Dan Jurgens is a legendary comics creator. Perhaps best known for his work on the famous “Death of Superman” story, Jurgens has had a hand in the DC Universe for decades, and is currently helping shepherd the future of the New 52 as part of the “Futures End” writing team and writer on “Aquaman and the Others.”
When Jurgens came by the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International 2014 to speak with Jonah Weiland, the pair took a look back at some of his most influential work, discussing a myriad of topics including his pride at the “Death of Superman” legacy, the boom of the comics industry in the ’90s, his relationship with and modern relevance of Booster Gold (whom he created) and more.
On looking back at “Death of Superman” and whether he’s proud of it being his legacy: Yes. And for a lot of different reasons, actually. One of the things was I think that if you take “The Death of Superman,” “Return of Superman,” “World Without a Superman” — the whole three-chapter story and put it together, I think it was a very, very credible piece of work, just in terms of the story we told. At the same time, to me, I do not ever do a con, I never do a show without three people at least saying — they’ll put down “Death of Superman” and say, “This is what got me started reading comics.” I think it did sort of [serve] as this incredible entryway for a lot of people into the business as a hobby. They came in, they started reading, and — I think in the ’90s — we had a certain sense of energy happening throughout all the companies. You had Image, you had Marvel, you had DC and Valiant and all the stuff they were doing that we’re kind of lacking a little bit today — but yeah, it was a great time.
On the industry in the early ’90s: I always like to say that if you were that 13-year-old kid, we as an industry were giving you something every single month and you were getting it. It was that sense of bigness and broadness in comics. We’ve gotten much more about singular titles now, which is just fine — there are a lot of different ways to do comics — but at that time, it was character-oriented and it was this big, expansive idea where we were rolling from one big thing to the next as an industry and it worked great. It just — it kept readers onboard.
On Clark Kent’s mullet: I never drew the mullet! Other guys like Grummet and John had a ponytail at the time — I didn’t. My Superman didn’t have as long a hair as theirs did. I just said, “No, Clark isn’t a ponytail guy.” So you never saw a Dan Jurgens Clark Kent with a ponytail.
On his relationship with Booster Gold: I think Booster first showed up in 1985, and it was that time somewhat ahead of its time. It was playing off that whole media aspect of taking a character who wanted to be a celebrity and wanted to be notable for his exploits, make money on the side and at the time it was a little more out there, but I think that’s why the character has endured. He’s a lot more fallible. I explain it this way: there’s a plane falling out of the sky, Superman comes and catches it, lands it safely in Metropolis park. Booster calls the media and says, “I’m going to film this.” He tries to catch it, he can’t, the thing drives him down — at the very last minute, he saves it, but with a rocky landing and he’s just — he has human faults that way. He’s not perfect and he’s trying to atone for his past. I’m attracted to that as a character, that he is a non-perfect human being. I’ve gone back to that from time to time and DC has been kind enough to let me.
On how he stays relevant and maintained his career: I think it’s a combination of things. One of them is because I both write and draw, that makes you a little bit more multidimensional. To this day, I get people who hire me as a writer, I get people who hire me as an artist, so that’s part of it in and of itself. It’s weird, you get known for doing things a certain way, right? But you also have to step outside of that. You have to challenge yourself and try and do things a different way. Some of it is just in terms of — when I’m drawing a book, I try and make sure that I don’t just mimic what I was doing before. There’s a dangerous line that exists between repeating yourself visually and mimicking yourself, while still working within the context of your style, but doing something differently. You’ve got to get in that area and stay in your area, where you can’t have people looking at your stuff and say, “Oh, I’ve seen that view of whomever 3000 times before.” At that point, you’re flat. Writing is the same way. You have to challenge yourself to write different things and write with a different sense of style.