With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from various comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.
This Week’s Book: Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? by Alan Moore & Curt Swan
The Premise: Watchmen author Alan Moore tells the story of Superman’s final days as his enemies unite to destroy both him and everyone he loves. His secret identity revealed and his life as Clark Kent forever compromised, Superman must bring his remaining family and friends to the Fortress of Solitude in order to protect them from the army of super-powered villains hunting them down. He knows that this will be his final battle, but who will be alive when it’s decided is the question only he can answer.
The Pitch: With all the recent talk of Alan Moore’s contributions to the DC universe, it seemed like a good time to shine the spotlight on a story many consider to be one of his best, and one of the greatest Superman stories ever written. With the right treatment, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? could be the next great feature to come out of DC and Warner Bros. celebrated line of animated movies based on popular comic-book story arcs.
Right from the start, an animated take on Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? would seem to hit all the right niches when it comes to audience appeal. Not only does it feature a wide array of supporting characters — including most of Superman’s rogues gallery and cameos from the other members of the Justice League — but it also has the benefit of presenting a well-known, celebrated story about one of the most popular superheroes in the world, written by one of the few comic-book authors to become a household name.
Beyond the obvious mainstream appeal and promotional benefits, there’s also the all-important fact that Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is one hell of a Superman story, too. Blending an old-school, larger-than-life superhero brawl with the pathos of its hero making his final stand while surrounded by family and friends, Moore’s tale is a testament to everything that’s great about Superman and his adventures. Brought to life in animated form, the story will likely have that same generation-spanning appeal — something that seems to be a common thread among the projects selected for DC’s line of animated features.
As far as production goes, it could serve the story well to use different animation styles for the narrative book-ends to each chapter, which take place at some future time and frame the events of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? as a flashback to Superman’s final days. Giving the events up to and including his climactic showdown a degree of nostalgia would seem appropriate for the subject matter and overall tone of Moore’s story, which feels like something your grandparents would tell you about events that happened a long time ago. Along similar lines, casting an actor with a more mature voice to play Superman would make sense, since the story chronicles the superhero’s final days.
The Closing Argument: “A story about Superman’s final days, written by Watchmen author Alan Moore” is one heck of a tagline, isn’t it? Beyond that, all it needs is the right translation of Moore’s story for the screen and a talented voice cast that can handle both the exciting action sequences and — more importantly — the quiet, emotional moments that the story is famous for.
With the live-action “Man of Steel” on the way and Alan Moore’s storytelling on everyone’s minds lately, the timing couldn’t be better to put a story like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? on the radar for longtime fans and mainstream audiences alike.