When it comes to Superman, some of his better comics come from Elseworlds stories, ones that hold no particular canon and are just isolated narratives. Kingdom Come and Red Son are chief among those, the latter of which finally got a well deserved animated treatment. It tells a tale of what would happen if Superman landed in Russia rather than Kansas.
As you’d expect there’s more than a little politics involved in it, but it focuses far more on the different ideologies rather than which country is the best. It’s a very thought-provoking piece that the film does a good job of adapting, but there are a few things that were left on the cutting board.
10 Stayed The Same: Lex Luthor As President
Lex is one of the key characters in the whole comic, once again being the main antagonist for big blue, or in this case, big red. The film doesn’t have him stand out right away, as the comics do, but his role isn’t marginalized.
What makes this take so great is that Lex and Superman aren’t all that different in this universe, both striving for the same things, just going about it in very different ways. In the end, they are both after control, the only difference is that at least Lex is honest about it.
9 Differed: Relationship With Stalin
In the comic their relationship is rather amicable, Stalin treating Superman like a son, a fact that angers Stalin’s illegitimate son. In the movie that differs, pair arguing quite often and having a very contentious relationship, especially over Stalin’s use of slave camps. It’s a minor detail that grows into a larger one as it paints Superman in a very different light than the book, making him more free-thinking, but also power-hungry when you consider how he comes into power.
8 Stayed The Same: The Lanterns
How they get the ring is exactly the same, America finding Abin Sur’s crashed space ship, the ring of power still on his finger. Lex tasks Hal Jordan with spearheading the project of unlocking the ring’s power as well as using it to stop Superman, who by this point is treading towards being the full-on villain.
Their conflict is almost the same, only differences being cameos by Guy Gardner and John Stewart in the movie and how brutal Superman is at taking them down.
7 Differed: How Superman Took Charge
It was mentioned in the last entry but deserves its own spot. How Superman takes charge of Russia is wildly different, continuing the shift of the character. In the book, Stalin is poisoned and Superman is initially reluctant to take over, needing a fair bit of coaxing from childhood friend Lana. In the movie, he has no reluctance and outright murders Stalin to stage a coup. Now killing Stalin doesn’t make you a horrible person, but the difference between the two Supermen is stark.
6 Stayed The Same: Lex Creating A Clone Superman
In both mediums, the clone Superman is the first attempt made at putting an end to the Red Son. In both cases, the attempt fails though the movie version plays a far larger role than in the comics. Superior Man acts as the muscle for the first half of the movie and doesn’t have the heroic sacrifice that Superman 2 does. They still play more or less the same role, however, there as the first salvo in a war that spans the entirety of the story.
5 Differed: How Crazy Batman Is
In the comics, Batman isn’t some boy scout, but he still had a cause he fought for, caring deeply for innocent lives. His story was also a little more fleshed out since his parents were shot in front of him by Pyotr (Stalin’s Kid).
In the movie, he’s a borderline lunatic who bombs museums and does whatever he feels is necessary to get his point across to Superman. This is no more apparent than when he wraps Wonder Woman’s lasso around her neck, telling her to kill herself if Superman harms him.
4 Stayed The Same: Lois Luthor’s Importance
Putting Lois on the opposing side of Superman was a bold move by the comic and one that the movie carried over. It’s one of the few times the longtime couple has ever faced off against one another. While she’s never going to trade punches with Superman, she ends up hitting him where it matters most, the heart. In both mediums, she’s the cause of Superman’s revelation, helping him realize the person that he’s become, setting him back on a righteous path.
3 Differed: Does Away With The Time Loop
This was one of the changes that needed to happen, helping streamline the movie a bit better. Rather than introduce time travel, the movie kept it simple and was better off for it. We didn’t need to know that Superman was a descendent of Lex from the future. It keeps almost everything else the same, Lex still heals the world, albeit without the presidency attached to it and Superman is still forced to hide out after the events with Brainiac.
It’s all just done on a less grand level.
2 Stayed The Same: Superman Realizing He’s The Villain
The means differ a little, but in the end, the result is the same, Superman realizes the effects of his actions, understanding that this war had slowly turned him into a villain rather than the hero he felt. It gives both stories the same moral, that while actions can start heroic, that you can wish for a more peaceful world, it can’t be achieved through war. Peace can never be brought through conflict nor can it be done by forcing others to bow to your will.
1 Differed: Less Rogues
Lex’s main weapon against Superman in the comics was an endless supply of rogues. He creates Metallo, Doomsday, Bizarro, Atomic Skull, and Parasite with hopes that they can take down Superman. None of them have any sort of success. The movie takes out some of the needless fluff and just has him create Superior Man, a clone of Superman who eventually bulks into a massive Hulk-like creature thanks to his solar-powered battery. It cuts a bit into the fan service, but also helps make the run time more manageable.
Superman: Red Son has finally been turned into an animated DC movie, but how is it different from the original comic? How is it similar? Check it out.