Man of Steel, Superman Creators Take Fan Questions at 75th Anniversary Panel

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Last weekend at San Diego Comic Con International, DC Comics did a pretty respectable job of celebrating seventy-five years of Superman. They had a swanky party, a number of "history of Superman" panels and then a big Superman's 75th Anniversary panel.

While we recapped the main event yesterday, we didn't actually transcribe the Q&A session held between the panelists (listed below) and the audience, primarily because there were a number of "Superman at 75" events around the country that we wanted to make sure we published around and it takes time to accurately transcribe this stuff.

Check out the Q&A with the audience below (the questions are presented bold and in italics to differentiate them from the panelists' answers).

The panel was made up of film/TV and comic book talent, which made it a pretty well-rounded group, and also featured a broad age range, from 15 to 85. For context, while Man of Steel star Henry Cavill (who appeared on the panel) posed with a copy of 1938's Action Comics #1 at the Warner Bros. party the night before this panel, The Adventures of Superman star Jack Larson (also present) actually owned one when he was ten and the book was new.

Here's the full list of participants:

  • Paul Levitz, former publisher of DC Comics and longtime writer/editor.
  • Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen on the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Superman
  • Dan Jurgens, longtime Superman writer/artist and creator of Doomsday
  • Molly Quinn, star of Superman Unbound's Supergirl
  • Grant Morrison, writer of All-Star Superman
  • Dylan Sprayberry, the teenage Clark Kent in Man of Steel
  • Jim Lee, Co-Publisher of DC Comics and artist of Superman Unchained
  • Tim Daly, voice of Superman in Superman: The Animated Series and several animated feature films.
  • David S. Goyer, screenwriter of The Dark Knight and Man of Steel
  • Henry Cavill, star of Man of Steel
The panel was moderated by Warner Bros. PR rep Gary Miereanu, who handles DC Entertainment's direct-to-DVD features and the like.

You can also watch the panel here, as filmed by someone in the audience:

cavill-roleplaying-gameHenry - When you got the call from Zack Snyder, you were playing a role-playing game. Have you gone back to the game since?

Cavill: Actually, I have not gotten back into it. I have no time and as I think anyone who knows that game in particular, knows that it becomes a bit of an addiction and I need to sleep so I can work.

Just wondering - comic book-wise, how do you guys feel about how dark Superman is getting nowadays? Killing Doctor Light, Injustice...how do you guys feel about that?

Morrison: He's just reflecting a general tendency, as he always does. Superman has to deal with what people are feeling and right now we're in a kind of dystopian atmosphere in the West and Superman's having to reflect that and deal with it. I think it's an inevitable part of his development through history that these are the things he has to handle. If he's dark now, it's because we're all a little bit dark.

This is for Tim Daly. One of my favorite episodes was the episode where Superman's fighting Darkseid and he does what's called the cardboard speech. I'm curious about how much input you as an actor have into that speech and how much of it all comes from the writers.

Daly: I really have to give all the credit to the writers. They're the ones who spend the grueling hours thinking about the role and the story and how best to manifest Superman and I show up to do the voice which is by comparison an incredibly easy job. So it's my job to fulfill the story that they've created. It's the writers.

daly-celIn my mancave at home, I have a statue of Christopher Reeve, which I believe is a name to be mentioned at this panel today. Is there a keepsake or something from the sets or something from the set of Superman that you have at your home?

Goyer: I have another Reeve--my mother met George Reeve [sic] when she was a little girl and I have an autographed photo of my mom with George Reeves in my office, which is kind of cool.

Cavill: Well, I wans't allowed to actually keep anything because it was all under lock and key and so instead I had something made, which was a replica of the key which I have--the command key which I wear. I had a replica made and I gave it to four of my friends, as well, who were closest in my life. So yes, that's what I kept.

Goyer: Henry also made for all the crew, which is incredibly classy, commemorative coins, which is amazing.

Daly: I knew Chris; he was a friend of mine and I'm so glad you brought him up because he was a great guy and a wonderful representation of Superman.

