Superman vs. The Elite

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Superman vs. The Elite is an animated superhero film based on "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?," the story published in the comic book Action Comics #775 (March 2001).

World saved. Humanity lost. (taglines)


  • I finally get it. Thank you... I made the mistake of treating you people like, people. Now, I understand better... I understand now what the world wants, what it NEEDS. The world needs people in charge, willing to put the animals DOWN! [raises a whirlwind on the Elite]
  • It's never too late for peace, Black.
  • "Might makes right" has never been a productive philosophy.
  • You're right about me. I would never put civilians in harm's way. I won't kill. But you would.
  • They saw the ugliness of violence as a solution and it frightened them. It frightened me too when I decided to cross that line and do what you do. It's so easy. Anger, vengeance. Luckily, I'm not you. And I never will be.

Manchester Black[edit]

  • This is a call-out to the shadow cabinets, petty dictators and all-around tossers of the world. You're on notice. We're not bound by lines on a map or political alliances or government bodies of any kind. We are our own bosses, and we have a very simple job. There are the good guys -- namely us -- and the bad guys -- namely anyone who treats anyone else like trash to further their petty aims. We turn bad guys into memories. So mind your manners, lads and lasses or we'll blow your house down. We're the Elite. You asked for us, world. Now you got us.
  • You don't have a clue what it means to live in fear, do you? To wonder why no one can stop the bogeymen who knock down skyscrapers or blow up schools. Well, we do. Human beings do. We understand fear all too well.
  • [to Superman] No witty retort? Oh, wait. You're in the middle of a seizure. Sorry, mate. I can't read your mind but I sure as hell can muck about with your brain. All those capillaries, like little tubes of concrete. But still vulnerable. It's funny, isn't it? A life of truth, justice and the American, military, capitalist way. In the end, you die on the moon, wondering if your bowels will let go. And tomorrow, the world will go on like nothing happened. Dragged kicking and screaming to a better day.

Atomic Skull[edit]

  • [the Elite arrive] He's sending in the B team? I want the boss, not the interns.


Manchester Black: You think that's it? It's not over, you poncy twit. If you think I'll just go to jail and rot, you're living in a dream world!
Superman: Good. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us into something better. And on my soul, I swear that until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice are the reality we all share, I'll never stop fighting. Ever.

The Hat: Hang tight! Everyone knows Superman can't do magic! [flies into the whirlwind] Here's a little ancient Chinese secret... [starts to choke]
Coldcast: How? He's shielded by magic...!
Manchester Black: Mate, that wind is clocking in at five hundred miles a minute! His body may not be taking any hits, but his lungs've collapsed from the vacuum!

Lois: If she knows anything, I'm the Martian Manhunter.
Superman: There go all of my fantasies.

Lois: When...?
Clark: Dawn, I guess. They'll like the drama of that.
Lois: Why did you have to do this? Why can't you call someone else?
Clark: The Elite didn't take the fight to anyone else. They chose me.
Lois: No, you went after them!
Clark: They're slaughtering people and laughing about it.
Lois: Black can punch a hole through a mountain by thinking! The Hat tosses around demons like trained birds, and Pam...
Clark: They have to be stopped!
Lois: I think they can beat you! [beat] I'm sorry. But they're willing to go places you won't. And they're so damn strong...
Clark: I heard a child say that he wanted to be in the Elite when he grows up, because it would be fun to kill bad guys. Fun to kill... People have to know that there's another way. They have to see that someone believes in humanity strongly enough to...
Lois: die for them?
[they kiss]

Manchester Black: [holding a piece of Superman's cape] How is it that no matter how badly you massacre one of these thong-and-blanket types some shred of their unmentionables still survives the blast?
Coldcast: I did my best, boss. At least you got a trophy out of it.
Manchester Black: Strewth.

