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FOG! Chats With Ed Gross, Author of ‘Voices From Krypton’

Photograph © Ed Gross

Veteran entertainment journalist Ed Gross has had a career that most writers would envy, writing for some of the most beloved film and television periodicals that have ever been published including Starlog, Fangoria, Filmfax, Cinefantastique, SFX, Cinescape, Sci-Fi Now, RetroVision, and Movie Magic.  In addition he’s worked as an editor for additional publications, and has authored or co-authored over fifty books and currently hosts the podcasts for Voices from Krypton, TV RetroVision, and Vampires and Slayers. 

His newest book, Voices From Krypton, is one of the best books covering the entire history and legacy of Superman (I’ve read more than a few).  Ed took some time after attending Superman Celebration 2023 in Metropolis, Il to discuss the book, it’s genesis, and his general thoughts about Superman, as the character celebrates it’s 85th  anniversary.

*  *  *  *  *

FOG!: Hi Ed!  First of all congratulations on the book.  It’s really fantastic.  You’ve been an entertainment journalist for forty years and co-wrote a number of oral histories including James Bond, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Your new book, Voices From Krypton, is an oral history of Superman.  What was the genesis of this project?

ED GROSS: In a sense, the genesis of Voices from Krypton has been nearly a lifetime in the making. I fell in love with Superman through reruns of the George Reeves series, which I began watching in 1965 and which was shortly before I got swept up in the comic book medium. My interest in writing began when I was eight after becoming obsessed with the horror soap opera Dark Shadows (I had to write my own fiction, because I couldn’t get enough of the show).

Flash forward to the early ’80s and I made my first sale as an entertainment journalist. Right from the start I made an effort to cover any Superman project that I could. Flash forward yet again to 2015 and I was in the midst of co-writing the two-volume Star Trek oral history, The Fifty-Year Mission, falling in love with that format. At that moment, I knew I had to write an oral history of Superman and here we are, thanks to Nacelle Books’ belief in the project, with Voices from Krypton finally a reality. This really was the dream project and I’m very proud of the results.

The book covers Superman, following him from the initial comic by creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shutter through the most recent big and small screen interpretations in Man of Steel and Superman & Lois.  Why do you think the character still resonates with readers and audiences?

Boy, isn’t that the question?

I’ve given a lot of thought to the character’s longevity, particularly the fact that he has consistently been in print for the past 85 years and since the radio show made its debut in 1940, he had been featured in some form of production in every decade. That truly is incredible. As to the why, right from the start I feel it was the inspiration he provided. In the beginning, that inspiration was for the common man in America, struggling back against the Great Depression, pushing back against pressures from the neighborhood (crooked landlords, wife beaters, etc.), eventually becoming a “super patriot” to inspire people to purchase war bonds during World War II and support the troops; to becoming that beacon of hope he is now known to be, inspiring those who believe in truth, justice and a better tomorrow.

For every generation, he’s represented something different, but hope has been an integral part of it. There’s that great moment in the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths when Brandon Routh’s Superman is asked why the emblem now has the black background to the red “S,” to which he responds, “The black is the darkness, and the red is the hope rising from it.” Nailed it!

Over 250 people participated in this oral history.  Were there any stories that surprised you?

A lot of people have asked me if the stories surprised me, but I have to say the biggest revelation for me was the fact that there really are two sides to the whole Siegel and Shuster vs. National/DC/Warner Bros situation, with no clear-cut heroes or villains (though I will always say no matter what the legal situation, there was a moral one to help Superman’s creators much sooner than was done). That was a rabbit hole I fell down and it took a lot to extricate myself from it. Hopefully a balanced view is presented.

Were there any people that you thought were essential to the book that were either unable to participate or declined all together?

Obviously there are people I would love to have spoken to who are no longer there (Siegel and Shuster and Christopher Reeve among them), but thankfully there were others who had spoken to them that generously provided me access to their interviews. While a few actors’ representatives never got back to me, the vast majority of people I reached out to said yes. The one turn-down that comes to mind is writer/artist John Byrne, whose run on the character is one I truly admire. But that’s not a bad ratio of yays to nays.

