Welcome to the City of Tomorrow…
The age of the superhero show has passed, now is the age of the superhero prequel show. Audiences really want to see the perfectly nice lives of PC Peters and Dr Dorothy before Superduperman started punching muggers through walls.
It’s a premise that worked (kind of) with Gotham, which chronicles the life of Jim Gordon before he was Commissioner in a pre-Batman Gotham City. The next logical step for Warner Brothers and DC was always going to be a show about pre-Superman Metropolis. Not that it’ll be the first Superman show minus Superman, Smallville followed a young Clark Kent before he was Superman, and Krypton (set before Kal-El’s birth on his home planet) is heading to Syfy.
Obviously named Metropolis, the show is being developed by Gotham executive producers John Stephens and Danny Cannon, with the former signed to write the pilot and the latter to direct. The show’s official synopsis reads:
‘Set in the wondrous and awe-inspiring City of Tomorrow before the arrival of Superman, Metropolis follows Lois Lane and Lex Luthor as they investigate the world of fringe science and expose the city’s dark and bizarre secrets.’
Which gives the impression that Metropolis will be the DC’s answer to the X-Files. It’s unlikely the dynamic duo will prove to be as iconic as Mulder and Scully, with Lois a future award-winning investigative journalist and Lex a supervillain in the making. One of them is bound to be too busy nursing a coffee addiction whilst waiting for a source to get in touch after a deadline has passed, and the other plotting world domination. BFFs aren’t about that life. The partnership is doomed to last five minutes, or seven seasons in TV time.
Over that needlessly extensive period, the mysteries of Metropolis they could uncover, which don’t need Superman to exist, and are as high-camp and fan service-y as Gotham’s are manifold. But a few might involve:
The Atomic Skull (Albert Michaels)
A brilliant but unfriendly scientist at STAR Labs, who suffered from a rare nervous system disorder. Unable to find a cure, Albert was contacted by a criminal organisation called SKULL, who weaponised his disorder into brain blasts (three cheers for comic book science). He became their agent and donned a garish yellow and green costume, because he wouldn’t be a true supervillain without one. He could just appear in a single episode and never be thought of again.
King Kong with laser eyes. Began life as a normal chimpanzee but was rocketed into space. The ship he was on was bombarded with radiation and he returned to Earth with super powers in one hell of a bad mood. Nothing makes fans cry like animal exploitation.
Microwave Man (Lewis Pagett)
Not even the most ardent of fans would actually want a live-action version of Microwave Man. Pagett found a way to give himself superpowers via microwaves, and quickly began robbing banks and causing general mischief, as was the done thing. Somehow he grabbed the attention of a bunch of aliens and went off to explore the universe. He was awful.
Metropolis will debut on DC’s digital service in 2019.