Superman superfans will get an in-depth look at the House of El in the Syfy series Krypton when it premieres in March. Creator David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) and showrunner Cameron Welsh gave Rotten Tomatoes a preview of the pre-Superman world he’s created.
Goyer also gave updates on some of his upcoming film projects both rumored and announced.
Krypton is set 200 years before the planet explodes (when Jor-El sent his son Kal-El to Earth), and the series’ main character is Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), Kal-El’s grandfather, so fans can expect to see popular Superman-tied characters who predate the birth of Kal-El; in fact, producers have already teased Doomsday, the Kryptonian monster who eventually (temporarily) killed Superman.
“Touch wood, I think you’ll see Doomsday in season 1,” Goyer said. “I’m certainly pushing for that character to be motion capture [so that an actor can] embody him, but traditionally Doomsday is a lot bigger than a normal human being.”
Braniac (Blake Ritson) is Krypton’s main villain for the first season, the first time he’s appeared in live-action. Goyer said if they had done Man of Steel 2 instead of Batman v Superman, moviegoers might have seen Braniac then.
“He might’ve been if there had been a direct sequel,” Goyer said. “He made sense because his backstory is also related to Krypton. He showed up on Krypton and destroyed the city of Kandor well before Krypton blew up, so he was the obvious choice for the big bad, at least for the first season or two. Our depiction of Braniac is closest to the art that Geoff Johns did with Gary Frank. It’s somewhat different but that’s the closest depiction of Braniac that exists out there.”
Man of Steel opened with a prologue set on Krypton, with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) flying a dragon as the planet went kaput. What you didn’t see on screen was all of the work Goyer did with production designer Alex McDowell about what Kryptonian society was like before the final moments. For Krypton, Goyer dusted off his notes and went further, beginning with the idea of genetic engineering.
“I extrapolated that even further and said, ‘OK, we’ve got these guilds on Krypton. These most ranked people are in these six major guilds,’” Goyer said. “Not only are Kryptonians not born in the womb, but the Genetic Council decides who you’ll marry ahead of time, when you can procreate, if you can procreate. And they assign a ranking to your unborn child.”
Natural childbirth isn’t even an option. The Genetic Council can switch fertility on and off. Goyer compares the society of Kandor, Krypton’s central city, to Brave New World.
“It’s all based on Kandor, the major city our show takes place in, a hothouse environment of 50 million people,” Goyer said. “Because outside of this domed city, the environment is very hostile, they have to keep tight reigns on population control. They also titrate: ‘Oh, we need more lawmakers, we need more artists, we need more engineers.’ All aspects of that are predetermined before you’re born. What if you fall in love with somebody who’s different from the person that you’re assigned to?”
And that’s just what Seg-El does. He falls for Lyta Zod (Georgina Campbell), who must be General Zod’s mother or aunt if Zod was Jor-El’s contemporary. Lyta is one of many new characters Goyer created.
“Jayna and Lyta Zod — Jayna is currently running House Zod, the military guild on Krypton,” Goyer said. “Lyta Zod is her daughter, who’s been tapped to follow in her footsteps. But she has an illicit romance going on with Seg. Val-El is Seg’s grandfather, and I suppose he’s more like Jor-El. He’s executed at the beginning of the pilot, although he’s still in the show. You can figure out how that works later on. Daron and Nyssa-Vex — Vex is a surname that’s appeared in the comic books.”
Vex should sound familiar, especially to Man of Steel fans, as Samantha Jo played Car-Vex in the film.
“Nyssa-Vex is a very enigmatic character, shall we say,” Welsh said. “The only thing you can really trust about her is that you just can’t trust her. You know there’s an agenda. You know she’s playing angles. You just never know what her game is.”
Welsh explained that the government of Krypton is based on the religion of Raoism, worshiping Krypton’s sun. The Voice of Rao is the head priest and therefore head of state.
“There are other characters like the Word of Rao that show up,” Goyer added.
The budget of Man of Steel allowed Russell Crowe to ride a Kryptonian dragon, and while Krypton isn’t quite working on that scale, you will see the wildlife of Krypton.
“There are some creatures,” Goyer said. “There will be more, presumably, in season 2, when our budget is a little bigger. There were some that were written, but we couldn’t figure out how to render.”
There are plenty of other things to remind you that Krypton is an alien planet. Kryptonians may look like humans, but they don’t do things quite like we do on Earth.
