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05-23-2003 09:19 PM
The Mark Waid SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT Interview
by Gail Simone

SIMONE: What is the high concept pitch that will make Superman skeptics try this book? What is it that you're offering readers?

WAID: The original assignment from DC, the original request, was to give readers "Ultimate Superman."  Soon after, the powers that be at DC asked us not to refer to it that way in respect and deference to the great creators doing the ongoing monthly series, but that didn't alter the mission--to redefine Superman for the 21st century and do a series that anyone on Earth can pick up from scratch and get in on the Superman story.

SIMONE: How long have you waited to tell this story? I'm guessing it's a ridiculous wait considering it's the book you've obviously most wanted to do.

WAID: Since January 26, 1979. That was the day I saw SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE--twice--and the day I fell in love with the character and his world.

SIMONE: In what form can we expect this story? Is it a mini-series, a maxi-series, what?

WAID: It's a 12-issue maxi-series.  The first two issues are thirty pages of story each (for no additional charge!), with ten 22-page issues to follow.

SIMONE: Is it fair then to say that this is THE Mark Waid Superman story?

WAID: It may well be.  It's certainly everything, absolutely everything, that I love about this character all rolled into one series.  And it's artist Leinil Yu's and my vision on who the Superman of the 21st Century is.  No Supergirl, no Super-Dog, no Bottle City--just a man trying to do what's right in the world.

SIMONE: What is it that makes this different from previous retellings of his origin?

WAID: Well, his lack of infallibility, for one. The cross Superman seems to have to bear among fans and readers is that he's perceived as "too perfect," as a character we "can't relate to."  Forgetting for a moment that we're not supposed to identify with Superman, we're supposed to identify with CLARK--in BIRTHRIGHT, Superman is, I think, perhaps more "human" than he's ever been, because this is his search to define his identity.  Like most of us, he's searching for some direction.  He has skills and beliefs and wants desperately to find some fulfilling way to apply them.

But in his case, it's hard given that for the first 25 years of his life, he's had to keep his powers secret for fear of being branded a freak and fear of having the whole Kent family hauled in by the U.S. Government for questioning.

SIMONE: Follow up question--how do you avoid the Clark-is-dull trap?

WAID: That's about the easiest job I have.  Clark is our touchstone.  He's the one who gets chewed out by the boss, whose dry cleaning gets lost, who longs to connect and be accepted.  I think that makes him interesting, particularly in light of the fact that he's a TOTAL FABRICATION.

I mean that BIRTHRIGHT is about Kal-El establishing and defining TWO identities for himself: the role of Superman and the persona of what I call "Metropolis Clark," which isn't like the Smallville Clark at ALL.

SIMONE: Some of the key story elements in the first issue take place in Africa--that's new to the myth, isn't it?

WAID: Yes, and it's an important backdrop.  First off, it helps establish Kal-El as a citizen of the world.

Secondly, his adventure there--his last important experience before adopting the Superman identity--lays some important groundwork about why he would choose to operate the way Superman operates.

Thirdly, it helps establish Clark as a journalist and not just a typist for the Planet.

SIMONE: Will we recognize other familiar faces at the Planet?

WAID: Yeah, but catching them early in the myth gives us some fun leeway to establish their characters and their relationship.  Jimmy, for instance--a teenage intern for the Planet--absolutely worships not Superman, not even Clark, but Lois Lane.  All he wants in the world is to grow up to be that good a reporter and he's hilarious in his adulation.

Perry shows a new side and new potential in that Clark is in a "can't/must" situation--must have a job at the place on Earth where news breaks the fastest, but can't be exposed by his peers as a disguise for Superman.  And Perry is SHARP.

He's not necessarily going to automatically trust this "Superman." In fact, you could say that about a great number of the people in Metropolis.  A man who has x-ray vision, super-hearing, and answers to no one has got to EARN people's trust.

SIMONE: How similar is this story to the much-discussed "Superman 2000" revamp of the character that was proposed by you, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer a few years back?

WAID: : Actually, it's not at all like the previous Superman proposal.  Times have changed, the need for a Superman has changed in our society, and my own personal visions of what a super-hero is have changed pretty radically.

SIMONE: And for those who must know, how does this fit strictly into current continuity?

WAID: It fits however you want it to fit.  Some elements are a nod to what's been established, yes, but no one's going to want to read this if they think they know just how the story's going to turn out, so everyone's in for some surprises.  We don't go out of our way to contradict continuity, but for instance, learning for the first time about the friendship Clark and Lex Luthor had as boys--and why Luthor has since erased all records of his days in Smallville--makes for quite the revelation.

Leinil and I want to reinforce that despite what may or may not be going on in the other DCU books, there's still a strong "Anything can happen" sense to this series.

SIMONE: Why was he chosen as the artist?

WAID: I first saw Leinil Yu's work back during his second or third issue of WOLVERINE years ago and fell in love with it instantly.  The day I saw his work, literally that day, I called him from the Marvel offices and told him I would work with him anytime, anywhere, and asked him to make room in his schedule for something we could do together.  Finally, we chose him not only because he's talented and because his work is energetic, but because it was important to present a Superman no one's ever quite seen before.  And he's doing great.

SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT is a twelve issue maxi-series published by DC Comics

This article was originally presented here

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