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When Warner Bros. and DC began a restructuring process earlier this year, we knew that changes were afoot with both the motion picture and (to a lesser extent) printed versions of the DC Universe. Now DC has unveiled a line of graphic novels called Earth One, which will aim to totally reboot the DC Universe for newer readers. The first chapters will feature Batman and Superman, with Geoff Johns writing the former and J. Michael Straczynski penning the latter.

Will these books feature versions of the characters that are likely to end up on movie screens?

Batman has his own film continuity going on, and any speculation on whether this streamlined, modern origin for the character will have any effect will be contingent upon the return of Christopher Nolan. Until we know where he stands on the franchise, we won’t know much at all.

But with Superman stalled at Warner Bros. and mired in litigation, it’s easier to speculate that Straczynski’s streamined origin story (a la Marvel’s Ultimates line) could be fodder for a new film. Here’s what the scribe told AICN about his take on the character:

…what I’m trying to do is to dig in to the character and look at him through modern eyes. If you were to create the Superman story today, for the first time, but keep intact all that works, what would it look like? The only substantial thing I’m leaving out is the notion of a Superboy. Here, the first time Clark puts on that uniform, it really is his first time.

In reflecting further on the question of changes, probably one of the most changed characters is Jim Olsen, and the most changed atmosphere is that of the Daily Planet…A good newspaper reporter keeps shooting no matter the danger, so I’m bringing that aspect into Olsen. The rest of the staff look, act and talk like actual reporters now, and that’s a lot of fun.

Looking at sketches for Clark Kent, which see the character moving away from the classic bespectacled geek, there’s an evident Smallville influence, and the ‘modernization’ attempt is apparent as well. And, oddly, the book sounds informed by Superman Returns, as well, in the sense that it is more about the core choice of whether Clark Kent becomes Superman or retains his own identity, and how he deals with being Superman. Straczynski again:

Clark comes to Metropolis in his 21st year to decide what he really wants to do. And this is someone who can be anyone, do anything. If he keeps his background secret, as he’s done for the preceding 21 years, he can be the best athlete the world has ever known, he could be the next Stephen Hawking…By contrast, if he chooses to become Superman, then Clark must live forever in the shadows, dedicated to a life of service and self-sacrifice that could eventually get him killed.

Without having any insider knowledge about whether this could be the basis for a new film, there’s material enough here to cause some speculation.

There are also interesting questions here about DC’s decision to publish these as graphic novels rather than monthly series. That seems like the way the industry should go — give people a bigger chunk of story at once and reduce the potential for great delays between issues. (Granted, there could just be great delays between installments.) But I’m more of a story guy than a collector, and I’d much rather read a big chunk of story at once than have to deal with the monthly installment plan.

Read more at DC’s in-house blog and in the lengthy AICN interviews. And am I the only one that thinks the Shane Davis Superman looks like a weird hybrid of Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch art?

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