James Gunn is writing Superman: Legacy as part of DC Studios’ new DC Universe, and the upcoming Superman reboot already has a villain challenge. While Superman only had six solo live-action movies – a number not that significant compared to how many Batman or Spider-Man movies there have been in the last few years – some of the Man of Steel’s most famous villains already appeared on the big screen. Given that James Gunn’s Superman movie will be the start of a (mostly) rebooted DC Universe, the next Superman installment has to feel different from previous iterations – starting with what villains will appear in the next Superman film.

Less than two months after Henry Cavill returned as Superman in Black Adam’s post-credits scene, it was announced that DC Studios’ new DC Universe would release a Superman movie with no ties to the previous version. Though the full status of other DCEU characters such as Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has yet to be confirmed, the Superman reboot will largely be responsible for properly kickstarting DC’s new era. Should that be the case, then nailing Superman: Legacy becomes even more important, as the film can set the tone for what this new DC Universe will be.

Related: 1 DC Character Can Set Gunn’s Superman Reboot Apart From The Snyderverse

Gunn’s Superman Movie Needs Lex Luthor (But Not As The Main Villain)

Lex Luthor vs Superman DC Comics

Lex Luthor has appeared in four Superman solo movies, six considering the DCEU crossover films Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. As the most recognizable Superman villain, Lex Luthor is always an obvious choice for a Superman story. Still, for a character that has appeared in all cinematic versions of Superman, including the more recent one, it may be better for Lex Luthor not to be the main villain of James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy. That said, Luthor is way too iconic for a Superman reboot to ignore the character. In addition, a new Lex Luthor would help set Gunn’s Superman iteration apart from the DCEU right away.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, a more divisive take on the Superman villain, was arguably one of the most important characters in the DCEU’s Snyderverse. Luthor was behind the Batman vs. Superman fight in Batman v Superman, plus Justice League ended with a tease that Lex Luthor was building a team of supervillains starting with Deathstroke. For that reason, having a new Lex Luthor can be the key for the new Superman reboot to sell itself as a new take on the DC characters rather than a continuation of the previous franchise. In addition, Lex Luthor as a background character is something that Superman movies have never done.

As a comparison, Matt Reeves’ The Batman featured the Riddler, Catwoman, and the Penguin – yet also briefly featured the Joker. Something similar could be done with Lex Luthor for the next Superman movie, with Luthor as part of that world without being the classic villain just yet. Although James Gunn’s Superman reboot is not an origin story, it will see Clark Kent at the beginning of his Superman career. That is a perfect opportunity to do something different with Lex Luthor, especially if the upcoming Superman reboot focuses on the Daily Planet and the city of Metropolis as a whole.

General Zod Would Be Too Repetitive

Zod DCEU Man Of Steel

Another popular Superman villain who is always a strong candidate for a Superman story is General Zod. Given how Zod’s story usually ties to Superman’s origins, the Kryptonian general may seem like a good choice for a Superman reboot. However, that strategy was already used in Man of Steel, the Zack Snyder DC movie that rebooted Superman for the big screen with General Zod and Faora as the main villains. Zod and the Kryptonians were also the main villains in Richard Donner’s Superman II, which remains one of the best Superman movies to this day. Therefore, Zod as the Superman movie’s villain would be too repetitive.

Related: If DC Isn’t Restoring The Snyderverse, It Needs To Properly End It

That is not to mention how Zod and Faora will return in The Flash. Michael Shannon and Antje Traue will reprise their Man of Steel roles in The Flash through either time travel or multiverse, which could make the original DCEU’s timeline a bit more complicated. Introducing a new version of General Zod and his allies a few years after The Flash brought back the DCEU’s Zod and Faora can make things even more confusing. As important as Zod is to Superman’s mythology, it may be better to save the Kryptonian villain for a Superman: Legacy sequel.

Brainiac Was Almost The Villain In Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel Sequel

Man of Steel's Superman and Krypton's Brainiac

Brainiac, one of the DC’s most important villains not only for Superman but also for the Justice League, has never appeared in a theatrical movie. A DCU Superman movie with Brainiac as the villain has always sounded interesting, and it came close to happening a few times. Brainiac was one of the villains discussed by Zack Snyder and his team for where Superman’s story would go after Man of Steel; Henry Cavill mentioned Brainiac as an interesting villain for Superman to face in 2018 (via Fandom), and now THR reports that Steven Knight’s scrapped Superman treatment had Brainiac as the main antagonist.

The fact that Brainiac could have already appeared on the big screen so many times makes it seem like the next Superman movie should be about the conqueror of worlds. However, given that a Man of Steel 2 starring Henry Cavill could have happened with Brainiac as the villain, it would be better for James Gunn’s Superman reboot to skip the alien computer antagonist for now. The idea of Superman facing Brainiac on the big screen has become too tied with a potential Man of Steel 2 in the past few years, something that a new Superman iteration would obviously want to avoid.

Other Superman Villains James Gunn’s Superman Reboot Could Use

Metallo from an animated DC project.

The best option for James Gunn’s Superman reboot would be to focus on Superman villains that have never appeared on the big screen, similar to what the MCU’s Spider-Man reboot did. One possibility is Lobo, who’s more of an anti-hero but has been a Superman villain a few times. Another possibility is Parasite, who has appeared on the TV shows Supergirl and Superman & Lois but never in a theatrical movie. Mongul, whose strength rivals that of Superman, could also make for a unique Superman villain. Despite not being as popular as Luthor or Zod, villains like Atomic Skull, Livewire, and Metallo would also work.

Related: Gunn’s DCU Batman & Superman Inspirations Make Them So Much More Exciting

A riskier option would be to have Darkseid and the Apokolips characters as the villains for Superman: Legacy. The DCEU’s Snydervese would have heavily featured Darkseid and the New Gods as seen in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, although the theatrical cut of Justice League did not feature Darkseid. Though Darkseid and the Anti-Life equation storyline may be too tied to the Snyderverse, a DC Universe will have to eventually bring DC’s most powerful villain. In the DC comics, Darkseid is a Superman villain as much as he is a Justice League villain, so adding the Apokolips characters in James Gunn’s new DC Universe right away could work.

More: Why Henry Cavill Wasn’t Fired (But Still Isn’t Superman)

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