After myriad rumors that he was in consideration for a film that would present Superman as a Black superhero, Michael B. Jordan is embarking on just such a project—but not the one people have been talking about. Specifically, Collider reports that the Black Panther and Fantastic Four star is developing, through his Outlier Society production company, a new HBO Max project centered, not on mainstream Superman Clark Kent, but alternate universe Superman Val-Zod.
Created in 2014 by Tom Taylor, Nicola Scott, and Robson Rocha, Kryptonian orphan Val-Zod is the Superman of Earth-2, a parallel universe where many of DC’s most iconic characters (including the original Clark/Kal-El) were lost in a battle with universe-scale heavy Darkseid. Initially suffering from agoraphobia due to a life spent traveling to Earth in a capsule, the character eventually took on the mantle of Superman, appearing throughout the run of the comic publisher’s Earth-2 line. He’s actually one of two alternate universe Black versions of Superman DC that introduced during the period; in 2009, Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnk created President Calvin Ellis, the Superman of Earth-23, who’s basically the answer to “What if Barack Obama was Superman?”
The obvious question, then, is why Jordan (who also reportedly worked on a Superman film project in 2019) is developing this project, focused on Val-Zod, instead of attaching himself to J.J. Abrams’, which Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing the script for. When asked about the Abrams-produced film back in April, Jordan was complimentary, saying, “It’s smart of DC to grab Ta-Nehisi to go ahead and adapt that project,” but added that “I’m flattered that people have me in that conversation…but I’m just watching on this one.” In trying to answer the question of the separate projects, Collider quotes an essay from Black Girl Nerds’ Jamie Broadnax, who states that sources have told her that Jordan is uninterested in getting involved in the discourse that would break out around making Kal-El/Clark Kent a Black man, as opposed to using one of the existing Black Superman characters D.C. already has.
Jordan is also, it’s worth noting, exceptionally busy at the moment: He’s currently prepping to star in and make his directorial debut on Creed III, and is developing a Static Shock film for Warner. It’s not clear as of yet whether the Val-Zod project is a film or a series, but a writer has reportedly been hired to work on a script.