Was the concept of a World Engine in "Man of Steel" derived from the Superman comics or invented just for the movie?

This article http://dccinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/World_Engine does not appear to clarify the issue.

4 Answers 4


While there are no canon reference to a "World Engine" or similar gravity-based terraforming devices anywhere within the Superman canon (strongly suggesting that it was invented purely for the film), there are a number of alternate DC sources to consider;

The Planet Shapers;

Planet Shapers

The Planet Shapers were used by a race called the Kherubim to terraform worlds, altering the atmosphere as well as using the DNA of local species to create subservient workers. The machine also uses a central database of pure Kherubim DNA to recreate the original Kherubim race.

Thor : WorldEngine

The only specific reference I can find to anything called a World Engine is in the comic "Thor : Worldengine" in which a device of 'unimaginable power' is used to trick Yggdrasil, the World Ash into believing that Ragnarok (e.g. the end of the world) has occurred.

Given the dissimilarity between the two devices, my personal feeling is that the name is purely coincidental.

Thor World Engine

According to the Marvel Wikia;

An eccentric physicist named Price, after ingesting hallucinagens became obsessed with Ragnarok, and what humanity would be like after the world ending in fire. So he created the World engine, which tricked Yggdrasill into believing Ragnarok had already ocurred, and began creating a new race of humans.

"Nursed on nothing but the morning dew" according to Price. The Post-Ragnarok Humans were gestated in sap-filled boughs that grew on Yggdrasil's branches. They were designed to exist in an environment filled with ash, in which they would "eat". Unfortunately, because this atmosphere didn't actually exist, they all began starving to death only moments after being born.

World Engine 2


Actually The World Engine exists outside of the Superman movie, just not in the same form. It is featured in the Marvel Universe as a large device that was used to trick Yggdrasil that Ragnarok already happened.

The concept of Superman's World Engine, as a terraforming device, was created specifically for The Man of Steel Movie though.


enter image description here

  • You seem very certain that it was created specifically for the film. Do you have a reference for that?
    – Valorum
    Mar 3, 2014 at 20:54
  • Considering there is no world engine in the DC Universe the only explanation would be that they made it up for the movie... Mar 4, 2014 at 1:48
  • See the above answer. Although it's called something else there are terraforming machines in the DC Universe.
    – Valorum
    Mar 4, 2014 at 9:58
  • Terraforming devices are usually not uncommon in any sort of medium though. Mar 10, 2014 at 20:13
  • That still doesn't explain how you know that it was created specifically for this film, especially when it bears a reasonable similarity to the "Planet Shaper" designed by Jim Lee (whose work was heavily referenced elsewhere in the film).
    – Valorum
    Mar 10, 2014 at 20:18

Was the concept of a World Engine in "Man of Steel" derived from the Superman comics or invented just for the movie?

The World Engine is the specific name they gave to the machine that Hamilton in the movie described as terraforming. It's a terraforming machine, a device to change a given planet's environment to suit a specific need. This is an old hat science fiction trope. And in fact, is something that is constantly thought of for real life. NASA and other space agencies have ideas for Terraforming Mars and the Moon, from practical methods like using bioengineered algae to (currently technologically) impossible methods like nanomachines.

While I haven't kept up with Superman or DC comics, the Justice League cartoon had a couple. The very first movie/episode "Secret Invasion" had the Imperium Ion Factories, large Atmosphere changing Smog production generators and Imperium Walkers, tri-pods with large heads. I immediately though of that when the World Engine was shown. (Walker shown, not the Factory, I can't stream the episode to take a screenshot right now).

enter image description here

The Dark Heart, more of a self-replicating nanomachine weapon really, is very similar.


"The Man of Steel: Inside The Legendary World of Superman" book is part art-book and part making-of feature which gives some insight into the inspiration for the World Engine. The idea behind it was simply driven by the plot requirements and the back history developed for Krypton and its age of exploration. The filmmakers quite wisely saw space and exploration programs as impetus for technological innovation and proliferation... much as we use everyday technologies originally developed or inspired by our own space program.

With colonization in mind, terraforming was practically a necessity, and therefore the World Engine as a concept was developed. However, the visual appearance of the World Engine (and Black Zero) was driven by essentially three main principles:

  1. Organic Curves
  2. Alien Profile
  3. Age

The design principle was that most of the technology on Krypton was "grown", thus things like their armor, guns, or restraints all look biological- rather than metallic, shiny, or manufactured. Thus the inspiration came from sources like H.R. Geiger and nature... mollusks, insects, plants, etc.

The second design principle was to create something strikingly different from traditional alien ships, and thus the incredible verticality and tri-pod like appearance of the Zero and World Engine... rather than more traditional horizontal designs.

Lastly, although not expressly stated in the film, most of the technology seen in the film is literally tech from the age of expansion, merely being used, reused, retrofitted, etc... continually passed down through the ages as society and innovation ground to a halt. Thus the interior of the Zero is meant to be dirty and messy compared to the more uncluttered Scout Ship.

In sum, while parallel developments may have been found elsewhere, for the purposes of the film, the World Engine was an original invention for the film, driven by natural principles of plot and design, rather than something borrowed from any comic.

  • This answer ignored the fact that many of the film's artistic elements are clearly inspired by existing Superman/DC artists like Jim Lee. Saying that it was an original invention just seems unlikely.
    – Valorum
    Sep 25, 2014 at 19:22
  • This comment conflates the original question about the World Engine with the broad brush of "artistic elements". Nothing about the World Engine is "clearly inspired" by any existing Superman art cited in any of the above responses. Sep 25, 2014 at 19:32
  • I don't disagree that it was designed for the film.
    – Valorum
    Sep 25, 2014 at 19:33

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