"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
You may recall that in 2012, three Hutchinson residents launched a campaign to rename the city after Superman’s hometown, saying the two share many traits. Plus, the move would likely provide an economic boost to the area. Although the city council didn’t approve a permanent change, last year it did declare June 21 “Smallville Day,” for which The Hutchinson News temporarily became The Daily Planet.
This year, plans are bigger, with the Smallville Festival kicking off Thursday with downtown events that include a car show, Superman-themed photo booth and a screening of Man of Steel, followed on Friday with such activities as a picnic in the park and a benefit concert. And then Saturday sees the first Smallville ComicCon, with guests that include Smallville veterans Alaina Huffman and Phil Morris.
“What I want this festival to represent is the smallest things mean the most,” Christopher Wietrick, who spearheaded the initial Smallville campaign, tells The Hutchinson News. “I want it to serve as a reminder that something little can make a difference. The festival is about giving back and celebrating our heroes.”
Comic books have become prime source material for movies, television series and video games, and while the adaptations may vary in terms of scale and medium, one of the keys to their success remains the same: staying true to the core elements that made the comics work in the first place. And in TV, it’s up to the writers — either the original authors or faithful adapters — to help keep it on course.
On April 25, SundanceTV’s The Writers’ Room will explore the well-tread road between comic books and television. Host Jim Rash (screenwriter of The Descendants), the show will put The Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman and Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar in the hot seat to discuss successfully adapting comics for television. They’ll be joined by industry commentators Blair Butler (formerly of G4TV) and Michael Schneider (TV Guide Magazine).
What do we want out of a comic-based television series?
At this point in pop-culture history the corporate synergies are so closely aligned, and the fans so plugged in, that we can all come up with various ways to adapt our favorite comics into TV shows or movies. I mean, when I heard about the proposed Gotham drama — lots of Gordon, no Batman, some supervillains — it got me thinking about a half-dozen other DC features that would make passable TV series.
For example …
• Martian Manhunter: that detective’s really an alien shapeshifter with all of Superman’s powers, but he doesn’t know his version of General Zod is also on Earth and looking for him!
• Challengers of the Unknown: living on borrowed time after inexplicably surviving a plane crash, four adventurers solve the world’s weirdest mysteries!
• Adam Strange: it’s Indiana Jones with a jetpack, as an Earth archaeologist finds himself on another planet!
I talked about it last week, but there’s a lot to unpack in the recent Williams-and-Blackman-leave-Batwoman imbroglio. Part of it is DC Comics’ apparent need to keep characters relatively unchanged, which these days includes being young and unmarried. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has already explained this in terms of heroic sacrifice, so I suppose that’s as close as we may get to official company policy on the matter.
However, before DiDio made his comments, I was wondering whether DC didn’t want the non-costumed half of Batwoman’s main couple to remain single and uncomplicated. After all, Maggie Sawyer goes back further than Kate Kane, and has appeared in both the animated Superman series and in Smallville. Thus, a certain part of the TV-watching public probably associates Maggie Sawyer more with Superman than with Batwoman; and DC might not want to have her tied permanently to the Bat-office.
This, in turn, brings up the issue of DC as a “content farm,” providing material for future adaptations. Obviously the publisher has almost 80 years’ worth of characters and stories ready to provide inspiration. Indeed, over the decades, that inspiration has gone both ways. However, more recently it seems like the adaptations have been influencing the comics to a greater degree than the comics have been influencing the adaptations, and in the long run that’s not good for either side.
Friday was “Smallville Day” in Hutchinson, Kansas, as the city changed its name for 24 hours to pay tribute to Superman’s hometown. The Hutchinson News, however, honored another name that’s synonymous with Superman, as the newspaper changed its name to The Daily Planet: Smallville Edition for the day. Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen all receive credits in the paper, while several past “Supermen” get their photos on the front page (poor Brandon Routh once again gets the shaft).
On that same day, Superman joined the inventor of basketball, 1970s rock band Kansas and the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment as the 2013 class of the Kansas Hall of Fame. Experience Hutch details some of the other activities that occurred on Smallville Day and notes it’s been good for tourism.