Robot: The metahumans designated the Elite are not anywhere within the range of our scanners, Kal-El. Their message was downloaded through a post-dimensional probability channel.
Lois: I think my phone has an app for that.
Superman: It means they're hiding between dimensions. Impossible to track.
Robot: Though we are currently processing 3,500,405 Internet hits on the Elite.
Superman: How many of them are informational?
Robot: Zero.
Lois: How many of them contain the phrase: "These guys rock"?
Robot: 2,800,000.

Superman: Sorry. I heard your telepathic shout before. But my mind is protected from anything deeper by a series of psychic blocks.
Manchester Black: Best I've seen too. Got a few skeletons rattling around up there you don't want out? I'm not looking for you deepest, darkest. Showing is faster than telling. And I hate to hear my own voice, believe it or not.
Coldcast: Don't believe him. Only thing shuts him up is a soccer game.
Manchester Black: Football, you uneducated Yank.

Lois: [watches Superman being kissed by Menagerie] So was it the trashy outfit, or should I start gluing slugs to my face? Maybe an iguana.
Clark: It was a moment. Pam was overexcited.
Lois: Pam? One team up and she's Pam?
Clark: We saved a few hundred people, Lois. What can I say? They're new and... excitable.
Lois: That excitability better stay one-sided... though you don't exactly sound like a fan.
Clark: Not sure I am.

Lois: Clark. Clark. I called Kansas and Ma said you're not there. So pick up your stupid hologram thing or I'll kick your butt when you get home.
Superman: Sweet-talker.
Lois: Yeah, well. Not really.

Jonathan: Been a lot of talk. Not much it good. Had to put a slap on Ben Farnsworth on account of he said you looked the fool.
Clark: I did, Pa.
Jonathan: They sucker-punched you.
Clark: Sucker-teleported, technically. So even Smallville's rooting for the Elite.
Jonathan: Well, just the loud, angry and stupid.
Clark: Come on, it's not that simple. I don't think that I make them feel safe anymore. The way I do things.
Jonathan: Clark, when people are scared, they have a tendency to hop on a bandwagon before they see who's driving it. But when they wise up, and believe me, they will, what matters is that you'll be there for them. Leading by example just like always. Truth, justice and the American way. It ain't broke, so don't fix it.
Clark: Thanks, Pa.
Jonathan: Besides, if those knuckleheads don't quit tugging on your cape, you can always kick their self-righteous asses to kingdom come.

Superman: I'm going to say this once. Surrender now, face judgment for your crimes or...
Manchester Black: Stop. There is no "or" in this conversation. Because you don't have the stones to do to us what we'd do to you in a heartbeat.
Menagerie: [lecherously] He might have the stones to do me.
Manchester Black: Pam, I'm handing out ultimatums. Please, keep it in your pants.

Manchester Black: You probably won't believe this, but I used to love superheroes. But masks are for hiding. Capes are for play. You were the first. The best. But you're a cliché and you don't fit in anymore. Mad scientists, idiots in underwear, bank robbers, knock yourself out with that lot. But the real work, fixing the world, is ours. Starting tomorrow with Bialya.
Superman: I'm shutting you down.
Manchester Black: Right.

Manchester Black: [after Superman has carried Coldcast away] Where did he go? Where did he friggin' go!?
Superman: [echoing from the distance] Orbit. He went into orbit at Mach seven [makes an abrupt landfall in front of Manchester] If you had super-hearing, any second you'd hear the... [smiles menacingly] POP.

Manchester Black: You're not dying. I'm thinking it, but why can't I feel my power?
Superman: I scanned your brain for abnormalities. And when I found one, I cut it out.
Manchester Black: What?
Superman: Heat vision. Focused through your pupils like a scalpel. Instant lobotomy.

Manchester Black: You... You think that's it?! It's not over, you poncey twit! If you think I'll just go to jail and rot, you're living in a dream world!
Superman: Good. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us into something better. And on my soul, I swear that until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice are the reality we all share, I'll never stop fighting. Ever.


  • World saved. Humanity lost.

