What are some of your favorite Superman stories?
Thanks for the great work , and answering my questions.
What lead you to choose Nuclear Man for a villain? I liked Superman 4. Do you think Superman 4 deserves its bad reputation.
AM: I was ready to give a diplomatic answer like, “There’s something to love in each of them.” Then I remembered that during our first season, when every show except ARROW was still in production, I’d have to read the scripts for all the other shows as they came out. Inevitably, they’d stack up while I was busy and when I had to play catch-up, it was always LEGENDS OF TOMORROW that made its way to the top of the stack. I loved that show, and I’m really sorry they didn’t get one more season to play with Booster Gold.
AW: Am I allowed to say “Superman and Lois?” I’ll admit that I’m definitely biased, haha. The heart of our show is the family drama, which is always a subject matter that keeps me interested in any TV show.
JJ: I’m assuming outside of ours? There are definitely aspects and moments I love from all of them. Legends immediately sticks out because of the Thong Song Fight ( I mean…it was so scandalous, I’m not sure another show could have handled it…). And I really dug what Javicia and the team was bringing to Batwoman. Fun fact: Javicia and I went to college together. Shout out to Hampton University, my home by the sea.
AM: Hi moro! Thanks for the great question, and especially for submitting it early so that I could get a head start on responding.
When it comes down to nature vs. nurture, I put massively more weight on nurture. I don’t know that I believe people are predisposed to being good or evil based on their genetics, and I think a lot of that comes from their upbringing, experiences, unique traumas and so on. Having said that, there might be a way that your perspective can co-exist with mine, depending on how you define Superman’s “inherent good.”
Our Evil Kal-El is a villain from our perspective, obviously. But to a Kryptonian, he’d probably be considered a great hero - a savior of their entire race! He helped make their colony of Kryptonians possible. One of the first things I decided about Evil Kal-El is that he would identify more as a Kryptonian, unlike Clark, who pretty much in every version since Post-Crisis, seems to identify more as a human.
That became the spine of the story, showing how bit by bit, Evil Kal became more and more alienated from humanity.
I wanted him to have a foundation that was similar to the real Clark and that’s why I had him raised on a farm the first few years of his life. I didn’t specify if his foster parents were the Kents. Maybe they were, or maybe that was just another divergence from the iconic history. Removing them was necessary so that other influences could impact his life, and so that’s why he ended up in foster care.
If there’s a regret I have about this story it’s that I didn’t have enough space so that I could balance out the “bad foster parents” trope by showing Evil Kal with a loving foster family before he has to move into the more abusive house. In any event, the idea is that at a very emotionally fragile time in his life, Kal sees the worst side of humanity. The first conscious use of his powers is tied to his rage at that and the act of standing up to it.
After that, the government taking him in and attempting to experiment on him just underlines what he’s seen about humans, and how he’ll never be considered one of them. It’s that mentality he carries into his first encounter with Jor-El. I didn’t have much opportunity to make a meal of this, but my personal take was that when Young Kal tells his father everything he’s experienced on Earth, it triggers a different subroutine in the Jor-El A.I. than what is usually activated. Jor-El’s lessons would take a more authoritarian bent in reaction to what Kal’s experienced.
Also, this Kal is much younger than Clark typically is when he builds the Fortress. He’s a lot more malleable in addition to feeling like an outsider to humankind. When he’s ready to debut as a hero, his broad motivation is the same as Clark’s - to make the world better, but the experiences he’s had means that he probably defines that mission differently than our Clark does.
And of course, that also means that he’s far more aligned with Tal-Rho’s sympathies and goals by the time he shows up. This is a guy who’d definitely be unsentimental enough about humans that he’d take extreme measures to bring by the people he feels more connected to. And he’d see it as righteous.
JJ: I’ve always been interested in nature vs nurture, and Superman is a fascinating character to explore through that lens. I love to look at how systems and environments shape us, and then how we in turn, shape those factors around us. And how Clark/Superman is able to use his abilities to amplify the teachings, morality, and love of The Kents. My hypothesis: both things are factors, but nurture has an edge in the end.
