What if Superman didn’t crash land in Kansas, but in the Soviet Union instead? The DC Comics hero may be as American as apple pie—well, as American as a preternaturally invincible alien from Krypton can be—but the concept of a Soviet Superman may be familiar to comic book fans.
A new movie could explore an alternative universe in which Superman’s spaceship ends up on a Ukrainian farm in the Soviet Union instead of the Kent family’s Kansas cornfields, and the Man of Steel is raised to be a soldier for Russia’s own, Joseph Stalin. The story takes take its inspiration from a three-part comic book series titled Superman: Red Son.
Though the graphic novels were published in 2003, the subject matter is topical, to say the the least, given the recent ties—and animosity—between the U.S. and Russia.
Speculation about the proposed film broke on Twitter Tuesday when comic book writer Mark Millar, whose credits also include Kick-Ass and The Secret Service, revealed movie studio Warner Bros. had reached out to at least two directors to adapt his graphic novel about that very scenario.
So just what is Red Son and where would it sit in the already-existing Superman movie franchise? Let’s take a closer look:
What is ‘Superman: Red Son’?
In Superman: Red Son, Superman’s origin story changes completely. In lore, the superhero is sent by his parents from the planet Krypton to Earth, lands in the Soviet Union, instead of Kansas. He is raised to be a state-controlled super-soldier, serving the will of Stalin.
In the 1950s, as the U.S. and Soviets are locked in an arms race, Stalin and his compatriots unleash their secret weapon.
The alternative-history comic book blends real-life figures like Stalin and John F. Kennedy with a plethora of DC Comics heroes and villains including Batman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor.
Red Son was originally released as a three-issue comic book series in 2003. It was later consolidated in a 2004 paperback book and again in 2009 as a hardcover book and is considered a modern classic by many comic book fans.
Is it being turned into a movie?
Possibly. Mark Millar said Warner Bros. had been talking to film directors about adapting his comics in a conversation with Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts:
Interestingly, Vogt-Roberts said he once pitched Warners a movie based on Red Son but it was presumably rejected.
Millar replied that he has heard the studio has reached out to at least “two [different] pals” in the last month.
He added, “This truly is Putin’s America,” a nod to the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the timeliness of Red Son in the current political climate.
In another tweet, Millar said he wrote the comic as a comment on President George W. Bush’s term in the White House:
If Warner Bros. is moving ahead with a Red Son movie, it would be without Millar’s approval. The comic book writer said he would be “concerned” about the studio’s adaptation of the film, noting that he—like many critics and audiences—did not enjoy WB’s recent string of superhero movies from the DC Comics family, referring to Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
Adding more intrigue to the rumors, Den of Geek reports that the proposed film is envisioned as a live-action feature.
If Warners does plan to adapt the film, would its current Superman, Henry Cavill, appear in the alternative timeline? In the months preceding his first Superman outing in 2013’s Man of Steel, Cavill said he took some inspiration from Millar’s take on the character.
A standalone film outside the auspices of the DC movieverse could be compelling, but Cavill would likely prove too synonymous with Zack Snyder’s ongoing saga, which next teams up Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and more in November’s Justice League. A radical new casting choice distancing Red Son from the current series would be the best way for this movie to work.