About Superman vs. The Elite[edit]

  • Superman doesn’t kill bad guys; he stops them and then lets the authorities take over, not just protecting Metropolis but setting an example for every man, woman and child who gazes up at the sky in wonderment at his passing.
    The problem is, inevitably The Atomic Skull (and every other super-powered maniac, for that matter) is going to bust out and recommence the slaughter. There’s an argument to be made that Superman should just pound him into mush and be done with it. Sure, our beacon of hope would shine a little less brightly…but, then, we also wouldn’t need to worry about a sentient, psychopathic A-bomb killing our children.
    Enter The Elite—four upstart vigilantes with no qualms about putting the bad guys down for good. Naturally, Superman ends up at odds with these renegades. But though they have enough powers between them to almost equal our hero, this struggle isn’t one of heat vision vs. telepathy. It’s about ideals; and, intriguingly, there’s merit on both sides.
    How can Superman justify letting a mass murderer live when he clearly cannot be contained or reasoned with? But if he crosses that line, as The Elite are wont to do, what would he be turning himself into? What would he be turning the people he defends into?
    It’s this ideological tussle, rather than high-flying spectacle, that makes the film engaging.
  • Not a shard of Kryptonite to be found in the whole affair, and yet the Man of Steel has never been more vulnerable. As the world rallies behind The Elite, we see that, for all his remarkable gifts, he has no immunity to the pain of rejection nor the fear that he won’t be able to save humankind from its basest impulses.
  • Question: For the uninitiated, what was the genesis for the original story of this comic?
Joe Kelly: The germ for the story really came from a very visceral reaction I had to a comic I was reading at the time – The Authority. It was a dark anti-hero comic. I really like the Authority and its characters, but there was an issue in particular that felt like it had pushed the boundaries of what makes a hero and what makes anti-hero. I found myself getting ‘fanboy mad,’ which I don’t normally get. We had an anniversary issue, and I asked Eddie (Berganza) if we could directly address those characters. I wanted Superman to take those characters on. And that became the germ for Action Comics 775.
  • Question: Do you have a favorite scene in SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE?
Joe Kelly: I’m especially proud of the quiet scenes. It’s very difficult to get quiet emotion in animation and to let the silence actually play on screen. But when you look at the quiet scenes in this film — Pa Kent and Clark on the porch, or Lois and Clark on the couch – those scenes really give us the chance to see Superman questioning himself with the people he trusts the most. And those scenes play beautifully in the film.
It’s like in one of my favorite scenes – just before the Elite takes over the airwaves and makes their grand announcement. I think it’s in the original, but it really came to life for me in the film. Lois and Clark are having a little debate, and he asks if she believes that criminals deserve the Elite’s sense of justice and punishment. And she says “Some days I think they do.” That’s just like a punch in the gut.
  • Joe Kelly: In the DC realm, I’m very proud of “Justice League Elite” because the characters that pick up from this story are darker and very layered. It’s all about how messy you can get before you become a monster. I love that theme.
  • Joe Kelly in [ "Interview: Joe Kelly on Superman vs. The Elite"], Major Spoilers, (June 12, 2012).
  • Joe Kelly: The themes that are in Superman vs. The Elite are kind of timeless, but they especially resonate now in a world where the lines between good and bad are not always totally clear—as opposed to Superman, who really wears it on his sleeve. He’s an American icon, so where does he sit in today’s world? I think that’s a legitimate question and one that we can explore in the context of a superhero story.
  • Joe Kelly: We wanted to make sure that the conflict between Superman and The Elite wasn’t minimized. We wanted to explore the difference between the two... You only have to turn on the TV to any news channel and there are conflicts going on all over the place where an average guy on the street might say, ‘Man, we need to wipe those guys off the earth. We wouldn’t have any problems if that country wasn't around.’ And that’s something that everybody kind of understands, especially now. We all have that anger, that sense of fear and inner desire to see the bad guys punished. So that’s what The Elite very strongly represent in the film. Like Manchester says, it’s that notion of, ‘find the cancer and cut it out.’ I think that’s a lot easier for an audience to tap into."
