Man Of Steel's Brutal Finale Could Have Happened In An Earlier, Animated Superman Film

2013's "Man of Steel" was a dark cinematic take on Superman, a superhero with multiple optimistic adaptations. Zack Snyder's take on the Kryptonian was a challenging film for certain fans, especially considering its controversial ending. One of Superman's most remarkable traits is his refusal to kill — a rule that Snyder's iteration of the character bends when Henry Cavill's Kal-El kills General Zod (Michael Shannon) by snapping his neck. 

The scene is gut-wrenching when you realize that Superman hasn't just committed murder — he has also killed the only remaining member of his race for the sake of humanity, and it is a choice he has to live with. There's no doubt the scene took fans by surprise.

While the film's brutal finale set the tone for Superman's future in the DC Extended Universe, a similar incident could have occurred in an old animated film. In a 2021 interview with ScreenRant, artist-animator and "Superman: The Animated Series" co-creator Bruce Timm revealed he wanted Superman to break Doomsday's neck in 2007's "Superman: Doomsday," the animated film adapted from DC Comics' "The Death of Superman."

'DC Comics had a really big problem with that'

In "Man of Steel," General Zod backed Superman into a corner — his refusal to give up and the already caused destruction to Metropolis meant that the superhero had to stop Zod's evildoings no matter what. However we feel about it, it's true Superman had no choice left but to kill Zod.

Timm shared with ScreenRant that he originally wanted the superhero to kill Doomsday in the direct-to-video movie, "Superman: Doomsday." Unfortunately, DC Comics disagreed, citing that it was out of character for Superman to do so. Timm had set up the climactic finale so that the brutal neck-snapping scene from "Man of Steel" would have occurred in his animated film first: Superman would feel helpless seeing innocent people about to be killed, and he'd do the only thing he could do to help: kill Doomsday.

"You know, it depends on the specific projects. When we did the first of our direct-to-video movies, Superman: Doomsday, I actually literally wanted Superman to break Doomsday's neck to stop him. And again, DC Comics had a really big problem with that. They said, 'Nope, Superman will never kill, no matter what. He will always find some other way.' And I had arranged it so that it was exactly like what happened in Man of Steel, where Superman was being held immobile and innocent people were about to get killed, and I thought, 'Well, Superman is gonna do the only thing you can do, which is to break Doomsday's neck.' And they just wouldn't let me do it."

One villain brings out the worst in Superman

In the animated series, it is said the only person Superman was willing to kill was Darkseid — he's the one villain who can get under the hero's skin enough for Superman to consider his death. Timm agreed he only "flirted" with the idea in the "Justice League" episode since he believes Darkseid to be "one of the few bad guys that he [Superman] can actually let loose on and not worry about him being killed and vaporized instantly."

Superman makes the right choices. He always finds another way — there's always a way to outsmart a villain ... but not Darkseid. Timm further explained, describing how the villain brought out the worst in the hero.

"Everybody else, Superman always has to pull himself back a little bit, but with Darkseid, he could just go at it. Darkseid is psychologically... he's the one guy who can get under Superman's skin unlike any of the other characters, even Luthor. He's the guy that pushes all of Superman's buttons in the worst way. He brings out the worst in him."

Bruce Timm's take on Superman is that he's as human as he is Kryptonian: he might have been born on an alien planet, but humans on Earth raised him. This love for humanity has driven him to make more challenging choices and set aside all his morality so he may save innocent lives, no matter the personal cost to him.