“’Superman Returns’ didn’t work for a lot of reasons,” Grant Morrison said.
“I so wanted that movie to work,” said Mark Waid, “but every choice they made in that movie was wrong. If you’re making the movie in a vacuum, and there will be no other Superman movies ever again, go ahead and give him a son. But otherwise, that’s a staggeringly awful idea. What are you going to do next? Either the kid has to be a part of his life, or get superpowers, which no one wants to see. I want to go to them and say, ’What were you thinking?'”
“The idea was to make an American Christ figure, but what they centered on was his weakness,” Morrison said. “They made him more a lamb of God, rather than give us a real powerful Superman. They had too many scenes where he’s being kicked to the floor, and that’s not Superman. Superman would get up and fight.”
So these comics book writers are getting up and fighting too. Both Morrison and Geoff Johns have pitched the film studio on how to reboot Superman — properly reboot him, as if “Superman Returns” didn’t even happen.
“I told them, it’s not that bad,” Morrison said. “Just treat ’Superman Returns’ as the Ang Lee ’Hulk.'”
“’The Hulk’ has proven the audience will forgive you and let you redo the franchise,” Waid said. “You can reboot from scratch.”
Morrison’s idea was a more “tight and concise” take on his “All-Star Superman,” so you’d see Superman address his mortality. And Waid suggests they take a look at his hard reboot, “Superman: Birthright.” But Brad Meltzer also has an idea that could work as the basis for the character, based on research for his upcoming “Book of Lies.”
“Superman is a character more recognizable than Abraham Lincoln or Mickey Mouse,” Meltzer said. “But no one knows crap about Mickey Mouse. He’s a symbol. Understanding a soul is much harder. So don’t treat him like a walking American flag.”
To understand Superman, Meltzer says, you have to know why Superman was created in the first place — because a young Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed in 1932 (a fact first uncovered by Gerard Jones in “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book”).
“Superman was created not because America is the greatest country on earth, not because Moses came to save us from Krypton, but because a little boy lost his father,” Meltzer said. “In his first appearances, he couldn’t fly. He didn’t have X-ray vision. He was only bulletproof. So Superman’s not a character built out of strength, but out of loss.”
“When you hear that, it puts on a whole new spin on Superman and his origins,” Waid said. “The understanding was that Batman was born out of traged and Superman out of hope and aspiration, and it turns out that it’s about not wanting to lose your loved ones. That’s critical, and it means that we can connect with him. He’s not an untouchable character. Bad things still happen to him. His father passes away, and his powers can’t save him.”
And even if Superman still seems like too much of a Boy Scout, we’re supposed to be identifying with Clark Kent anyway. “Everybody knows what it’s like to see the pretty girl and think, ’If only she could see me for who I really was,'” Waid said. “Past the glasses and acne or whatever. But he has to hide, and half his co-workers don’t even know his name. That’s a critical part, too.”
“It is so much deeper than, ’He’s an alien with superpowers,'” Meltzer said. “I never wanted to write a Superman movie before, but I do now. I understand what Superman is now.”
Should they reboot Superman? What kind of Superman would you want to see?