Henry Cavill will likely return as Superman in James Gunn’s DCU, and here’s how

henry cavill superman
Image via Warner Bros.

Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, it’s best for everyone to move on. Sure, we had our good times, but we had our bad times, too, and those can be hard to get past. Most of us have been through the times when we decide to give it one more shot, and there’s a second-honeymoon phase where it seems like it’s all coming together. Then reality starts throwing wild haymakers. One connects, and you wake up staring at the ceiling wondering where it went wrong.

Such has been the Henry Cavill/Superman situation. For five long years, things dragged on. Would he return to the DCU or was it time for everyone to go their separate ways? Just like kids in a divorce, fans’ hearts were dragged through the mud as they watched mom and dad trying to figure it all out. 

At first, Warner Bros. was ready to trash the entire cinematic universe after the box office nuke that was Joss Whedon’s Justice League. After Wonder Woman and Aquaman proved the DC properties were still profitable, things looked promising. Then Cavill wasn’t so keen to make a Superman cameo in Shazam!, and that’s when he decided to get his own place.

Sure, he would still come around, maybe pick us up on the weekends and swear that it was all WB’s fault because he was ready to put that cape back on at a moment’s notice. Then WB started flirting with that J.J. Abrams guy who seemed nice with his new idea for an African-American Superman that made our racist older brother, Brad, really uncomfortable for some reason. But Henry said that it was all okay, and we believed him because, deep down, we were certain he was leaving his shitty bachelor pad with the water bed behind and moving back home. 

One day, to our heart’s joy, that friendly pro wrestler said he had a surprise for us, and in walks Henry in a brand new Superman costume. He promised us that everything would be okay, and he, WB, and us would be together forever. And for a couple of months, we all sat together on the sofa, just the fans, WB, and Henry, a happy family once again. Oh, the fun we were going to have…until Uncle James moved in and told Henry this was his house now.

But maybe it’s for the best. WB and Henry haven’t gotten along for five years. Our hearts can’t take any more back and forth, and Henry seems really excited about playing with his Warhammer 40K toys, although it did seem kind of sudden. For his part, James has been fun, and he keeps saying he’ll let us play with his Lobo and Kingdom Come action figures. Now he says he’s even got a better, younger Superman that he’s working on. We miss Henry and all, but everybody seems pretty happy. Everyone except for Brad; he’s still scared of Black Superman. 

And scene.

Moving on

It took five years and one really depressing misfire, but the slate is being wiped clean. The sting of losing Cavill as Superman will linger until we finally see what James Gunn has in store for his first official DCU project. There will be some naysayers that will refuse to accept anyone in the role outside of Cavill, and who can blame them? He’s been the best to don the costume since Christopher Reeve, and some would argue Cavill was actually better. Sooner or later, a passing of the torch was inevitable. 

Marvel may be more inclined to tether an iconic character to a single actor, but DC and Warner Bros. don’t have that level of attachment to the performer. Whether it was now or down the road, Cavill would hand the cape and boots to a younger actor. Since this is the dawning of a new (and hopefully better) age under the DCU banner, it might as well be now.

Gunn and Cavill have made it 100 percent clear that his time as the Man of Steel has come to an end. A new actor will be the centerpiece of Gunn’s DCU, and the next movie will feature a younger Superman as he first begins his heroic journey in Metropolis, thus setting the stage for an entirely new Justice League sans Sndyer-verse.

While Cavill fans mourn his passing the mantle, there’s nothing that says we won’t see him and the rest of the 2017 Justice League cast again. After all, this is the DC Multiverse where everything and anything can happen. In Gunn’s own words

“In the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman’s life, so the character will not be played by Henry Cavill. But we just had a great meeting with Henry, and we’re big fans, and we talked about a number of exciting possibilities to work together in the future.”

That leaves the proverbial door wide open for Cavill to come back into the fold. Most people took that to mean he might be interested in playing a different character altogether. There’s plenty of speculation on that topic, and, indeed, there are many other roles Cavill would own. Realistically, though, the actor will forever be tied to one part—that of Superman. 

If he changes gears and heads to the greener pastures of Marvel, he would have little trouble being accepted as another comic book character. Under the DC banner, things are different. Once you’ve played the single most recognizable superhero in the history of superheroes—and were so good in the role that you’re forever tied to it—there’s no other role for you.

Judging by Gunn’s comments, there is still a place for Cavill in the DCU. Clearly, he won’t be the Earth-One Superman we all know and love, so where does that leave him? Fortunately, the comics have plenty of Supermen to choose from. With next year’s The Flash establishing the DC Multiverse and putting a bow on the Snyderverse, there are endless possibilities. 

