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Krypton: Superman's High Stakes History

Krypton: Superman's High Stakes History

By Tim Beedle Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Considering how well we know the Man of Steel, it’s almost startling how little we know about Krypton. In fact, for many people, the beginning and end of their knowledge about Superman’s home planet is its destruction. They know how the people of Krypton died…but they have very little knowledge of how they actually lived.

Krypton, Syfy’s first foray into the world of #DCTV, promises to change this in a big way, offering sci-fi and comic book fans the most expansive, detailed look at Superman’s home world ever before seen. Three episodes into its debut season, and we’ve learned that members of the House of El and the House of Zod used to be close (to put it very mildly), that the city of Kandor was at one time a brutal theocracy, that Superman may have gotten the idea for his Fortress of Solitude from his great-great-grandfather and that Kal-El’s past has a startling connection to his present that may lead to his destruction before he’s even born. It’s an imaginative, intriguing show that proves that even 80 years after his birth, Superman and his world are as relevant and important as they’ve ever been.

Recently, Executive Producer Cameron Welsh (who, prior to Krypton worked on NBC’s Constantine series) spoke with us about why Krypton is the right story for right now, why they went with Adam Strange over Booster Gold and whether Seg-El and Lyta-Zod are in for the mother of all bad breakups.

Why tell this particular story? Why focus on Krypton before its destruction?

There are a lot of reasons. I think part of the genesis of the idea came from David Goyer when he was writing Man of Steel. He was compiling notes and doing research for that first twenty minutes of the film that’s all set on Krypton. I think it was during that period when he realized that there’s a very rich world here to explore, and it’s something that relatively unexplored, or let’s say under explored, compared to the rest of the mythology. So, there’s an interest in it from that level.

To me, it’s sort of fascinating to think that I know who Superman is, what values he represents, what he means to so many people and what that symbol means. So, you start to wonder what makes Superman Superman, and how much of that was his upbringing on Earth with Ma and Pa Kent? Is that what makes him super? Or is it his Kryptonian blood? Or is it a mixture of those things? If some of it has to do with his Kryptonian heritage, then maybe it’s worth exploring what kind of world births a hero like Superman.

I think there’s interest in it at that level. It’s also science fiction. The best science fiction holds up a bit of a mirror to society and makes social commentary in a way that’s not too overt. Through the lens of science fiction, it can maybe be a little less confrontational and we can start to talk about some issues that maybe otherwise you wouldn’t feel as comfortable with.

Was there a section of Krypton’s potential audience that made you the most nervous?

The hope was that it would have a broad appeal, that it wouldn’t be a show just for comic book fans. If you’re not super familiar with the Superman mythology, you could still get on board here. You don’t need to have read every issue or have watched everything that’s come before. You can walk into this show fresh and it should work for you.

But we also know that the comic book fans—that audience is really important for the success of the show. For us, it’s a privilege to work on anything connected to that Superman mythology. As a kid, I can’t remember life before Superman. So many great people have worked on it in TV, film, comics and whatever else. So, for us to have a chance to do that, that’s what the anxiety is about—wanting to honor all that and make sure that the comic book fans don’t feel like we’ve taken this jewel in the crown of the comic book world. We want to make sure we’re not disrespecting that legacy.

So, we have to be careful of not disrespecting that legacy, but also still being bold enough to forge our own ground and tell a new story. Otherwise, why do it?

This show isn’t just a prequel. The future of Superman is at stake. With that tie to the present-day DC Universe, do you have much freedom to tell the story you want to tell?

Absolutely. I think once Adam Strange arrives on Krypton, the timeline has now changed. Anything that is considered canon is now up for grabs. So yeah, there’s a lot of freedom there.

But as I was just saying, we’re not looking to upend things just for the sake of it. That feels like it undermines everything that’s come before. We didn’t want to do that. We’re a couple of generations back from Superman’s birth. Not many people know about Krypton as a planet and what the society was like back then, so there’s a lot of freedom already baked into it, just from that. Then with the time traveler, it opens it up even more.

Is that why you chose to focus on Superman’s grandfather rather than his father when developing the series?

As we’ve talked about, in removing it back a generation, it’s just a less familiar character. Also, we’re very conscious of not wanting the audience to feel like we’re just treading water here and waiting for the planet to explode. Most people who know Krypton and know the character Jor-El sort of associate it with that. We don’t want people thinking that there’s this sense of inevitability about the way this is all going to end. We don’t know what happened to Superman’s grandfather. That’s just not something people know a lot about. There’s a freedom in that, and it helps, again, to create a little more distance to what has traditionally been the end of the Krypton story. But it’s no longer that way with this series…

Why did you decide on Adam Strange as the time traveling character?

It’s a good question because I think a lot of comic book fans are wondering why it’s not Booster Gold, or another time traveling character who could have fulfilled that role. It’s very true, but the neat thing about Adam is he’s a bit of a gateway character to the cosmic corner of the DC Universe. He has that relationship to Rann and to Thanagar, and we want to bring those mythologies into Krypton as well. We want to introduce that they’re a part of the world that our show’s set in. Rann and Thanagar will feature in it eventually.

Adam’s a great gateway character for that, but also still comes from Earth. So, he’s like the inverse Superman story. He’s the alien on a different planet, as opposed to Superman. He helps to be a proxy for the audience, because he’s from Earth. He’s the only contemporary Earthling, but he’s also a gateway into another corner of the universe.

Will we be seeing his costume eventually?

Yeah, yeah, yeah! But in some ways, we’re still at an early stage in Adam Strange’s journey. I don’t know that I would say it’s an origin as such because he’s been at his job for a while when we first meet him, but not that long. So, there’s a lot we can still explore and develop with Adam, which is pretty exciting.

The Zods are a major part of the show, and right now, Lyta-Zod is pretty close to Seg-El. Will we be seeing how the tides turn there over time?

Yeah, in a lot of ways the series is as much about the House of Zod as it is about the House of El. There’s an almost Shakespearean thing, like Romeo and Juliet, with these two houses and the relationship between Seg and Lyta. When you see them together, it’s hard to imagine how things could go so wrong. What’s going to happen here that creates that enmity between the houses? Or will that happen now that the timeline has changed?

If you talk about Krypton to people, there are a few things that you can associate with [Krypton before Superman] and one of them is the House of Zod, so it was a natural fit to explore that.

What made you go with Brainiac as your first major villain rather than the Zods or Doomsday?

Well, Doomsday is actually in the first season! But I think Brainiac is another character that we haven’t really seen before—not to the extent that we’re doing in live action. He’s the perfect fit for the show. These are not street level heroes, and Brainiac is such a high concept character, it needs kind of a high concept show for that character to feel organic to it. Brainiac really does.

Of course, the other thing is that most people who know anything about Krypton from the comics will know that Brainiac comes for Kandor. It’s part of canon and has been as long as I can recall. So yeah, it was a natural fit for that reason, and judging by the response so far, I think people are happy about it.


Catch new episodes of Krypton Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CST) on Syfy.

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