Marv Wolfman and Claudio Castellini’s Man and Superman, the acclaimed one-shot that was finally released earlier this year by DC, is getting yet another chance this week to get into readers’ hands thanks to a 'Deluxe Edition' hardcover collection with loads of extra content.
Despite the story taking a decade to be published, Wolfman calls Man and Superman one of the best things he’s ever written. The story was originally penned 10 years ago for Superman Confidential, but that series was cancelled before Wolfman and Castellini’s story made it into the book.
Set in the time period when Clark Kent first moves to Metropolis, Man and Superman is also one of Castellini’s last superhero stories, because the Italian artist backed away from drawing violence that conflicts with his Judeo-Christian principles. He counts Man and Superman as an exception, because of what he calls its “positive values.”
Newsarama talked to both Wolfman and Castellini to find out why this story didn’t get lost in a drawer somewhere, what they think of the reception to the story, and what readers can expect from Man and Superman: The Deluxe Edition.
Newsarama: Marv, we’ve seen the story of Clark Kent’s origin several times, but this one looks at a unique time period. How did you come up with the idea for the focus of Man and Superman? Was it something DC wanted, back when this story was originally written, or something you came up with?
Marv Wolfman: The idea of Superman Confidential was that they would find a time period in Superman’s past that they hadn’t explored a lot, and then they would try to explore it.
[DC Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio asked me if I’d be interested in writing a four-part story for it, and I said "Absolutely, yes." Superman’s my favorite character to write. So it was very easy to say yes to.
I already knew the time period, and the time period is the time between him leaving Smallville as a boy and becoming a man, becoming Superman.
That’s such a fascinating time period, because everything in his life changes.
Nrama: I know it took you a long time to get this published. What was it that finally got DC to publish it? And why did you want so badly for this story in particular to see the light?
Wolfman: It’s very rare that you say to yourself, when you write a story, that this is a really good story. Everything worked the way I wanted it to, which is very rare for me.
I was so pleased with the story. And my original editor [Mike Marts] also was very pleased with the story.
It was a story that I wanted to write for a long time, and I thought I did a good job with it.
And then to have the book canceled before the story got published really hurt. I wanted to show people that, frankly, after writing comics so long, and having been in the industry so long, I could adapt my style to whatever I needed it to be.
I’m not just writing one type of story. I can write all sorts of stories. And I thought this was a great proof of that.
It was important to me for people to see the story because I did think it was one of the best stories I’d ever done - and arguably, the best Superman story I’ve ever written, and I love writing Superman.
So it was really important for me to see it in print.
I’m sure the guys at DC got really bothered, because every time I saw them, I would say, “Can we print that story? It’s my favorite story. Let’s print that story.”
And they all wanted to, but there was no place to put it. This was before DC or anybody else started to do the 100-page books that DC’s been doing of late. Once they did that, and they needed the content, and I was annoying them to such a degree - they finally decided this was the perfect book for this format.
So they could now published all four issues in one volume, and that’s the way it should be read. And it was a large enough volume that they could send it out there, because they were now doing 100-page books.
So it was vital to me, and I was thrilled that they finally published it.
Nrama: You say it’s one of the the favorite stories you’ve ever written. What part did Claudio’s art play in your opinion of the story and how it turned out?
Wolfman: Well, the first thing, I had never seen Claudio’s art before. He had primarily worked for Marvel. And when the editor showed me Claudio’s art, he showed me all these Conan-type stories.
It was the wrong style. So I was really nervous, not having seen his work, and only seeing this very savage type of artwork. It was powerfully and beautifully drawn - my God, the guy can draw like nobody’s business; he’s incredible - but it wasn’t the style that I was hoping for, because this was the story of Clark before his powers take over, in many ways.
It had to be a sort of laid back thing.
When the pages started coming in, that all changed. It was just beautiful.
It turned out that Claudio was a massive Superman fan. He loved the character, and he fully understood what the story was about, and he worked very hard to make sure he did a good job on it. His artwork was perfect from day one - he caught the style. He caught everything that I was hoping for.
He mentioned how much he really loved the story. And I think that his love for the story comes through on every page, because the amount of work he did on this was incredible. There’s a two-page spread of Metropolis where you see every single building beautifully delineated. The people walking in Metropolis all have personality, all have character.
