David S. Goyer, the writer of acclaimed films such as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and this summer’s Man of Steel, is from Detroit.
Well, Ann Arbor. And that’s close enough to Detroit in its status as a satellite city.
It was the perfect place for the young writer to have his interest in comics and superheroes jump-started.
“It was a great experience in that it is a very liberal town with lots of comics stores and used book stores,” Goyer says.
He was able to go to a lot of movies and film society movies, thanks to the University of Michigan.
While his mother was involved in special education work and getting her Ph.D., she used to take Goyer and his brother to a comic book shop called The Eye of Ocumato while she was in class on various evenings.
“That’s where the initial craving began,” Goyer says.
Before he decided to become a writer, however, he wanted to be something very different from that.
“Later on in high school, I had decided to become a homicide detective,” Goyer says. “My high school teachers at Huron High School staged an intervention with my mother, convincing her to let me go into writing.”
Goyer was a working screenwriter long before he began his association with DC Comics.
“I wrote a couple [Jean Claude] Van Damme films and had written the first Blade film before I began writing comics for DC,” Goyer says.
It was not, however, his comic book writing that attracted director Christopher Nolan to pick him to work on the Dark Knight Trilogy.
“It was my screenplay for Blade and a small independent film called Zig Zag, Goyer says.
After that, Chris asked him if he wanted to do Batman even though he admits his knowledge of the character’s mythology certainly helped him get the job.
It was then an easy sell for him to write Man of Steel, given his association with the previous three Bat-films and working with Chris Nolan and his screenwriter-brother Jonathan Nolan.
Looking back on the Batman films, Goyer admits it is difficult to do three good films of something.
“It is very rare that three good films are made, and I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished with those movies,” Goyer says. “They feel like they are a part of a whole.”
He thinks they also helped move the art form along.
“A superhero film had never done that well before, like The Dark Knight,” Goyer says. “It changed the game, and brought along a larger audience.”
With The Dark Knight Rises marking the end of their Batman story, they all felt they did not want to go back to the well again of that particular franchise.
With the end of that film, they wanted to bring the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.
“We wanted to say this was the ending of this particular story,” Goyer says. “We wanted to give Bruce an out, and to say in a way, Bruce’s greatest adversary was Batman himself.”
Goyer said Bruce always envisioned himself dying in the costume, and he managed to escape the curse of his parents’ dying and the darkness which had shrouded most of his life.
“We wanted to give the audience that gift, saying that, in this particular story, he gets away,” Goyer says. “He has some happiness at the end of his life.”
Goyer thinks that in his Bruce’s relationship with Selina Kyle, the two characters were looking for someone all their lives with whom they could identify, and they were able to find that person in each other.
Looking back on his films and television work, he says he had a great time working on the film Blade and television shows FlashForward and Da Vinci’s Demons, but thinks Man of Steel is the one he found the most joy on.
“It was sort of a charmed experienced for me,” Goyer says.
Working on the story for Man of Steel with Christopher Nolan, the process was similar to their experiences before with Batman.
“We met for a number of times, kick around ideas, throw up index cards on a bulletin board,” Goyer says. “I then went off and wrote an outline which I showed to Chris.”
Finally, he wrote the screenplay, which was brought to the screen through the vision of director Zack Snyder.
Goyer looked to a number of comics for inspiration, even though a lot of the film was their own invention.
“We looked to Geoff Johns’ Secret Origins, John Byrne’s Man of Steel, some of Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman, Mark Waid’s Superman Birthright, Denny O’Neil and Curt Swan’s Superman run in ’70s,” Goyer says.
Goyer says, at the end of the day, it was Chris and Warner Bros.’ decision to bring on Zack Snyder but he was involved in the talks of who would helm the film.
Regarding the casting, director Snyder, producers Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven, producer-writer Chris Nolan and Goyer himself discussed all the major parts.
“At the end of the day, a couple of them, like Henry Cavill’s screen test were unassailable,” Goyer says. “He was clearly the right man for the job.”
He was particularly happy with the selection of Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
“I am a huge Amy Adams fan, and I was glad they did not dye her hair brunet,” Goyer said. “I thought they had no reason to be that slavish to the mythology.”
He thinks it is important to respect the canon, but to also question elements of the canon, such as the casting of Adams as Lane and Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Lane’s boss.
For Lane’s storyline in the film, she becomes more integral to the origin of Superman.
“We felt that a hero is only as good as his villain and only as good as his or her love interest,” Goyer says. “One of the things that bothered me with the previous iterations of Superman was that Lois often functioned as the damsel in distress.”
He said Superman was a pretty singular being, and for him to fall in love with this woman, she had to be pretty fantastic.
“So, I did not buy she could not figure his secret out,” Goyer says. “The fact she keeps his secret is that she functions as a proxy for the human race.”
Goyer said it is one of the reasons Superman eventually has faith in the human race.
“We wanted her to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem, because she is always wading into danger,” Goyer says.
Playing into the themes of fathers and sons, Goyer told Chris Nolan the story was twofold — a first contact story, an element of the mythology he felt had been underplayed both in the comics and movies, and a story about two fathers.
“It is about a man who has been given the chance to decide between his teachings on Earth and those of his Kryptonian heritage,” Goyer says. “He neither may nor may not be allowed to have both.”
He thought that would be a good character introduction for the audience because it is relatable, and Goyer understands that feeling himself.
“I am a father and a stepfather,” Goyer says. “So, I can relate to Jonathan Kent in the film, but also understand the perspective from my stepfather and what it is like to question where you come from or whose son you are.”
Looking to the villain, General Zod was a logical choice for this being a first contact story.
“It made sense the threat would come from outside the Earth,” Goyer says. “I also wanted there to be a big reason for why Clark Kent becomes Superman.”
He said the character did not necessarily need to put on the suit, and announce him to the world but if he did, there would be a big momentous reason for that.
It also represented Superman’s connection to Krypton.
“Zod and those Phantom Zone villains are the last connections he has to his father Jor-El and his home world,” Goyer says. “Zod knew his father.”
Chris, Zack and himself always wanted to see a movie where Superman got to cut loose against real powerful beings.
“The only way to do that was to introduce a non-human being into the mix,” Goyer says. “We wanted someone who could give him a run for his money.”
Goyer does not see Zod as a villain but as an antagonist.
“I think Zod sees he is doing what is genuinely right for his race,” Goyer says. “I think he is genuinely confused and surprised that Kal-El does not go along with what he wants.
He said it is similar to the way the European settlers displaced the Native Americans or how they displaced the Aborigines in Australia.
“They certainly gave no thought to displacing or killing off the indigenous people,” Goyer says. “They were of their own species, and if they are going to choose them or us, they are going to choose us.”
Looking forward, Goyer says he had a fantastic time working with Zack and Warner Bros. on the film, but it is all running on the box office.
In the immediate future, he continues to work on the television show he helped develop, Da Vinci’s Demons, and is working on an adaptation of the graphic novel Y — The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra at New Line. He is also developing another television show that he cannot discuss at the moment.
Tommy Zimmer is a Metro Times intern. You can email him at [email protected]