AW: We would absolutely love to do more Superman & Lois tie-in comics! If DC calls and asks us to write more Clark and Lois comics, I think I can speak for all three of us when I say we would all answer in a heartbeat.
Awesome!! Are you able to answer the second part of the question regarding whether you guys would consider trying to incorporate more romance on the show itself? It seems to be a popular topic/ask from fans that comes up quite a bit.
AM: I mean…we got to have Nuclear Man in the comic without any regard for who’d play him, how much the super-suit cost, the expense of flying to Vegas…
The trick was less about all the things we suddenly could do and more about adjusting to telling stories primarily visually. And there was also the matter of learning how to pace the story so it fit the rhythms of the page turns, and also making sure you’re not trying to do too much on the page. It was a different way of thinking about story
BUT it also meant that I could blow up a city in one panel and not have that kill the rest of my “budget” for action scenes in the rest of the story.
AW: For me, it was a very different experience from working on a script for the show. The sky was the limit! But with that, we all wanted to make sure we didn’t go too crazy with the spectacle at the expense of emotion – which is the heart of our show.
JJ: I’ve often been known to pitch action sequences in the room that would “break the show” from a budget stand point, so being able to play in a sandbox where we can have giant robots, a Nuclear Man fight, and put a Beloved Chain Shrimp Restaurant on an Asteroid was a lot of fun!
Thanks so much for answering my question!
JJ: All Star, Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow, For The Man Who Has Everything, Superman Smashes the Klan, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali!
AW: For those that know me, I love almost any and all things animated, including the Superman short “The Mechanical Monsters.” I still remember excitedly pitching Jai and Adam the idea of doing our own take of the Mechanical Monsters for one of our splashes. I’m so glad they were on board, because that turned out to be one of my favorite pages of the lead.
AM: I’m a big fan of the Triangle Era, so: The Death and Return of Superman, Time and Time Again, Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, The Day of the Krypton Man, Dark Knight Over Metropolis, Panic in the Sky, Exile are all up there. Metropolis Mailbag is also one of the quieter favorites. I also really love Geoff Johns’s run on ACTION as well as LEGION OF 3 WORLDS. And I think REBIRTH was probably the best thing done with Superman in the comics since the height of the Triangle Era.
My favorite comic series ever!
AM: I’m going to ask very seriously, what makes that scene a “dig?” Because I saw some of that reaction and I don’t know how you interpret Pa Kent saying that - an attitude that’s consistent with most of his depictions - as a dig.
Is it a contrast with MAN OF STEEL? Certainly. But contrast is not inherently antagonistic. If it was, then the scene in MAN OF STEEL would have to be interpreted as a massive insult directed at every other on-screen version of Jonathan Kent, and I don’t believe it was.
Had Jonathan gone on to directly insult that opposing view and anyone who could possibly hold it, then the scene could be a dig. But there is nothing in the way that Jonathan Kent reacts that can be read as antagonistic to Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent. Anyone reading that attitude coming off from Jonathan is purely projecting.
A dig would have been something more like that episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES where a character named “Joel” talks about how much he loves Batman’s tight body suit and Batmobile that drives up walls, only to be met with a dismissive “Yeah, sure, Joel” from the cool kids. And even THAT was a pretty gentle poke.
Really appreciate you responding! Very cool of you!
AM: I’m not going to claim that IV is the equal of the first two Reeve films, but there are still a lot of good moments in that and I enjoy watching it with my kid. It’s sad to see how cheap the budget was and that undeniably hurt it, but I’ll always enjoy seeing Reeve on screen. As far as using Nuclear Man, I thought it would be cool to have Easter Eggs across many eras of Superman and he was an easy villain to use that wouldn’t mess with continuity too much. I really enjoyed seeing how many people got a kick out of us using Nuclear Man. Maybe enough time has passed that people appreciate IV more?
Yes! A new classic!
Thanks again! If you’re looking for a great recent(ish) Superman story, then I highly recommend “Up in the Sky” by Tom King and Andy Kubert!
Don’t know if you will read this, but wow! This has got to be the most thoughtful answer I got to a question on a Q&A. Thank you so much for taking the time to put that together. You gave me a lot to chew on; I’m gonna go back and read the story again with your notes in mind.
Thanks for answering