EXCLUSIVE: Mark Waid Talks MAN OF STEEL Ending - SPOILERS GALORE!
Interview conducted by and copyright Edward Gross
It's the final third - particularly the ending - of Man of Steel that has caused the most controversy, and in this exclusive excerpt from an interview with writer Mark Waid he discusses that ending. Nothing but spoilers follow.
It would be difficult to find a more passionate and knowledgeable fan of Superman than writer Mark Waid (author of the classic Superman: Birthright maxi-series that's currently celebrating its 10th anniversary - more about that at the end of this article). Mark was also pretty vocal in his criticisms of Man of Steel, as presented on his blog at Thrillbent.com. Well, VFK editor Ed Gross, no slouch in the Superman department himself, recently sat down for a conversation with Mark regarding MOS, and, in particular, its controversial ending in which (SPOILERS GALORE!) Superman ends up killing General Zod to stop him from murdering innocent people.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Let me start by saying, I must be the biggest Superman whore on the planet, because even though I have many of the complaints that you and a lot of people have had about Man of Steel, I still enjoyed the movie. I don’t know if it was because the action was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or I just like Henry Cavill as Superman.
MARK WAID: There’s a bunch of X factors, too – again, you can’t make an argument that Superman Returns was a better movie than this by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoyed it more. And I knew at the time I was enjoying it that everyone was looking at me thinking, "What is wrong with you? You’re a freak!" But I didn’t care, because I just enjoyed it. As I said in my review of Man of Steel, I don’t want to take that away from anybody. I guess the reaction to my review was disappointing to me a little, because while most people seemed to get it, there’s been a reductive aspersion cast on it by a lot of people. More and more I've seen, "Read here why Mark Waid hates Man of Steel." Well, that's not what I said.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: See that’s the problem with the Internet - everything is turned into a news story.
MARK WAID: Exactly, and that’s not what I said. I was broken hearted, I was disappointed, I was gutted by that one scene as much as anything else or certainly the last third of the movie, but I also liked a lot of things about it. I even kind of understand why they went that way, so this isn't, "It's not my Superman," or "Why can't it be like the '50s when I was growing up?" It's not that at all. It's more the idea of, man, there's just no heart or charm, especially in that last third of the movie. It's just destruction porn.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: When Christopher Reeve played Superman, he put on the costume and the character was essentially fully formed. He knew who he was, he knew why he was here, he had all the confidence in the world and he instantly knew how to react to situations and what to do. But I’m looking at Henry Cavill as this is the first time his version of the character has ever put on the uniform, it’s the first time he’s gaining any understanding of what he is basically, and it’s all new to him. Whereas Reeve's Clark had 10 years training in the fortress with Jor-El, Cavill's had the uniform on for 10 minutes when there’s an invasion from Zod. To me, he represents someone who’s learning how to be Superman. The analogy I used was that someday Chris Pine is going to grow up to be William Shatner in the same way Henry Cavill is going to grow up to be Christopher Reeve.
MARK WAID: Right, but the difference is that in the first Star Trek movie, Chris Pine showed parts of himself that were Shatner-esque. I think that seems to be the overall feeling from a lot of people, that this is the first step. But nobody knew it was going to be a trilogy going in!
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: No, I don’t view it as a trilogy, I just view it as the first time this dude has put on the costume –
MARK WAID: Right, but if I wanted to see Boy of Steel I would have seen Boy of Steel –and that slips into the category of personal preference rather than intelligent critique. It’s more just to the storyteller. I understand that you want growth and development and stuff, but I just want a little more pay off to that. It reminds me very much of the thing you loathe hearing from freelancers and writers when you’re a publisher or editor, because I get this a lot – every publisher and every editor gets it – you get someone turning in a first issue and it’s kind of there, but nothing big has happened or there’s something missing, and the answer is always, "Wait till you get to issue three." Oh, shut up! "We have to set the stage!" Stop setting the stage and get on with the play. That’s my kneejerk reaction to the point of, well he’s just learning. But that’s not what it was sold as, that’s not what we thought we were getting. We thought we were getting a Superman movie, and we got a Superman in training movie, and maybe that’s part of my disappointment, too; maybe my expectations were forwarded that way, but if that’s the case I don’t think I’m alone.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Like I said, I would be more than happy watching the “big blue Boy Scout" guy; I love that version of the character. While most of the reviews were pretty bad for this movie, the cinema scores are through the roof - people love it! But what concerns me is, are we in a time where this is the only version of the character that can appeal to a mass audience now?
MARK WAID: Actually we’re not, but we’re in a time where the people who are in charge of that character believe that’s the only version that can appeal to a mass audience. That’s where I grit my teeth – again, I’m not the insider I once was, but I still have my ear to the ground. I’ve talked over and over to the people at DC over the last ten years, and I know what WB's feeling is about Superman, which is that he’s stupid, he’s corny and why can’t he be more like Batman? Well, because he’s not Batman, but there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than safe bets. So that certainly always informs the tone and direction that this movie was going to have. We always knew once they got serious about it that it was going to be a darker, more brooding take, but I kind of thought there would be a little wiggle room there and, my hand to God, the first and last words out of my mouth were, before we walked in that theater, was I turned to my girlfriend and said, "Look, my expectations are moderate, I’m good, as long as he doesn’t kill anybody." I swear to God I said that, but in jest, because who would have thought?
The other thing that must be remembered, and this is something that is easy to overlook -- and I’m not undercutting my position but I’m trying to look at it from different perspectives - we know there have been 30,000, 40,000 Superman stories, we know there are four to five Superman stories a month, we know that the legend is as deep as it is and as wide as it is. We take for granted that everyone else knows that, too, and the more people who have used the "Yeah, but in Superman II he killed Zod as well", which was like cartoon violence - defense, the more it occurred to me to remember to step back and stay a little humble about comics themselves. To a large extent that’s the Superman people know, and they’re not looking at is as him being a comic book character that also had a few movies a few years ago – some of these people are looking at it like it’s a pop culture character and this is the iteration we know, so all they’re doing is remaking the second movie but with a different twist. I’m not articulating this well, but in other words I think to some degree our criticism of, "That’s not what Superman does, that’s not how he is," sounds to some people like we just walked out of the Wild Wild West remake with Will Smith, and are angry and bitching about how this is not how James West and Artemis Gordon act, it’s not in character for them.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Because they’re holding it up to their perception of Superman: The Movie, or whatever rather than the history of the character -- –
MARK WAID: They know a half a dozen Superman stories, they know The Death of Superman, they know the Superman movies...
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: But they’re not mired in the mythology –
MARK WAID: Exactly, so from their point of view on a statistical level, maybe Superman does kill. It’s not as apparent to them as it is to those of us who’ve been swimming in the mythos for 75 years.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: My hope is that they acknowledge the killing in the next movie and it will change him having done so.
MARK WAID: I hope so, and that would certainly buy back a lot of my faith. But I made this argument when John Byrne did his awful, awful story 25 years ago about Superman executing the Phantom Zone criminals, in cold blood by the way, because they were powerless and not a threat anymore. To say that this is what teaches him his code against killing... I mean, I have a code against killing, too, but I didn’t have to learn it by killing someone.
To read the rest of this interview, please click HERE.
Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright serves as a partial inspiration for Man of Steel. As that maxi-series celebrates its 10th anniversary, VFK editor Ed Gross has written an ebook that goes behind the scenes on its writing, exploring it issue by issue with Mark Waid. It's a Q&A session that runs over 20,000 words in length, and includes Waid's original pitch as well as the first outline. It's a discussion that is completely Superman-centric. To order an ebook edition, just click on the image below.
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