Let’s see. Yes, it is not a radical upheaval of everything you’ve ever known about Superman, that’s for sure. Just as Batman: Year One wasn’t. But to come in, with fresh hands, on material that’s so rich, and has been handled by so many different people over generations and generations is an opportunity to remind everybody how good all this stuff really is, and to explore some corners that haven’t really been explored.
As any writer would [notice] on material like this, there are materials that haven’t really been looked at with Superman. I’m not talking about redefining his powers. I’m not going to change the name of the planet he came from. But there are just sides of his personality, and who he is, and what it was like being that child. Just as a hint, just in that first chapter, we spend a fair amount of time inside that rocket with the boy. We see what he went through during the months he spent in outer space, and the education he received, and how his perceptions of the universe changed.
And then there’s his symbolic birth on Earth as the rocket crashes to Earth, and he’s discovered by Pa Kent. All of this is material that, to me, is extremely emotionally charged and rich, that has been interpreted in different ways, and I’ve got my own take on it…
…Yes, with Daredevil, with Batman. The origin is a chance to really engage with who the guy or gal is. And where all these adventures spring from, really. Why is Daredevil “The Man Without Fear”? What is Batman? In some hands, he’s just this guy who’s angry all the time. In some, he’s a Dad figure. In Superman’s case, it’s worth it to ask, “What is this guy?” It’s worth a book just to examine that. And see how he got there. Because you have an alien on Earth, who’s raised by very, very traditional Earthlings, who have very profoundly family and community-oriented beliefs.
Superman has two foundations, but the first foundation is tragic, and the second one is very much based in a loving, nurturing environment. And this is also someone who is possessed of unspeakable power. What does he do? How does he become such a good man that he manages the power so well? All of this is just great story material…
…Yes. Well, that’s part of what makes him a fascinating character, is that he’s at once alien, and familiar. Which one’s for real? Is it this mighty power, or is it Clark Kent? I think one of the defining portraits of Superman was Chris Reeves in the first Superman movie. Because I had always wondered about the Clark Kent persona, but then I felt like, “Yeah, this unbelievably mighty and powered guy might just be a bit of a geek”. You know, among normal people. Because he’s too strong for them, and he knows way too much. But he also hasn’t been socially acclimated like most people. There’s always been something about him that’s a bit apart from the rest. So that, to me, is a very instructive portrait of Superman. When we do these things, we have to be aware of how they’ve been shown in other media.
Because Superman has been treated particularly well. Like in the old George Reeves series some of you may have heard of from your grandparents.
That was a wonderful portrait of him, too. It had a real, straight-ahead, good-guy Superman, but also a Clark Kent who was not the meek, mild-mannered Clark Kent that we got later. The George Reeves Clark Kent was…I think there was one point at which, I think, Lois remarked, “Oh you know Clark Kent!” As if that was one guy you expected to fly off the handle and go to face the danger.
So, there are many possible themes to play with here. But the one underlying thing that Superman has to be, and always is, is heroism. He’s a man who does the right thing because it is the right.