Other Miscellaneous Superman Stuff

"Man of Steel" Children's Book Interview with John Sazaklis

John Sazaklis [Date: May 22, 2013]

By Steve Younis

John Sazaklis, author and lead designer on the "Man of Steel" tie-in books and graphic novels for children and young adults, took time out of his busy schedule to talk exclusively to the Superman Homepage about his work on these books.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

A: First off, thank you so much for this interview. My name is John Sazaklis and I am a graphic designer, writer, and illustrator. By day, I work at a publishing company, designing the covers and interiors of books and graphic novels for children and young adults. Then I transform into my alter ego - adventurer and story-teller extraordinaire!

Q: How did you get involved with the "Man of Steel" books? Who contacted you?

A: I have worked with both DC and WB on many of their children's book projects for many years (i.e. the Dark Knight films, classic Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman), so it was a natural fit for me to work on MAN OF STEEL. I work directly with the Warner Bros. Consumer Products group.

Q: You're not only the writer of these "Man of Steel" books, but you're also the series' designer. What exactly did that involve?

A: As lead designer and art director on the 'Man of Steel' movie tie-ins, my responsibilities were to create the overall look of the program, using the materials provided by DC and WB, so that it would match the Man of Steel brand. This included the layout of the covers, interiors, and any special materials like posters and sticker sheets. I also hired many amazing and talented artists to bring these books to life.

Superman Saves Smallville Q: Did you get to read a script for the "Man of Steel" movie to write your books? If so, without giving away any spoilers, what did you think of it?

A: I certainly did get to read the script and it was a great experience. I think it's a fresh look at a wonderful story that has been a part of our pop culture for over 75 years. I found it epic, action packed, and emotional. The themes are universal and everyone involved treated the subject matter with the reverence it deserves. I mean, it's SUPERMAN!

Q: How long did it take you to write each book? What was the process?

A: It's been so long I can't remember, ha! The process during the script reading involved taking down as many detailed notes as I could, and then working with my editor to come up with plots that were appropriate and exciting for children's books as well as filmmaker approved. Meaning, we could tell some parts of the story without giving away any major spoilers and surprises.

Q: As these are illustrated books, how closely did you communicate with artist Jeremy Roberts during the project? Was it a collaborative effort?

A: I would say it was certainly a collaborative effort, with Jeremy doing most of the heavy lifting. He makes my words look good! In all honesty, there aren't enough words in the English language to describe how awesome Jeremy's illustrations are. I would send him my crude layout notes and sketches along with the studio's visual references and he would turn around these works of art, each one better than the last.

Fate of Krypton Q: You wrote "Man of Steel: The Fate of Krypton" and "Man of Steel: Superman Saves Smallville" for this series of books, what can you tell us about them?

A: Well, the "Fate of Krypton" is your traditional origin story. It gives us a look at Superman's home planet, the events that led to his trip to Earth, and his journey to become its protector, the Man of Steel.

In "Superman Saves Smallville", we get to see the Man of Steel in action. He battles the forces of evil, specifically General Zod and his minions, to defend his adoptive home.

Q: You're also credited as the writer for the "Man of Steel: Reusable Sticker Book". What was involved in that? How much story is there in a sticker book?

A: Writing a sticker book is less about the narrative story and more about games and activities that are related to the film's characters and plot. The goal is to engage the creativity of young minds, incorporating the stickers as part of the game play.

Q: Were you aware of the other "I Can Read" books for "Man of Steel" being written by Lucy Rosen?

A: Yes, Lucy is a dear friend, and she worked with my notes from the script reading to write brilliant and exciting stories for early and budding readers. I highly recommend them!

Sticker Book Q: Were you looking forward to "Man of Steel" before you worked on these tie-in books? Has your work on these books enhanced or dampened your enthusiasm for the movie?

A: I was super excited to work on the project, pun intended, because it meant reuniting with the terrific team that worked on the Dark Knight books. My work has only enhanced my enthusiasm for the movie, because I'm a tiny part of the Man of Steel family now.

Q: You've been involved with the HarperCollins' super-hero licenses for the last 8 years, what are some of your favorite projects you've worked on for them?

A: To be honest, it would have to be the Dark Knight and Man of Steel books. The experiences challenged me as a writer, an artist, and as a designer. I had the opportunity to meet fantastic new people, the best in both the publishing and filmmaking worlds, and share their passions about all things Batman and Superman. What could be better?

Q: Are there any other projects (Superman related or otherwise) you'd like to let fans know about?

A: Of course! One of the highlights of my career was to have written a number of DC Super Pets books for Capstone Kids. These stories feature Streaky the Super Cat, Ace the Bat-Hound, Hoppy the Shazam! Bunny, and the Terrific Whatzit, among others. They have all been illustrated by the incredible Art Baltazar, who happens to be a real life super hero!

Along with Superman, I've written books about Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, the Thundercats, the Justice League, and Scooby-Doo! One of my Batman books titled "Gotham's Villains Unleashed" even made it onto the New York Times best-seller list for Graphic Picture Books.

For a complete list of these books and information on any upcoming adventures, you can check out my blog at www.sazmagic.blogspot.com. You keep reading and I'll keep writing!

The Superman Homepage would like to thank John for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.

This interview is Copyright © 2013 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.