As superheroes stories have come to dominate every corner of the entertainment world, some of the biggest ones have gone through David Goyer. As a writer of “Batman Begins,” a key part in developing “Man of Steel,” and now one of the creative engines behind “Krypton,” Syfy’s new Superman prequel show, Goyer’s looking to help shape his own corner of DC’s TV efforts.
Any time a show or movie builds on the tenets of an existing character’s canon, the conversation inevitably turns to whether this is meant for diehards or for people unfamiliar with the source material. Goyer told IndieWire that it doesn’t make sense to pick just one of those groups
“I don’t think you can make something just for the fans. I really don’t. I’m a fan. I had over 10,000 comic books when I went off to college,” Goyer said. “That being said, I think it’s also really important because these characters are constantly being reinvented, they’re a reflection of the times. Even though you don’t want to betray the core tenets of these iconic characters, I think it’s important to sometimes push a little and reinvent them.”
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Given Goyer’s intimate involvement in shepherding stories of DC’s two most mammoth characters, he’s given a lot of consideration as to what it means to create new stories within the pantheon that’s already been established over the course of eight decades. It’s an idea Goyer encountered most notably on the Christopher Nolan trilogy of “Batman” films. For him, that process helped build up a relationship with creative forces behind DC like Warner Bros. and DC Comics president Geoff Johns.
“Chris Nolan and I on ‘Batman Begins,’ which was over 10 years ago, spent a long time thinking about canon and thinking about when you’re adapting such a well-known, long-lived cultural icon, how much one needs to hew to that canon and how much you can recreate it,” Goyer said. “They trust me to know what we’re sticking to and what isn’t worth sticking to, and how to find a middle ground between creating something that’s faithful enough that hardcore DC fans will really appreciate but also something that won’t alienate a broader audience.”
Part of Goyer’s approach to bringing “Krypton” to TV was based on how many resources he and the creative team would have to work with. Much of that budget — which he says is more than Warner Bros. and Syfy wanted to spend — goes to the kind of special effects needed to make otherworldly characters seem believable in this realm that the show’s fashioned for itself.
“I think that a successful superhero show can’t exist below a certain budget. If you’re dealing with a superhero show where they’ve got superpowers, no. One of the reasons why the budget of this show is so high is because it doesn’t take place on Earth,” Goyer said. “We can’t pick up anything off the shelf. All the props had to be manufactured from scratch. The food that the actors eat had to be manufactured by food scientists.”
Building Kryptonian society from the ground up led to a process that took even more time after it was filmed to get into TV shape.
“We spent almost $1 million an episode on the visual effects, which is a lot for a television show. Maybe not as much as ‘Game of Thrones,’ but still a lot. And we have a very long post-process,” Goyer said. “That was my point early on. I was like ‘Guys, I’m sorry but this show is going to be more expensive than ‘Arrow.’ We can’t purchase anything off the rack. We can’t reuse anything from another show. None of it exists.”
Of course, some of that money also goes to creating and maintaining CGI characters, including Brainiac, teased in the “Krypton” pilot.
“We’ve got one character who’s somewhat CG-based and there’s another character coming near the end that’s somewhat CG-based,” Goyer said. “There were some pitches early on for these characters to be in more of the episodes or injure some other characters, and I was just saying ‘Whoa, lets not buy off more than we can chew. Brainiac alone is a big deal in order to render him correctly.’ Maybe next season we’ll have three characters that are more CG-based, but at least we will have had a firm footing.”
As for the non-digital characters in the show, Goyer talked about how “Krypton” pulls in other figures from the greater DC universe like Adam Strange who may not have always been associated with Superman stories. Still, in bringing in these other figures, Goyer doesn’t want that to overwhelm the rest of the show.
“There were a lot of pitches early on when we were in the room and I said, ‘I don’t want to do DC Guest Star of the Week. I really want to earn it.’ I actually was the person who was constantly saying, ‘Let’s slow down, let’s slow down.’ I want people really invested. When we do these turns, I want them to be surprising,” Goyer said. “So there were some characters that were originally on the table to show up in Season 1 that got pushed to Season 2, and I was kind of one of the main voices behind just pumping the brakes a little.”
Bringing a character from Earth’s present to a pre-Kal-El past involves a bit of time travel. (Fun fact: The Tigers hat that Adam Strange wears is a nod to Johns and Goyer both being fans from Michigan.) Goyer says that while they haven’t necessarily subscribed to any particular pre-existing notion of time travel, their internal logic will help guide how the show handles the timeline problems future seasons might bring.
“If it’s a free-for-all, I think people throw up their hands and get bored. I don’t think those rules will become apparent, certainly not in the first season. Maybe by the second or third season they will, if we get that far,” Goyer said.
“Krypton” airs Wednesday nights on Syfy.