What are your five favorite Superman stories in any medium?

Five favorites? Wow, that’s a lot of history! This is really off the top of my head.

Superman and the Mole Men

An amazing debut for George Reeves as Superman where he nails it from his first scene. The film itself, although designed for children, also represents the kind of great sci-fi allegory that would make Star Trek so appealing to me.

Superman: Birthright

Writer Mark Waid’s 13-issue retelling of Superman’s origin that launched in 2003 and I found to be just brilliant. I was so sorry it wasn’t incorporated as canon. And I have to say, to bookend the story [SPOILERS] with Jor-El and Lara wondering if their son would survive the journey to Earth and, at the very end, receiving a message from him as an adult that he had just before Krypton is destroyed, still brings a tear to my eye. Not many comics have done that.

Superman: The Movie


The epic telling of the Superman story from director Richard Donner and actor Christopher Reeve. All of my passion for the Man of Steel was crystallized in that movie, and seeing it for the first time is a memory I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Incredible.

The Death of Superman

Both versions. The 1961 “imaginary story” by writer Jerry Siegel was so incredibly moving to me as a child; it just felt so real and, given the times in which it was presented, its tale of Luthor tricking the world and Superman into believing he had reformed, only to poison him with Kryptonite … holy crap. And then there was the 1992 version and the epic — and deadly — confrontation with Doomsday. The whole “triangle era” was so intriguing anyway, but this period of Death, World Without a Superman and Reign of the Supermen, represented some truly powerful storytelling.

Kryptonite Nevermore

I was 11 when this “Sandman Superman” story was introduced, and it felt like such a radically different approach to the character from writer Denny O’Neil and artists Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, that it just captured my imagination. I loved watching Superman’s struggle with his place in the world, reckoning with a decreasing power base and in the end electing to keep himself at about half-power as “no man deserves to be this powerful.” Quite an arc that resonates with me to this day (still making me wonder why no one has adapted it to animation), though even at that young age I couldn’t believe that in the first issue following it, they restored him to full power and ignored the entire thing.

I read that your favorite live action Superman is the late Christopher Reeve.  As James Gunn prepares to start his reboot, Superman Legacy, what essential qualities does the as yet uncast actor need to bring to the role?

What Christopher Reeve brought to Superman, and it’s actually something I think people like Brandon Routh and Tyler Hoechlin have as well, is the character’s humanity. The notion that he could be a god, but, instead, is more like one of us, inspiring others with his compassion. “A friend” who’s “always around,” and doesn’t see himself as being above us. Henry Cavill’s interpretation suggested some of this as well, but the material was oftentimes more focused on his being a god among man.

There are two moments of Christopher Reeve’s portrayal that captures all of this for me. One is the helicopter rescue of Lois in Superman: The Movie; just a great superhero sequence with spectacle, touches of humor and the epic John Williams theme. The second is much simpler. It’s from Superman II when Lois is beneath the elevator in Paris, plummeting to the ground. Superman catches it, her head snaps up and looks at him and Superman gently says, “I believe this is your floor,” offering an ingratiating smile that just nails the character.

Strength, warmth, humor and, again, compassion.

And if we’re giving suggestions to James Gunn, for God’s sake: use the John Williams theme. It should be to Superman as the James Bond theme is to 007. Doesn’t matter the actor or the filmmaker.

What are you currently geeking over?

With me, it seems I’ve spent most of my life geeking out over the same things, just in different interpretations. I journey with my favorite things, enjoying some versions more than others, but always wiling to check them out, whether it’s Superman, Planet of the Apes, Dark Shadows (I remain hopeful for a new version), Star Trek or The Beatles (and AI has reignited my passion for them in a big way — until it’s illegal, I’ll enjoy all the tracks that are being created, some with stunning results).

Any upcoming projects that you want to mention?

Prior to Voices from Krypton, for Nacelle I wrote an oral history of Stargate SG-1, Chevrons Locked; and I’ve lined up quite a number of projects with them, the next to be published being a volume devoted to Indiana Jones and, then, Planet of the Apes. There is nothing better than doing the thing that you love, and I’ve been blessed to be able to do so for over 40 years.

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