How The 'Superman: Red Son' Adaptation Transforms The Way We Think About Superman

Superman: Red Son is the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Home Media. Adapting the 2003 graphic novel of the same name, the movie tackles the fundamental question of nature versus nurture.

Superman's story is embedded in American pop-culture. The journey of the immigrant from the stars that crash-landed in Kansas has been told time and again over the course of 80 years. Superman: Red Son flips that familiar narrative on its head. What would happen when that same alien landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States? Would that alien still grow up to do good and fulfill his destiny?

Superman: Red Son has the same origin that all Superman stories do. Jor-El and Lara send their child in a rocket ship off the dying planet of Krypton for the chance to survive. This time, baby Kal-El's ship landed on a Ukrainian farm in 1938 instead of Smallville, Kansas. Choosing the year 1938 is not only a play on Superman's birth year but also to fuel the political and social conditions to make the Soviet Superman story that much more compelling. With no Jonathan and Martha Kent, Kal-El did not grow up under the guise of "truth, justice, and the American way." Instead, he becomes the poster child of the Soviet Union in the 20th Century.

Superman is described by Soviet radio broadcasts as "the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact," a far cry from his usual moniker in the U.S.

Many elements of Soviet Superman's personality are not too different from the Golden Age Superman. When the character was first invented, it was right at the start of World War II. This Superman also grew up during the war, but as a Soviet. The story starts in the 1950s, allowing Superman to interact and work with figures like Joseph Stalin, and continues through 2001.

While Superman: Red Son asks the reader to consider nature versus nurture, it does not answer it directly. Much like the graphic novel, the animated film does not hold back from the inherently political elements to the story, or the deeper meaning of Superman's place as a world icon, not just an American one.

The Soviet Superman did not have Jonathan and Martha Kent to raise him. This Superman is colder, more distant and not as kind as his classic counterpart. Yet, he is still a superhero. He looks to better the world, and to fight for those who can't fight for themselves.

Superman: Red Son
DC's 'Superman: Red Son' DC Comics

While Superman's parenting by the Kents is what made him the iconic character we know, it is his nature that keeps him heroic. Superman was created by the sons of immigrants, and with that came the weight of Patriotism.

In recent years, Superman's stories have been more global, pushing the immigrant angle of his story more than the patriotic one. This was most recently seen in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

While Superman: Red Son does not feature a Man of Steel that stands for "truth, justice, and the American way," it proves that nationality and the flag you represent do not affect your overall destiny.

Superman: Red Son is directed by Sam Liu and stars Jason Isaacs as Superman. The movie is available on digital now and on Blu-ray March 1.

How The 'Superman: Red Son' Adaptation Transforms The Way We Think About Superman | Culture