He did just a great job, and I’m thrilled. I didn’t know who he was before, but I definitely know now. And I think he’s phenomenal.
Nrama: Claudio, did you and Marv get to know each other because of this story?
Claudio Castellini: Yes. When I drew this story for Superman Confidential 10 years ago, my relationship with Marv was not direct, but everything went through the editor Michael Marts.
Only recently, when the project was finally exhumed, our relationship has been very close; we consulted frequently to refine the work, and we exchanged opinions, ideas and expressions of mutual esteem. A great creative feeling was born between us and we discovered we had many points of view in common.
We also shared the joy and the pleasure of reading the very positive reviews that critics wrote on the release. It has been a wonderful experience for me.
Nrama: Let’s talk about that reception from critics and fans. We’ve already heard Marv describe this as one fo the best things he’s ever written. How do you feel about the story, and why do you think the response has been so positive?
Castellini: First, answering this question I must be totally sincere. When DC chose me to illustrate and graphically interpret this story, I immediately realized I had something special in my hands. But I had doubts about the fact that it could appeal to the general public, despite the quality of Marv's script and what I intended to do with the graphic part.
This is because it was a very different tale from the typical Superman story that the public expects. It is a very human story, the story of Clark Kent as man rather than Superman - the rhythm is quite slow, there are not many battles and everything is based more on psychological introspection than on pure entertainment for its own sake.
Therefore to me, this was a story that did not follow the fashions of the superhero genre, and perhaps it could not have had much commercial appeal.
When this book was finally released, the appreciation of fans and critics has been so great that leave me, and I think perhaps even Marv, pleasantly surprised. Although aware that we gave our best on this work, sometimes this does not guarantee success, so the reception went beyond our expectations.
I believe that what you say is due to the fact that the public understood and appreciated the originality of the project, the desire to tell and draw a story of the origins of the character, yet another, from a point of view different from all the others and examining an unprecedented period of Clark's life, almost filling a narrative hole.
In fact, almost always in the origins of Superman, the narrative has passed from the destruction of the planet Krypton to its infancy on Earth, the discovery of its powers to show it already become Superman and professional journalist of the Daily Planet. This story explains how he really became, both Superman and journalist.
I also believe that readers have felt the passion that we creators have put into this story. Marv considers it one of the best things he has written and I can also confidently affirm that it is perhaps my most artistically mature work, as I involved my heart in the realization of its pages more than on other occasions.
[Readers] who know my work know very well that I prefer the anatomy and action scenes. In this case, I left aside my natural inclination in order to put my art at the service of narration and storytelling, which is why I consider it one of my most balanced and cared for works.
Nrama: What was your reaction when you found out that it was finally coming to print after not being published when you first created it?
Castellini: Well, my reaction was a great happiness, when the editor Brian Cunningham contacted me telling me that DC was going to go back to publishing the project. I couldn't believe it was happening. You know, when you have dedicated all your efforts on a job and then it stays in a drawer without any reader being able to see it ... this hurts .. I imagine how even Marv should have felt in these years.
But I must be sincere, I never gave up hope, I was almost certain that sooner or later it would be published. What I certainly couldn't imagine is that it would take 10 years.
Nrama: Marv, as you said earlier, the story mainly deals with change from Clark being a boy in Smallville to becoming Superman in Metropolis. Can you describe why you call this a “fascinating” time period?
Wolfman: Well, here’s a person raised, essentially, on a farm in a small town in Kansas. He knows all of his friends. Everybody knows him as Clark. They know who he is. They know what he thinks, because he’s very honest and outgoing - he just doesn’t talk about his powers.
Suddenly, he’s going to go from this tiny, insulated town, where he wasn’t working, where he was in school, and now he has to find an apartment and make a choice of what he’s going to do with his life.
Unlike a lot of people, he knows he has superpowers, but that doesn’t mean he’s prepared for it. All he knows is that he’s strong and he knows how to fly. But he’s never had to apply any of that to any specific events. He never was fighting crime. He was never attacking criminals. There were no supervillains at the time. He just grew up.
And now, suddenly, he’s going to be on his own. He’s going to be in a strange, very, very large city. He’s come because he wants to have a job at The Daily Planet. But he’s a kid from a small town.
His knowledge is probably the hog races or something like that. He really isn’t prepared to go into that market, and The Daily Planet is the one newspaper that didn’t bother getting back to him, and all the others were just saying, we could use an intern - and of course, interns don’t get paid.
