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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 1,046
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Member Since: Tue Apr 04, 2017
Posts: 1,026
Subj: Re: He's not. It's just that some people like re-inventing the wheel. Also, budgets.
Posted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 at 09:51:23 pm EST (Viewed 70 times)
Reply Subj: Why Is Superman Such A Tough Character To Write And Portray On Film?
Posted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 at 04:25:59 pm EST (Viewed 65 times)

Previous Post

From a lot of what I read (Even Grant Morrison wrote in Supergods that not many writers seemed to be able to write a good Superman story.), the consensus seems to be that not many writers do really good with Superman, and it seems that a lot of people see him as too hard to relate to. Unlike Batman, who has had a list of classics or classic writers (And movies, games, animated series, etc.). And most of the Superman movies (Batman Versus Superman, Man Of Steel, Superman Returns.) seemed to be disappointing.
For the comics, is it due to editorial? Or his powers? Or the status quo? Maybe Batman doesn't have this problem because writers can do more with him. But Superman seems to have this image of being the Boyscout, and maybe people think that he's too powerful? I think that Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman tried to make him more realistic, but those movies were a little bit on the dull side. Maybe they'll give Bendis more creative freedom and he could bring something new to the books and provide a shot in the arm? I'll give it a shot.

I'll start with budgets, first. Let's be honest... which character is easier to get on film, if you have a budget less than $150 million? Let's say... you only have 10 million. Is it...

1: Superman
2: Hulk
3: Aquaman
4: Batman

You're crazy and unrealistic if your choice is anything other than Batman. Any of those other characters, especially Superman, require a lot of practical effect work, CGI, set rigging... the costs go up astronomically.

Same thing with video games. What's easier to program, a regular guy using gadgets or a super-human that's virtually invulnerable with vision/hearing powers? Outside of comic books, it's a hell of a lot harder to do Superman justice.

There's a reason why Batman has a lot of great fan-films and other characters don't. He's simply easier to film. Because when you can get hit by a truck or take a shotgun blast to the face and die, with his main locale as an urban city, it's easier to craft stories around that.

It's why the best Superman fan-films are one of two things, either character pieces (a favorite one of mine is based on the Earth 2 Superman, but it's not online anymore as I can find) or animated (where effects don't break the budget, like they would in live-action) like the excellent Superman Classic. When they try to go and do live-action effects, they're almost always terrible (not always, but it's rare).

So when dealing with characters like Superman, who take A LOOOOOOT of money to do right on the screen, Producers/Financiers are reluctant to throw money on it unless they feel it's guaranteed to make money.

Take Tim Burton's aborted Superman movie. It was a week away from filming when the money guys at Warner Brothers pulled the plug on it due to the budget, because after a string of financial failures, they saw how much it cost and didn't believe it would recoup the budget.

Now, we come to the other side of the argument... a lot of directors and writers want to put their own spin on a franchise (re: Zack Snyder on Superman), some are too blinded by nostalgia or fandom to objectively see that stuff needs to change (re: Bryan Singer on Superman, Mark Steven Johnson on Daredevil) or don't understand the fundamentals of storytelling (re: Zack Snyder on Watchmen).

Then you get in Producers and Movie Execs who are thinking solely on profit or aspects that sell, wanting to shoe-horn elements in that may or may not fit with the character... there's a LOT of juggling going on in making a movie.

So really, Superman's movies have such a bad streak not because the character is bad or tough to write, but because making movies is hard, especially when you have people who don't care about representing the character correctly and so many factors that if they aren't done right, hold the movie down.

And with a character like Superman, if the effects and acting fail, it doesn't matter how well the script is written, no one is going to watch. If the acting is great, but the story and effects are terrible, people aren't going to flock to the theater. If the effects are great and the story is great, but the acting sucks horribly, again... it's going to be hard for the film to get traction.

The only truly great Superman film, Superman: The Movie, had the Director Richard Donner fighting the Producers every step of the way, who wanted to make it campy and complained on how much money was being spent on the effects.

You need a strong will and understand of the source material to make a great movie. For all the deviations of S:TM, Donner at least understood the fundamentals of Superman. And like or hate the Marvel movies, Kevin Fiege has been a blessing there, because he understands the majority of the Marvel Characters and their movies reflect them pretty damn well... and gives them appropriate budgets to get them to the screen.

Superman, and by large most of the DC film slate (even Batman, if you really study his film series and comics) has not had that. Their successes are in spite of the higher-ups, not because of them.

Superman needs a great intercessor like Kevin Fiege, who can wrangle all the elements (getting writers/directors who understand Superman, along with an appropriate budget) and then we may be able to get another great Superman film in our lifetime.

So, with that said, the comics it's a mixture of writers and editorial. Sometimes editors hobble creators with storylines and notes that stifle creativity (the late great Dwayne McDuffie had this issue during his run on JLA) and other times writers don't have a strong guiding hand in holding back a writer's excesses (Grant Morrison is prime example of this, from his JLA second half and other later books).

And some writers are great fits for a book (Cary Bates was born to write Superman, IMO) while others never felt comfortable (Denny O'Neil).

It's a crap shoot and it's about finding a balance. And like with films, sometimes you'll have bad editors that a great writer can create gold with anyway, same thing with a mediocre writer with a great editor. And sometimes, you can have a great writer and a great editor and it stinks.

And, that's just on the creative side. Readers bring their own tastes, baggage and expectations too.

As for complaints on Superman, most of it is crap and is people who are looking for easy excuses to dislike something. As I told my best friend who argued he didn't like Superman because he was unrelateable and so he likes Batman better, I asked him... "So, your parents were murdered in an alley?"


"Are you a billionaire?"


"Have you trained in forensic science, martial artists and a world class athlete's body?"


"So how exactly do you relate to Batman?"


"Fact is, out of the two characters, your background mirrors Superman's more. Rural towns, moved to and love cities, more salt of the earth."

Then he stopped with that line of thinking.

The thing is that stereotypes got into people's minds about Superman, not necessarily rooted in reality, that people latched on to. Kind of like Aquaman being lame, when in reality he's pretty cool.

So can Bendis do anything about it? Who knows? Just gotta read the comics to find out. And unlike someone like Mark Millar, I actually think Bendis can write, so while he's not my first choice, he seems enthusiastic, so I wish him luck.

Ryan Brandt
Writer of Ideas
Creator of Stuff

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