“Superman: Legacy” will not just be a “Superman” in primary colors. It may be a “Superman” told by somebody who actually reads and thinks about contemporary superhero comics. No such film in this vein currently exists. Sure, you can watch “WandaVision” or “Hawkeye” and see the influence of Tom King, Matt Fraction or David Aja. But they only ever capture the surface. The distinctive taste of superhero comics, calibrated for a tiny audience of die-hards who spend all their time obsessively studying classic comics runs, is always missing. The Marvel films present a live-action hang-out fantasy in which our generation’s favorite actors quip with each other while fighting villains in the background. They do not ever make the viewer ask themselves, “Could this line said by a minor character reference a key moment from an issue in the 1940s, forever transforming our understanding of the character and their mythos?” Grant Morrison comics at their wildest are built different, you see.
James Gunn’s career as a director of comic book movies has been distinguished by his good sense to know exactly where to draw the line, pushing the audience right up to the edge of their comfort level. He may take a similar tack in drafting “Superman: Legacy,” tweaking the character just enough to intrigue audiences while doing his corporate mandated duty of giving them more of the same. But who knows, really? Gunn has referenced not just Morrison’s work on “All-Star Superman,” but their famously impenetrable “Batman” run. If Gunn’s ambition is to take advantage of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s incompetence to push a slate of groundbreaking superhero films through the pipeline before they can stop him, I hope he succeeds.