Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Superman Movie Could Be a Period Piece

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Superman Movie Could Be a Period Piece
Image: DC Comics

Early reports say that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ already much-anticipated Superman movie could take place in the 20th century, which offers some very interesting options for what’s going to be an extremely interesting movie.

This information comes from a piece today from the Hollywood Reporter, which clarifies the process is still so early that this is merely a possibility rather than Coates’ definitive pitch, since “Coates isn’t expected to deliver his Superman script until mid-December.” But here are the vague details as of now: “The Superman film appears to be moving onto its own track and won’t be part of the [DCEU], as of now. Sources tell THR that Coates is crafting a Kal-El in the vein of the original Superman comics and will have the protagonist hail from Krypton and come to Earth. While the story is currently being crafted and many details could change, one option under consideration is for the film to be a 20th century period piece.”

There are some very interesting potential stories to be told about a Black Superman throughout the 20th century even if “period piece” is purposefully vague. I can imagine a movie that takes place in 1978, the year the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie came out, to directly compare and contrast how the two heroes would be received by the world. But it could be even more powerful to see the challenges faced by Coates’ Superman during the character’s original comic setting in the 1940s or during the civil rights movement of the ‘60s.

When Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster first created Superman in 1938, the last son of Krypton was, for lack of a better term, a Social Justice Warrior rather than a superhero who fought supervillains. He caught criminals, sure, but he also stopped fought poverty, protected victims of abuse, and in a 1946 radio serial even took on the Ku Klux Klan. Bringing Superman back to those roots could be absolutely fascinating to see on screen, especially compared to the spectacle that was Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Again, this is all merely speculation for now, so anything is possible. The prolific Coates has plenty of time to consider all his storytelling options.

As a reminder, this project was announced just this past February and will be produced by J.J. Abrams, but has no director attached just yet. The report notes on that front, “Insiders say Warners and DC are committed to hiring a Black director to tackle what will be the first cinematic incarnation of Superman featuring a Black actor.”