Should Superman Go Dark? We Ask Kevin Smith, Jeph Loeb And Other Comic Creators

Additional reporting by Jennifer Vineyard and Shawn Adler

Last week, Warner Bros. announced that they would be making some major changes with their film franchises based on the rampant success of “The Dark Knight.” However, despite mentions of “Batman 3” and the possibility of at least two new franchises starting up, the one topic that seems to be on everyone’s minds is “Superman,” and how Warner Bros. not only plans to reboot the franchise after the disappointing box office from “Superman Returns,” but to give the film a much darker tone and feel.

Immediately, fan reaction ran the gamut of those who were thrilled to hear about a “Dark Knight”-influenced Superman to those who equate a meaner, nastier Superman as sacrilege. And these reactions certainly weren’t limited to the fan-fueled message boards — comic book writers and artists were also quick to voice their opinions on the new directive.

“”How stupid is that?” exclaimed “Hellboy” and “Buffy” writer Christopher Golden. “That announcement made my head spin. ’Iron Man’ isn’t dark. ’Iron Man’ worked because Favreau brought in all the best Iron Man creators and had them read the script and asked them, ’Tell me what we did wrong?’ — and it worked because it had all the best things about Iron Man boiled down into the best movie they could make. ’The Dark Knight’ was really good because it had all the best things about ’Batman’ boiled down into the best movie they could make. Making a dark and gritty Superman movie because Dark Knight made a ton of money is incredibly stupid.”

While he wasn’t as direct as Golden, fan-favorite writer/director Kevin Smith also had reservations on a newer, darker Man of Steel. “You always have to always keep Superman very distinct from Batman,” he related. “Batman can be brooding and bleak and dark but Superman — if you want to take a realistic approach to him that’s fine, but I don’t think you can turn him into an angry character. Superman is about the hope in people, the good in people, whereas Batman is about the more driven, hungry for justice angry side of us. [So] I don’t know if doing a dark Superman is the approach, but I’m all for a reboot.”

“Superman, the character, inspires hope, as opposed to Batman, who inspires fear,” elaborated Jeph Loeb, who added that his “Superman for All Seasons” (which he created with frequent collaborator Tim Sale) could be a proper approach for a possible revamp of the franchise. “’Superman For All Seasons’ is about Clark Kent trying to deal with the fact that he has this incredible power and responsibility, and that was an interesting concept to me. And one of the other things that I find interesting is that he’s set out to perform a job that will never finish, a never-ending battle. Is that dark? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Steven T. Seagle — who’s groundbreaking graphic novel “It’s a Bird…” took a unique look at Superman through the eyes of a comic book writer — feels that Superman has been a “dark” character all along. “Heroic struggles are basically all dark in tone. The idea of ’villains’ implies something bad happening to good people most of the time, and that’s dark. Heroes look brighter emerging from dire consequence successfully,” said Seagle.

Longtime DC Comics scribe Mark Waid tended to agree with that assessment. “I [focused] on the part where they’ll make the films as dark as the characters allow us to go,” he said. “Hopefully they realize that Superman is not a dark character, but that doesn’t mean the story can’t be darker or more threatening. What makes Superman hard to write in the 21st century is that he’s a creature of hope and he lives in a brighter, more optimistic world than, say, Batman.”

However, Seagle seemed to sum up the announcement best with a point both sides of the argument could agree on. “’Dark?’ ’Light?’ Whatever. ’Good’ is the main thing we’re looking for when we plunk down our ten bucks.”

The debate continues! Should Superman be darker, or just thrown into darker situations? Voice your opinion in the comments!