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Interview - Duane Capizzi


First off, describe your role and subsequent duties on Superman/Doomsday in as much detail as possible.

I am the screenwriter, and I shared story duties with Bruce Timm, adapting the material from DC Comics' 'The Death of Superman' saga. As with 'Brainiac Attacks,' I didn't have too much to do with production after I delivered the screenplay -- some minor consulting here and there as the need arose. But Bruce and I went into so much detail "breaking story" before the scripting process, I have to say that the finished film is pretty much as I imagined it: right down to how certain shots were staged. When I saw the animatic (filmed storyboards with voice-track), there weren't a lot of surprises -- except for perhaps specifics during the film's two epic battles (Superman vs. Doomsday, of course, and our finale). When I wrote 'Jackie Chan Adventures,' it was important to block the action on the page because set pieces usually involved props and a bigger gag structure with a payoff. With characters like Batman and Superman, it's difficult to sustain interest on the script page with battle specifics (e.g., you can only find so many ways of describing "Joker throws a punch at Batman who ducks" or "Doomsday hurls Superman through a building" before it gets dull). I rely on the Directors and Storyboard Artists to make the action compelling, and the 'Superman: Doomsday' battles really deliver.

This isnıt the first Superman DTV youıve worked on. You also worked on Superman: Brainiac Attacks. How would you liken that experience to this one? Explain.

You mean the fan favorite Brainiac Attacks, the finest work of Superman fiction since Superman IV? Let's get one thing out of the way: I've read the fan reviews, so I know my involvement in 'Superman: Doomsday' must be worrisome to some of the WF/TZ readership. Well put any concern aside and mark my words: 'Superman: Doomsday' is an entirely different beast. For one, it was devised as a film that would appeal to adults and comic fans (whereas Brainiac was geared to a younger demographic -- just compare the box art for starters). For another, this film is Bruce's baby: I was onboard to serve "The Master." 'Superman: Doomsday' will satisfy.

As for the working experiences, they were poles apart. As you know, BT wasn't involved in Brainiac (aside from his original S:TAS designs being used for the project). As for my involvement on that one, I was brought in at the 11th -- no, make that 13th -- hour. I had pre-existing story elements but had never written for Superman before, and had to deliver an entire feature script in like a week and a half! Due to a variety of reasons, production was extremely behind schedule (a fact which impacted the production team as well).

I know the fan base has issues with 'BA,' to say the least; but again, it was not meant to be in continuity with the series and, in anticipation of Bryan Singer's upcoming "Donner-esque" feature take, the agenda we were handed was to reflect that (in theory) lighter tone -- but I don't think anyone expected the Singer film to play as "dark" as it actually did, despite Spacey's Hackman-esque take on Luthor. That said, I think 'BA' has its merits, but up and away ...

Aside from a saner gestation time for 'Doomsday,' obviously having Bruce's involvement from the beginning made a key difference. I've known Bruce off and on for years – and, of course, had the unenviable task of having to follow B:TAS with The Batman -- but we'd never collaborated until now. I found Bruce to be one of the smartest people I've ever worked with. Of course, Bruce knows the property backwards and forwards, so I had my own living Fortress of Solitude to consult (though it could also be a tad frustrating at times: not being intimate with every episode of S:TAS or JL/JLU, I'd pitch out what I though were awesome ideas and Bruce would say, "Yeah, but we already did it.")

Did you have difficulties when producing the script for Superman/Doomsday? Was it difficult deciding on what had to go, what could stay, and what had to be added for the sake of the story?

Bruce and I knew from the get-go that we couldn't get the content of the three phone-book sized tomes into one 78-minute script. Remember, the story was originally serialized over multiple issues with like a dozen writers and artists, which naturally makes the collected work quite sprawling in its scope. Hard choices had to be made along the way, but the initial issue was philosophical: do we make a "museum piece" panel by panel replica of the book? Or do we go with the spirit not the letter, and make the best movie we can? Well it's no secret that we chose the latter -- where's the fun if you already know what happens? Sure, Superman dies, the world grieves, he returns -- we've honored the symphonic structure of the original, and IMO provided all of the original's tragic, emotional, and triumphant heft. But Bruce and I felt that along the way, the movie had to mess with audience expectations to keep things interesting (not to mention make it self-contained).

