In 1992’s “Doomsday!” storyline, which ran over seven parts through four weekly Superman comics and Justice League America, the writers and artists famously ratcheted up the tension from week to week by reducing the number of panels on the story’s pages, ultimately culminating with a final issue — Superman #75 — which was made up entirely of splash pages, including a final, four-part fold-out splash of Superman’s actual death.
During a conversation with reporters at Comic Con, Sam Liu — who directed the second half of the just-released animated film The Death of Superman — praised that storytelling device, and explained that while there was no 1:1 translation of the effect, within the context of the film he and his co-director Jake Castorena tried to approximate the impact by changing up their shot selection as the fight between Doomsday and the Justice League got more intense and brutal.
“I think comics are smart when they do that because they start playing with something that is not really inherent in the medium, which is pacing and timing,” Liu said. “Inherently, that is something that was very smart of them but it’s a little bit more noticeable, obviously, in film. It’s a moving media. So it’s faster cuts or longer shots or closer shots, more dynamic shots. All of those things I think have the same feeling, whether it’s timing or whether it’s composition. I think it’s something that they used to a great effect in the comics, but I think it’s easier in film.”
The movie — a loose adaptation of the “Doomsday!” story but still far closer in its execution to the original material than was the 2007 animated movie Superman: Doomsday — tracks Superman and the Justice League as they battle Doomsday in an epic smash-em-up that leaves the League down for the count, Superman and Doomsday dead, and the world reeling.
The story has been adapted a few times — not just in Doomsday but also in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and on some of the animated series that The Death of Superman producer James Tucker has overseen for Warner Bros. Television over the years — but the latest movie is the first to really use the comics as a template and to see the death of Superman as a storyline to be adapted, rather than just a concept to be absorbed into an unrelated tale.
The Death of Superman is available on video on demand services now, and will be available on DVD and Blu-ray August 7.