Superman is the most recognizable hero of all time. A quick glimpse of his flowing cape and the large “S” on his chest is enough to feel all the power and hope that emanates from his presence. He represents the most significant values of our society, making sense that his appearance keeps up with the changing times.
In 2009, inspired by the strength of the black community, Kalel is born. The great protector of Earth-23 – a DC Comics alternate universe – possesses the same abilities as classic Superman, but his multiverse role is quite different.
With DC’s increasing focus on exploring the multiverse in cinemas, all indications are that he will be the star of the next Man of Steel movie. So it’s time to find out all about Black Superman.
Who is the Black Superman?
Kalel’s origin on Earth-23 is the same as always. He is a refugee from Krypton who fell as a baby on the planet Earth. In this universe, the capital of Krypton is located on the island of Vathlo – where the majority of the population has black skin. Thus, by absorbing the energy of our Sun, he became a Black Superman.
Under the civilian name Calvin Ellis, he was raised by simple farmers to become a proud African-American. And so, as he grew up, Calvin went on to fight for freedom, equality, and justice as the President of the United States. That’s right, in his spare time, the first black American President of Earth-23 was Superman.
Obviously, this was not just a coincidence. In an interview, writer Grant Morrison admitted that Kalel was directly inspired by Barack Obama – the 44th US president who took office the same year Kalel first appeared.
Of course, Kalel is not always smiling and diplomatic, so the comic needed another even more determined personality to create his heroic persona. He decided to pay homage to the boxer, Muhammad Ali. This mix resulted in a charismatic, approachable hero without losing a threatening aura for his enemies.
Calvin Ellis is not the first and was not the last black Superman in DC Comics. Two other black characters have carried Man of Steel’s mantle before him: Sunshine Superman and Kal-El from Earth-D. However, they were but minor appearances without much of a story to tell.
In 2014, a new Black Superman emerged – from Earth-2, Val-Zod. He is one of the last Kryptonians in his universe and always prefers to seek a non-violent solution to any conflict. At first, he had a phobia of open places, but he learned to be a better hero with Lois Lane’s help. When fighting is the only option, he takes on the mantle of Superman to defend those he loves.
Friends and Enemies
Much of Superman’s classic mythology has been incorporated into the hero’s new presidential reality. Lex Luthor, on Earth-23, is a terrorist who despises Superman’s image for political reasons – the fascist interpretation that the concentration of power can cause.
On the other hand, Brainiac is Superman’s most important ally. Here he is an artificial intelligence who serves as a personal assistant to Calvin Ellis – much like Iron Man’s Jarvis in the MCU. When Kalel is too busy taking on supervillains, Brainiac takes over presidential responsibilities via robots identical to the president. This is very Black Mirror!
Justice League 23
Originally, Kalel was the leader of the Justice League of Earth 23. As in other universes, the League brings together the most powerful heroes on the planet – such as Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern. Only on this Earth, virtually all the major heroes are black: the mantle of Wonder Woman is assumed by Nubia, while the Green Lantern is John Stewart.
Calvin uses the League in a complementary way to his position as president to resolve international conflicts. In front of the cameras, he negotiates peace with even the worst of dictators, but behind the scenes, Superman takes over, destroying nuclear power plants and ending wars.
The Guardian of the Multiverse
When the last Monitor – Nix Uotan – lost control, the entire multiverse was in danger of being deleted. Heroes from different Earths decided to unite in an inter-dimensional team to combat such a threat. The Supermen’s chosen representative was Calvin Ellis himself, who officially became the leader of Justice Incarnate.
Earth-8, a parody of the Marvel Universe, was the stage for the great clash between Justice Incarnate and Gentry (“High Bourgeoisie”), a race of deities bent on ruling the multiverse. It took heroes from all 50 Earths to stop the invasion. In the end, Superman decided that to defend his people, he would need to continue fighting alongside Justice Incarnate.
Ode to Jazz
Because he is always involved in multiverse problems and outer space crises, Calvin has not had much opportunity to show his more human side on his Earth. However, traces of his origins do emerge in some stories.
In Multiversity #1, when he has just encountered Justice Incarnate, Calvin is amazed by the Ultima Thule – an interdimensional ship made of frozen music. And music is all about his roots, so he volunteers to guide the League through the multiverse by improvising jazz to manipulate the frequency of the multiverse’s strings.
The Death of Superman
Calvin has flirted with death several times throughout the comics. In Action Comics #9, President Superman encounters a Lois from a dystopian reality. The first thing she does is shoot the hero with a kryptonite weapon, but fortunately, Calvin is only weak to Earth-23 kryptonite.
Another time, in Flash Forward #2, Calvin appears dead in a direct reference to the iconic Death of Superman. But in fact, he was only injured and, with the help of Wally West, manages to expel yet another interdimensional threat from Earth-8.
After all the multiverse chaos in Dark Metal, DC Comics is preparing to enter a new Infinite Frontier phase. An issue showing glimpses of what we can expect from each character has been published, and President Superman will be back in the Flash stories.
In Infinite Frontier #0, Barry Allen agrees to join Justice Incarnate to explore one of the new worlds that have emerged in the expansion of the omniverse – the Earth Omega. We don’t know what to expect yet, but it’s good to know that Kalel has a certain destiny in the future of DC Comics.
Kalel in the movies
And it doesn’t stop in the comics! Recently, a new Superman movie was announced. Produced by J.J. Abrams, the hero’s next film is not expected to feature Henry Cavill in the lead role. Considering that Ta-Nehisi Coates has been hired as the new screenwriter for the film, everything indicates that we will finally see a Black Superman on the big screen.
And if it’s up to Michael B. Jordan, he will be the one to play the hero. Jordan is a big fan of Calvin Ellis and has already made it clear that he would like to play him should he appear in any future projects. Will Killmonger become the next face of Superman?