There were also things that we felt we needed to tweak with benefit of hindsight. The first surprise (or point of outrage, depending on one's POV) comes in the opening frames of the film, when we meet Lex Luthor -- the classic bald-headed Luthor. The original storyline was obviously tied to current continuity in many ways; try to explain Luthor is a red-haired clone-son who's dating a synthetic Supergirl and is an occasional ally to the Man of Steel in a 'stand-alone' movie! Furthermore, upon re-reading the original, it seemed a missed opportunity that arguably the greatest Superman saga of all time didn't involve Superman's greatest nemesis.

But again, speaking to the spirit not the letter: having seen the finished film, I can honestly say that though it's only 78 minutes in duration, it covers a LOT of ground and the scope is truly epic. You feel the passage of time of the 'Death/World Without/Return of'; you will feel like you experienced the scope of the books.

Do you feel any anxiety about this project? Not only the kick-start of a new line of DC DTVs, but an adaptation of DCıs biggest storyline. Add on the added pressure of fan expectations, and working on a project like this is likely a bit strenuous, correct? Explain.

I wasn't anxious in the least because Bruce was guiding the project: he has such terrific instincts about what's right and wrong for the character and property, what would and wouldn't fly, and how far we could push the envelope. As for fan expectations, there are those who will complain that it doesn't follow the book to the letter, but you can't please everybody. Bruce and I are convinced that if you give yourself over to it, the movie will blow you away.


Superman will also be introduced into The Batman in the upcoming season. Do you have any comments on the Man of Steel swinging by your old stomping grounds?

Alan Burnett took point on supervising the writing this season, so he's a better one to ask for specifics. But the plan was always to unfold the saga of Batman from "Year Three" onward: hence the gradual introductions of Gordon, Batgirl, Robin et al. A couple of key characters and/or villains continued to remain off limits to us, but it seemed a "pre-JLA" year was inevitable. What better way to presage that than with a "Brave and the Bold" approach, as teased in last year's Season Finale (shepherded by the awesome Michael Jelenic). I believe at least half of the Season Five episodes will involve superhero team ups.

Working on The Batman was undoubtedly a different experience than working on Superman/Doomsday. Were you surprised at the things you could get away with, or do, on Superman/Doomsday, compared to The Batman.

If you're referring to the PG-13 rating, we had an agenda to make the movie for an older fan-base from the get-go. If we were doing a Batman movie, no problem: the property lends itself to dark storytelling. Superman, however, was something of a challenge; it was funny to see Bruce get worked up about how we were going to make the blue boy scout "gritty." Obviously, 'The Death of Superman' is about as dark as Superman gets, but we wanted to push further -- but without just throwing in curse words and gratuitous "t&a" because we were given license to. Bruce and I devised a number of truly dark and twisted moments to serve our more adult tone (and I'm not even referring to the obvious upping of the ante on violence, though trust me -- the movie does justice to the epic battle between Superman and Doomsday). But they are moments that are not only cool and memorable, but they organically serve the story and, more importantly, character.

Lois has an extremely strong role, but I'm particularly proud of our take on Luthor. When the world grieves for Superman, Luthor also grieves -- albeit in his own demented way. He's pretty complex. The movie is tragic, deeply moving, blackly comic, even kinky.

Finally, what can we expect from you down the line. After such an impressive resume, including The Batman, Superman/Doomsday, Roughnecks, and so much more, what can we expect from you in the near future?

If I might plug past achievements, I'm also particularly proud of my work on Men In Black: The Animated Series, The Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot, and Jackie Chan Adventures. In fact, I'm surprised BG&R isn't mentioned more in your forums, with its Frank Miller/Geof Darrow comic book pedigree. But sadly, it had a troubled air schedule so I'm not sure a lot of people got a chance to see it. Hopefully, a DVD set someday soon (are you listening, Sony?)

As for the present, I'm writing another DC Universe animated feature -- hopefully you'll find out which soon enough.