Sam Liu on ‘All-Star Superman’

The director of the latest DC animated film talks about his newest project and drops hints for 'Batman Year One' and 'Green Lantern: The Animated Series.'

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Sam Liu on 'All-Star Superman'

The animated adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s epic story "All-Star Superman" flew into stores this week, earning rave reviews from around the net. During last week’s West Coast premiere at the Paley Center in Los Angeles, we caught up with the film’s director, Sam Liu, who told us about some of the hardest cuts to make in the film and revealed some unexpected news about the "Batman: Year One" film and offered his first impression of the "Green Lantern" animated series.


Crave Online: How many films have you directed solo besides "All-Star Superman"?

Sam Liu: At DC, my only other solo one was "Public Enemies." But for Marvel, I did "Planet Hulk," I did half of "Hulk VS." and also there’s one that I think is coming out this year even though we finished it three years ago, which is "Thor: Son of Asgard."

Crave Online: What other DC films do you have coming up that you can talk about?

Sam Liu: I think it would be "Batman: Year One." That’s the only one I can really talk about. The next one after "All-Star Superman" is "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights." The overlap on some of these [projects] are really crazy. I was supposed to co-direct that with Lauren [Montgomery] but I was really burnt out. Luckily it was broken up into six single episodes. So they got two other very deserving storyboard artists who haven’t been directors before: Chris Berkeley and Jay Oliva.

Crave Online: I heard you say earlier that "Batman: Year One" came in a little short. Is that true?

Sam Liu: Yeah.

Crave Online: So, did you create a new story to fill out the time?

Sam Liu: Yeah, it was a story that was a short. Like the Showcase stuff. There’s a bunch of short scripts that were being floated around, which ones they were going to do. I think the one that we’re going to do was a short that was floating around but it was in the Batman world. So again, we were short on "Batman: Year One" and so that script just sort of made a lot of sense. We’re going to do it in the [David] Mazzucchelli style and it fits in that world.

Crave Online: In "All-Star Superman," there was a lot material to cut down. What was your hardest cut to make?

Sam Liu: It’s a little hard to say. [Laughs] The suicide girl one was a really poignant moment for me when I was reading the book. That one for me was really hard to cut. There was actually a point that we were thinking about… if "All-Star Superman" actually came in short, we would try to put that back in there. Unfortunately, we were a little over actually. So we had to cut a couple of scenes that I don’t think we’re going to miss. They’re not anything that’s integral to the book. They’re just transition scenes and stuff like that.

The movie as it stands is pretty faithful to what we drew. We just kind of cut a little fat from it.

Crave Online: It’s funny that the ultimate ending for this story was in DC One Million of all places. Was there any temptation to add that ending at the end of this film?

Sam Liu: Actually, no. Because I felt that would sort of definitively say "look what happened to him." And I felt that like this movie was a love story about Superman. It’s a very human story about him and it’s also about his myth. And so, sort of as an afterthought when we were [storyboarding], one of the artists, Chris Berkeley… Again, there are people on the team who were really like "Oh, you’ve got to put that suicide girl back in there" and another person said "you’ve got to put that iconic image of Superman in the sun cranking the machines."

Crave Online: That’s not in there?!

Sam Liu: Originally, it wasn’t in the script. But it’s in there at the end now. We put it in there as this mural to the legend of Superman, you know what I mean? Because it’s an image, not a picture of him persay. So, we were able to take that image and still fit it in there. Originally how we boarded it, we were going to put it in after the credits just as an homage to the fans. But we didn’t want it to interrupt the story. When we were editing a version where it links right into the end of the story, we ended on that image. And it seemed to work really well and Bruce [Timm] liked it.

Crave Online: Is Jimmy Olson’s Doomsday transformation in the movie?

Sam Liu: The Doomsday one is not.

Crave Online: Before we wrap up, what can you tell us about "Green Lantern: The Animated Series."

Sam Liu: We haven’t actually got any animation back yet. So I think it will be very telling once we get a lot of footage back. But as far as the animatics — which are sort of the timeline storyboard with the voice track laid over it — it’s looking really good. It’s definitely more of a fun series. A lot of us went into skeptically, but so far it’s really fun and they are genuinely funny moments and I think the characterization of the characters and how they interact with each other is turning out to be really enjoyable and very fun to work on.