To call Man and Superman a labor of love is a bit of an understatement. Beginning life as Superman Confidential way back in 2006, the series was unfortunately shelved before its initial release. Fortunately, someone at DC realized they were sitting on a truly fantastic story and resurrected the book earlier this year.
For the release of the deluxe edition (out December 10), we sat down with author Marv Wolfman and artist Claudio Castellini to talk a bit about the book, their process, and what this story ultimately means.
AIPT: Man and Superman is a story literally 10 years in the making, what does it mean to finally see it hit the stands?
Marv Wolfman: When I first wrote it there was something about the story that I knew up front was really good – that it would do everything I wanted it to do. Here I thought I got 100% of what I wanted from the story, so I was a little disappointed when it didn’t come out at first. Unfortunately, there was no format that fit the story we wanted to tell, there weren’t too many long form stories and there wasn’t a place for this tale to be told. Now we can make these 100-page books and it was just so wonderful to have that done.
Claudio Castellini: It might be better to specify that it was finished 10 years ago and has remained in an “editorial drawer” almost falling into oblivion during this time. I wouldn’t want some readers to think that I’ve been working on the (book) for 10 long years … (laughter). Well, seeing it finally published is a dream come true. Having put a lot of work, time and dedication into this story, it was not great finding out at the time that no one would ever see it. When [the editor] Brian Cunningham contacted me to give me the good news I was very happy. I waited for that moment for a long time.
AIPT: When you see the almost universal praise the book has received, do you feel a sense of vindication for all that time it sat idle?
MW: As I say, it was one of the few times where I knew the story worked on so many levels. I was worried people may feel ripped off buying a Superman story without Superman, but I knew the story was good. I think because it was delayed and we published all 4 chapters at once, it resonated more. You tend to lose emotion over time, and publishing it all at once allowed people to go along for the ride. As much as I wished it came out when I wrote it, I’m very happy it came out when it did.
AIPT: In the postscript you mention that you had to do a lot of work over when the project was revived. What was your process of bringing these pages back to life 10 years after you initially conceived them?
CC: Things went like this: DC informed me of the revival of the project, but reviewing the old pages I noticed plenty of room for improvement. I am very meticulous, my eyes see errors on what I just finished doing the day before, so you can imagine what I noticed from 10 years ago. This is also because I believe I have grown as an artist during this time. I have perfected many faces, thickened lines that were too weak before, added new shadows and backdrops in some panels that were a little empty. After finishing this manual work on the originals, I rescanned the pages with the quality that current scanners allow. On these new scans, I continued to digitally refine the work. For example, with Photoshop I reflected the pages horizontally, reversing them to amend the asymmetries of some faces or bodies that had escaped my manual correction. In some cases, we are talking about very small details, which escape a quick glance, but we know that the quality is made of details.
For example, a detail that had escaped me even at the first print publication, I was able to immediately correct with the digital publication of the book. In the airport scene between the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4, I saw an inconsistency on how I had interpreted the situation years ago. At the end of chapter 3 we see a crowd of journalists receiving Lex Luthor’s arrival inside the airport, as is logical. In the resumption of the scene at the beginning of chapter, 4 this crowd seemed to be all outside the airport structure. Of course, they could have all moved out, but I thought that this, just during a missile attack, was pretty senseless. So in the revised version, I added a huge window, typical of airports, through which the journalists could see the attack coming while remaining inside the structure, exactly as the sequence in the third chapter had ended.
AIPT: As an artist whose style has evolved considerably over the years, do you feel like the book would look very different if you got the assignment today?
CC: Very interesting question! As I said, I made all the improvements I could – but on work that was already done, with an artistic structure already established. I certainly could not upset or radically change everything, only improve it with greater care and with the addition of details. But if I had to completely redo the story today, I think it wouldn’t be very different. I have used all of the experience gained in this time frame to make all these improvements and fill the time gap. So now, Man And Superman looks almost as if I would have done it now. In the ensuing years in which I dedicated myself to work for collectors, I was able to experience full artistic freedom and learn new techniques that I had not the time to develop in the past, due to tight deadlines. If I got the assignment today, I would probably tend toward a more marked realism in representing shadows and shadings, but this extra work would be useful only in the case of a B/W printing. After all, I have already put all of this extra work into the book’s more subtle nuances – in particular, on many faces – when I added my personal coloring to the original edition. Then the work was updated on all his aspects. In short, I consider Man And Superman a new work in all respects, not the release of something from the past.
AIPT: This is far from the first time we’ve seen Superman’s origins re-examined. As a professed Superman fan, What is it about the character that makes his story so interesting and worthy of such re-examination?
MW: Superman is the modern mythology. We all love to read stories about the gods, and he’s the god who is a person. The original gods were high on Olympus, but here’s a god that walks the streets with us. He’s my favorite character to write, my favorite character in comics. There’s just something about someone who is the best we can be. He’s more than his powers. He may make mistakes, he may screw up, but he keeps trying because that is who he is.
AIPT: You’ve both claimed that — even though Superman’s name is on the cover — this is a book about Clark. Do you have a different approach to drawing a young and impressionable Clark instead of a powerful and confident Superman?
