Ricky Church chats with Superman: Man of Tomorrow writer Tim Sheridan…
Out of all the superheroes on either DC or Marvel, the one nearly everyone knows the origin to is Superman. As the world’s first superhero, his has been a tale told countless times in comics, film and television. Even with a wealth of stories throughout the past 80-plus years, his origin remains popular and one many writers want to put their own spin on.
Fans will get a new origin tale with Superman: Man of Tomorrow, the latest animated film from DC and Warner Bros. Animation, that tells a modern beginning for Clark Kent as he first comes to Metropolis and slowly becomes Superman. We got the chance to chat with Tim Sheridan, the film’s screenwriter who is no stranger to Superman or the DC universe having previously written Reign of the Supermen as well as the animated series Justice League Action, about Superman’s impact on comics and why his origin story remains such a popular and inspirational piece of his legacy. Check it out below…
Superman: Man of Tomorrow tells a new and modern origin for Superman. His origin story is one of the most well known origin stories out there. Everyone wants to kind of add their own spin to it. What did you most want to examine in Man of Tomorrow?
Good question! We approached it in the beginning and we said we’re not going to do an origin story, the classic sort of origin story that you would expect. What we wanted to do was a Metropolis, origin story, something we didn’t see a lot of in Superman media. What are those early days like in Metropolis? That was something that we really wanted to explore and sort of add to that mythology.
Out of a Superman’s extensive history, his origin is one of the most popular stories. Why do you think that is?
Well, I think the reason why is the same reason why Superman is popular in general and has endured as an iconic character is because that story represents something for humanity to aspire to. I mean, he is someone who represents so much of the best of us and it is all tied to his origin. I think that that is why it’s endured. Now for me, I wanted to dig in a little bit further. I wanted to say okay, I understand all of the advantages that Kal-El brings with him to Earth, but what are the things he comes against? What are the emotional obstacles he has to endure in at that time in his life? When we all go through those things in our early twenties, when we’re just out there in the world for the first time, what are the things that shape the man he will be tomorrow? Those inward looking things. That was what I was most interested in as a personal story. That was sort of where [supervising producer] Butch Lucas wanted to go as well when we started talking about doing this movie.
That’s really great that you mentioned what shaped him because one thing that I love about the origin is his parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent. They play such an important role in his upbringing and his philosophy. How do you approach such a unique relationship in the DC Universe with the relationship Superman has with Martha and Jonathan Kent?
You know, I love those characters because I think every time I get a chance to write them I try to write aspects of my own parents. And you know, we did we did a panel for, for the movie in which people were asked what their favourite scenes were and I hope I’m not getting this wrong, but I think Darren Criss [Superman] said that one of his favourite teams in the movie is a FaceTime conversation over the phone that he’s having with his parents early on in the movie because he said it felt so real and so normal. That is the thing about Jon and Martha – they literally bring Superman down to Earth for us. When we see him through their eyes, we see the boy, the child in all of us and what he represents. That’s why they’re so important. Same with Lois, we only get to experience Superman through the eyes of the people that love him because we’re also the people that love him.
Now another popular Superman story that you recently wrote was Reign of the Supermen. Those stories, the Death and Return of Superman, are fairly dark for obvious reasons while Man of Tomorrow is a pretty light one. How do you bounce between such vastly different tones in those movies?
Yeah, obviously like you said, the tone is a completely different type of tone that you have in our new movie. However, let me say that what they have in common is that they both represent Superman at a new beginning. Reign of the Supermen and Return of Superman, that’s Superman sort of rebooting and coming back as something else. In this movie, it very much represents the beginning of the Man of Tomorrow, the beginnings of Superman. The canvas is a completely different canvas in Reign of the Supermen in that we’re dealing with huge cosmic forces because that’s where James Tucker, the producer, that’s where his movies were sort of living at that time so that served part of that bigger story. Butch Lukic from the beginning said “let’s make something that feels more like a smaller art house movie, but with Superman”. And so we’re dealing, drilling down a lot on character and relationships. The canvas was completely different in that respect, but because of the long rich history of different kinds of Superman stories throughout time there was a lot of stuff to pull from for inspiration to tell this kind of Superman story. I always say it’s a great big multiverse, there’s room for all kinds of different stories and hopefully this has its placement as well.
Whereas Reign of the Supermen was an adaptation, Man of Tomorrow is an original story. What’s the most exciting aspect for you about Man of Tomorrow? Like you said, you want to examine more of Metropolis. Was there anything else that you were excited by with Man of Tomorrow?
Yeah, you know, it’s so hard for me to call anything in the DC canon that I work on an ‘original story’, but it’s true! Technically this was original, but there’s so much that is that we pull from the mythology, you know, this long rich history. So you can see in this movie all the little bits of inspiration we took from classic epic stories that have been told about Superman and try to wove them into an original narrative. For me I really felt it was important to see Superman struggling with his identity, with figuring out who he is and who he’s going to be tomorrow. That is to me something that everybody can understand. It’s hard when you write stories about gods and people with incredible powers and you have to identify with them, it can be difficult.
It’s not difficult with Superman because we do get to see him through the eyes of Jon, Martha and Lois and because he is so much like us! Even though he has all of these great powers I think that to see what he went through to become the strong and confident Superman with me that we’ve seen over the years in so many different media. I think that’s important. That’s what I really wanted to bring to this. To see not just the start of Superman, but why? What is it that motivates jim to put on the suit?
Obviously with the current health crisis a whole lot of Comic-Cons were cancelled over the summer, but DC and Warner Brothers were making up for it with DC Fandome, which myself and many other fans enjoyed. What’s the importance for you to engage with fans and continue getting content like a Man of Tomorrow out at a time like this?
You know, I hope that it comes across when we’re talking, but I’m just a fan like everybody else. I’m a fan who, through a crazy set of circumstances, was able to get a seat at the table and to be able to be a part of telling these stories. I’ve been to San Diego Comic-Con every year since 1999. This was since there wasn’t one this year, personal minded tend to really go. For me, everything is about fan interaction because the fans are part of the ones who have made this what it is. They made it possible for me to be able to tell these stories and work with these characters. I mean, if I don’t check in with my fellow fans and say sort of how are we doing, I think I would lose focus really fast. I think the only people that really understand Superman are those of us who’ve been living with the character in the comics for a long, long time.
Thank you to Tim Sheridan for speaking with us!
Superman: Man of Tomorrow is available on digital now and will be released on Blu-ray and 4K on September 8th.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.