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Superman Today

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This is an imaginary story... What if when we woke up- today- a man could fly? What if a being could really do such amazing things? What would it look like? How would we react? How would it make us feel? This is an imaginary story, but as the good Mr. Moore has reminded us in the past- Aren't They All?

The idea for what eventually ended up being calling "Superman Today" began while reading a series of articles on Harry Knowles' Aintitcool.com in 2002 documenting the ridiculous details behind Jon Peters' attempted production of Superman (also hilariously recounted by Kevin Smith in one of his live audience DVDs) which featured the character not being able to fly, not wearing the most famous costume on Earth, and fighting a giant spider.

For the first time ever, I felt like Superman needed my help. The character I enjoyed so much as a kid and into adulthood was in danger, danger of being changed so much as to make him unrecognizable. And thus began the "research", consisting mainly of plowing through as many previous incarnations of the character I may have only been peripherally familiar with as possible other than the comics I read as a kid that my Grandfather bought for me, still safely tucked away in a long box.

From the grace and beauty of the Fleischer Brothers animated shorts (sans a few horrific 1940's racial stereotypes scattered here and there) through more modern comic stories by Alan Moore, Jeph Loeb, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison as well as the tonally perfect animated series from Alan Burnett, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, I soaked up as much Superman as I could get through the various prisms of the top creators in their field. I was on a quest to find the ultimate version of the character as I imagined him as a kid, like the character in my long box, just with a more realistic emotional viewpoint than was allowed in the late 60's-early 70's.

But it wasn't until I discovered the crowning jewels of my quest that I finally found what I was looking for: two paperback novels published concurrently with but independent of the first two Donner/Reeve films that I somehow missed at the time but later found on eBay.

"Last Son of Krypton" and "Miracle Monday" by former DC/Superman writer Elliot S! Maggin present what is for my money the most on-the-nose iteration of the character I could have ever hoped for. Smart, funny and emotionally true, Maggin gives us a hero that is truly awesome in both the scope and power of his Kryptonian abilities as well as his effortlessly grounded Kansas-based humanity. In short, he took both the subject and the reader seriously, perhaps for the first time ever. (It was only later that I discovered how many comics in my old collection that I'd loved as a kid had also been written by Mr. Maggin as well.)

With the proper tone firmly established, so began what I then called SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL, the first chapter of a proposed 3 film arc I refer to as an Original Adaptation, in that all the best bits from the characters history, the familiar tropes, the things that make him iconic be collected together and reassembled over a modern emotional framework. Basically Maggin's Superman if he just appeared today, but also moving through echoes of past canon.

But I also wanted it to feel like "Marvels", the groundbreaking work by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross where the heroes are viewed from a distance, our distance, not up close like a comic but with the more cinema verite, reality-based feel of a newsreel. By starting the story with Superman being an unknown anomaly for 6 months viewed from afar through the eyes of Lois (a talented writer struggling to find the front page), Clark, and everyone at the Daily Planet (as well as Lex Luthor), we get the best of both approaches. Even though a large portion of the audience is already completely familiar with the basic tropes of the Superman mythos, they get to experience the same thrill of discovery through the point of view of the supporting characters, particularly Lois. Although Clark and Lois kibbutz throughout the entire first act, when Lois finally meets Kal-El face to face, he is LITERALLY faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than the locomotive they're on, and leaps a tall building in a single bound, inspiring the genesis of the familiar headline we've all heard before that creates both Superman and Lois' instantaneous world fame.

But it's been said (and seemingly ignored) countless times: A hero is only as good as his villain. And it's here where Maggin's Lex Luthor may serve the best inspiration of all, for although over decades he's been written with seemingly constantly increasing levels of malice as a means to maintain relevancy, I don't think anyone's ever gotten to his core any better than Maggin. He's simply the smartest guy on Earth, and he refuses to be upstaged by some upstart alien. But "Superman Today" takes an old Silver Age convention (Lex hating Superboy because of his loss of hair) and flips it. Superman didn't inadvertently help create mean, antisocial Lex in their youth: Clark did. During a conversation Lex admits that during his one year of high school in Smallville that he recognized young Clark as a near equal, but watching Clark shirk from every conflict and take abuse from everyone instilled in Lex a deep desire that whatever the Universe was planning to dish out, "I swore I'd never, ever take it like that gutless little puke Clark Kent." He says this just before his secret Kryptonite experiment blows up, costing him his hair while Superman saves his life. Trope flipped, then honored.

I will leave other discoveries to those curious enough to see if I was successful or not. Longtime aficionados should recognize several Fleischer episodes (including "Terror on the Midway" and "The Bulleteers") as well as several sequences lifted as directly as possible from Mr. Maggin's work. (It's considered an homage instead of plagiarism if you admit it upfront, right?

Since this was conceived as a screenplay, consideration was also given to Superman's uniform and crest/logo, specifically: why on Earth would he wear something like that? The Man of Steel's costume has been subtly altered many times since the character's inception, and these three screenplays make use of and reflect those changes. In film 1 he closely resembles the Fleischer animated character, while film 2 sees a color scheme closer to the more modern, brighter version (created by Lois while they're both imprisoned in Kandor by Braniac) before utilizing a new, lead-lined, black and gray suit in film 3 (partially designed by John Henry Irons). During their first interview Lois asks Superman about his uniform. He uses the analogy of arriving at an airport with no luggage: he's wearing the same clothes as the day he arrived, he's just lucky they stretch.

SUPERMAN'S COSTUME: Superman's BLUE JUMPER (made from Kryptonian wonder-fabric TRIPLAR) is the same outfit worn by 2 year-old Kal-El the day his father sent him to Earth. Incredibly light, durable, and elastic under normal circumstances, upon prolonged exposure to yellow solar radiation Triplar (due to its trace residual Kryptonian organic components) becomes both nearly indestructible and incredibly elastic, almost to the molecular level. Kal-El wears his father's CRIMSON CAPE (red outside, darker inside) which Jor-El used to help wrap and pad his son into the spacecraft's seat. Jor-El also used his BELT (black with circular plain gold buckle) and several RED PLASTI-STEEL STRAPS (another remarkable Kryptonian wonder-substance, later fashioned by Kal-El into his RED BOOTS) to help secure his son into the mini-rocket's cockpit. Before sending his son to Earth, Jor-El removed the KRYPTONIAN FAMILY CREST from his chest and placed it in the ship with his son. Consisting of TWO BLACK FIGURES (representing his parents Jor and Lara) against a RED DIAMOND background (the symbol of the House of El); it is frequently mistaken for an "S" by most people from Earth. 

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER: SUPERMAN is ™ © ® and 100% owned in every other legal and binding way by DC Comics. No ownership is implied, inferred, or insinuated in any way... because if it were, the last several films would have been much better.