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Media Essays: Why Injustice Superman Fails As A Villain


The Injustice franchise has become one of the most popular takes on the DC Universe in recent years. Starting in 2013 with a video game titled Injustice: Gods Among Us, the franchise has spawned a sequel game, many comic book tie-ins and even an animated adaptation of the game (albeit a very loose one). Injustice is a combat-style video game created by the creators of the Mortal Kombat franchise, NetherRealm Studio and the games have since gotten critical praise for its enjoyable combat style gameplay, high roster of playable characters and engaging stories that make the games fun to play through. The series is noteworthy for its darker take on many popular DC characters and creating this alternate universe in where things don't exactly go well for our heroes with one bad day for one of its biggest heroes creating a domino effect that leads to where we are now.


If you're curious on my stance on the series, I wouldn't call myself a "huge" fan of the franchise. I like the games...and that's it. I don't particularly care for the comics (especially as the stories they tell are just Forgone Conclusions anyway, have ridiculous moments like Nightwing's death and are laden with contradictory information and continuity errors to the games) and I haven't seen the animated movie. Nor do I want to as it sounds pretty bad from what I've heard. The games themselves are fun to play (only on an easy difficulty that is) and I enjoy a lot of the story ideas and characters on offer. I think the first game has the superior story but the sequel has superior graphics, a greater selection of characters (namely if you get the DLC) and a wonderful arc for Supergirl and both games excel in the combat area with a lot of moves and some fun scene transitions and arena interactions for the backgrounds we fight in. But while I like the games, there is one thing I do not like about them. And that's the Injustice Universe's take on the Man of Steel himself...Superman.

To say this guy is unworthy of the Superman name is putting it too mildly. Words cannot describe what a despicable, hateable, hypocritical sack of garbage this pretender to the Superman name is. Every time I play the Injustice games, I ALWAYS enjoy beating the crap out of him whether it's with other DC characters or even Superman himself. I especially love to put on the Henry Cavill skin in the first game so it looks like DCEU Superman is beating this Superman up. XD This version of Superman is everything wrong with the evil Superman trope and his very existence I feel has done more harm than good for the character's image. So why do I feel so strongly against this Superman? What is it about him that makes him fail as a villain for me? Let's dive in and find out...


Who is Injustice Superman?

Of course, we need to start at the beginning.


The Injustice Universe has new takes on popular DC heroes with Superman being the most extreme change of the bunch. His origins are as usual: an orphan from Krypton who ended up on Earth and was raised by humans, he discovers his powers and becomes a superhero. He falls in love with Lois Lane and he becomes a founding member of the Justice League. However, tragedy struck for him shortly after he found out Lois was pregnant with their child. The news was happy news for him and naturally, he's overjoyed over the possibility of being a father. But the Joker then captures Lois Lane, rigs her up to a nuclear device that will explode once her heart stops beating and he drugs Superman with Scarecrow fear toxin to make him hallucinate that Lois is Doomsday. Superman beats her to death and...well, you can guess the outcome.


Driven by grief and rage, Superman eventually killed the Joker. What followed was him essentially taking over the world and forming the One Earth Regime with many superheroes and former supervillains joining his side to bring world peace and law and order to everyone everywhere while executing anyone who gets in his way. This universe's Batman founded the Insurgency and his goal is to topple the regime and bring true peace and order back to the world.


On paper, this sounds like an interesting dark mirror reflection of Superman that explores a terrifying concept of "What if Superman turned evil and took over the world?" The problem is that the execution butchers this idea and gives us the terrible villain we have for this franchise. Now let's break down why Injustice Superman fails as a villain...


Problem 1: He is a massive hypocrite

Hypocrisy is one of humanity's most negative traits that I hate more than any other. If you are hypocritical in your beliefs, your moral values and how you present your views, I will dislike you instantly and will gleefully disregard any point you're trying to make. Nobody likes a hypocrite after all and nobody takes hypocrisy seriously. Why do you think politicians are such laughing stocks in this world?


