Adi Shankar, the producer of Netflix’s Castlevania, says his upcoming project Superman Vs. the Ku Klux Klan has been indirectly energized by Bill Maher’s put-downs of comic book culture and comments about the late Stan Lee.
Shankar said the firebrand comedian’s appraisal of comic book culture as an example of “using our smarts on stupid stuff” was a welcomed jolt because it underlined the importance of burnishing the legacy and celebrating the pioneers of “nerd” culture to disprove the opinion that Maher expressed.
“The comic-book/video game industry needs our Shakespeare in Love we need our Capote and Finding Neverland,” Shankar said, referring to acclaimed dramas that turned writers into screen characters. “The founders of nerd culture must be celebrated as much as the franchises they have given birth to. It’s our history. We also need to tell stories about how these myths have had a tangible impact on our material world. That’s where Superman vs KKK comes in.”
Last month, PaperChase Films (The Kindergarten Teacher, Skin) announced Shankar would partner with the company and Marc Rosen (Sense 8, The After) to develop Superman Vs. The Ku Klux Klan, based on the book of the same name by Rick Bowers.
The story tracks the post-WWII resurgence by the Klan, which often acted while law enforcement turned a blind eye. This true-to-life story follows Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the Klan in 1946 and, in an unlikely alliance, worked with the Anti-Defamation League and the producers of The Adventures of Superman radio show to expose the cult’s activities.
Shankar’s Castlevania has been renewed for a third season and has been a success with fans of the video game. Shankar is also know for his unauthorized “Bootleg Universe” productions, such as Power/Rangers, the popular 2015 video which ran into copyright issues and was pulled down online.
Despite the clouded fair-use issues, Shankar sees himself as a champion of making entertainment with strong moral messages. He said those messages historically inform many comics and video games and are needed now more than ever.
“Fandom was built on a blueprint of mortality and the stories of people grappling with godlike power are more relevant now in the age of limitless technology than before,” said Shankar.
He added: “Superheroes operate outside the scope of law and offer us hope that someone will rise up and protect us when government and other institutions cannot or will not. This story shows the power of the superhero mythology and it’s tangible impact on the physical world.”
Shankar said the radio shows are public domain so there will be no trademark issues with Warner Bros or its DC Entertainment division, which this year is celebrating the 80th anniversary of Superman, its signature property.
This month is also the 40th anniversary of Superman, the Warner Bros classic starring Christopher Reeve, and first of seven Man of Steel films released by the studio. The most recent was the 2016 film Superman V. Batman: Final Justice although the character was back in action for Justice League, last year’s superhero team-up film.
The broadcast history of Superman has already reached the screen as the basis of a dramatic film. The Focus Features film Hollywoodland was released in 2006 with Ben Affleck portraying George Reeves, the star of the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman and the victim of a fatal gunshot wound in 1959. That film was titled Truth, Justice & The American Way but the title was changed due to copyright issues raised by Warner’s DC Comics.
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