‘Superman’ Director James Gunn Reveals a Few of the Inspirations for His Movie: ‘Too Many to Count’ | Photos

We’re still more than a year away from James Gunn’s “Superman,” but with production finally under way, the director is beginning to spill some details about the project.

So it is that on Wednesday, Gunn decided to give fans a glimpse at the various versions of Superman he’s drawing inspiration from. “Someone on Threads asked what’s inspiring our #Superman movie other than the Donner films,” Gunn said in a post on Instagram. “But there are too many to count.”

That didn’t stop Gunn from counting just a few of them of course, as you can see in the post which we’ve embedded below.

So in addition to “Superman: The Movie” (1978), Gunn dropped a lot of surprising deep cuts. In case some of you aren’t as obsessed, uh, we mean versed in “Superman” history as we are, we’ll be happy to explain what each image is and take a guess at what it could mean.

“Superman” Issue 1 (1939)

Superman Issue 1
DC Comics

First up is an image from “Superman #1” published in 1939, drawn by co-creator Joe Shuster. It might not mean anything for James Gunn’s “Superman,” but originally the Man of Steel couldn’t fly. Instead he jumped — that’s where “leap tall buildings in a single bound came from.” It wasn’t until 1940, first in a Superman radio show, then in a cartoon (more on that below) and then in “Superman” issue 10. Maybe we’ll be getting at least some reference to the very oldest school version of superman.

And for those asking, Superman actually debuted in “Action Comics” #1, published in 1938.

“All Star Superman” (2005-2008)

Second is a page from a 2008 issue of “All Star Superman,” written by Grant Morrison, in which Superman saves someone by convincing them not to die by suicide. It’s a great example of Superman’s most important power — his heart and compassion.

Fleischer Studios “Superman” Cartoons

Fleischer Superman Cartoon
Warner Home Entertainment

Next is a still from the groundbreaking “Superman” cartoons produced by animation legend Max Fleischer between 1941 and 1943. This is the cartoon we referenced above. So the story goes, it was easier to animate Superman flying than to animate him jumping. And since a whole lot of WWII-era children saw these cartoon in movie theaters, often (thanks to wartime rationing) before they’d read the comics, flight soon became one of Supes’ core powers.

“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” (1986)

Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow
DC Comics

This is panel from “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” a 2-part graphic novel written by Alan Moore (“Watchmen”) that served as the final “Superman” story before the 1986 reboot by John Byrne. An “imaginary story,” the branding DC Comics used for any Superman tale that wasn’t considered canon, it serves to wrap up pretty much every Silver Age storyline and finally give Superman and Lois Lane a happy ending.

The Superman Family

This should make fans of Superman particularly happy: A drawing of the “Superman Family” from a 1962 annual. That includes not only Superman, Lois Lane and Supergirl but Bizarro, the Legion of Super Heroes, Mr. Mxyzptlk and more. We assume this means we’re gonna be seeing some of the weirder and more fun characters from the history of Superman. But if we’re being honest, we really just hope they bring back Superman’s apparently super-receding hairline.

The New 52 Version of Young Superman

Gunn has suggested he’s taking an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to his version of Superman, and well, the New 52 — the much reviled 2011 continuity reboot featuring very uh, divisive new takes on the company’s characters — is part of that, unfortunately. This is a 2011 cover showing that particular continuity’s version of Superman when he was just starting out.

“Kingdom Come” (1996)

Apparently the kitchen sink also includes “Kingdom Come,” the 1996 pinnacle of dreary, 1990s grimdarkness written by Mark Waid and drawn by Alex Ross. This Elseworlds-branded story takes place in a dark future where an aging Justice League have largely retired, leaving the world to be ‘protected’ by a new generation of violent, sociopathic heroes barely distinguishable from the villains they fight. This sets up a confrontation between old and young — and of course Superman goes insane near the end (he’s talked down though). It’s… a lot and here’s hoping the influence on Gunn’s film is minimal.

“Superman: The Animated Series”

Superman The Animated Series
Warner Bros.

Speaking of 1996, that year also produced one of the greatest-ever versions of Superman, “Superman: The Animated Series.” Ceated by Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm, it’s a spinoff of the equally brilliant “Batman: The Animated Series.” It features Tim Daly as Superman/Clark Kent in what stands as one of the most well-rounded and complex characterizations yet seen. It also features Dana Delaney as the voice of Lois Lane and Clancy Brown as the definitive take on the Evil Billionaire Genius version of Lex Luthor.

“Superman for All Seasons” (1998)

A Superman for All Seasons
DC Comics

In what feels like a huge hint, Gunn also shared a panel from the 1998 miniseries “A Superman for All Seasons,” written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale. Similar to the work of “Astro City” creator Kurt Busiek, each issue is told from the point of view of someone who knows Superman intimately: His adopted father Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang.

“Action Comics” 2021

Finally, it’s a page from the most recent version of DC Comics’ “Action Comics,” notable for emphasizing a happily married Lois Lane and Superman. Aw, heartwarming!

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