Michael B. Jordan and his production company Outlier Society are developing their own Black Superman project for HBO Max that centers on the Val-Zod incarnation of the character, Collider has exclusively learned.
Sources say that Outlier Society has hired a writer who is currently working on the script, though we were unable to ascertain their identity. Though it was initially unclear whether the Val-Zod project would be a movie or a limited series, sources have since reached out to clarify that as of right now, it is, in fact, being written as a limited series that Jordan will produce and possibly even star in, though he has yet to officially commit on the latter front.
As previously reported, J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot are set to produce a Black Superman movie for Warner Bros. that is expected to follow the Kal-El/Clark Kent version of the character. Though Clark Kent is traditionally depicted as white in the DC comics, the character will be played by a Black actor in the Bad Robot movie, which will likely be directed by a Black filmmaker, as Abrams is simply expected to produce. Author and cultural critic Ta-Nehisi Coates is already hard at work on the script for that project.
While Jordan did work with Warner Bros. on developing a Black Superman movie at one point, he recently shot down rumors that he would star in Abrams‘ new film, saying “I’m flattered that people have me in that conversation. It’s definitely a compliment, but I’m just watching on this one.”
The question is, why?
A recent editorial penned by Jamie Broadnax for Black Girl Nerds provides some context and prompted Collider to do some digging, as Broadnax‘s sources told her that “Jordan has not wanted to engage in conversations about racebending Kal-El for the same reasons many of the fans are pushing back on the current Warner Bros. re-imagined version of Clark Kent, but that he would be interested in engaging on a Black Superman project centering on the Val-Zod storyline.”
The distinction is an important one, particularly within the Black community, as Broadnax explained how it would be tone-deaf of Warner Bros. and DC to ‘racebend a white character and erase Black characters that already exist in the DC universe under the Superman banner — Calvin Ellis and Val-Zod.’
She has a valid point. If there are two perfectly good Black Supermen, why would Abrams‘ big-budget Black Superman movie follow the white version of the character? Is it simply because Clark Kent is better known within the realm of pop culture? We may never know the answer, but what is clear is that Jordan wasn’t into that idea, and now he’s developing his own Superman project, albeit for WB‘s sister streamer, HBO Max.
“It’s important for people to see themselves in roles that they normally wouldn’t see. What that does to the next generation, to a kid or somebody that didn’t think that is something that they could achieve — now they’re thinking about it and daydreaming about it,” Jordan told the Hollywood Reporter back in April while promoting Without Remorse.
Val-Zod is the Superman from Earth 2, where he is one of the last Kryptonians, and the second to assume the mantle of Superman. The character was orphaned after his parents were executed by Krypton’s high court, though he was found on Earth 2 by Terry Sloan, who offered the young alien asylum to “protect” him from the outside world. Ellis, on the other hand, is the Superman of Earth 23, where he is the President of the United States.
Outlier Society‘s feature credits include Without Remorse, Just Mercy, the HBO movie Fahrenheit 451, and Denzel Washington‘s upcoming drama A Journal for Jordan, which finds MBJ playing a military man who, in the event that he is killed in action, writes a journal for his son teaching him how to live a decent life despite growing up without a father. Sony will release the film on Dec. 22 and it is expected to be an awards contender this year.
Jordan is currently prepping his directorial debut, Creed III, while also developing a Static Shock movie for Warner Bros. and a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair for MGM and the Russo brothers’ AGBO banner. Jordan is represented by WME, M88 and Ziffren Brittenham, and representatives for both the actor-producer and HBO Max did not respond to requests for comment.