CC: This is undoubtedly a Clark story. Even when there was the possibility of openly showing Superman, Marv had chosen to use an ingenious narrative choice to make us live the scene through his eyes, which I then transformed graphically into a first-person view. In this story, Superman is hardly ever seen! Regarding the approach, yes, it was very different! As you say, we have here a young Clark, aged about 21, with a personality totally different from what we are used to seeing in adult Superman, and this is one of the strengths of his story. He is insecure, undecided about what to do, he does not feel up to the task that his parents urge him to do, doubts he can deal with responsibilities that derive from his powers, and he makes many mistakes. This psychological profile had to be graphically reflected in the characterization of his face, his expressions and movements. The design of his face had to appear fresh and innocent, naive and impressionable. Sometimes he seems like a child discovering the world for the first time. In fact living in Metropolis is very different from life in Smallville; even his posture and his acting, far from showing self-confidence, had to convey another of his great qualities, humility.
The same characteristics typical of the Superman-we-know’s face turned out to be a problem in representing this young Clark. His well-pronounced masseter and the dimple on the cheek, which denote a highly developed cheekbone and orbicular would have made his face very marked and very adult. So I tried to represent him with much sweeter facial features, but which nevertheless had to convey the strength and power of the Superman character. I tried to find this balance by studying his face well and applied the same reasoning to his body. Though he has the right and due physical presence, his body is not hypertrophied as I would have drawn him as an adult.
AIPT: Why is it so important to ground a character like Superman?
MW: I’ve never quite understood why people thought he should be portrayed as mysterious. From an infant, he was raised by the Kents in a small town like Smallville. He grew up with that as who he is, therefore he is Clark. That’s his real identity, that’s who he is. That’s how he was raised. “Superman” is the costume he puts on to do special deeds. Just like a policeman puts on a uniform or a fireman puts on his, Superman does the same thing. The real Clark is the man his parents raised him to be.
AIPT: There are a lot of big “small” moments in the book that help convey the emotions of not just Clark becoming the hero we know him to be, but also how it impacts the world around him. My personal favorite is when Ma and Pa Kent find the Superman costume in the mail. What is going through their minds at that point?
MW: They’re worried about their son, it’s the only thing that a parent can feel when they don’t know what their child is up to. It indicates their son doesn’t know what he wants to do and they’re worried. As any parent would be.
AIPT: How do you find the drama in the quiet moments, and how do you know where to wrench it up for those more exciting sequences?
CC: Surely this is a book of character introspection, not just a show of action sequences. To find the drama in any moment of the narration, both the quiet and the dynamic ones, I have first to feel emotion for the story and tune into it. One of the things that made me fall in love with the art of comics is that, unlike other genres, it is necessary to tell a story through imagery, not just knowing how to draw. The comic is like a movie in which the artist is the director; he must know how to use the camera with different shots; he is also the lighting technician; he must know how to create the set, choose the cast, he himself is an actor because he has to play the characters with the right expressiveness and interpretation of the script. So a true actor must know how to find the right interpretation, whatever the scene to shoot. In action scenes, I prefer to view the spectacularity through a more exaggerated use of the camera, with extremized perspective angles, while the anatomy and dynamism of the central figures play a very important role, along with a riot of special effects. In more everyday scenes, as in most of this story, I very much liked to focus on the characterization of the protagonists, their acting, facial expressions, hand gestures, and in the case of two characters like Clark and Lois, on the pure beauty of their features. In this case, it is very important to focus on the atmosphere of the situation instead of an exaggerated perspective. The most important thing is to transmit emotions.
AIPT: What is it about younger, developing heroes that makes them more interesting?
MW: It’s a point when your entire life is about to change and you’re changing with it, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Everything is brand new for you. [Clark] probably never had to pay bills before, he probably never had to get a job or an apartment. When you’re an adult, that’s old hat, but this is the first time he’s lived on his own. It’s a great time period to explore to see how he deals with all of these new situations and challenges. His super power aren’t going to help him get a job, they won’t let him be cared about by strangers.
AIPT: Clark’s attitude and admiration for journalism is sort of at the forefront of the story. Is this you putting a bit of yourself in Superman? Why was it important to show his respect and love of writing?
MW: At this stage in his life, the thing he enjoys the most is writing. It’s a way of expressing his emotions, pointing out events and problems, and being able to be honest about the way he sees the world in a way that may be more important (to him) than putting on the costume. It was important that he understands want he can accomplish and what he wants as a writer. I think it was very important for me to show that he really wants to be good for himself, not for other people.
AIPT: Speaking of Clark’s love of Journalism, let’s touch on his other true love – Lois Lane. It’s sort of become cliche that there’s is a love built on his well-timed heroism and her being a compelling damsel in distress type. So I really liked that you shifted their dynamic so that Clark had a bit of hero worship for Lois. Given your lasting impact on Lex Luther, among other characters, Are there any other relationships you’d like to re-imagine in the Superman canon?
MW:The most important relationships in the character’s history are Lois and Luthor, everything else is secondary. Luthor and Lois are in this story to bring about character moments for Clark. It was important to me to dimensions to their relationship because, when I grew up, Lois wasn’t a great character. She was always trying to find out who Superman was, and Superman fell in love with her just because she’s beautiful. I wanted to make her someone who you could understand why someone who doesn’t know her would be enamored of her.
AIPT: Is there any other character you’d like to give the Confidential treatment to?
MW: I was a Superman fan from birth, He’s the character I’m closest too. I can’t think of any others that I’d want to restart. There are certainly other characters I love, but Superman is the one that they have tried so many things with, but they’ve never taken the time to explore this time in his life. And I wanted to be the one to tell that story.