EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: KEVIN SMITH on SUPERMAN & Shaving
Kevin Smith is one of several celebrities involved in Gillette's Man of Steel promotion "How Does He Shave?" There are a number of theories out there, but in this exclusive interview we discuss Smith's just before the conversation turns to Superman himself.
From Gillette: In association with the highly anticipated June 14 theatrical release of Man of Steel, Gillette (NYSE: PG) is inviting Superman fans everywhere to debate one of the most pressing questions surrounding the famed superhero: If the Man of Steel really is impervious to every known substance on earth, just how does Superman shave? Superman fans can visit the online theory hub, HowDoesHeShave.com, through June 30th, to check out theories from an esteemed group of Superman enthusiasts—including director, actor, and comic book aficionado Kevin Smith, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, hosts and executive producers of the television series entitled “MythBusters;” beloved science guy Bill Nye, and “The Big Bang Theory” actress and real-life neuroscientist Mayim Bialik—and vote on their favorite.
In the movie, you see the young bearded Clark go through a transformation to become the fresh-faced Superman we all know and love. But what’s powerful enough to give a Super Hero shave? As the world’s leading male-grooming brand and synonymous with shaving and styling, Gillette has invited these esteemed experts to develop and share their unique theories to answer the puzzling question.
“Even Gillette knows that despite being the best shave, our most advanced blade can’t stand up to Superman’s facial hair, so we’re really looking forward to seeing all these exciting theories,” said Elliott Wilke, brand manager, Gillette. “Whether you’re a longtime Superman fan or just excited by the upcoming film, HowDoesHeShave.com has great content from compelling theory contributors. If we’re really lucky, we may even get some ideas for the guys in R&D to create a product that brings us one step closer to the ‘best a Superman can get.’”
It is highly recommended that you check out the Kevin Smith video below prior to reading the subsequent Q&A with him.
Interview conducted by and copyright Edward Gross
Question: I have to say, the visuals of comets to the face, I like it. I really like it.
KEVIN SMITH: That was as outlandish as I got. That and magic. I was so proud of myself, because I think my theory is the most practical. The rest, I don’t think they gave it a lot of thought. It seems like they were just playing. Like Mayim’s was based on fantasy — nobody’s doing Kryptonian genetic studies. She’s, like, “Right now there are Kryptonian genetic studies going on and figuring out a face cream that would soften Superman’s beard.” That’s A LIE, Mayim! It couldn’t happen. Bill Nye is talking about something that’s equally as strong as Superman’s beard and use it to grind Superman’s beard down. But, I’m like, “Dude, what’s as strong as Superman’s facial hair? That’s the point! What are you going to provide?” And of course the Mythbusters talk about black holes and finger nails and whatnot — all chestnuts that don’t work, because if it doesn’t work in the real world on a human being, it’s not going to work on Superman. Mine is the most plausible. Mine’s rooted in comic book lore, for heaven’s sakes! Mine has a John Byrne pedigree!
Question: You’ve also got that whole windshield that his lenses are made out of. Take a piece of the left over and turn it into a razor.
KEVIN SMITH: Absolutely! Somebody said to me, “How many times are you going to break off pieces of rocket? The rocket won’t exist anymore.” I said, “What we need to do is contact one of those razors clubs for men and see what the average monthly blade usage is. It’s, like, “It’s four blades per month.” Then you do the extrapolation, do the math, and figure out how many blades it would take a normal person to shave. Then figure out how many of those blades, let’s say between the ages of 15 and 80, although who knows how old Superman can get under Earth’s yellow sun? Let’s say 65 years worth of daily razor shaving, which we’re averaging because he probably wouldn’t shave every day. You find out what that is, you do your math and you kind of extrapolate how much ground this would cover over a small rocket ship. And you could see if it would last a lifetime using that rocket ship as a razor. Then you sit there and say, “Why are we talking about that this much?” [laughs]
Question: I was going to say that. Did you ever think you’d spend this much time talking about this subject?
KEVIN SMITH: I love it, dude. I love that’s where we are now. I used to do this back in the day just with my friends, sitting around to kill time. Now it’s legitimate. Now you can do it and people will think about it, talk about it, write articles about it. It’s fun. In terms of the campaign that promotes the Man of Steel movie, it’s got imagination to it, it’s kind of fun, it’s got a sense of humor, it’s bouncy. As the guy who wrote the scene in Mallrats were they’re talking about Superman getting pregnant, which some people refer to as the “Man of Steel/Woman of Kleenex” variant scene, I never imagined that years later you could have a discussion like this in the mainstream press. It’s one thing to have this discussion with Cinescape [note, years ago I interviewed Kevin regarding Superman Lives for Cinescape magazine], it’s another thing to have it where my mother was, like, “I saw you talking about Superman’s beard.” My lord, it’s traveled! So it’s nice we live in that period where it used to be a few of us discussing these things amongst ourselves, but now you’ve got people who don’t read comic books, whose only working familiarity with Superman is from the movies or maybe a cartoon they saw, and since they’re seeing him in the trailer for Man of Steel with images of Superman with a beard, that’s something the mainstream isn’t used to. We in comics have seen that image a zillion times. Superman with a beard is a very cool image, Superman with long hair is even cooler. The general populace who don’t devour comics, they see that image of Superman with a beard and it captures people’s imagination. And the next question is, “How does it come off?”, which is the campaign. It’s been nice to see people who would say, “Comic books? Grow up!” sitting here talking about this stuff legitimately.
