The Mark Waid SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT Interview
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT is a twelve issue maxi-series published by DC Comics