Injustice Superman is among the worst examples of hypocrisy I've experienced in any media. This guy constantly, and I mean CONSTANTLY preaches about how he's "bought order" and "brought peace" to the world and all that, yet there's so much evidence to the contrary. He hasn't made the world "ordered" and "peaceful" at all. He's created a dictatorship where anyone who so much as looks at him funny gets vaporized on the spot. That doesn't sound very peaceful. Also he resents Harley Quinn and labels her as a criminal in Injustice 2, YET THE REGIME HAS SEVERAL CRIMINALS WORKING FOR THEM SUCH AS BANE, KILLER FROST, SOLOMON GRUNDY AND SINESTRO!!!! So why do they get a free pass but Harley Quinn doesn't? If Harley joined your sick little regime, I bet you'd magically have no problem with it, wouldn't you Superman? Then again, he'd probably say "You helped Joker kill Lois, therefore I don't want you in". Yet he's perfectly fine recruiting people who also have big body counts on their hands. Heck, Solomon Grundy was a murderer before he died and came back as Solomon Grundy and as Solomon Grundy, he's gone on to murder more innocents! One of your regime members LITERALLY has the word "killer" in her name! How can you dare call yourself a paragon of law and order when you have criminals working for you?! No wonder people were scared of the regime. They were probably worried Superman would send one of the mass-murdering psychopaths after them!


And before anyone argues by saying "But Superman forced them to work for him. They joined him out of fear of being executed by them!", that doesn't negate my point in the slightest. He's still willingly working with criminals despite claiming to be against them and wanting to stop crime. Also some of these people have tried to kill his friends in the Justice League countless times in the past. He's not OK with the Joker tricking him into devastating Metropolis...yet he's OK with working with people like Bane, the guy who once broke Batman's back and tried to take over Gotham? Isn't Batman supposed to be his best friend or something and yet he's fine working with people who have constantly tried to kill him in the past? And most importantly, he kills people who were supposed to be his friends like Green Arrow and Shazam, guys who are HEROES mind you and aren't criminals whatsoever...yet these supervillains who have killed innocent people and constantly tried to kill him and his friends over the years get a free pass? Does this guy even HAVE a moral compass at this point?


This all boils up to the most hypocritical piece of filth that comes out of this monster's mouth:


"How many more innocent people die before you accept that some lives need to be taken?!" - Injustice Superman, Injustice 2 2017


Oh really Superman? Now you suddenly care about "innocent people" at this point? You're the same asshole who recruits mass murderers as members of the regime, kills people for disagreeing with you and you decided to flatten Metropolis and Gotham, which no doubt would've killed millions of innocent people just because they were rightfully afraid and upset at what you're doing with the world. You even threatened to do the same to the parallel world where the other Justice League came from just because they got involved! You concocted a scheme that would've slaughtered millions, if not BILLIONS of innocent people because you're a whiny baby who can't accept the fact that you're no better than the criminals you claim to be better than! Don't you give me any crap about "innocent people" you sanctimonious sack of garbage!


Also, he lectures to Prime Superman that the decision of who lives and who dies became his when the Joker turned him into a weapon of mass destruction. Funny how he's hung up over that, yet he's perfectly fine with being a weapon of mass destruction during the climax of Injustice: Gods Among Us. Oh and in Injustice 2, one of his lines to Blue Beetle in Vs. Mode is "I don't kill children". Thankfully, Blue Beetle points this out for me: "Didn't stop you with Shazam!" - Blue Beetle, Injustice 2 2017


The hypocrisy this guy spews is STAGGERING. And yes, I get it, he's a villain so he's not supposed to make sense and he's going to have hypocritical views. The thing is, you can have hypocritical villains without them being utterly loathsome. Also, the hypocrisy here just makes Superman look like a giant child throwing a temper tantrum and whenever anyone calls him on his hypocrisy, he essentially goes "la, la, la, not listening!". He just cannot accept when people point out his hypocrisy and the fact he just further proves everyone's point on his hypocrisies by killing people for the crime of having an opinion he doesn't like just makes him look even more childish. If your villain looks childish, then they're impossible to take seriously.


If you want an Evil Superman who isn't like this, check out the Justice Lords two-parter from the Justice League animated series. THAT Superman isn't a giant hypocrite, is more dignified and serious a threat and genuinely felt like he wanted to do good and was just misguided in his attempts. THIS Superman is just a whiny, hypocritical asshole who I doubt ever had anyone's best interests at heart in the first place.


This sheer hypocrisy that fuels my disdain for this joke of a Superman just fuels my next point on why he sucks as a villain...