“The Smallville push has already brought international visitors to Hutchinson, in anticipation of it happening. It will bring other visitors who want to experience Smallville as well. It’s not for everyone, as most tourism is not. But it’s important to a segment of the population and their money is as good as everyone else’s,” the website writes.
Check out the front of “The Daily Planet” after the jump.
It’s not exactly what three residents had in mind last year when they launched a campaign to change the name of Hutchinson, Kansas, to Smallville, but this week city council voted to proclaim June 21 as “Smallville Day” in honor of Superman.
That’s the same day the Man of Steel will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame, alongside “the Father of Basketball” James Naismith, the band Kansas, Menninger Clinic founders Charles, Karl and Will Menninger, and the Union Army’s 1st Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry.
The push to rename Hutchinson was begun last year by friends Ben Eisiminger, KC McNeely and Christopher Wietrick, who noticed similarities between their city and the fictional hometown of Clark Kent — among them, a similar location and population (many more are detailed in the video below). The city of 42,080 also has a Clark Road and a Kent Road.
The Hutchinson News reports that given the 75th anniversary of Superman, the looming release of Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel and the Hall of Fame induction, Wietrick thought it was a perfect time to approach the city council with the idea. Tuesday morning, the members voted unanimously in support of the “Smallville Day” proclamation, which will be read at the June 18 by Mayor Bob Bush.
On June 21 the editor and publisher of The Hutchinson News will travel to Topeka to accept Clark Kent’s induction into the Kansas Hall of Fame, alongside Laura Siegel Larson, the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.
Warner Bros. Television and the co-creators of Smallville have settled a multimillion-dollar dispute concerning profits from the long-running television series. The agreement was announced Monday during a status hearing, but Hollywood Esq. reports no paperwork has been signed.
Series creators and executive producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough and series producers Tollin/Robbins Productions sued WBTV in 2010, accusing the company of licensing Smallville to its co-owned WB and CW networks “for unreasonably low” fees, thereby cutting the plaintiffs out of tens of millions of dollars.
After introducing DC Universe staples ranging from Batman and Nightwing to Monsieur Mallah and the Brain to the world of Smallville, writer Bryan Q. Miller is turning his attention to comics’ best-known superheroine. Or at least an interpretation of her.
In an interview with MTV Geek, Miller reveals August’s Smallville Season 11 #16 will see the debut of Wonder Woman in the world established by the long-running television series, although not by that name. Yet. Still, the writer assures, she is “Diana of Themyscira. Daughter of Queen Hippolyta. Amazon Princess.”
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Now let’s get to it …
More than four years after she last appeared on television, Lana Lang will return in DC Comics’ digital-first series Smallville Season 11.
In the eighth season of The CW drama in the Season 8 episode “Requiem,” Lana was forced to leave Metropolis after she absorbed a kryptonite bomb into the nanoskin of her power suit, making her unable to be near Clark Kent.
“Since then Clark has not only gotten over Lana, but he has moved on with his life,” Season 11 writer Bryan Q. Miller, who also worked on the TV series, tells TV Guide. “He got engaged to Lois Lane and became Superman. “A lot has happened in Lana’s absence.”
According to the website, she’ll be reintroduced April 5 in “Valkyrie,” a storyline drawn by Season 11 cover artist Cat Staggs that follows Lois Lane on assignment for the Daily Planet to the Congo to investigate the Angel of the Plateau, a costumed superheroine — guess who! — fighting African warlords. Miller indicates “we will see a villain from Smallville days past” in the second chapter.
April 12 will see the debut of the spring’s main arc, “Argo,” in which Superman and Booster Gold travel to the 31st century to see the Legion of Super-Heroes. New chapters of “Valkyrie” will appear between installments of “Argo.” New chapters of Smallville Season 11 appear online each Friday.
A jury will decide whether Warner Bros. Television owes the creators of Smallville as much as $100 million in allegedly lost profits for the long-running drama.
