordan leaving the Warners tent, the Black Superman feature project was eventually passed to J.J. Abrams to bake, who brought in Ta-Nehisi Coates to offer his take and story. Hannah Minghella is also reported to be a producing partner with Abrams. As recently reported, Jordan is coming back to have his cake and eat it too, as he is expected to both produce the project and star in it as Superman himself, separate from the Abrams and Coates Black Superman project that is on a different time track. As THR reports, the HBO Max division of WarnerMedia approached Jordan and asked him to develop his take.
In February 2021, upon the announcement of a new Superman project, Coates had given an exclusive statement to Shadow and Act: “To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor. I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”
J.J. Abrams also had given a statement to the same website: “There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity.”
In an interview with Vulture in April 2015, Coates had explained his affinity for Marvel over DC: “I don’t know why I don’t read DC. I don’t even have a good argument. Here’s what I’ll say: For reasons right or wrong, you’ll see the lead character for DC is Superman. So, truth, justice, and the American way. And, not even consciously, I just kind of said, Hmm, maybe not. Then you pick up X-Men, right, and you see all these weirdos and freaks, you know? And you think, Oh, man, that kind of rings true for me. When I was a kid, I didn’t even think of Peter Parker as white. It didn’t even occur to me… I think that’s a statement on how race is not a real thing. I acknowledge it, I think of it as living in a different world, and I can imagine a world where that was not that important; the color of [Spider-Man’s] hair was just not that important. I thought of [Spider-Man] as a dude, an outsider. But I was always aware that Superman was white, and I don’t even know why.”
Coates, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellowship and a National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist, was recruited by Marvel in 2016 to write for the Black Panther comic book series.
In their coverage of the announcement, Deadline implied that Michael B. Jordan could be the favored actor for Abrams and Coates, due to Coates being attached to Ryan Coogler’s “Wrong Answer” starring Michael B. Jordan, which was announced back in June 2017. However, as confirmed now by THR, Jordan’s Superman project is in early development and will not overlap with the Abram’s Superman project.
In February 2019, Jordan discussed the Superman rumors with Oprah Winfrey Network.
“It’s tough. I hate being a businessman and understanding both sides of the situation. There is a huge upside to it, but being under that microscope, being picked apart and compared to so many different versions of Superman… I would rather do something original. I’ll be Calvin Ellis,” he said.
Jordan expressed being more open to playing the Calvin Ellis incarnation of Superman. Jordan told Winfrey that he is “a comic book guy.”
He explained, “There’s another version of Superman in another dimension that is Black already in the comic books that exists. I think the comic book purists would accept that more than me being Clark Kent from Kansas.”
In DC Comics, Calvin Ellis is the Superman of Earth-23. His first appearance was in Final Crisis no. 7 by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Tom Nguyen during the Final Crisis event back in 2009. On Earth-23, Ellis was a Black Kryptonian who also served as President of the United States. This Superman was modeled after President Barack Obama and boxer Muhammad Ali.
Since his discussion with Oprah, Jordan has changed his mind and is set on playing the Val-Zod incarnation of Superman instead. In DC Comics, Val-Zod is the Superman of Earth-2. His first appearance was in 2014’s Earth-2 no.19 by Tom Taylor, Nicola Scott, and Robson Rocha who all co-created Val. In the Earth-2: World’s End weekly mini-series, Val-Zod teams up with Earth-2’s Power Girl.
Comic writer Tom Taylor commented on Twitter: “HUGE. Created by me and @NicolaScottArt , Val-Zod, the #Superman of Earth 2, could soon soar on screens with Michael B. Jordan.” He added, “Serendipitously, @NicolaScottArt and I talked about Michael B Jordan when creating Val-Zod back in 2014. I’ll let Jimmy Olsen sum up my feelings on all this…” The panel shows Jimmy Olsen saying “Well… Holy Crap.”
Superman super-fan Sheraz Farooqi expressed his optimism for Jordan’s Superman project based on the reverence for Superman that Jordan has shown, and his desire to pursue preexisting Black versions of the Superman character rather than race-bending Clark Kent as Abrams and Coates are said to want to do.
David Goyer recently turned heads with his tell-all interview with The Hollywood Reporter, in which he talked about everything from the worst note from a studio he got to his thoughts on the casting for the “Krypton” show that involved race-bending one of Superman’s ancestors. Goyer told THR that Warner Bros. told him he needs to change Superman’s birth pod from being destroyed because he would not be able to go back to Krypton, and Goyer explained his reaction: “There was just this long pause and we said, “Krypton blew up. You saw 30 minutes of it!’”
Goyer confirmed that Regé-Jean Page, a rising Black British actor, was up for the role of Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El, in the Krypton series for Syfy, but Geoff Johns, the DC president at the time, pushed against the idea of Superman having a Black grandfather as well as rejecting a proposal for Adam Strange being gay or bisexual.
Goyer responded, “All I will say on this is that I was the one who wanted to cast Page. I thought he was amazing. I thought his audition was amazing. I advocated very hard to cast him in that role. I thought he was a fantastic actor back then and he continues to be a fantastic actor. I wanted him to play Superman’s grandfather.”
Kim Masters, who wrote a damning article about Ray Fisher’s misgivings about Joss Whedon and Warner Bros. for The Hollywood Reporter back in April, tweeted out that Geoff Johns was responsible for vetoing Regé-Jean Page being casted.
On July 1, 2020, 42 days after the release of the Snyder Cut was announced, Cyborg actor Ray Fisher boldly spoke up about workplace mistreatment and racism at Warner Bros. The actor wrote, “Joss Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable. He was enabled, in many ways, by Geoff Johns and Jon Berg. Accountability>Entertainment.”
Ray Fisher has been continuing to keep the heat on Walter Hamada, President of DC Films, and Toby Emmerich, who is Chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, for escaping the issues of mistreatment. It remains to be seen how positions will shift with AT&T spinning off WarnerMedia to be merged with Discovery Inc. David Zaslav is expected to be CEO of the merged Warner Bros. Discovery company.
As far as other chess pieces in the Hollywood game involving the comic book movie space with regard to DC Comics and the DC Extended Universe, Henry Cavill, the starring Superman actor of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”, has a busy dance card with projects lined up, such as an awaited season 2 of “The Witcher” on Netflix, reprising his role as Sherlock Holmes in “Enola Holmes 2” also for Netflix, lead role in the reboot of Lionsgate’s “Highlander” from Chad Stahelski, and a role in Sony Pictures’ “The Rosie Project”, a film adaptation of the Graeme Simsion’s book of the same name to be directed by Steve Falk.
On July 21, it was announced that Zack Snyder signed a two-year first-look deal with Netflix under The Stone Quarry production banner, and will be busy developing multiple projects with Netflix. This spells out that the “Snyderverse” is on hold for the time being, until the dust settles after the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. After all, Michael B. Jordan’s Superman project was just resurrected three years after being first seeded in 2018, and the “Snyder Cut” took four years to become reality. Anything can happen in Hollywood.
Currently, Tyler Hoechlin is wrapping up his first season playing “Superman & Lois” alongside Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch on the small screen. With Henry Cavill, Brandon Routh, Tyler Hoechlin, Michael B. Jordan, and potentially another star in the mix, fans can expect multiple Superman incarnations flying high in the sky.