Originally Posted by Barry M. Freiman
Q: Who decided that, rather than write script adaptations of "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II", you would write original novels set firmly in Earth-1 comic book continuity?
A: Nobody really decided it, but Mario Puzo made it necessary. I had written a film treatment for a Superman movie in 1974 and made a case to Carmine about how the time of heroes was returning and it was getting to be time for a Superman feature film. He seemed to agree, but rather than think about my treatment he must have made the same case to the guys at Warner Bros. A year or so later Alfie Bester showed up at the office and wanted to talk to me about a Superman movie he was negotiating to write. That fell through, and not long afterward I came in one day and there's Mario Puzo wanting to have the same conversation Bester had been interested in. Cary and I spent two days in a conference room with Mario explaining how Superman was basically a Greek tragedy (those were Mario's words, actually) and then he went off to write his movie. So I dusted off my film treatment and went upstairs to Warner Books and asked them to consider my story for a novel. That was Last Son of Krypton. It was never supposed to be a movie tie-in. It was supposed to be released midway between the first two films to keep the franchise afloat in the interim. Mario had the rights to do a novel adaptation of his film, but he got all tripped up in Hollywood politics and wasn't able to do it. He sat on the rights, though, so no one else could do it, and they put my book out the same day the movie was released. There were nine publishing products that came out with that movie and mine was apparently the only one that sold worth a damn. Neal had done a comic booky cover for the book. Beautiful stuff. But they substituted a movie still and the next time I saw Neal's cover it was in around 1989 in an Andy Warhol swipe at the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol claimed it was "adapted" from a Superman drawing circa 1955 or so - but it was clearly Neal's Superman novel cover from 1978. I don't know whether Neal ever saw that Warhol exhibit - he used to go to the Museum a lot - but I doubt he ever tripped over Warhol's swipe of him. I should tell him about it.
Q: In your first Superman novel, "Superman: Last Son of Krypton", Albert Einstein plays a pivotal role. You also wrote Einstein as Lex Luthor's personal hero in the comic books. What does Einstein mean to you?
A: Einstein is one of my childhood heroes - like Superman and John Kennedy. I used to do book reports on him in grade school. When I was 12 I used to tell people I wanted to be a theoretical physicist when I grew up. There was a Shadow story I wrote at one time that took place in Princeton about a famous Jewish scientist's escape from Nazi Germany. My mom lived just four or five miles from Princeton, growing up. There was a final scene in that story of a girl named Sally Herman - my mom's childhood name - selling him an ice cream cone in the ice cream parlor on Nassau Street in Princeton. That really happened to Einstein the day he landed in New Jersey - except that it wasn't actually my mom behind the counter. I still read abstruse volumes on physics for fun, and one of my two favorite books of the past year is Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein. He's a big deal for me.
Q: Finally, what did you think of 2006's "Superman Returns"? Any thoughts on TV's "Smallville"?
A: I liked Superman Returns. They did two things really deftly: (1) they dealt effectively with Superman's absence the day the Trade Center fell, much better than we ever did justifying his apparent absence during World War II, and (2) the disposition of the relationship with Lois was, I thought, just perfect and appropriately bittersweet. I hope the movie continuity progresses from that point.
I keep referring to the Smallville show as Superboy. I love it, actually. The guys putting it together really understand the mythology of it - the way Mario Puzo did before his producers tripped him up. The way you can only understand it if you're Greek or Italian or a serious geek. I've had an idea kicking around my head for a cool episode since the show began, but I haven't found a spare couple of weeks to write a spec script. I should, shouldn't I? I did that with Lois and Clark, also late, and the story editor I took it to said he loved it but it didn't fit in with that year's continuity. The previous year they would have scooped it right up, he said. Maybe. Turned out that was the last year. You know, I never thought he should marry Lois - no matter what Mort Weisinger promised a thousand years ago. I mean he "should" marry Lois in the sense of making an honest woman of her and all - but for storytelling purposes, they should never hook up successfully. Only tragically. Like Romeo and Juliet. Zeus and Leda. Batman and Talia. Know what I mean?