Screenwriter and Eisner Award-nominee Max Landis is no stranger to Superman. In fact, he's made a clear effort to tell as many Superman stories as he possibly can. In late 2011, Landis created "The Death and Return of Superman," a YouTube video thoroughly detailing the popular '90s storyline. Shortly thereafter, DC Comics tapped Landis to pen an "Action Comics" annual and contribute to the digital-first "Adventures of Superman," all of which has led to his current project, "Superman: American Alien." Now, with his own super-sandbox to play in at DC and a star-studded stable of artists including Jock, Nick Dragotta, Tommy Lee Edwards, JÃ¶elle Jones, Jae Lee and Jonathan Case, the screenwriter plans to tell a different sort of Man of Steel stories than fans might be used to -- each showcasing a more grounded, powered-down Clark Kent.
Recently, Landis stopped by the CBR Speakeasy in North Hollywood, CA and sat down with executive producer Jonah Weiland to discuss "American Alien," adding to the decades-old Superman lore and how he's clearly improved as a comic book writer over the course of the series. Landis also spoke about working with some of the best artists in the business, his love of the Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai -- a convention he's been an integral part of since year one -- and the advantages of writing comics over films.
In the first part of his conversation, Max Landis talks about relationships and restaurants before discussing his new seven-part series, "Superman: American Alien." Landis then clarifies his recent controversial statement in which he claimed that he wants "American Alien" to be the opposite of Grant Morrison's classic "All-Star Superman."
On wanting "American Alien" to be the "anti-All-Star Superman," and his love of Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely's acclaimed series:
Max Landis: It was interesting because the full quote from Comic-Con is, "I kind of want to do the anti-'All-Star Superman,' which of course is the greatest Superman comic ever written." And I don't know who redacted that quote, but that was the full quote. Grant [Morrison's] Superman is the ultimate, mythic, totem story of Superman. It's the most evocative of a feeling of this summer camp, bubblegum sensation, while at the same time being this incredibly intelligent, long-form storytelling that isn't over-complex. All of the craziest ideas that Grant has are introduced in this very pat, here-it-goes way ... That's the best one. And when I said I want to do the opposite of that, it's because mine is not mythic. Mine is about a guy named Clark Kent from Kansas, who is an alien. It doesn't much figure into his life, and it's not a big epic Superman story.
In part two, Landis delves into how readers can chart his improvement as a comic book writer from the dialogue-centric first issue to the action-packed seventh issue. He also describes how he was able to get the amazing group of artists to draw "Superman: American Alien" and the differences between creating comics versus film and television.
On his personal improvement as a comic book writer over the course of the series:
I'd never written comics before so I didn't realize how much directing you had to do. So one of the really funny things about "American Alien" is if you read it -- I wrote them in order, so you watch me get an education in how to write comics. Because in the first issue it's "this person says this," "here's a panel of this," "there's a panel of this," "there's a panel of that," but then by the fourth issue, now there's weird panels and like splashes and all different things. And by like the seventh issue, people are coming out of panels and hitting people across the page.
On landing his murderer's row of artistic talent for "American Alien":
There are the directors I'd want to direct these [issues] if they were movies. And then [DC Comics Editor Alex Antone] threw me a bunch of artists for each issue and I just was like, "Okay, well, this person is clearly the best at that. This person is clearly the best at that." And then Alex kind of came back to me and he was like, "You picked the best artists." I was like, "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have given them to me as an option."
In the third part of the conversation, Landis describes his day-to-day life juggling his TV and film projects with his comic book projects. He then goes into what he loves about Superman and his double life, how easily he can be mishandled, and what's unique about the tone of Clark Kent as opposed to Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and other iconic heroes.
On what makes Superman unique:
When written simplistically, Superman is a very bland superhero. He's a messianic figure who can fly, is super strong and has a myriad of other powers. And the powerful you make him, the less interesting he becomes -- just because you lose track of him as an entity and of him as vulnerable. And, in my eyes, he is the most vulnerable superhero because his superheroic persona is the closest to who he actually is, and that is something incredibly compelling to me about the character, is that he doesn't do a Superman voice. It's literally just Clark in a costume. He shows and tries to help people, then he goes back, goes to work, goes to bed, goes on a date with his girlfriend -- his date is ruined, "I have to fly over there" ... He's a guy who's a superhero 'cause that's probably the right thing to do.
Closing out their discussion, Landis and Weiland talk about their time at this year's Middle East Film & Comic Con and what they love about the convention. Landis also divulges how he became such a central figure of the convention since it began in 2012.
On the Middle East Film & Comic Con and what sets it apart from other conventions:
Dubai becomes -- for that weekend -- becomes the Mecca for geekdom in the entirety of the Middle East and north Africa ... The third one was one of the most special and emotional experiences of my life. Now we're on the fifth one. I tell you, every year it's better. Every year it's bigger. It's such an important thing to see the girls in hijabs picking up their issues of "Deadpool," coming -- cosplaying as Dementors in a fuckinging hijab. It's my favorite fan group in the world. It's the only place in the world where I'm an A-list celebrity ... It's just ultimately a comic book convention, but it's the happiest crowd, and the most grateful crowd.