“Whether it be as simple as glassware you might have on a table when people are having a drink,” Welsh said. “If they sit at different angles and the food itself is different, and clothing. Everything is a made for our show. Nothing is bought from the rack at Target. We don’t buy a chair from Ikea. Everything is handmade.”
What do they eat on Krypton, by the way?
“There’s an episode that we see some kind of strange-looking lizard creature that’s being eaten by somebody,” Welsh said.
Another DC Comics character is Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos). Like his comic book incarnation, Strange travels through time from present day Earth. As everybody knows from Back to the Future and Timecop, once you visit the past, you can change the future.
“Events that take place in the show have a ripple effect, a butterfly effect for things happening on Earth right now,” Goyer said. “Who knows? Maybe the planet won’t blow up by the time the show ends. You’ve got to watch the show. We have an idea for how the show ends. We didn’t venture into this without at least an idea. We think it’s pretty cool, but hopefully we’ll get there in six or seven seasons.”
Another problem with time travel is, if Seg-El manages to save Krypton, then Jor-El never sends Kal-El to Earth. A world without Superman isn’t a happy ending either.
“You can’t do anything to stop the destruction of your home planet and everybody in it, because that’s the event that precedes the birth of your grandson,” Welsh said. “Maybe there’s a way to do both. I think that’s what we’re going to be looking at.”
Since Krypton happens before Kryptonians experienced the powers of a yellow sun, no one has super powers on Krypton. That wouldn’t be much fun, though, so Goyer thought of ways to get them closer to a yellow sun.
“There are [powers], but not on Krypton,” Goyer said. “But, we won’t always be on Krypton.”
The Krypton creators also promised the Phantom Zone, the prison to which General Zod, Ursa, and Non were exiled in Superman: The Movie. Should Krypton have multiple seasons, season 2 will be partly set in the Phantom Zone.
“If we have our way, we will do a deeper dive into the Phantom Zone than has ever been done in film or TV before,” Goyer said. “As planned, a significant chunk of season 2 would take place in the Phantom Zone. Let’s say someone’s been trapped in the Phantom Zone. That’s a pretty messed up place, so they might come out with a particular form of PTSD.”
As a comic book title go-to talent, Goyer also wrote Batman Begins of the Dark Knight trilogy with story credits on both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises and is executive producer on two different serialized iterations of DC character John Constantine: a previous live action version and an upcoming animated series that both star Matt Ryan. But his career hasn’t only been with DC properties; he also wrote the Blade film trilogy, a Marvel franchise.
Goyer was attached to write a Green Lantern Corps movie, but it looks like the Lanterns could be benched.
“That’s on a slow burn,” he said. “Because of recent events with the extended DC Universe, there’s obviously a recalibration. So who knows what’s going to happen with that? I don’t even think Warner Brothers knows yet.”
Also on Goyer’s future slate is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s immensely popular graphic novel series The Sandman, about personifications of the seven “Endless”: Dream, Death, Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction.
Goyer’s update: “The plan is that I would actually write that with Neil, so we’re trying to align our insane schedules.”
Which may not be too soon, as prolific author Gaiman has numerous projects in the works, including Amazon miniseries Good Omens, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, as well as season 2 of Starz’s American Gods, which recently lost its showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and, subsequently, one of its stars Gillian Anderson and may also lose actress Kristin Chenoweth.
Goyer also joined the party when filmmaker James Cameron returned to the Terminator franchise to produce a new movie, which is currently untitled and expected in 2019. Cameron assembled a writers’ room that included Goyer, who told Rotten Tomatoes that he wrote a draft. He also revealed which non-Cameron Terminator property the producer-director held in high regard.
“It was interesting to hear his take on what he felt we could change and what we couldn’t change. Sometimes it was surprising,” Goyer said. “Josh Friedman was also in the room — who did Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which is why Josh was in the room. So I think [Cameron] was most impressed with what Josh did there.”
Goyer also wrote a Masters of the Universe screenplay.
“Its fate will be decided within the next month or so,” he said.
He-Man and the Terminator could be considered superheroes of a sort, but Goyer contextualizes them by their franchise history of film, television, comic books, toys, and other offshoots.
“I approach them as being well-known cultural icons that have well-known canon that have made a cultural imprint,” he said. “My approach to adapting them is similar, in terms of assessing what’s canon and what isn’t, what one needs to hew to and what one can reinvent.”
Krypton premieres March 21 on Syfy.