Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder and co-writer / producer David S. Goyer are self-confessed comic book nerds, the kind of guys who casually reference classic Superman covers and are more than happy to sneak geeky references into a multi-million dollar superhero movie. After speaking to the two of them for our spoiler podcast and video interviews, we’ve collated some of the stand-out bits of geekery from Kal-El’s cinematic return. Any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comment box below.
“When Zod’s tearing the building apart with his heat vision, there’s a Be Calm And Call Batman sign on the wall there, just really small,” says Snyder, “You might even have to stop the movie to see it but it’s definitely in there. That’s a Double Negative Productions [Easter Egg]. D Neg is the visual effects company here in London that worked on all the Dark Knight movies, and they definitely did that. And [when I saw it], I was like, ‘That’s awesome.’”
“[The Utopia Casino Easter Egg], yeah, well that’s John 'D.J.' Des Jardin, my visual effects supervisor,” says Snyder. “He snuck that in there and I was like, ‘That’s awesome.’”
In the comics, the owner of the Utopia Casino was Tony Gallo, an unscrupulous businessman from Nevada involved in first bringing Superman into contact with Kryptonite. As we all know, Snyder was keen to announce that there was none of the green glowing crystal to be seen in Man Of Steel, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t crop up next time around – watch this video interview for more details – and perhaps Gallo might have something to do with it…
Incidentally, John 'D.J.' Des Jardin has previously worked with Snyder on Watchmen and Sucker Punch, and boasts one of the weirdest pieces of IMDB trivia out there: “Famous for making the word ‘gadzooks’ popular.” Huh. We always thought that was Pinky & The Brain.
Sometimes there are comics within comics, and Blaze Comics are just that: comics within the Superman universe, best known for sharing the adventures of Booster Gold, a showboating one-time Justice Leaguer who rocks sweet yellow shades and the ability to time travel. Amongst other powers, he can also fly, but when you can travel through time, other superpowers tend to pale in significance.
Though it’s fun to read a little too much into these references, Snyder, alas, has some cold water to pour on any easily-excited heads. “[On the Blaze Comics reference…] it’s all stuff that we talk about and we go, ‘Oh that’s fun, we should do that.’” In other words, these are not set-in-stone sequel seeds, but heck, let’s theorise wildly anyway. Booster Gold for the sequel! Get Eric Martsolf back from Smallville! Or… someone else!
“It does say Wayne Enterprises on the satellite, but you can only see half of it,” explains Snyder. “I really just wanted to say, ‘This is the DC Universe.’ And whether or not it’s the Wayne Enterprises of Chris Nolan’s movies or whether it’s the Wayne Enterprises of DC in general, that’s yet to be seen.”
“But that particular reference was there, for me to say also to Chris, ‘Thanks for helping me out with this. You’re an awesome and cool guy and I appreciate it.’ But it also means for me that Batman’s out there somewhere. There is a Batman and he is out there… somewhere.”
In the comics, S.T.A.R. Labs is a research organisation blessed with a S.H.I.E.L.D.-like acronym (it’s short for Science and Technology Advanced Research, by the way). In the film you learn that Richard Schiff’s world-saving scientist Dr. Emil Hamilton works for them, which is important when you realise that much-loved DC hero Cyborg (real name: Victor Stone) gets all his mechanical equipment from their science folk. So far, all Goyer has said on the S.T.A.R. Labs / Cyborg connection is this: “Yes, that’s kind of a connection to Cyborg.” S.T.A.R. Labs scientists have also, of course, provided occasional medical assistance to Superman himself in the comics and on TV, and can often be found working hard to figure out Supes’ powers for mankind’s greater good.
The trailer revealed a brief glimpse of a LexCorp Tower, but in the film itself the logo had changed to a darker blue number and managed to crop up in more places than just atop a tall building. The first (and most subtle) sighting of Lex Luthor’s conglomerate’s stranglehold is when Clark Kent is walking up to his family home after hitchhiking his way there. Hitchhiking on – you guessed it – a LexCorp truck.
You then have to wait until Metropolis for more LexCorpery, with the petrol truck proudly boasting the bald baddie’s stamp, and the construction site where Zod and Superman battle flying the Luthor flag with a huge banner declaring “LexCorp: The Future Is Now!”
