Author Greg Cox had a heck of an assignment: writing a novelization of Superman film The Man of Steel. Not only was this a reboot upon which an entire series could hinge, the book could potentially be the doorway to discovering the Superman comics for millions of readers. How did he handle it? Greg reveals it here.
First big question. Did you get to see an early cut of the film? Did you read the script, and if so, were you taken into a dimly lit room in an underground Hollywood bunker to read it under armed guard?
There were no armed guards involved, but I did have to fly out to Hollywood and read the script in an office on the Warner Bros. lot. I spent three days holed up with the script, taking copious notes, and was also shown a gallery of pre-production art and various props and costumes. When Jax-Ur uses that creepy Kryptonian syringe to extract blood from Superman in the movie , I had an instant flash of recognition. “Hey, I remember that prop! They showed it to me in Burbank last summer!”
The movie was still being filmed at the time I wrote the book, so I was unable to to see an early cut. I saw the movie for the first time last Saturday, at a local multiplex.
What was your first encounter with Superman?
I honestly can’t remember back that far. I remember watching the old George Reeves television series as a kid, and reading Superman comic books back when they were only twelve cents apiece. (Ten-cent comics were slightly before my time.) So I grew up knowing about all the different varieties of kryptonite, the Phantom Zone, Lori Lemaris, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and all that cool Silver Age stuff.
You’re introducing Superman to an entirely new generation of kids with this book (via the movie). What did that kind of responsibility feel like?
I have six little nieces and nephews, as well as an older niece who learned about Clark Kent from the Smallville television series, so I’m looking forward to them getting old enough to read the book. I can’t say it felt like a burden or a responsibility, though; if anything I was more excited that my own inner kid was getting a chance to actually fly with Superman again! I kinda wished that I could go back in time and tell little Greg all about it!
And I wouldn’t mind at all if we get a WONDER WOMAN movie for all my nieces!
Grant Morrison has written of Superman as a kind of sun god-like figure, and I tend to agree, so how does one get into the mindset of a god?
I actually wrote the novelization of Morrison’s FINAL CRISIS miniseries, but I don’t remember trying to think like a god. The trick is to try to convey the awe and wonder of what it would be like to see Superman in person, while still trying to remember that he’s still a flesh-and-blood individual with ordinary feelings and emotions on the inside. The way I see it, Superman looks like a god from the outside, but he’s a person from his point of view.
Possibly my favorite scene in the new movie, btw, is when Superman first appears in the sky above the army base and everybody is staring up in amazement like they can’t believe what they’re seeing. It’s a gorgeous shot–like an Alex Ross painting brought to life–and truly conveys how awe-inspiring Superman would be in real life.
Comic books have pictures to support the text, and movies have – well – moving pictures. How do you carry over the excitement and explosive action of a comic book character into a prose novel?
I always assume that I can’t compete with the special effects and soundtrack of the movie, so I have to go inside and focus more on what the events feel like from the character’s point of view. I also try to play up the senses–like touch and smell–that the movies can’t convey . . . at least not yet! What does it feel like to have the wind blowing in your face as you fly through the air, what does Kryptonian genesis chamber smell like, that kind of thing. I pay a lot of attention to the weather and environment, just to figure out whether things are hot and sweaty, cold and damp, or whatever.
In MAN OF STEEL, for example, I decided that the environment aboard Zod’s ship would seem chilly to Lois, since Krypton’s sun wasn’t as warm as Earth’s . . . .
What’s next for you?
Thanks for asking! I just delivered a new STAR TREK novel, which is coming out next year sometime, and I have a few more projects in the pipeline that I can’t really talk about right now. And, needless to say, I would love to write the novelization for MAN OF STEEL II someday!