SUPERMAN EXCLUSIVE: Challenges of the MOS- Interviews with David Goyer, Jim Lee, Bruce Timm
by Edward Gross. As Superman celebrates his 75th anniversary this June, the Man of Steel has proven himself to be one of the most enduring fictional characters ever created and, as time has gone on, also one of the most challenging to continually make relevant for modern readers and viewers. Ironically this is despite the fact that the character has managed to appear in some sort of non-comic book medium in every decade since he was created.
Superman as a character has proven himself a difficult one to keep relevant through the years, and it's an issue that's explored through exclusive interviews with David S. Goyer, Jim Lee, Bob Goodman, James Tucker and Bruce Timm.
"On the face of it," offers writer David S. Goyer, who has co-written the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films as well as Zack Snyder's forthcoming Man of Steel, "I think a character like Superman is more challenging than a character like Batman, because Superman is known for being somewhat of a Boy Scout. But as Zack Snyder has said, I think we're attempting to depict him in a slightly more realistic way, and our goal was to make you care about him as a real person and sort of get to know him in a way that we've never known him until now."
Writer Bob Goodman, currently on staff at Syfy's Warehouse 13 and someone who's been involved in writing the DC Tooniverse for the past 17 years, most recently by adapting the two-part The Dark Knight Returns and the upcoming Superman Unbound, feels that Superman is a deceptively rich character with a lot more to him than he is generally given credit for.
"Batman," he muses, "was kind of a response to, 'Oh, you have this superhero with all these powers and is not as relatable. Let's create a superhero that is just a regular guy and doesn't have super powers.' I would argue that Superman is, of the two, a more regular guy; a relatable character. You can always find stories to do with Superman/Clark Kent that relate to us, that are, 'This is what I wish, this is how I hope I would react in this situation; this is a situation we can all see ourselves in.' Plus, he's very much, in my mind, the right character for the century he's evolved in. He's existed through this period in time that has seen such mind-blowing changes in technology, in our visions of the future and change like we've seen in the 20th Century and going into the 21st Century. Change that brings anxiety. It brings simultaneous wonder and optimism with dread and fear. And Superman stories have always embodied that and always been able to change and shift, and embodied anxieties that the culture is feeling at any given time. So we can explore through Superman stories about our worries about what happens when humanity does contact aliens. Will they be our protectors and saviors, or will they show up in a Skull ship like Brainiac and want to blow us up? At different times during Superman's history we can explore what the bomb is going to mean to us, what nuclear energy is going to mean to us, what growing corporate power in the form of Lex Luthor is going to mean to us, what nano-technoogy is going to mean to us, what sci-borg enhancements - combining men to metal - is going to mean to us, what chemical contamination is going to mean to us. So Superman has always been a character who grew with the times in enabling us to exorcise our own demons about our future phobia - and at the end of the day see our hopes triumph."
DC co-publisher and artist Jim Lee, who is taking on Superman in a monthly comic this June with the Scott Snyder-written Man of Steel, has no doubt that the character remains a relevant one and working on him is an opportunity to deal with someone "who's better than yourself."
"Trying to deal with a character that is so noble and so powerful is difficult for a writer and an artist to tackle," says Lee. "Purely from an artistic level, you look at his power set - heat vision, X-ray vision, flying, being able to walk through the molten sun - and it's not like Batman driving around in a car, throwing batarangs around. You have to come up with a different visual vocabulary to express that. I think it's the same with writing - he has to be firmly attached to his human roots as Clark Kent, but he should also be this aspirational character who rises above that and has this tremendous humility. So how do you introduce drama into that situation? Well, Scott Snyder is an amazing writer. What's really impressed me with his run on Batman is he's been able to introduce elements to a mythology that's been around for about 75 years and make it feel organic. The introduction of owls, which are the natural predators to bats - I mean, that's a no-brainer, but no one had done that in 75 years. And the stuff he's doing with Superman is the same. He's going to give some new jumping-off points, and mythology, and he's playing up the Clark Kent and Superman relationship, and I think it's really going to impress people.
"So, why is Superman more difficult?" he elaborates. "I don't know. I think Batman is something we can get our heads around: if you work hard and make a billion dollars, you, too, can be a superhero. A crime fighter! It makes a lot of sense; it seems doable. It's hard to be an alien who crash lands on Earth and gets powers because he's exposed to yellow sun radiation. That said, he is the ultimate superhero for me, so I think there's nothing more impressive and that brings me back to my childhood than drawing Superman flying across the skies of Metropolis. That's the kind of joy you want to bring to the comic book, and in my gut, it tells me that Superman is a broader character than Batman - this is a character who can reach the youngest of readers and the oldest of fans. That's what we're shooting for with Man of Steel."
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