In my previous article I covered what game mechanics would be ideal for a Superman game; in this article, I’d like to focus on potential plot and characters. One of the great surprises of the Spider-Man game was the inclusion of some more modern (yet obscure) characters like Yuri Watanabe and Mr. Negative. To that end, I’m advocating that we shake up Superman’s character roster.
If we just see Superman at the Daily Planet with Jimmy and Lois for the fiftieth time, it’s going to be boring. Why not have Superman interact with Supergirl and Superboy? It changes up the age and gender dynamic of the group and we so rarely see those characters team up outside the comics. With Supergirl on TV and Superboy making his return in Young Justice, there’s no better time to explore the relationship between these great characters. Game developers could also add Krypto into the mix.
Because Superboy is a clone, plot potential is added by having Superman mentor this younger version of himself. That way we can get a Superman origin story without redoing the Superman origin. This would be a similar dynamic to Peter Parker mentoring Miles Morales.
Furthermore, Superboy is secretly a clone of Lex Luthor which yields plenty of storytelling opportunities. Superman could defeat Lex as an early boss, apparently killing him. The game would progress with Superman fighting new villains and gaining new allies like Superboy. But just when Clark and Superboy become close, Lex comes back from the grave and turns Superboy into one of his pawns.
Maxima should be Superman’s love interest. She’s obscure enough that the developers can take creative liberties with her. She’s not human like Lois or Lana so she can hold her own. And Maxima isn’t a super-heroine like Wonder Woman, so she isn’t restricted by audience expectations. We don’t know how righteous she is or the extent of her powers. That unknown quality is exciting!
Booster Gold is “the greatest hero you’ve never heard of.” In the future, a janitor working at a superhero museum steals one of the super suits and time-travels to present day Metropolis. Booster Gold is from the future; he has knowledge of crimes ahead of time. But unlike Superman, Booster is more concerned with his notoriety than saving the day. Side-quests could have Booster notify Superman of an impending crime and then once Superman solves the problem, Booster swoops in to snag all the credit.
The Toy-Man is an excellent villain because he strikes the right balance between funny and threatening. Toy-Man’s side quests could function in a similar vein to villains like Screwball or the Riddler.
Mr. Mxyzptlk could function like the Scarecrow from the Arkham series and deliver trippy reality-bending sequences.
Doomsday could be like Bane in the first Arkham game–a boss that becomes a standard enemy. Someone could be making Doomsday clones and part of the plot is to find out who.
Another evil clone is Superman’s iconic evil double, Bizarro. Perhaps they could make Bizzaro more of a corrupting force like Mr. Negative. There could be hoards of zombie-like Bizzaro people for Superman to fight.
Parasite has the ability to drain Superman’s powers and use them as his own. He might make a good tutorial boss. The players would open with Superman being drained of his powers then re-learn how to use all his fantastic abilities before fighting Parasite.
David Graves is bad guy like Mr. Negative in that he has a great design, unique powers, a tragic backstory and hasn’t really been fully utilized. Graves has similar abilities to the Dementors from Harry Potter. He can summon parasitic spirits which cause their victims to freeze and experience the worst moments of their life. This is another villain who can deliver reality-warping levels. The nightmare sequences could also deliver backstory. What is Superman afraid of? What is the most painful memory for the man who can’t feel physical pain?
Manchester Black, is a little known Superman villain who only needed one storyline to make an impression. What makes him a great villain is that he can match Superman in terms of power but also has an inverted ideology. Just watch Superman vs the Elite if you need any more reason to include Manchester Black.
Metallo is a longtime Superman baddie with a heart made from kryptonite. Aside from his cool Terminator-esque design, I just like the idea that he literally has poison pumping through his veins. What gives him life brings Superman death.
One thing that the Batman and Spider-Man games lacked were big, screen-filling bosses. An adversary like Titano would allow Superman to fight a boss worthy of Shadow of The Colossus or God of War III.
Atomic Skull is another obscure foe who could make a good boss if given an updated design.
Lobo could be a chase-themed villain like Black Cat, where players would fly after him on his rocket-cycle. But, if developers are going to include Lobo, I would suggest updating his design (which hasn’t aged well). Lobo is the Spanish word for wolf, so why not take inspiration from the Vatos Locos or Mexican gangs. They should get the voice actor who played Vass in Far Cry 3 to voice Lobo.
There are many evil versions of Superman. While I am a fan of General Zod, he has been used a lot. I’d advocate for using Cyborg-Superman. His detailed tech-heavy design would look fantastic on a triple-A console. Also his identity as Superman’s evil uncle, Zor El would add a layer of drama.
Brainiac makes the most sense as a final boss. He’s a classic villain that’s open to many artistic interpretations. Brainiac also serves as a storytelling tool. Brainiac’s force fields can explain why Superman can’t fly into restricted areas. Brainiac can also build robot bodies and summon alien creatures from his collection to act as enemy types. I’ve included enough obscure villains on this list to make the game feel new but at the end of the day, there’s nothing more iconic than Superman vs Brainiac.