Problem 2: The games fail at making him sympathetic

Here's a quote from Linkara's History of Power Rangers video on Power Rangers: Time Force:


"There's a difference between having a sympathetic backstory and actually BEING sympathetic." - Linkara, History of Power Rangers


That's Injustice Superman in a nutshell. He has a sympathetic backstory...but he's NOT sympathetic! Like, at all! As I've covered in my points above, he's so contradictory in his beliefs and is more than fine with being a weapon of mass destruction despite that being what lead to his wife dying in the first place thanks to the Joker, it just ruins any attempt at making the audience feel sorry for this asshole. How can I possibly sympathize with a Superman who kills at the drop of a hat and wants to cause mass destruction just to punish people for objecting to his dictatorial way of handling things and running the world?


The image above is the textbook example of how unsympathetic this guy is. In this scene, Superman is plotting his little mass murder scheme and Shazam quite rightfully is against the idea, feeling they're going too far. He even points out Lois wouldn't have wanted this. Superman...then proceeds to kill him for it. Injustice Superman murdered a LITERAL child just because he rightfully pointed out he was going too far. This to me, and a lot of fans for that matter, was the step that went too far. This was the moment where Superman catapulted himself over the Moral Event Horizon and never returned. This was the act that killed any chance of redemption or any sympathy anyone could've had for him. There is NO chance I can ever feel sorry for a child-murdering monster like him.


Now I imagine some might have a counter argument for this such as "But Injustice Superman's not meant to be sympathetic! He's meant to be this fallen hero who's descending further and further into villainy and he's meant to be a lost cause!" Really now? Then why do the games constantly give us scenes that are clearly meant to make us sympathize with him such as that scene with Superman and Lex talking about the other universes? Why do they keep trying to humanize him and they keep bringing up his backstory as if that's meant to excuse all the horrible things he's doing? Why did they give us that moment in Injustice 2 where Superman and Batman reminisce on how they miss the men they were back before his fall to villainy? And why did they give us that scene of him expressing a mixture of shock and joy upon seeing his cousin Kara Zor-El is alive? And why do they make it seem like he regrets that things had to go sour between him and her? If he's not meant to be sympathetic, then why have those scenes in there?


When it comes to writing your villains, if you don't want them to be sympathetic, DON'T try to make them sympathetic! Just make them unrepentantly evil with no redeeming factors whatsoever, otherwise you get this mess of a character where he does so many evil things and yet we're supposed to feel sorry for him. Why do you think Big Jack Horner from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish worked so well? I may not have liked him much but at least I can tell that movie wasn't trying to make me feel sorry for him and made it clear he's supposed to be an irredeemable monster.


Honestly, Injustice Superman feels like Darth Vader from Star Wars done wrong. Yes Darth Vader was an evil monster who killed a lot of people but I find him more sympathetic than Injustice Superman because of the tragedy that led to his downfall. He was manipulated by Emperor Palpatine for the entirety of the Clone Wars, he lost his wife (and he ended up killing her in his rage no less so he has that guilt on his hands), he probably thought he lost his children too because of that, he was raised by a flawed system with the Jedi Order that only exacerbated his emotional turmoil, he had nobody he could really turn to for help aside the guy who was manipulating and corrupting him in the first place and he came to truly believe that the Jedi were evil and that a new order had to come in to bring order to the galaxy. All this left him in such a state of loneliness and depression that it's almost like he does what he does because he has nothing else to live for, which is quite a tragic situation to find yourself in. And despite all the evil he did, he proved he WASN'T beyond saving and in the end, died a hero by overthrowing his master and helping to bring an end to the Empire. Injustice Superman by example just uses his past as an excuse to be a dictatorial monster and seems to willingly ignore any chance at redemption. He had his friends in the Justice League he could've turned to for help and guidance and instead allowed himself to be goaded onto this path and whenever anyone points out how evil he is, he kills them for it! How can I feel sorry for him when he's like this?


Injustice Superman is a prime example of how NOT to write sympathetic villains. Either make your villain sympathetic or don't and just make them irredeemable monsters. You can't have it both ways. If they weren't so repentant on making Superman so evil, we could've had a genuinely sympathetic villain who we can actually feel sorry for and understand his motivations. As is, I can't feel sorry for this guy and no amount of crying over Lois's death will ever ignite sympathy from me. He's proven quite handily that he's beyond that...


Problem 3: He is ultimately based around a lazy, bland concept

Injustice Superman is a concept that sounds interesting at first. What if Superman turned evil and what if a creature as powerful as Superman was our enemy? Like I said, it sounds interesting AT FIRST. But then you indulge in other media and you see that...well...it's not interesting anymore.


