Superman: Man of Tomorrow is the first film set in the second incarnation of the DC Animated Movie Universe, and chronicles Clark Kent’s life in Metropolis before he became known as Superman. The major players are all present, from Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario) and Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinto) to Lobo (Ryan Hurst) and Parasite (Brett Dalton), and led by Darren Criss as the man himself in this refreshingly optimistic return to Superman’s origins. STARBURST spoke with screenwriter Tim Sheridan, best known for his work on the upcoming Masters of the Universe: Revelation and Reign of the Supermen, about the original Kryptonian.

STARBURST: How’s it going?

Tim Sheridan: I’m great. I have a movie out!

Yes, congratulations! And one returning to the optimism of Superman’s roots, which is very much welcome right now.

I know, it’s a weird time for sure.

What’s cool is that Man of Tomorrow delves into a time in Clark Kent’s life that’s not often explored. What attracted you to that period?

Early on, when producers Butch Lukic and James Krieg and I all got together, we talked about where we wanted to set this story. And we knew early on that this wasn’t going to be an Act I story exploring his life in Smallville, but that we’d look at his early days in Metropolis. Once we’d nailed that down, we knew that his start in Metropolis was a part of his story that we don’t see depicted on screen a lot, or in media much at all. Then, if it’s the early days of Superman when he’s playing at being grown up… like that time when you leave University and get your first apartment, you’re paying your bills and you’re doing all the grown-up stuff but you still feel like you’re playing a role, until one day you realise, ‘Oh, this is actually all this is’. That’s the time we wanted to focus on, that’s when the idea of him being the Man of Tomorrow really clicked for us. That wasn’t the title in the beginning, and it was only through that process that we understood we were telling the story of the man Clark was going to become, and the kind of person we all aspire to become. It’s also why Lobo appears: he represents an outmoded way of being a man, while Superman represents something better that we can aspire towards.

And that’s pretty different from one of the most prominent versions of Superman right now, which is the DCEU Superman played by Henry Cavill and which is much darker. Did that influence you to bring back the optimism of Clark Kent’s early days?

You know, I’m a guy who thinks that this great, big, beautiful multiverse has room for every possible take on all these characters, Superman included, and I love all that we see onscreen nowadays. It’s different from the stories I tell, but I think there’s room for all of it. I like it all! I like the darker stories, and I like the more optimistic, upbeat stories. In terms of this film, we knew that this was after Justice League Dark: Apokolips War and we were trying to switch the tone a bit. That movie deals with some really dark, cataclysmic stuff that’s absolutely beautiful, but if you’re going to switch it up, you want a Superman story with some optimism and, again, because of where he is in life at that point, it’s all about looking to the future and it’s inherently optimistic about the future. That’s the story we wanted to tell, but I absolutely think there’s room for all stories.

What source materials did you draw from when writing the screenplay?

Well, one of the first things that we talked about was the hope and optimism of the original Richard Donner movie. We took a cue from that and then I reread Superman: Birthright, and there are some significant mythological pulls from different books too that inspire Easter eggs throughout. There’s also stuff I looked at thematically: Alan Moore’s story Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is a classic, and anyone wanting to embark on Superman projects should read that story. A lot has also been said about American Alien, because people have gotten the mistaken impression that we based this movie on it. And sure, it’s one of the many books we looked at, but I think people see that we used Lobo and Parasite and immediately assume that we did American Alien. Yet the truth is that Lobo and Parasite have always been major foils for Superman, and that’s why they’re in our movie. Superman has a very long history and I hope that you’ll see bits and pieces of it in the DNA of Man of Tomorrow.

As one of the oldest superheroes, what do you think it is about Superman that has invited so many reinterpretations over the decades?

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve always looked at Superman as the incarnation of the best of humanity – which of course is ironic since he’s not technically human. What we try to explore in this movie is the question of what it means to be human; what does it mean for someone from a faraway planet to be the most human character of all? I think Superman will always represent hope, and that’s the reason the character has endured.

It’s funny because Parasite is originally human, yet the people of Metropolis label him as alien before ever considering who Superman might be.

You know, it was very important to me that this story be about feeling like an outsider. And even Superman feels like he’s on the outside looking in, which is really a universal feeling we all experience at some point. To hear Superman struggle with that same thing, and to know from his history that he overcomes those feelings and rises above them, I think that is the hope which he encapsulates.

SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW is released on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download from September 7th

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