Might I interest you in a major crossover event?

Image via DC Comics

When Cavill first returned to the DCU, it was reported that the biggest obstacle standing between him and his red cape was the former president of DC Films, Walter Hamada. Supposedly, he was not interested in having Cavill return, which is what kept the A-lister out of the DCU for five years. However, there’s a new story making the rounds, one that claims Hamada actually did want Cavill back, but not too soon. Hamada wanted to build toward a massive crossover event leading to a silver screen adaptation of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths from 1984.

Crisis management

Whether or not Gunn is the slightest bit interested in keeping any idea from the Hamada era is anyone’s guess. Be that as it may, the DC Crisis story arcs would be the best way to reintroduce not only Cavill as a Superman from an alternate Earth, but it would allow for the entire 2017 Justice League cast to return. 

The original ‘84 Crisis event was meant to join all the different timelines and comic eras together into one, cohesive continuity. Since DC had been a major player in the comics world since creating costumed superheroes in the 1930s, the characters and stories had undergone massive changes over the decades. DC also had recently purchased the rights to Shazam/Captain Marvel as well as the Charlton Comics characters, most notably Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and Peacemaker. Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the other universes, thus merging the eras and stories and giving DC’s writers a chance to start fresh. That sounds an awful lot like what Gunn is seemingly doing right now.

In 2005, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee crafted the next installment, Infinite Crisis. This is where we could get an alternate Superman from a different era that would be perfect for Cavill. After Earth-Prime (which was basically where the wholesome Golden Age stories took place) was destroyed, Alexander Luthor took that world’s Superman, Superboy, and a dying Lois Lane into an alternate dimension. It just so happens that Jesse Eisenberg played a character named Alexander Luthor, the son of the more famous Lex Luthor, in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. This would be a fitting way to bring him back into the mix alongside Cavill and Amy Adams.

Where Gunn would have a field day is Final Crisis. Written by Grant Morrison, here you have Darkseid and his minions of Apokolips covertly invading the planet by inhabiting Earthly bodies. Superman eventually recruits alternate versions of himself, and the Supermen of the Multiverse wage war on the vampire god, Mandrakk. In the end, it was Batman who landed the killing blow against Darkseid, but not before the god’s Omega Beams sent him through time. It’s that team of Supermen that would easily allow for every possible version of the Man of Steel to come together for a moment that would be pure gold on the silver screen.

Kingdom Come

There’s far more events than Crisis that Gunn could pull from. In fact, he’s already introduced one that would be perfect for an older, wiser Clark Kent—Kingdom Come.

With all the Superman reboot and Crisis on Infinite Earths news over the past week, it’s easy to see why most fans have forgotten that Gunn nearly confirmed Kingdom Come is at least on his mind. Not only did he post a cryptic picture to his Mastodon Social account, but he followed up with another Kingdom Come image on his Twitter and Instagram pages with the caption, “Making plans.”

In this other-world tale, the Golden Age heroes have all moved on, turning over superhero duties to the younger generation. Only, the new heroes don’t care for truth, justice, and the American way. They’re more savage and ruthless than their predecessors, blurring the lines between good and evil. Superman and the rest of the original Justice Society of America are forced to come out of retirement to set things right. As the title suggests, it’s got major religious overtones and a villain straight from the Book of Revelation, Magog. 

Setting up for DC’s answer to the No Way Home moment

Between Cavill, Brandon Routh, and the future Gunn-era Superman, we have the makings of an epic team up the likes of which DC fans have only dreamed of. The key to doing it correctly is to make the fans wait and forget. That could be exactly what Gunn is planning, which would fit his comments on a potential Cavill return. No, he won’t be back as THE Superman, but he could easily return as one of many other Supermen from across the Multiverse. The same goes for Routh. Give Gunn the time to establish a new Earth-One Man of Steel in his own franchise, and then Cavill and Routh can return to massive cheers. It worked for Spider-Man and even changed fans’ minds about seeing more Sony-produced Spidey flicks. 

A man can dream

The great part about having Gunn in the driver’s seat is that he is a proud, card-carrying member of the comic book community. Where Marvel Studios sees being a comic fan as a red flag for its writers and directors, Gunn appears to be the opposite. We will see what the future holds, but he’s likely to pay homage to the source material and give fans exactly what they want…when the time is right. To paraphrase Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the waiting is indeed the hardest part.