So here he is. His entire life is ahead of him. But nothing is really what he expects. Again, no job… he finds an apartment on the internet, but it’s not what he thinks it would be. He has all these events, and on his very first case, he screws up so much. He has his fingerprints left on something.
It’s a fascinating time because he has to learn what it means to become an adult. He has to learn what it means to become man.
And more importantly, for the future of Earth, he has to learn what it means to become a “super” man.
Nrama: Claudio, let’s talk about the way you drew Clark Kent in this story. As Marv pointed out, you’re known for your adult characters - not so much younger characters like Clark is in this story. How would you describe your approach to the character in Man and Superman?
Castellini: As the face of Clark Kent is something well-visualized in the collective imagination, there are different interpretations according to the graphic style. The stereotype of Superman’s face, since he is one of the few superheroes who does not wear a mask, already exists and is well known by all. For example, among the main features of his face there is undoubtedly the very evident jawbone, then the well-pronounced masseter, and the dimple on the cheek, which denotes a highly-developed cheekbone and orbicular. Well, all this is part of my style, which means that it is very natural for me to draw faces in this way, so no problem with the adult version of Superman.
In this case, I had to represent a young, 21-year-old Clark, and each of the somatic features I described before make a very marked and very adult face. They would have added years of age!
Here is what the main difficulty was: making Clark's face young, fresh, but which nevertheless conveys the strength and power of the Superman character. I tried to find this balance by studying his face well and using my imagination, but surely I had in my mind the face of the unforgettable Christopher Reeve, even though I didn't try to reproduce it photographically because it's not part of my style.
I applied the same reasoning to Clark's body, although having the right and due physical presence. Anyway, it is not hypertrophied as I would have drawn him in the adult version.
Nrama: There’s also a focus on Clark’s initial feelings about Lois Lane, because he first meets her in this time period. Marv, how would you describe your approach to that relationship in this book?
Wolfman: One of the problems I always had with Lois was that she was sort of dippy, really. She’d throw herself off buildings so Superman would rescue her. She would do all these weird things. And she’s supposed to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter.
I wanted her to be the very best reporter she could be.
She’s better than any of the other people because she puts the time in, she puts the effort in, she puts the work in. Clark has no idea what she looks like. He’s just a fan of her writing. You wouldn’t expect a newspaper reporter to have a face that everyone has seen.
I also felt that, in the past, Clark’s fallen in love with her not based on anything she’s done, but because she’s pretty. And I thought that was ridiculous. That makes Superman so childish, makes him so petty, if that’s the reason he falls in love with her.
No, he is already predetermined to like her because he loves her writing. He loves the way she composes a sentence, composes a story. That means a lot.
He had no intention of falling for this person. But he really likes the strong person that Lois is. And that’s why he cares about her.
There’s no hint of any romance here. There’s no hint of anything, as far as I’m concerned - it may not have even happened for a couple of years, because there’s no reason to rush into anything like that automatically.
But he liked Lois because of what she wrote, because of who she is, not because of the way she looked.
Nrama: Claudio, how did you want to portray Lois Lane in the story?
Castellini: According to Marv's script, she had to be a beautiful girl but with a strong character and a self-confident personality. In this story, Marv wanted to explain that the reasons why Clark falls in love with her are not only related to his physical appearance - she is his model from a professional standpoint. Indeed, he already admires her for her journalistic abilities and knows her by fame, but ignores her appearance, until, in the scene of Lois's presentation at the end of chapter 2, he finally sees her and is literally struck by lightning.
So Lois's appearance had to graphically reflect all the character's features. Her face, body and clothing had to make her attractive, but also they had to be those of a woman all in one piece. To achieve this I studied her facial expressions, her positions and her gestures very much.
Nrama: Another thing that’s interesting about the time period was that it’s the first interaction between Clark Kent and Metropolis, who is - well, I say “who” because Metropolis is almost a character in itself in all Superman stories, but especially this one. How important was the exploration of this city as a sort of “first meeting” between Clark and Metropolis?
Wolfman: I’m really thankful that you said Metropolis is a character in the story, because that was exactly my intent. And it was in my script. It was vital that Metropolis be a character in the story, because this is where Superman’s going. This is the biggest city. It’s a special city.