Series creators and executive producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough and series producers Tollin/Robbins Productions sued WBTV in 2010, accusing the company of licensing Smallville to its co-owned WB and CW networks “for unreasonably low” fees, thereby cutting the plaintiffs out of tens of millions of dollars. They amended their claims of breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing earlier this year to include the allegation that WBTV’s sister company DC Comics was brought into the profit pool without the contractually required approval, greatly reducing the plaintiffs’ profit participation.
Following some confusion at Friday’s Superman panel, DC Comics confirmed today at Comic-Con International that Stephanie Brown won’t be appearing as Nightwing in Smallville Season 11. As rumored, she’ll be replaced by Barbara Gordon.
The introduction of the one-time Spoiler turned Robin turned Batgirl alongside Batman in DC’s digital-first series was announced last month, giving some consolation to fans frustrated that the character has yet to be seen in the New 52. But even as Comic-Con began, a rumor emerged that the publisher had changed its mind.
On Friday, the fan who made headlines at last year’s convention as “the Batgirl of San Diego,” attended DC’s Superman panel in hopes of getting answers, but walked away with none. So today she returned for “The New Wave” panel, where Co-Publisher Dan DiDio delivered the official news: Stephanie Brown is out, and Barbara Gordon is in.
When Batman won’t be alone when he debuts in August in DC Comics’ digital-first Smallville Season 11 — that much was clear from the cover art released earlier this week. But it turns out that’s not Robin but Nightwing warning the Caped Crusader of
Superman’s The Blur’s arrival. What’s more, that’s not a young Dick Grayson under the mask, but rather Stephanie Brown.
“Bruce can be somewhat of an angry man,” writer Bryan Q. Miller explains to TV Guide. “Stephanie’s personality is so can-do and unsinkable and bright, so it’s very much on purpose on Bruce’s part that he has a good cop going out on patrol with him every night.”
The storyline, called appropriately enough “Detective,” will also explain why Stephanie is Nightwing and not Batgirl, the identity she assumed in the DC Universe from 2009 to 2011. Miller, a former staff writer and executive story editor on The CW’s Smallville, also wrote DC’s Batgirl during Stephanie’s time in the costume.
Batman and Nightwing will arrive online in Smallville Season 11 in August, and then in print in September. Miller is joined on the four-part arc by ChrisCross and Marc Deering.
It was something the producers could never do on the television show for reasons that probably make a lot of sense to somebody, but the comics don’t have the same restrictions: As DC Comics’ September solicitations reveal, the Smallville Season 11 digital-first comic will feature Superman’s first meeting with … Batman.
“I feel like I’ve been sitting on a Christmas present for everyone since January,” Smallville Season 11 scribe Bryan Q. Miller, who was a staff writer and executive story editor for The CW series, said on his blog. According to the solicitation text for the story arc, appropriately titled “Detective,” “The hunt for his parents’ killer puts a vigilante known only as ‘the Batman’ on a collision course with the Man of Steel.”
Different interpretations aren’t a problem for Batman, who’s taken on everything from Adam West and Bat-Mite to Frank Miller and Kelley Jones. Same goes for Wonder Woman (the original Marston/Peter crusader, Gail Simone’s steely warrior, and the current Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang monster-killer) and Aquaman (Ramona Fradon, Jim Aparo, Peter David). Likewise, each new Robin, Flash and Green Lantern puts a different spin on the core concept.
And yet, among all the elasticity of DC’s superhero line, Superman stands out as somewhat inflexible. More and more I am becoming convinced that there can be only one valid interpretation of Superman. That interpretation might work for a variety of storytelling styles, but the character at its core must fundamentally be the same.
For starters, let’s run down the list of everything the main-line Superman — the character, not necessarily the stories in which he appears — is not. Superman is not arrogant, manipulative, cruel, boastful … well, you get the idea. I’m not rewording 1 Corinthians 13 here, but that’s not a bad place to start when thinking about Superman’s motivations. “Love never fails,” begins the New International Version translation of verse 8, and that’s pretty much the idealist at the heart of Superman, isn’t it? Superman never fails, not because of invulnerability or super-strength or heat vision, but because his indomitable faith in the goodness of humanity keeps him going.