Here's Superman before he was super ... and before he was born

A cable series about Superman's grandpa? Yes, I was skeptical; still, the "Krypton" opeer is impressive, both visually and with its sharp story and well-played characters. The series debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday (March 21) on Syfy; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For 80 years,
Superman has triumphed. Part-Krypton, part-Kansas and all-American,
he's stopped bank robbers, rescued passers-by and intermittently
saved the world.

But now it's time to
go further back. The new “Krypton” series goes back to before he
was super; in fact, it goes to well before he was born.

“It's an untold
story,” said David Goyer, the show's writer-producer. And “because
there's a time-travel element, we have a tremendous amount of free

Goyer has written
“Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman” and other movies with DC
Comics characters. He's done some origin stories ... but now he sort
of has a pre-origin story.

On Krypton, we're
told, Superman's great-great-grandfather is a heroic scientist. He's
killed; his family is banished to the lowest order and given the “S”
symbol that would later be viewed so highly. “It actually is this
symbol of shame,” said Geoff Johns, the creative chief of DC

That scientist's
grandson becomes, as “Krypton” producer Cameron Welsh puts it, “a
rankless street hustler.” Then he gets word from time-traveler Adam
Strange: He must protect the future of his not-yet-born grandson, who
will become another planet's greatest hero.

All of this

-- Spectacular sets,
at a Belfast studio. “It's like being on the set of 'A New Hope' or
'Empire (Strikes Back),'” said Cameron Cuffe, who stars. “It's of
that caliber.”

-- Visual effects,
as ships careen through that world. The pilot was shot in 2016, then
waited for whiz-bang touches. “The post-production period is almost
double that of your average show,” Goyer said.

-- Sharp writing. In
“Da Vinci's Demons,” particularly, Goyer showed that's possible
in a weekly series.

-- And the right
actors to say those lines. That's one reason this is being done in
Belfast, Goyer said.

“There's an
incredible history of acting talent over in the UK (United Kingdom).”
He was able to use many of the supporting actors and crew members
from “Da Vinci's Demons.”

For the lead role,
however, he chose a near-unknown. “I started out in London, in
theater and film .... I thought, 'I'm ever going to get this; there's
not a chance,'” Cuffe said.

Then he got the
role, joining the parade of stars – from George Reeves to
Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Dean Cain and Henry Cavill – to
play Superman and his kin.

Goyer even advised
Cuffe to be well-behaved in public, for fear of super scrutiny. Does
that mean he'll avoid drinking and nightlife? “I'm a British
actor,” Cuffe said. “It's very hard to get me out of a pub.”

-- “Krypton,” 10
p.m. Wednesdays, Syfy

-- Debuts March 21;
first season runs 10 weeks

-- Opener reruns
that night at 2:30 a.m., Thursday night at midnight, Sunday at 10:55

-- Opener also
reruns at 10 a.m. Saturday on Bravo and 11:05 p.m. Mondaty on USA