The keepsake I have is a cel from the animation. That's my keepsake but also some of you may know that I do a webseries called The Daly Show with my son and there's a little Superman that's kind of squishy that doesn't really look like Superman that appears magically in all these different shots that we do in our silly little webseries.

And by the way we have a new Daly Show premiering soon with a lot of former Supermen who will be guest-stars in that show.

Jack Larson Dan JurgensLee: I have an eraser from a page I drew of Superman Unchained...no, I don't have anything. [Laughs]

Larson: Well, I don't have the keepsake anymore but there was a lunch in New York--you were there, Paul--and the Smithsonian said they were going to put my bow tie from the Superman show in the Smithsonian. And there were several executives from Time Warner there and I said to the guy from the Smithsonian, "Where are you going to get the bow tie?" and he said, "Oh, Warner Bros. is going to give it to us." I said, "They don't have it." [Laughs]

Levitz: My favorite keepsake is that I have a brick from Jerry Siegel's house from when the writers and artists--I think Jim and Dan probably contributed art--contributed art to be auctioned off for people to have the house refurbished so the house where Superman was first thought of could be repaired.

Brad Meltzer, whose idea that project was, got to walk up to the people who were living in the house and say, "Excuse me, did you know you're living in the place where Superman is created? And we'd like to fix your house so it's perfect and modern."

zod-shockDavid, were you caught off-guard by the backlash of the ending since there was a precedent of Superman killing Zod in Superman II and in the comics?

Goyer: Yes, there was a precedent but having said that, to a certain extent Superman hadn't been cinematically reinvented since the Donner films and we knew that as much as we loved the Donner films, our version of the Man of Steel was...a lot of people were going to embrace and some people were going to be shocked.

So to a certain extent we expected that but...yeah. John Byrne had done it with Zod and Donner before and it is what it is. But Zack [Snyder] has spoken about this before and we will be dealing with it in the coming film. One of the reasons we didn’t call it Superman–we called it Man of Steel–is that you could have called it Superman Begins.

That moment when Henry expressed so beautifully in the film, the anguish after having done it, is one of the things Zack has said publicly that we will pick up from. He’s not Superman fully-formed in this film; he becomes that in the next film and he will have to deal with the repercussions of that in the next film.

How do you guys as writers and creative personnel tackle his morals and values? Is it more of a hindrance or is it something you use as an inspiration?

Morrison: I think you have to take it very seriously and elevate yourself into his way of thinking because ultimately what Superman represents is the best in all of us. We all have that under the shirt somewhere. Superman's may be twenty-four hours a day--he's better at it than all of us--and really what he's all about is that indomitable spirit Henry said. It's the part of humanity that does not give in and that still believes in us and tries to do the best. So I think you'll have to elevate yourself. You have to take that seriously; it's the most important aspect of Superman.

Goyer: Look, yeah, Henry touched upon this. It can be paralyzing as a writer to sit down and say you've got the weight of the most recognizable character in the world and so many aspire to be him and he means so many things and it can be hard to write a character that is an icon and so when I was writing him we tried to humanize him and it's tricky knowing that--I remember Chris Nolan once saying when we were working with Batman that you can't write your Batman movie or your Superman movie, you have to sort of honor the icon and be aware of the fact that you're working in service of something much bigger. So we're always weighing that with every line of dialogue, every action, knowing that it's going to send ripples throughout the world.

 cavillHenry, what did you hate most about the dieting and what did you like most about just stuffing your face with carbs at the end?

Cavill: Well, the dieting bit, I was in such good hands with Mark Twight and Mike Evans that they, when it came to eating stuff, they had me primed and everything and yes, they cut a lot of carbs from my diet to prepare me for the shirtless scenes. The most difficult part was just that it was over a six-week period that we were staying lean so instead of it being just one day like body builders do, when you stand under a nice light and get a spray tan, I had to maintain that and still work long hours and still get up in the morning and train.

That was probably my least favorite thing but at the end of that, I did get the chance--Zack and Debbie Snyder bought me a nice apple pie from a local pie company and a tub of ice cream and then I ordered a big 16" pizza on top of that.