|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
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
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
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.