Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Is Superman Tough to Write?

November 13, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Superman 1

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy reading or discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. I throw out a subject, you comment below. Easy. Let’s get started. 

Previously on…


Last time we said Farewell to Vertigo. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Jeremy Thomas: “That DC wasn’t able to make their indy comic-style imprint successful in the current era where comics are really thriving again outside the Big Two says just about everything you need to know about DC.

So long, Vertigo. You’ll be missed.”

Robert Lehto: “I’m still surprised 100 Bullets hasn’t been made into a show yet.”

BoboBilliken: “Society can go on even without men…so I’m guessing that Y to the Last Man wouldn’t be that apocaolyptic..”

Krunchy: “Loved Death: High Cost of Living and passed it along to my daughter as a teen, and she loved it enough to dress up as her for Halloween. The Time of Your Life was also very good, but not as good as the first mini-series. Also like Black Orchid, but that sort of predated Vertigo, and ended up one of the first reissues that Vertigo put out. I believe it was the first thing Gaiman did at DC?”

mcdropkick: “Writing was on the wall when Berger left and DC proper started taking characters back again (I’ll never get use to seeing John Constantine hang out with Batman), but still sad to see Vertigo go.”

WhiteWhale: “It’s a shame what ideological zealots did to this once proud publication.

Infiltrate, destroy, move on to the next pop culture target and repeat the cycle.

I can’t believe anyone still hires them. What’s happened to this industry is a tragedy, but one people can learn from. They won’t, but they could.”

Too many great comments to share. Go back and see for yourself. Also, as always, thanks for the input!

This week we say…

Is Superman Tough to Write?

This week’s discussion comes straight from a comic book store. Shout out to The Amazing Comic Shop in Fairfax, VA. Had a talk with a couple of guys about Superman, specifically his best stories. While I could rattle off several favorites, others said he works best in team situations or when paired with Batman. 

I disagreed but it reminded me of an interview from Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo. The pair talked about the challenges to bringing Superman to the big screen and I think most would attach their thoughts to the comic book side as well. 

“The more powerful a character is, the more difficult to deal with that character on a narrative level,” Anthony told Business Insider. “As storytellers, and the way we explore characters, we always look for vulnerabilities in characters because that’s where characters become interesting. They’re superficially interesting in their strength, but they get much more depth when you find where they don’t have that kind of strength. In general, the more powerful a character is, the more tricky that is.”

Joe named Superman as an example and how difficult it is to create challenges for that character. “He’s a very difficult character,” Joe said. “You have to find an emotional flaw or weakness in the character in order to make them vulnerable.”

I’m having a little trouble seeing where they are coming from since Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 on April 18, 1938. Since that time he has been published consistently, including a number of classic storylines, many involving emotional flaws and weakness, that are ripe for movie interpretations.

Sticking to the movie side for a moment, Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel, fell victim to the same mindset. One of the big problems for many with his movie was Superman’s decision to kill Zod. Snyder said it was necessary for the character’s development. By killing the supervillain, he would take on a “no kill” policy going forward.

“I guess for me—and in the original version of the script he just got zapped into the Phantom Zone—David and I had long talks about it and Chris and I talked long about it and it was like, ‘I really think we should kill Zod and I really think Superman should kill him,’” Snyder told Empire. “And the why of it was, for me, that if it’s truly an origin story, his aversion to killing is unexplained. It’s just in his DNA. I felt like we needed him to do something, just like him putting on the glasses or going to the Daily Planet or any of the other things that you’re sort of seeing for the first time that you realize will then become his thing.

I felt like, if we can find a way of making it impossible for him—like Kobayashi Maru, totally no way out—I felt like that could also make you go, ‘Okay, this is the why of him not killing ever again, right?’ He’s basically obliterated his entire people and his culture and he is responsible for it and he’s just like, ‘How could I kill ever again?’”

I can see what he is trying to say but there were a number of other ways for Superman to develop without going that route.
But let’s turn it back to the comic book side. To do something a little different this week I want to open it up to you and ask what are some of your favorite Superman stories. Next week I’ll share what we got and add my selections in there.

I bet you’ll be surprised by just how many classic stories Superman has been a part of. And I’m talking Superman front and center, not in an ensemble like Kingdom Come or with his pal Batman. 

List off your favorite Superman stories below and see you next week. 

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!  

article topics :

Comics 411, Superman, Steve Gustafson