  • The plot is pretty simple. A new quartet of vigilantes have captured the public’s attention and approval. Led by the brutally cynical Manchester Black, ‘The Elite’ are all-too willing to do what Superman won’t, which is basically to wantonly murder those who threaten the safety of innocents. As Superman wonders if his absolutist moral code is no longer relevant, society at large must ask themselves what kind of superheroes they really want watching over them. Ten years after the original story was published, the narrative plays less like a rebuttal to the likes of Punisher or Spawn and more like a post-9/11 morality play. The word ‘terrorist’ gets thrown around like it’s a new vocabulary word, and it’s clear that the film is putting Superman in the shoes of the ACLU and the Glenn Greenwalds of the world while The Elite stands for the ‘by any means necessary’ approach favored by the likes of Dick Cheney and Barack Obama.
  • In Superman vs. The Elite, the Man of Steel faces his most daunting foe yet: public opinion. In an era where the realities of terrorism and global strife have created a cynical and hardline attitudes about the concept of "justice," Superman's idealistic optimism seems more and more outdated (both in the film, and in the real-world). So when a group of younger super-powered vigilantes known as The Elite appear on the scene, Superman is not prepared for their brutal stance against criminals - nor the resounding public approval that follows.
  • The story works in this animated feature as well as it did on the comic book page - primarily because the writer of the comic story (Joe Kelly) also wrote this animated feature version. The plot-points - sketching the modern world and how Superman's idealism is outdated; edgy anti-heroes being more popular than classic super heroes - are all directly addressing questions that fanboys and average people alike have been asking - namely, why does Superman still matter?
  • All in all, Superman vs. The Elite is a Superman flick that's actually interesting to watch for intellectual reasons, but won't blow you away in terms of visual splendor or action. In that sense it's an easy recommend to those who maybe haven't been able to connect with the character in a long time (Batman crowd, looking at you); though it may be less satisfying to the hardcore fans, who already know why they love Big Blue.
  • The key difference between the new DC Universe Animated Movie: Superman vs. The Elite and its source material, Action Comics #775, “What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? ” has nothing to do with the animation style, the voice direction or any of the hundreds of little changes that are necessary when adapting a printed work for the screen, instead it’s all about timing. The comic bears the publication date of March 2001, and even if you do not subscribe to the notion that ‘everything changed after 9/11’ it is impossible to see this new release without contextualizing its story of extreme answers to extreme situations without the events of the intervening decade in mind.
  • In his recent Newsarama interview, the writer of the original comic and of the animated adaption, Joe Kelly, described part of his inspiration being the perception that Superman, as a character and a heroic archetype, was that “he’s lame and he’s outdated,” and that is just the impression that the movie gives viewers right at the offset. Immediately framed as corny and old-fashioned by an in-universe childish animated depiction of the hero and his morals, a short string of loving put-downs by an in-the-know, affectionate Lois and even by the clever pop-art style credit sequence that cuts together clips of pre-90s era Superman cartoons, this Man of Steel nevertheless exists in a more ‘realistic’ world as the movie starts to earn it’s PG-13 rating with an attack by the Atomic Skull who is trying to get the hero’s attention by gruesomely disintegrating people at random.
    One block wrecking brawl later, a debate on the seemingly useless process of incarcerating such villains is interrupted by the outbreak of war between some stand-in Middle Eastern nations. While battling one side’s giant bug monster bio-weapon, Superman is aided by a new group of heroes that will come be known as The Elite: potent telepath and telekinetic Manchester Black, the energy manipulator Coldcast, Menagerie, who controls a legion of symbiotic alien creatures inside her, and The Hat, a powerful conjuror.
    Initially the five of them work together well, but The Elite’s aggressive attitude and willingness, almost eagerness, to cross moral lines when crime-fighter that Superman is not comfortable with start to concern the Man of Steel and fire-up Lois’ reporter instincts. This new conflict leads events cumulating in a scene that might have been, if not for the nature of the participants, the most graphic ever depicted in superhero animation, a crisis of confidence for and of Superman and the public leading to a high-stakes 4-on-1 battle royal.


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