Here’s Why David Goyer’s Comic Adaptations are So Erratic


Screenwriter and onetime comics writer David Goyer was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter about newer adaptations he’s been involved with, which now include less superhero-connected titles like Sandman. Predictably, he sugarcoats the Big Two’s editorial management:


DC has had some ups and downs in recent years, especially compared to Marvel. If you were running DC—

Which I’d never want to do.

But let’s say you were. What moves would you make next?

I think one of the issues is that Marvel’s had consistent leadership for the last 15 years or more, whereas DC hasn’t. There have been all of these changes in terms of who is running DC. That is fundamentally very hard. It’s hard to make any headway when leadership is changing. One of the other things that’s made Marvel incredibly successful is all of their adaptations are true to the source material. Ant-Man feels like Ant-Man. The Hulk feels like the Hulk. They don’t try to change things up. I would say, try to hew closer to what was the original intent. So, it’s having a consistent universe, having consistent leadership and staying true to the source material.


If we’re talking about the publishing arms, he’s doing little more than alluding to business management, which isn’t the same as artistic vision, yet even that hasn’t been very good at either one, if you consider the moratorium once imposed on Fantastic Four comics several years ago, because Isaac Perlmutter once demanded it. And as for the cinematic material, does Captain Marvel feel like Ms. Marvel? Nope, and hasn’t for at least a decade now, ever since the character fell hostage to PC mandates. Why, from what I’ve studied of the story synopses in a few other Marvel movies, one could reasonably wonder if it’s really true they stick closer to the source material, and the upcoming projects are turning it more farcical with the way they’re embarking on political agendas in the Eternals, to name but one example.


Goyer goes on to claim he believes in remaining faithful to IP source material:


You’ve been involved in a lot of projects where there were many big egos on board and a ton of studio pressure. How do you handle a situation where you believe strongly something is the right move and others believe differently?

I hope I’ve developed a reputation now for speaking with candor, for being honest. My go-to is always “what works for the story.” And if I’m adapting an IP, like a comic book, I don’t try to turn it into something it’s not. Because if you do, no matter what, even if you have the best of intentions, it will definitely not work out. So there were times when I’ve been involved in projects when I’ve actually advocated that the studio not make it. I’ve said, “It’s going to fail. It’s not worth the money.” I’ve talked myself out of movies and TV shows being made before.


Really? Because there’s an item or two in this interview making room for dispute. For example, how Sandman was/is to be handled:


Well, I have to ask: What’s an example of that?

I will say one was a previous iteration of Sandman. It was a feature.

Was this the script that Neil Gaiman famously declared was “not only the worst Sandman script I’ve ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I’ve ever read”?

Fortunately, no. I was trying to get Warner Bros. to do a streaming serialized show and they wanted to do it as a feature instead. So Neil and I worked on a feature, and through the various iterations, it just kept subtly getting more and more deformed, and shifting more and more away from the true north. Finally, we just said, “Guys, please let’s stop, please kill it, let’s do it as a streaming show.” Eventually, they did.



Depending how you view this, Gaiman’s own questionable faith in his very own story makes one wonder if there’s much meat to this defense. Although, the following provides even more reason to wonder if Goyer really means what he says:


We heard Bridgerton breakout Regé-Jean Page was up for the role of Superman’s grandfather in your Krypton series, but that [DC president] Geoff Johns nixed it, saying Superman couldn’t have a Black grandfather. Also, that a proposal for Adam Strange being gay or bisexual was rejected. True?

All I will say on this is that I was the one who wanted to cast Page. I thought he was amazing. I thought his audition was amazing. I advocated very hard to cast him in that role. I thought he was a fantastic actor back then and he continues to be a fantastic actor. I wanted him to play Superman’s grandfather.

Even if these are grandparents we’re talking about, the problem is that it does sound rather politically motivated to make the grandfather black, and some could argue whether it’s plausible for parents created by Siegel/Shuster as white humanoids to have black parents in turn, and not be of any mixed background. And what if there’s any distortions here, and the real intention was originally to make Kal-El’s father Jor-El black instead of white? Though if they intended to force the LGBT ideology upon Adam Strange, possibly at the expense of his otherworldly lover Alanna, that’s certainly sad, if no longer shocking.


All that said, I’m not forgetting Johns was one of the worst omens to ever litter the comics scene, and he injected his own political biases into Green Lantern nearly a decade ago, which was repellent. So if this flap hurt his reputation, I’m not feeling sorry for him. To some extent, he’s experiencing what others who claim SJW status are: getting all but dumped by the others. I can guess why he balked at casting a black grandpa for Superman, though: most screenwriters a decade ago who’d worked in comicdom, as Johns and Goyer both did, likely preferred to avoid taking steps that could be viewed as politically motivated on the live action screen because it could earn them criticism as absurdly pandering ideologues. Until recently, that’s how commercialism worked. By contrast, they saw fit to espouse any leftist propaganda back in comics proper, under the confidence less audience and press were likely to notice and criticize, because who cares about animated art as compared to live action? Such has been the sad reality for many years.


I also noticed some strong hints at Goyer’s politics came up, and he’d held these views for many years:


There’s a fan letter that’s made the rounds online in a 1986 Captain America comic book that’s signed “Dave Goyer” that pointed out the inherent philosophical problems caused by Cap embracing unquestioning patriotism — it’s basically pitching the central conflict of Captain America: Civil War decades in advance. Please tell me this was really you when you were a young man.

That’s real. I think it was during the Mark Gruenwald run. I wrote about six or seven letters to comics and they were all published. I also have a letter in one of Alan Moore’s Swamp Things.


First, the editor’s response to the letter points out that past writers depicted Cap as anything but loyalty unquestioned. But it does make clear Goyer was jumping to conclusions on the one hand, as only a really absurd leftist could, and when he speaks of finding more interest in the villains than the heroes, that too is irritating, because it reflects a problem I’d noticed in some alleged readers, including, but not limited to, the Batman readers. This is not representative of a healthy mindset. At worst, it reflects somebody who can’t at least appreciate the simplest story merit based on escapist and entertainment value. Besides, as is apparent today, if there’s any kind of government TPTB do not want Steve Rogers and his co-stars embracing unquestioned, it’s a conservative-leaning one, which I’m guessing Goyer wouldn’t want either.

And let’s not forget the stink Goyer once caused after he belittled She-Hulk and Martian Manhunter a decade ago in a podcast interview with a video game producer, and may still not regret his divisive Superman tale where Kal-El forfeited US citizenship. This is why I don’t consider him a very impressive screenwriter, as it’s pretty apparent he’s too much of an ideologue, and even his respect for Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, among other past famous contributors, is questionable at worst. Why would somebody who’s a fan of Kirby really want his most famous creation for Marvel to steer away from being a patriot, as has been seen for years already? It didn’t even begin with Civil War, but that was certainly one of the worst catalysts for the political disaster mainstream superhero comics have become. Yet Goyer doesn’t seem to care. At least now, he may be moving away from superhero adaptations, which’ll hopefully lose ground in the future to non-comic films, though with the way the whole movie industry is going these days, it won’t be long before they collapse.


Originally published here.

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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1