The Evil Superman trope has been done to death by now. Even when Injustice came out, it was already old and overdone. As mentioned before, even the Justice League cartoon did the Evil Superman trope before Injustice did, and they did it better no less! This concept is very common in a lot of modern superhero media such as The Boys, Invincible and of course, Injustice. They even made a horror movie based around this concept with Brightburn. We are now at the point where the Evil Superman trope has led to a HORROR MOVIE being created! Just what is with this fascination with deconstructing Superman or superheroes in general and trying to paint this horrible impression that if superheroes existed, they'd be assholes? It doesn't make you look smart or poignant when you say that, you just sound like a cynical jerk who wants to ruin everyone's fun. It also doesn't make you look clever when you do it either because EVERYONE ELSE has already done so. There's already tonnes of media that explores this possibility and makes the same point or joke you're trying to get across here.


Need I remind you of Watchmen? That comic is hailed as one of the greatest of all time and that was a piece of media that deconstructed superheroes long before the Evil Superman trope started to get overused. It wasn't really done all that much before and certainly not in the way Alan Moore did it with this comic. Nowadays, it's so overdone and frankly, I'm getting tired of it. We get it people, you're cynical sticks-in-the-mud with a very miserable view on the world. Go whine somewhere else and stop ruining everyone's fun already.


But back to Injustice Superman. Because this concept is so overused and has been done better in other media...it just leaves us with a bland, cookie cutter Superman deconstruction character who adds nothing new to the table and as a result, just isn't interesting. We've already seen evil Supermen in DC before with the Crime Syndicate or the Justice Lords. What makes this evil Superman any different? Because he has a sad backstory that led to this turn to evil? I'm pretty sure other Evil Supermen characters have done that too.


So in the end, he's not engaging as a character, he's not engaging as a villain and the very concept has lost any interest it may have garnered because of how overdone it is in this day and age. Injustice Superman is just another example of a bland trope that needs to die already because it's just not interesting anymore. Just let superheroes be superheroes again, stop trying to deconstruct them all the time in a failed attempt at "making them more realistic or interesting", you're just making them BORING instead!


Conclusion


Overall, Injustice Superman is nothing more than a terrible villain who is a big stain on the Injustice series for how terribly executed he was. He's not sympathetic, he's not interesting, he's way too hypocritical to be taken seriously and his very presence has done more harm than good for Superman's image. People keep trying to follow this guy's example and keep giving us Superman expies that are nothing more than just evil jerks because...it's more realistic? The Injustice games would've benefitted so much from either not making Superman evil at all or at least giving us a better version of him where the writing isn't confused over whether we're supposed to hate him or feel sorry for him. Personally, I would've toned down his acts of evil and focused more on the tragic aspects of his character and don't have him constantly get worse over time. He SHOULD have had a redemption arc and it sucks he never got one. Injustice Superman had so much potential to be a great villain. Instead, it was all squandered and we have this awful character who will forever be a black mark on Superman's legacy. This guy is anything BUT super...


And that's it for this essay. I apologize if this post seemed more angry than usual. I have VERY strong opinions on this matter as you can see so sorry about that. ^^; Still, I invite you to share your thoughts down below. Do you agree that Injustice Superman is a terrible villain? Do you disagree with my points? Comment away, but please keep it civil. I don't want flame wars to break out, OK?


Next time will be more pleasant as I'll be talking about 5 of my favourite racing games. So you next week everyone!



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It's a good thing that I was never interested in this game at all.

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Guest
Mar 10, 2023

I think Injustice got released in 2011.


I think what makes this more hard is that we’ve got Batman of this universe being a hypocrite as well. Bruce stopped trusting him the second he killed Joker, instead of trying to comfort him, he hid in his cave wondering what Clark was doing, him hiding made Superman more closer to his descent. It didn’t help Batman sent weaker superheroes to fight Parademons then got upset Superman killed Parademons. Or how Harley Quinn helped kill Jimmy Olsen then blamed Superman for Lois’s death or sexually assault Billy Batson, yet Batman stands up for her.


But yes, the evil Superman story is boring as shit. General Zod, Bizarro, Cyborg Superman are answers to…


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Guest
Mar 10, 2023

Maniac, Injustice Superman is. All the more reason to retire that ridiculous Evil Superman trope.

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