Apart from Lex Luthor, Superman's film appearances have barely tapped a rich array of villains from the comics. Assuming that Superman Returns warrants a sequel, director Bryan Singer might consider bringing in Bizarro, Toyman, Brainiac, Mxyzptlk, or any number of colorful characters who've taken on the Man Of Steel over the years. Then again, it might not be the best idea to dip too deep into the rogues' gallery, lest movie-Superman end up fighting one of the following not-so-spectacular foes that comic-Superman has taken on over the years.
Appeared in: Issues throughout the late '30s and early '40s
Bio: Superman's first adventures find him up against a fair number of gangland types, but also evil businessmen, crooked weapons dealers, graft-happy politicians, negligent mine operators, and other persecutors of the little guy.
Memorable quote: Mine-company exec from Action Comics #3: "There are no safety hazards in my mine. But if there were—What of it? I'm a businessman, not a humanitarian!"
Why it's unlikely to make it to the movies: Lex Luthor has mutated from an evil scientist to an arch-capitalist over the decades, so the basic sentiment remains. But the blatantly leftist political sympathies of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster have faded as Superman has become less of a rage-filled activist and more of a benevolent caretaker.
Appeared in: World's Finest #15 (Fall 1944)
Bio: In "The Rubber Band," Clark Kent leaves work to discover that his tires have been stolen. But rather than taking on the bad guys directly, he tracks down a customer who's purchased stolen tires in order to get around wartime rubber rationing. ("I'm only one of thousands determined not to let the war upset my everyday conveniences," the man says.) Superman informs the man that patronage of black markets sabotages the U.S. war effort. Then, to convince him further, he flies the guy to the South Pacific front just in time to overhear some soldiers talking about how important it is for civilians to make sacrifices. Ashamed, the man decides to rat out his bootleg rubber source.
Memorable quote: "I'm not going to let you ruin a swell racket just because you got an attack of conscience!"
Why they're unlikely to make it to the movies: Rubber currently exists in abundance.
Appeared in: Action Comics #238 (March 1958)
Bio: On assignment in Central Africa, Jimmy Olsen encounters a super-powered gorilla. Fearing for his life, he summons Superman with his signal watch. After a super-strong cage fails to contain the big ape's super-rampage, Superman spies a space capsule similar to the one that brought him to earth. Putting two and two together, Superman decides to weaken King Krypton with kryptonite. A gladiatorial battle ensues after the party encounters some wild men descended from ancient Romans (really), and it's eventually revealed that King Krypton is actually a Kryptonian scientist who accidentally turned himself into a gorilla. Then King Krypton dies of kryptonite poisoning.
Memorable quote: "Gr-r-r!"
Why he's unlikely to make it to the movies: Peter Jackson's King Kong may have sated the public's appetite for giant apes. Also, Titano The Super-Ape is much cooler.
The Giant Turtle Man
Appeared in: Jimmy Olsen #53 (June 1961)
Bio: While on vacation in the West Indies with Clark Kent and Lois Lane (for some reason), Jimmy Olsen discovers an enlarging ray. After some wacky antics which involve enlarging snails and sponges, he learns that enlarging rays aren't all fun and games when he ends up in the path of one that's just hit a turtle. Transformed into a beast with scales for skin and an oversized Jimmy Olsen head, the Giant Turtle Man embarks on a seemingly Gamera-inspired freakout.
Memorable quote: "My body's changing, too! It's becoming scaly and armor-plated… like a turtle's shell!"
Why he's unlikely to make it to the movies: Giant turtles are just so played out.
Poverty, infirmity, depression, and obsolescence
Appeared in: Action Comics #396-397 (January-February 1971)
Bio: In this "imaginary" story set in the far-off 1990s, a nearly powerless Superman begs for change in the streets of Metropolis, watching as advances in science fight crime and prevent disaster with an efficiency that he couldn't even hope to achieve.
Memorable quote: "In this computerized, push-button world I'm useless, completely useless! Fit only to be a beggar! It's like a living nightmare!"
Why they're unlikely to make it to the movies: If the Superman franchise were to ditch the action and special effects and opt for an approach inspired by Italian neo-realism, this might work. But probably not.
The Cold War
Appeared in: Superman #408 (June 1985)
Bio: In "The Day The Earth Died," Superman awakens from a dream of nuclear destruction and ponders what he can do. While flying around thwarting crime and preventing mishaps, he considers disabling the world's nuclear weaponry, but decides this would only make matters worse and turn him into a super-powered "mother hen."
Memorable quote: "I wouldn't be hurt by nuclear war… I'd be the only survivor… If I let it happen!"
Why it's unlikely to make it to the movies: This particular problem seems to have resolved itself. But also, a movie in which Superman flies around not doing anything might not be the best idea. Some kinds of magic can never make it from page to screen.