March 14, 2012 11:45am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Joe Kelly Previews DC/Warner Home Video's 'Superman vs. The Elite'
Joe Kelly is a busy man.
As part of Man of Action Studios, he's part of a creative team that's responsible for generating more than $2 billion in retail sales for toys and goods associated with Cartoon Network's hit animated series Ben 10. Beyond that, he's a comic-book writer whose résumé includes Action Comics, Superman, Deadpool, JLA, Green Lantern and Supergirl, among countless others.
On Friday at WonderCon in Anaheim, Kelly's Superman vs. The Elite, a Warner Home Video DC Universe animated original movie based on his "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way" story from Action Comics No. 775 will have its world premiere.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kelly to discuss the film, why the time is right for its release and how it will appeal to non-comic book fans.
THR: Why is the time right for this to come to DVD?
Joe Kelly: The story tackles themes that go way beyond a typical superhero story -- though it's as action-packed and fun as any of the animated projects that have come before. Politics, the price of power and America's place as a force in the world are all viewed through the lens of the DC Universe. Even if fans aren't paying close attention to these issues, they're all over the media. You can't escape them. So with the state of affairs being what it is, I can't think of a better time to see Superman confront these themes.
THR: How will politics play a role in the adaptation?
Kelly: I'm a big fan of taking real world issues and working them out through our "superhero" stories -- but this one goes beyond strict allegory. Like the original comic story, the film is thought provoking without being preachy and really delivers a punch. Also, the content is legitimately mature, and it took all of the projects that came before to pave the way for this story. We probably couldn't have done it five years ago, relevant or not.
THR: What challenges did you face in adapting it?
Kelly: I was very lucky in two ways: I had written the story so long ago that it was easier to be objective about the adaptation, and I had Alan Burnett. Alan helped me cut to the heart of the story and personalize it for an audience who might not have known the original comic. Once I dug in, the biggest challenge was taking the story out of the "comic universe" and making it into something bigger and more accessible to a wider audience.
THR: How did you change the story to appeal to non-comic book fans?
Kelly: The original story was about anti-heroes and comic fans and trends in the industry that were disturbing to me when it was written. For the story to work as a film, we needed to get beyond that while keeping the core of the story: that Superman serves a purpose and his moral code is relevant even in the modern world. This is where the expansion into "world politics" really helped.
THR: Will fans of the comic be pleased?
Kelly: Now that I've seen it, I couldn't be happier. The performances are incredible, the direction is fantastic; it's a home run all around. It's an amazing companion piece to the original story. I think fans of Action No. 775 will dig it and I hope that new viewers will go back and find the original comic after seeing the film.
Superman vs. The Elite will be screened Friday at 6:30 p.m. at WonderCon in Anaheim.