James Gunn might've just revealed the secret villain of his Superman movie - and there's some notable comic history behind it

 Solaris, the Tyrant Sun in comics overlayed on Superman (2025) promo photo.
Solaris, the Tyrant Sun in comics overlayed on Superman (2025) promo photo.

Superman writer/director James Gunn just shared the first look at David Corenswet in costume as Superman in a set photo that seems to show off the film's apparent blend of on-set digital imagery and practical effects. It features Corenswet pulling on a boot in the foreground, while the background features a giant purple-y eyeball thing rendered digitally in the window behind him.

As confusing as the oddly casual image of Superman has been for some fans, whatever the heck is going on in the background has also been a big question. And though it's merely an educated guess, we're thinking that it's very likely Solaris, the Tyrant Sun, a cosmic villain that plays a role in the comic All-Star Superman, which James Gunn has repeatedly touted as a big influence on his Superman movie.

But what is Solaris, the Tyrant Sun? And if that is in fact what's in the back of this image, what could it mean for the story of James Gunn's Superman? We've got the answers, but be forewarned, we'll be getting into spoilers for the comic stories DC One Million and All-Star Superman, some of which could wind up as parts of the story of James Gunn's Superman film.

Solaris in DC One Million

Solaris, the Tyrant Sun in comics
Solaris, the Tyrant Sun in comics

Solaris first appeared way back in 1998's DC One Million #1 by writer Grant Morrison and artist Val Semeiks, which kicked off an event series exploring the DC Universe a million years into its future in the 853rd century.

Though Solaris starts as an enemy of Superman's descendants, by the 853rd century, the sentient cosmic super-computer is reformed as a hero and a member of the Justice League of the future.

But not all is as it seems, as the Tyrant Sun once again begins living up to its name again in secret, infecting the time-traveling android hero Hourman, who existed in both the present and the future, with a virus that traveled backwards along his timeline, turning him against the present day Justice League.

This was all a plan by Solaris to eliminate the present day Superman (known in the 853rd century as Superman Prime) with a piece of Kryptonite, which was actually a disguised Green Lantern ring. Wielding the ring, Superman Prime is able to defeat Solaris by collapsing it into inert matter.

Solaris in All-Star Superman

Solaris, the Tyrant Sun in comics
Solaris, the Tyrant Sun in comics

Solaris also played a role in the 2005-2008 series All-Star Superman by writer Grant Morrison (Solaris' co-creator) and artist Frank Quitely, which takes place outside of regular DC Universe continuity, in its own self-contained timeline.

Solaris appears  in the series' climax in which Lex Luthor has taken a Super-Serum that temporarily gives him Superman's powers. Luthor summons Solaris to Metropolis, allowing it to turn the light of Earth's sun blue, denying Superman his powers (which are fueled by Earth's yellow sun).

Though Superman manages to regain his powers and defeat both Luthor and Solaris, it winds up being his last act, as he falls dead a short time later.

This leads to the final twist of All-Star Superman, in which Superman's super-scientist ally Doctor Quintum reveals that he's cloned Superman, allowing his legacy to live on after the original's death, though as yet, we haven't actually seen any follow-up on the Super-Clone, as All-Star Superman remains a singular, standalone story.

Solaris in James Gunn's Superman

Superman (2025) promo photo
Superman (2025) promo photo

There are a few elements of both DC One Million and All-Star Superman that could inform how Solaris fits into James Gunn's Superman, if that is in fact Solaris in the set photo Gunn released.

One of the most potentially interesting bits in DC One Million is the final climax in which Superman uses a Green Lantern ring to defeat Solaris. With Nathan Fillion playing Green Lantern Guy Gardner in Superman, it's entirely possible that a version of this scene could play out in the film.

And from All-Star Superman, the idea of Luthor using Solaris as a tool for Superman's destruction seems to line-up with what appears to be happening in the background of the image, in which it seems that Solaris (again, assuming that is in fact Solaris) is blasting Metropolis with purple energy. That could also imply that Nicolas Hoult's Luthor might get some super powers of his own.

Gunn could be drawing on any of those plot points or more for Superman, and pitting the Man of Steel against a tyrannical cosmic villain of Solaris' power and proportions, potentially alongside an empowered Lex Luthor, would certainly be a spectacle that hasn't made it to the screen in any Superman movie yet.

Superman opens in theaters in July 2025.

All-Star Superman is one of the best Superman stories of all time.