Metropolis is at a teetering point at this moment, when we come into the story. There’s a lot of crime. There’s a lot of problems. Luthor’s coming back to town. And it’s whether or not Clark was there - it has nothing to do with Clark or Superman, obviously.
So there was going to be all sorts of problems and crime-related problems and a lot of things going on in Metropolis that could almost teeter it a little bit towards Gotham. If you read the early pages of the story, where Clark’s super-hearing is picking up everyone’s conversation, most of the conversation is very negative. It’s very dark. It’s about people having problems of crime or so many other situations like that. He’s picking up all these voices.
By the end of the story, just because of who he is - and nobody really knows who he is at this point, but just because of his presence and what he represents, because of the article that Clark writes at the end - Metropolis will become the Metropolis we know and not Gotham.
It is vital that Metropolis be a character in this story for that reason. That has to be the motivating factor.
Clark isn’t sure about Metropolis at one point. He meets Lois and makes a comment about how beautiful Metropolis is at one point, because his entire attitude has changed and his eyes have opened to see this incredible city for what it is.
Castellini: I fully agree with Marv. It is very important to characterize the context in which a comics character operates because everything can appear credible and ... alive. Even the city must have its own precise identity, just as Gotham is like a supporting character for Batman.
In the case of our story, given that Marv wanted above all else to deepen the inner side of the character, as well as telling about his daily life, it was essential to recreate a credible picture of the great Metropolis by representing its true, human and tangible side.
In other words, instead of observing it from above, as Superman would do in flight, we have landed and walked in his streets together with the other citizens.
I developed this aspect mainly in the first chapter with the graphics showing the arrival of Clark from the smiling countryside of Smallville to the overlapped city that almost stuns his senses. In order to let the reader feel the emotional impact that he feels facing the cynical city dimension, from the graphic point of view, that golden impression that accompanies the idea of this great city had to be removed, bringing to light even its most squalid aspects.
Readers were able to see how quickly Clark came to realization when he arrived at the apartment he booked on internet.
Nrama: Claudio, are you still working on comic books? Could we find your work somewhere?
Castellini: After the completing of this Superman story, about 10 years ago, I made the decision to withdraw from the publishing world to dedicate myself to that of collecting. One of the reasons is due to the ever-tightening deadlines that the comics industry imposes, which isn’t ideal for my artistic needs.
Another reason is that, in my opinion, over the years, even in the superhero comic books, as indeed throughout all the entertainment world, sometimes contents of explicit violence have become increasingly evident, and these are not compatible with the Biblical principles in which I believe.
So I personally have chosen not to represent and convey these contents with my art.
However, Marv's story is a rare exception, and this is one of the reasons for whom I consider it really special: it transmits positive values - Superman acts like a comics hero should, without resorting to unnecessary acts of force, he neutralizes the enemy, but never reaches the point of killing. That's also why he is one of my favorite characters. I consider him as one of the few superheroes still with a high ethical code.
So currently, my main activity is aimed at the world of private collecting, and all those who wish to follow my latest works can follow my Facebook page, where I publish my recent artworks.
Nrama: Claudio, before we finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about your work on Man and Superman?
Castellini: Turning to those who have been following me for about 30 years of my career and always showing me appreciation, first of all a big thank you. To the new generations of readers who see my work for the first time, I wish you all a pleasant reading with this book, for its narration and its art.
I return to say that this story means a lot to me. I really tried to give an extra effort of interpretation and realize it thinking of Marv's script as a movie, in which the characters play, live the story, who experience emotions, and that arouse emotions in the readers. Not just a story of pure entertainment and special effects, but of human introspection. I hope I was able to make a story graphically worthy of being handed over to memory to Superman's fans. This great character deserved it.
Nrama: And Marv, you have extras in this hardcover, right? What are you including for fans who pick this up?
Wolfman: The hardcover has dozens of pages of extra material by Claudio. You’ll see how he did it, step-by-step - how he took each scene and moved it forward, how he decided on style, how he did all this.
And on my side, they printed not only the first issue’s script, but also my original presentation - the ideas that I had for the series to begin with. And on top of that, I went through it and annotated it, explained why certain things made the scene, and why I changed a lot of scenes, how I made them different, how we made them better or stronger.
This is a beautiful presentation if you want to see how comics are put together beyond the story.