With the events of Zod’s little visit to Earth resulting in such carnage and Lex obviously already in the building business, you might presume he’ll be involved in the city’s renewal. Could that be his way in to a sequel...?
In his interview with Ain’t It Cool News, David S. Goyer talked about the intriguing open sarcophagus we saw when Clark was wandering the Kryptonian scout ship:
“I did intentionally leave some loose ends, not as sequel bait, but just because I thought they were interesting… When Clark goes into the scout ship, which sort of becomes the Fortress Of Solitude, you see four cryogenic sarcophagi for the crew that piloted that ship 18,000 or 20,000 years ago. There's a shot there – and, it's funny, at one point Zack took it out, but I cried ‘Uncle!’, and he put it back in – but you see there are four pods: three of them have skeletons in them, but one is open and there is no skeleton. Zack had missed it the first time he read the script. I pointed it out to him, and he was like, ‘Okay, that's interesting. That's an interesting loose end.’”
Off the back of the prequel Man Of Steel comic, many people have suggested this could be Supergirl, who could appear either in the sequel or as a spin-off. For the sake of making Super-fans clap with glee, let’s hope Helen Slater gets a cameo at some point.
- As Smallville fans will tell you, Pete Ross is a key character in The Big Blue Scout’s most recent TV series – where he was played by Sam Jones III – but what they may not know is that he’s originally a character from the Superboy comics, again playing the young-Clark’s-best-buddy-and-secret-keeper role. In Man Of Steel, he grows up to be the red-haired IHOP worker, but let’s just say he counts as a Smallville reference anyway.
A definite shout-out to the series is the lingering shot on the sign for Sullivan’s Truck & Tractor Repair, which hints at Clark’s other close chum, Chloe Sullivan (played by Allison Mack). “Yep, that is from the show, the shop,” Snyder explains. “It’s funny, because with those kind of things I wasn’t trying to homage it too hard, but it’s in the mythology, so you have to give it a little bit of love.”
Elsewhere, Whitney Fordham is mentioned: in the show she’s a love rival for Lana Lang’s affections. Lang herself is included as a teenager with the casting of Jadin Gould in the role and the “What, are you his girlfriend?” line on the bus.
Martha Kent’s photo album contains a snap of a young Clark Kent winning first prize at a school science fair. In the background, you can see the name of the educational establishment is Weisinger Primary School, so-called to honour the work of the legendary Superman editor Mort Weisinger. His particularly purple purple patch overseeing the comics was during the Silver Age of the 1950s and ‘60s, where a lot of Kryptonian culture was firmly established, including the Phantom Zone and the ill-fated planet’s environment. He also co-created other DC Comics characters, including Aquaman, Green Arrow and Johnny Quick.
The understatement-loving girl who says “He’s kinda hot” at the end of the film is called Carrie Farris, which seems like a hint at Carol Ferris, the Green Lantern’s other half (as played by Blake Lively in the 2011 movie). Carol goes on to become Star Sapphire (pictured above), a superheroine who is sometimes villainous, sometimes virtuous. How this will fit in with any potential Justice League movies – or a Green Lantern reboot – remains to be seen.
Then there’s the shattered moon of Wegthor in the skies above Krypton. This is a nod to Jax-Ur, a Kryptonian sent to The Phantom Zone in the comics for accidentally firing a nuclear warhead at the originally spherical satellite. In Man Of Steel, Jax-Ur is the scientist assistant to Zod (played by Smallville alum Mackenzie Gray), and he’s the one who works out the Growth Codex is hidden inside Kal-El.
Smallville’s high school American Football team is named here as The Smallville Spartans, which is in honour of Zack Snyder’s 300.
And though Man Of Steel has garnered a reputation of being humourless, there are a few visual jokes you may have missed, including one when Superman is slung against a “106 days since the last accident” sign on a construction site and both the “1” and the “6” fall off, leaving… “0 days since the last accident.”
“I’m glad you saw that, by the way,” says Snyder. “Whenever I watch the movie I see that and I’m like, ‘Is anyone seeing this, because I think it’s funny, no? Okay.’ Maybe it’s something for a second viewing or whatever.”