While Superman has been portrayed multiple times in live-action throughout the decades, several TV shows and movies have also included various takes on the evil Superman from the comics. As the last son of Krypton has been brought to life from panel to screen, Superman has had to go up against several of his iconic villains. Whether it is Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Doomsday, General Zod, or Metallo, all of them have provided a different challenge to the Man of Steel. However, one of the more complex baddies that Superman has had to deal with is when he turns evil or meets corrupted versions of himself.
With Superman being one of the most powerful beings in the entire DC Universe, there have been stories that have had to introduce twisted versions of Clark Kent. For example, an evil Superman has sometimes resulted from Clark getting cloned or facing doppelgangers from an alternative timeline or universe. Those stories have also been used outside the comics for Superman adaptations, whether it be in animation, video games, or live-action. Even though none of the Superman TV shows or movies have featured an evil Superman as the main character, they have come into play for recurring arcs.
Whenever Clark has to face a version of himself that has gone in the opposite direction, it does give him a challenging threat. Even with all of his powers, it is not always easy for Superman having to take down himself, which pushes the stories to new levels. As Superman keeps being adapted for live-action, there are bound to be stories where the storytellers do incorporate evil versions of the Man of Steel. How does every live-action version of the evil Superman differ from one another?
Evil Superman In Superman III
Christopher Reeve’s take on the Man of Steel was the first time an evil Superman had ever been depicted on the big screen. In 1983’s Superman III, Reeve’s Clark got exposed to synthetic Kryptonite that had a completely different effect on Superman. Rather than make him weak like traditional Kryptonite, it instead began to destroy Superman’s good personality as he became reckless, selfish, and dangerous. Eventually, Superman got split into two, with his darker twisted side having his own body. This evil Superman was obviously loosely based on Bizarro, excluding the Frankenstein’s monster aspect of the comic counterpart. By the end of Superman III, the original Man of Steel managed to take down his corrupted doppelganger.
The Superman Clone In Lois & Clark
In Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman season 1, episode 18, titled “Vatman,” another Bizarro-inspired version of Dean Cain’s Superman got introduced. The episode featured a mysterious new Superman who was saving people outside of Metropolis despite Clark still being in the city. It turned out that Lex Luthor had managed to make his own Superman clone, programmed to resent the original one. Even though he wasn’t Bizarro, this Superman was created to replace the real Man of Steel. Hilariously enough, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman really played up the father/son angle as the clone had the mind frame of a bratty child. “Vatman” concluded with the clone and Superman making peace, as the former learned what he really was before passing away.
Bizarro In Smallville Season 7
Smallville season 6 and 7 introduced a new version of Bizarro, with Tom Welling portraying Clark’s vicious doppelganger. The last Phantom Zone wraith that Clark was trying to re-capture was a Kryptonian lab experiment that had the power to take over any host’s body. However, once the Zoner got to Earth, it could only live inside a human body for a limited time. Once it came into contact with Clark, the Zoner managed to get a body of its own by copying Kal-El’s DNA. By taking Clark’s DNA, Bizarro also got all of his powers and memories. Even though Kryptonite made Bizarro stronger, the yellow sun is when his face would get distorted, similar to what he looks like in the comics. As Bizarro was trying to replace Clark and take over his life, he was eventually destroyed after getting overloaded by blue Kryptonite.
Ultraman In Smallville Season 10
Bizarro wasn’t the only evil Superman that Welling got to play as he got another go in Smallville season 10. In episodes “Luthor” and “Kent,” Welling played the Earth-2 version of Clark, who the Kents never found in this reality. Clark was instead discovered by Lionel Luthor, who raised him to become ruthless and sadistic by becoming Ultraman. Throughout Clark’s life on Earth-2, he killed Lex and had a dark romance with his stepsister Tess Mercer. In Ultraman’s final episode on Smallville, Clark tried to get his evil doppelganger to seek redemption and turn things around on Earth-2. While “Kent” ended with Ultraman seemingly taking Clark’s word into account, the Smallville season 11 tie-in comic revealed that he only got worse once he was back in his world.
The Knightmare Superman In The DCEU
While Henry Cavill’s Superman in the DCEU never turned evil, Zack Snyder’s Justice League stories set up an alternative timeline where Kal-El turned on humanity. Starting in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne began having visions of an apocalyptic future where Superman was now ruling the planet. In Zack Snyder’s Justice League franchise, Darkseid would be the one to break Superman. The Snyder Cut had Cyborg see a vision where Darkseid had murdered Lois Lane with his Omega Beam, which broke Superman. By losing the woman Superman loved, Darkseid used the Anti-Life Equation and corrupted Clark’s mind as they took over Earth together. Had the Justice League sequels happened, fans would have gotten to see a full-on evil Superman before the Knightmare timeline got erased after The Flash traveled back in time.
Earth-1 “Superman” In The Arrowverse
When it comes to the Arrowverse, they have had Tyler Hoechlin play a number of evil Superman variants through his time in the franchise. In the 2018 crossover titled Elseworlds, Hoechlin played an evil Earth-1 version of the Man of Steel, but with a twist. Rather than being a Clark doppelganger, it was a transformed John Deegan, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny, who had used the Book of Destiny to make himself Superman in this universe. That is how the iconic black-and-silver suit from The Reign of Supermen got introduced in the Arrowverse. Once they destroyed the Book of Destiny, the Earth-1 Superman turned back into Deegan, disfiguring his face, making him look more like Doctor Destiny from the comics.
Evil Superman From John Henry Irons’ Earth On Superman & Lois
Following Elseworlds, Hoechlin’s second go at playing an evil Superman came in Superman & Lois, as he has been playing a mysterious and villainous version of Clark from another universe. Throughout John Henry Irons’ arc in Superman & Lois season 1, he has been trying to warn the people of Earth-Prime that their Man of Steel will one day turn on them too. There have been flashbacks to establish what is going on with the other Superman on his Earth, including the fact that he killed Lois Lane, who was John’s wife in that universe. That is how the black-and-silver suit came back into play following the costume’s debut in Elseworlds.
Earth-Prime’s Superman has now taken a similar path, even though it will be temporary. In Superman & Lois season 1, episode 11, titled “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events,” Clark submitted to his Kryptonian half-brother Morgan Edge, a.k.a. Tal-Rho. The episode ended with Morgan using the Eradicator machine to make Superman turn evil. Even though this won’t be permanent, this is the latest version of an evil Superman in live-action for the time being. With all the different takes on Superman going evil, it remains to be seen where that concept may be used in future DC properties.
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