Superman. Back in high school I read his adventures right as he died. Yes, I read the Death of Superman with millions of other people. However, unlike most, I stuck around the comics for almost 2 more years after he returned. Most of the stories were pretty bland, causing me to give up the title. However, one particular villain and story stood out and has remained in my head as an essential Superman villain – Conduit (created by Dan Jurgens), who I think would be the perfect Movie Villain (this is the only middle/high school notes I made that I believe would still work today regarding my ‘Hollywood’ column).
Unfortunately, Conduit appeared in 2 stories, but they were both rather long and really, really good. He is THE perfect movie screen villain to counter Superman. Why? He is someone Superman can’t get close to due to his kryptonite body and energy-draining metal tentacles (he can take Superman’s punch because they are only normal punches to him). He was Clark Kent’s athletic rival in school, and was always 2nd place and has an inferiority complex. And, he knows Superman’s secret identity and has a close and jealous relationship with him, making the stakes more personal and dramatic between the two. Beside, regardless of who it is, the villain always has to get personal in movies, and here the work is already done for you.
The only Superman movies I had seen at the time were Superman II and the comics adaptation of Superman IV, so let’s head back to that time period and check out my old notes for the way MY Superman movie should have gone down.
Kenny Braverman’s parents were giving birth to him on the side of the road because their car crashed on the way to the hospital. Meanwhile, Superman’s spaceship (carrying baby Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent) landed at the same time. It emitted radiation that, while unharmful to normal people, WAS harmful to human beings that were not fully developed (aka Baby Kenny Braverman).
Despite his handicap of radiation poisoning, he became an accomplished athlete, but it wasn’t good enough for his father, who only wanted him to be the best, and constantly wanted him to be like Clark Kent, who was the best in academics and sports (and who always beat Kenny at sports). Scenes of Clark and Kenny at high school are interspliced along with Kenny’s thoughts about how jealous he was at Clark, despite the fact they were also friends.
Kenny gives himself up at experimentation to help his failing condition, and develops kryptonite based powers. On his first mission, he is thwarted by Clark Kent doing journalism somehow (it’s been a long time since I read this). His anger seething, he plots to escape his government experimenters and kill Clark Kent once and for all.
Years later, Superman fights the villain Conduit at the same time Kenny is traveling in Metropolis. At the end, Superman discovers who he is. In the 2nd storyline, Clark’s family house explodes, as Conduit has discovered who he is, his parents and Lois are presumed dead, and a Superman with nothing to lose and on the run has to fight his desire for revenge that conflicts with everything he believes about justice.
The main villain would be Brainiac. Why? Because he hadn’t been in a movie and I didn’t know anything about him in 1994. Kenny Braverman trying to kill Clark Kent would be the subplot of the movie, trying to kill him and frequently finding him gone, interspliced with scenes of Kenny and Clark becoming friends from Clarks point of view (basically everything I summed up above) then slowly revealing Kenny’s resentment, and Clark just assuming he moved on to other friends. As Conduit, Kenny and Superman have one brief fight halfway through the film. Conduit escapes because he isn’t interested in fighting him, he only wants to find and kill Clark Kent, and Superman can’t see who it is because kryptonite blocks his x-ray vision (whatever, this is MY movie universe). If he found out it was Kenny now, it would interfere with his struggle for the main movie plot.
At the end, Braniac is defeated, and Lois and Clark have a wedding at Clark’s family home. But then, someone blows up his home with his parent’s inside, creating a cliffhanger that leads into the 2nd movie.
And yes, I wrote an entire outline about the subplot, but didn’t write anything about the ‘main’ movie plot, because what I was really trying to write was the 2nd Superman movie in my two-part series and make it serialized.
So, in Superman 2: Superman finds the burnt bodies of two people (but doesn’t realize that they are fakes). Kenny has kidnapped his parent’s because he needs someone to vent to throughout the movie, but also because he wants to keep Superman in check with hostages. A distraught Clark gets a message to meet and he runs away as Superman. Here, Conduit reveals he is Kenny, and he and Superman fight, setting the stage for the rest of the movie about what the villain wants. Also, we see the flashback sequences from the first movie, only now they are in Kenny’s point of view, which dramatically changes the way Clark (and the audience) thought about them. Superman tires to reason with him, and we get home events about Kenny’s verbal abuse (he’s not a physical abuser) that Clark never knew about. He asks Kenny why he never told him anything, and that he was his friend and would have helped him, but Kenny is beyond reason or listening, and says he lured him in the open for one reason, to kill Lois. And says ‘Clark has everything, and I want to take it all away’. Lois is almost killed, but escapes.
Using the remains of Braniac from the first movie, Conduit is able to interface and take over his systems and robots to scout for Lois, who goes into hiding. She should appear throughout trying to contact Superman, and investigate the Government (and call up her contacts) who gave Kenny his powers so she can find a weakness for Superman to exploit. It also gives Superman things he can destroy and fight throughout the movie (that get harder and harder as the movie goes on, as shown why below)
After the 1st battle against Conduit, Superman feels weakened, and then comes to a realization that he can’t use one of his powers anymore, and that the more he fights Conduit, the less powerful he becomes. Conduit is trying to weaken him until he becomes just a ‘normal, worthless man like I used to be’ and then kill him. This also gives the movie heightened drama, as Superman slowly loses his powers, while Conduit gets harder and harder to beat with each confrontation. There should only be 4 confrontations MAX so the audience doesn’t get bored.
Eventually Lois gives Superman the info he needs to defeat Conduit, but he sees an explosion behind her on the video monitor and assumes she died. Angry, at the lost of his parents and Lois, Superman is determined to kill Conduit, but as he fights him for the final time, he has flashbacks to his parent’s raising him as an honest, good, and moral individual; especially since he has so much power.
Finally, he defeats Conduit, and refuses to kill him, because that’s not who he is. He would be betraying his parents, Lois, and himself.
I never actually wrote Conduit’s final outcome. Would he vow revenge? Would he die of his own devices like in the comic storyline? Or maybe he finds redemption and accepts Superman and Clark as his friend somehow and lets his parent’s go as a last act of good will? Who knows why I never wrote this final part. Also, I didn’t seem to write any notes about doing anything useful with his parent’s and Kenny’s scenes talking to them. Way to write effective stories there 12 year old Shawn).
Also, after this battle, Superman finds he will never be as powerful as he once once was because he was exposed to so much kryptonite in such a short time, but he will adjust, for he is still committed to fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.
DC made a serious mistake in never bringing this character back from the dead. In my mind, Conduit is the quintessential Superman villain.