Now that Zack Snyder's Justice League has made its waves on HBO Max, reports have surfaced that Warner Bros. are ready to move on from Snyder's vision of the DCEU entirely, with plans to recast Superman with a new film that will take place in its own Universe.
While a new Superman hasn't been cast yet, reports indicate that producer JJ Abrams and screenwriter Ta-Nehisi Coates are planning to cast a Black lead in the role of Kal-El, a marked departure from previous portrayals of the character on screen.
But in comics, there have been several depictions of Superman as a Black man, and not simply replacement heroes. There's at least one currently active, even prominent version of Kal-El himself who is a Black man - and he's one of the most powerful Supermen across all of DC continuity.
Last sons of Krypton
See, the DC Universe isn't just a 'universe'. It's an Omniverse - a newly-christened term for DC's all-encompassing concept of infinite timelines, worlds, realities, and characters. And yes, even different - sometimes wildly different - versions of familiar characters.
The ongoing 'Infinite Frontier (opens in new tab)' era puts the Omniverse at the heart of the current DCU, even bringing some of those alt-heroes together alongside characters of the mainstream DC Universe, to form their own reality-spanning super-team called Justice Incarnate.
But the concept of DC exploring reimagined versions of popular heroes goes back all the way to the Silver Age of the late '50s and early '60s. And through the decades, one of the heroes who has most gotten the alt-universe treatment is Superman (especially in the '90s and early '00s when DC was still using the 'Elseworlds' branding for stories using such a concept), including the version of Kal-El who heads up Justice Incarnate.
And it's that version of Superman - whose history is remarkably different from the core Clark Kent Superman's backstory - who may provide at least some inspiration for the next movie to take on the hero. While there are elements of this version of Superman that may be hard to translate directly to film, we'll break down everything you need to know about Kalel/Calvin Ellis, the Superman of Earth-23.
Who is Calvin Ellis?
Introduced in 2009 (opens in new tab)'s Final Crisis #7 (opens in new tab) from writer Grant Morrison and artist Doug Mahnke, Calvin Ellis was one of many versions of Superman to join the core DC Universe version in taking on a cosmic threat against the entire Multiverse. Unlike many of the previously seen or somewhat faceless versions of Superman who entered the fray, Calvin Ellis got some particularly interesting backstory, showing the role he plays in his own reality.
On Earth-23, not only is Calvin Ellis Superman, he's also the president of the United States - a literal President Superman.
Though he has similar origins - sent to Earth from his dying home world of Krypton and raised by the Ellis family to be a hero - Calvin Ellis's trajectory and method of helping Earth almost couldn't be more different from the mainstream Superman.(opens in new tab)
If you notice the timing of his debut, it's no coincidence the character appeared shortly after Barack Obama became the first Black US president. In fact, co-creator Grant Morrison has stated that Calvin Ellis is specifically inspired by both Obama and legendary boxer and political activist Muhammed Ali.
DC rebooted its continuity shortly after Final Crisis (opens in new tab), with Morrison taking over Superman's Action Comics (opens in new tab) title. Morrison brought Ellis into their Action Comics run, and then their Multiversity (opens in new tab)title which explored different worlds of DC's Multiverse.
This eventually led to the character branching out into appearances in numerous specials as well as guest appearances in Justice League and other core DC titles - culminating in his participation in the recent Dark Nights: Death Metal (opens in new tab) event which established the Omniverse and paved the way for the current 'Infinite Frontier' era.
Most recently, Ellis has become a member and leader of the new Justice Incarnate team, which brings together heroes from all across the Omniverse to protect the fundamental existence of reality. Ellis himself recruited the core DC Universe's representative for Justice Incarnate - Barry Allen, the Flash.
Calvin Ellis in the DC film universe
Here's the thing - we can't say whether Calvin Ellis (and not Clark Kent, simply played by a Black man) will actually appear in the new Superman movie, or even play a role in it. On the other hand, there's a lot going on in DC movies that may indicate aspects of Calvin Ellis's history, and even his current position as leader of Justice Incarnate, could be incorporated into whatever form Superman next takes on the big screen.
Reports indicate that the new Superman film may be a period piece set at some point in the 20th Century (sounds weird to say it that way, when you're as old as us!), inspired by the original Superman comics which largely depicted Superman as an enemy of crooked businessmen and organized crime, and a defender of common folks first and foremost.
The same reports indicate that the new DC movie continuity, which may or may not include the new Superman film, will keep only Gal Gadot/Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa/Aquaman, and Ezra Miller/Barry Allen from the previous Justice League cast. Some of these concepts reportedly may even tie into the upcoming Flashpoint film - which is said to span DC's Multiverse, down to having multiple versions of Bruce Wayne/Batman appear.
Remember how we said Calvin Ellis made his debut in the lead-up to DC continuity being rebooted? That all happened as a result of the comic book Flashpoint (opens in new tab), which followed Final Crisis and led to the onset of the 'New 52' era - which is when Ellis first became more prominent in DC storylines.
It's too soon to speculate exactly how it could all work, but considering DC is already bringing multiple versions of Batman into Flashpoint, could they bring in a new Superman too - perhaps the version who will lead the new Superman movie?
If so, there's nothing to stop Warner Bros. and DC from taking a cue from Calvin Ellis and making the new Superman part of, or even the leader of, a Multiversal version of the Justice League just as in comics.
And - we're going way out on a limb with some wishful thinking on our part here - if DC does that, what's to say that 20th century period piece concept couldn't lead to a 21st century Superman status quo as President?
Far-fetched, we know, but the story's already been told in comic books, and we can dare to dream of President Superman, right?
Whatever happens next, you can bet JJ Abrams, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the director and actor they hire for their vision of Superman will likely be a significant departure from the Snyder/Cavill take - and perhaps even the still influential and beloved Christopher Reeve version.
Maybe the new film will take inspiration from some of the best Superman stories of all time.