Question: Need to bounce this off of you. My friend and I would play Superheroes in the ‘60s, and I would be Superman and he would be Lex Luthor, and he came up with the most ingenious weapon: Kryptonite gum! Just stick it in his hair. How’s he getting it out?
KEVIN SMITH: [laughs] Oh my God, that IS good. Kryptonite is always represented as a rock. But if you could liquefy it and get it on to his person – you’re right, you can’t just say, “Throw it over there and I’ll be fine.” It’s like wedged in his hair. He’s trying to use peanut butter to get it out and shit like that. Ice it, freeze it to break it. And it’s close to his brain as well, which means he’s going down even quicker… [laughs].
Question: What is it about this character that he endures in that in every decade since he was created he’s been in some form of production, but at the same time people view him as the big boy scout and feel he’s challenging to make interesting?
KEVIN SMITH: For the same reason that Jesus endures. You’re talking about the other big boy scout who is not fun to write for… well, people yell at you when you write stories about Jesus. But also, there’s a set text and we know the story and whatnot and there’s not too many places to go with it. But I think we all want to believe in something better than ourselves. This is why I read comic books. I’ve thought about this a long time over the course of my life, and Superman is included in this because when I first started reading comic, and not just Hot Stuff, 'Lil Devil and Sad Sack in a barber shop, one of my first comic books was Superman Family, an annual that began with Superman and Lois on a bed of clouds. When you read the first page you weren’t quite sure, but if I remember correctly, you turn to the splash page and it was revealed that they were in bed, but it was an Earth 2 story where they were in a relationship. That captured by 10-year-old prepubescent imagination, because it was, like, “Superman sleeps with Lois Lane?” But also I started diving into the world of comics and mythology, beyond the simple things you’re presented in the cartoons like Super Friends or in movies. What appealed to me, and what kept bringing me back over and over again, is because I do want to believe in my heart of hearts that at the worst possible moment in my life, somebody will be there to rescue me. That’s what a superhero is. That’s why we love Superman. He can hear anything. He’s like Santa and Jesus, he grants wishes. He can hear you screaming from worlds away and get there in enough time to save you. He does it for Lois Lane, he does it for Jimmy Olsen, conceivably he can do it for you.
So it’s just the idea of somebody who has nothing to gain. He’s not getting paid to do it. This isn’t his job, it’s just a passion; a passion for human life. Life, like in the case of Superman, is far inferior to his own. The same way we look at animals, conceivably is the way Superman could look at us. Some people look at animals with compassion, and some are, like, “You dumb dog!” and kick ‘em and stuff like that. Superman looks at us with the compassion that we look at the animals we love, and he’s always going out of his way to protect us in the same way we always go out of our way to protect things that are weaker than ourselves. That, to me, has always been the driving force of that character and every comic book character. As much as we love villains, we are drawn to the right thing. We want to be. We always want to be the best that we can be. Yes, we like to cut corners and stuff, and perhaps that’s where super villainy comes in, but generally speaking we all want to do the right thing as well. We would love to be that person who’s there for somebody else in their hour of need. Everybody would love to be a hero, but more importantly, I think we all want a hero. We all want to believe in something. And reading this character for 75 years has captured people’s imagination. Yes, he wears a colorful costume and puts on a cape… but really what it comes down to, and I think that’s what you see in the Man of Steel trailer and TV spots I’ve seen, he’s not even Superman yet and there he is doing the right thing. THAT’S why we believe he can fly. I think they’re smart in the trailers for Man of Steel, because they realize that some people are, like, “Wow, he’s so powerful, what’s so interesting about him? Last time I saw him punching an island, what’s so interesting about that?”
But this time in the trailer they’ve got the Jor-El voiceover going, “He could inspire; he’s meant to lead them to do better things.” We can’t look up to Superman and say, “I want to be Superman,” because we’re not Kryptonians and we’re not aliens. That’s why Batman is easy. “If I had a lot of money, I trained really hard, and my parents got killed, conceivably I could be Batman.” Superman is more of the ideal and we’ll always be enamored of the ideal. Just like we can’t all be Jesus, but a lot of people look up to Jesus. Same thing with Superman.
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