Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett offers a way for DC Entertainment to revitalize Superman across media.

Recently on the CBR website, I came across the article Does Superman Need to Be White? which reported on rumors actor Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger in Black Panther) was "under consideration" to play Superman in a movie.   Which is in and of itself so much so what.  I take no stock in rumors (Joe Quesada Responds To Disney Closing Marvel Comics Rumor) and have sub-zero interest in reading about someone’s fantasy movie casting choices.  Fantasy Casting is on my Most Irritating Things Fans Do list, along with Fan Theories, Toxic Shipping and Fan Lists.

What got my attention was learning while being interviewed by Oprah he expressed interest in playing Calvin Ellis, the Superman of Earth-23 (whose secret identity is President of the United States and was created by Morrison and Doug Mahnke for 2009's Final Crisis) in a movie; Michael B. Jordan Wants to Play Calvin Ellis, the Superman of Earth-23. So Who Is Calvin Ellis? Now other than involving Oprah, there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about a working member of the Screen Actor’s Guild declaring interest in playing a superhero in a theoretical movie. Over the last decade that’s become a common occurrence. But what makes this incident actually interesting is it just might provide a solution for what is commonly known as The Problem with Superman.

While it’s generally agreed the Superman franchise has an existential problem, opinions vary on what it is (he’s too dull, powerful, old fashioned, etc.); just Google “Problem With Superman” and see for yourself.  But most of them boil down to while still an instantly recognizable character, Superman is nowhere as popular as he once was. The Superman sigil is supposed to be "the most instantly recognizable symbol of any superhero," and on The 100 Most Iconic Fictional Characters list he’s #1.  But Trendrr's Top 10 Hottest Cartoon Characters, "a list of the top 10 famous and hottest cartoon characters of the world in 2019" puts Superman at #10.

At DC Entertainment when it comes to movies, merchandising and licensing, Batman has been more popular and profitable than Superman since the 1980s. But some believe if adjusted correctly, Superman could be more appealing to a modern mass audience.  No one has figured out how to do it (the recent Superman movies can attest to that), but anything is possible.  The fact one of the highest-grossing movies of all time is about Aquaman, who until recently was the laughingstock of the superhero set, is proof of that.

Given the potential financial reward if they could figure it out (more money than you could possibly imagine) I assumed DC would keep on making Superman movies. But maybe not, given the highly publicized rumors (which I take no stock in) that Supergirl May Get Canceled: Replaced by Superman.  The corporate thinking might be TV would be a less expensive way of keeping Superman in front of the public, or even that in today’s world he’s a character better suited for the small screen.

Which, finally, brings me back to Calvin Ellis.  I've said since his debut he deserved a comic of his own, even if it just a mini-series, preferably written by co-creator Grant Morrison. I really wish this literally went without saying but, no, not because of inclusivity and diversity, but because it would be a Superman comic I've never read before.  It would be a Superman comic no one has ever read before.  Just Imagine the Internet reaction and the avalanche of free press that would follow.

Which would create a demand for the comic among the general public which would send them to comic books shops for the very first time, providing us sales (and maybe some new regular customers) and profits for DC.  From the comics, sure, but then there’s the trade paperback which would undoubtedly be an instant bestseller. One that would quickly become an evergreen book that would never stop selling in comic shops book stores, libraries, and schools. Then of course there would be the merchandise...

And all of that would the tiniest of potatoes compared to what a Calvin Ellis Superman movie starring Michael B. Jordon might do. The almost unimaginable (I certainly could never have imagined it) success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was proved different versions of established characters from alternative worlds aren’t just for fans anymore.  DC might be worried having multiple versions of Superman would dilute the brand, but that’s last century thinking; if anything, it would help rebuild it for this century.  Certainly such a movie would be a gamble, but one that could have a billion dollar-plus payoff. 

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of