In David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of The Fly a scientist, Seth Brundle, invents two teleporter booths. He teleports himself but a fly gets in the booth with him and their cells are merged together at the other end, and then it all goes horribly wrong. (there’s a point to this, stick with it)
Comics are, first and foremost, a visual medium, and the strange amorphous teleporter booths blob of collaboration means, for a writer, that you’re never entirely sure what you’re going to end up with when you write a script. I’ve always written very visually. I can see how I think a panel should look in my mind and I do my best to describe that in the panel breakdowns in the script. But still, sometimes what I convey doesn’t come across. Sometimes the artist sees something differently, It’s always a surprise to see what ends up on the page as it’s never 100% what you have in mind.
Approaching Adventures of Superman #12: Savior – which is available to buy digitally now via http://www.comixology.com/Adventures-of-Superman-2013-12/digital-comic/44227 – my main thought was to get to the root of why Superman does what he does. Why does he feel this constant need to save as many people as he does? And I thought that was probably because of the ones he can never save – the population of Krypton. This is part of the condition of the adopted, feeling like you’re part of one world but also part of another that was gone before you ever had a chance to see it. I’m adopted, so I could connect. There’s a line in the story about how he moves so fast he’s almost like a ghost that no one seems to be able to focus on, and I liked the idea of, in terms of dealing with condensing Superman’s world into a ten-page script, quickly flitting between different fun scenarios at super speed. It’s a similar approach to the one I used on my story for Outlaw Territory 3: Evangelyne. It allows you to tell a lot of story in a short space of time and, since I didn’t know if I’d ever write Superman again, I wanted to fit in as many of his cast that I could. And it’s such a great cast.
And Ma Kent seemed like the right narrator. The woman who saved the infant Ka-el when he was abandoned and helpless, lying in his rocket, an orphan. She’s the true saviour of the story. One of my favourite Superman images is one Adam Hughes did for Superman Returns. Ma Kent with a lantern in a corn field, looking up into the skies, worrying about her son. And the Kansas farm setting feels very Terrence Malick to me. I love a bit of Malick. And there’s a lot of Donner’s Superman The Movie that’s just wonderful and stuck with me from an early age. All these things were influences in the script.
And that’s all well and good, but the artist could have missed much of this and gone for a contemporary Zach Snyder Man Of Steel look or (horror) the mullet era of Superman. Fortunately, Chris Weston plainly loves the Curt Swan-era of Superman comics that I grew up reading, and when a script says, probably annoyingly pompously ‘go to your Malick place’ he knows what I’m referring to (even if it is a glib line in a script that asks the artist to perform miracles). Plus, he’s just an extraordinarily good artist with a love of detail in his pages that intimidates. Just take a look at the design of Ma Kent’s kitchen in Savior. The type of oven, the plates hanging. The layout of Metropolis here, the newsroom of The Daily Planet. It all feels like a real world you’ve entered. Very immersive. And he designs certain things in the script via 3D modelling. To a luddite like me this is all the stuff of alchemy.
“Aiieee! It’s a giant, bald robot!”
Chris also has a love and knowledge of the Silver Age that is way beyond mine, so he was able to drop in a lot of easter eggs into the strip that plainly delighted a lot of old school Superman fans. The script asked for the Fortress of Solitude to be just that – an empty, cold place. Chris filled it with trophies from Superman’s past. That’s fine as long as the narrative is adhered to, and it was. Superman’s loneliness still shows through but suddenly the page felt like a celebration of the character and that feel added a lot to the end result. Chris took the script and made it his own. This is the whole surprise of collaboration. I put myself into a script, the artist puts themselves into the art, and out the other end emerges something that, if you’re lucky, doesn’t end up like the Brundlefly, vomitting acid on your arm, bits of you being kept in jars in the bathroom cabinet… (metaphorically speaking)
This Superman story didn’t end up like the Brundlefly. Mark Waid said it was the best Superman story he’d read in years. That was very flattering. From my point of view, it was an absolute joy to write Superman, a character I have a big soft spot for, and Chris made it one of the best looking comics I’ve ever been involved with. Look:
Onto a different story for a sec, I posted a sneak peak from ORDINARY on twitter last week – the upcoming creator-owned book by myself and D’israeli. This is one of my favourite sequences from it thus far.
We’ve set up a Tumblr for Ordinary. Nothing on it yet, but soon…