Paul Cornell, known primarily for his work writing “Doctor Who” tie-in novels and the Hugo Award nominated “Captain Britain and MI: 13” for Marvel Comics, takes over writing duties on “Action Comics,” beginning in June.
DC Comics announced last week that the British writer had landed the assignment after the previously announced Marc Guggenheim stepped down as writer before his run even started. Cornell joins interior artist Pete Woods and cover artist David Finch on “Action Comics,” a book that the writer called “a historic title.”
In his first interview about the project, Cornell told CBR News that Superman will not be featured in the first arc post-“War of the Supermen” and that the Man of Steel’s iconic arch-nemesis Lex Luthor will instead be the title’s leading man.
Lex recently regained control of LexCorp from Lana Lang, but in “Blackest Night,” he was charged with becoming an Orange Lantern, giving him a taste of true power. Evidently, the uber-genius liked how it made him feel, because now he’s off on a DC Universe-spanning quest to once again reclaim absolute power. And what did Lord Acton say about absolute power?
Cornell also shared his thoughts on why readers should root for Lex, what a turn as an Orange Lantern means to the character and which of Superman’s pals will be keeping an eye on the evil genius him with Krypton’s favorite son out of the picture.
CBR News: I guess my first question may be a bit simple and maybe obvious but will “Action Comics” feature the Man of the Steel? I only ask because in your quotes that appeared in the announcement, you spoke about your affinity for Lex Luthor, but not Superman?
Paul Cornell: No, it’s Lex Luthor’s book, at least for the first story arc. I adore Superman, and I hope I get the chance to use him, but for now I’m pleased to be writing for Lex.
You mentioned he’s always been one of your favorites. What makes Lex Luthor such a compelling figure?
He’s a kind of failed Prometheus, a failed Captain America. In a lot of ways, he’s the best of humanity, but human faults, tiny and huge, keep bringing him down. He’s attractive in some lights, in that he doesn’t see why people should look up to an alien, and wants humans to prosper. Unfortunately, he wants that human to be just him.
I think he’s endlessly interesting, a collecting of urges and flaws which is deeply satisfying to write. He does some very terrible things in this book, but I think he’s still a plausible lead. This isn’t one of these books where we’re asked to enjoy his evil in a wallowing way. I think we all like to root for what Lex could be. And when he goes up against things worse than he is, that’s put into sharper focus.
Things worse than Lex? How is that possible?
This arc is Lex going on a quest, which results in him interacting with all kinds of aspects of villainy in the DC universe. You know how “Hush” was like a tour of Batman’s supporting cast? This is a galactic tour of villains, including some from way outside Lex’s normal titles and genres.
And you said, no Superman in this first arc, but what about his usual supporting cast, like Lois and Kara?
Lex may take great pains to appear that his doings are on the up-and-up, but he knows full well folks like Steel and Supergirl are likely keeping an eye on him, not to mention the Planet. In fact, Lois will certainly be playing an unusual role in all this.
Will “Action Comics” be crossing over or tied to the happenings of “Superman,” which will be written by JMS during your run?
It’s tied in only as much as Superman is out of town, so Lex is reacting to that, and has a bit more room to act. The two books don’t cross over at all.
How much will your opening arc tie into what’s happened in “War of the Supermen”? And what about “Blackest Night” and Lex fighting for ‘good’? That cover art from Mr. Finch looks like Lex is still an Orange Lantern.
Lex is motivated by, and looking back to, his time as an Orange Lantern. He’s not one now. But it’s given him a taste, and he really wants… something in particular. He’s fighting for just himself, which he thinks is the greater good.
We’re our own book, and not tying into anything else. Indeed, you can pick up the first issue of this arc and, apart from three panels of establishing how we follow on from the past, get into it. New readers start here.
Will you be working from the plot outline established by Marc Guggenheim before he left?
No, apart from taking on a couple of suggestions from Geoff Johns and [editor] Matt Idelson, I’ve plotted this arc myself.
Not sure how far you are along but have seen any pages back yet from Pete Woods? What does he bring to a project? And what about your cover artist, the aforementioned David Finch?
I’m delighted to have those two guys onboard. I haven’t seen any pages yet from Pete, but he’s done something I’ve never experienced in comics before – he’s designed the sets. I now have wonderful drawings of Luthor’s lab, which gave me a real sense of where we’re initially set. And the covers are going to be a real delight as we go.
A copy of “Action Comics” #1 recently sold at auction for a record-breaking $1.5 million. The title is without question the granddaddy of them all. Did that enter your mind at all when you landed this assignment or is it simply another writing gig?
I’m hugely aware that this is “Action Comics.” The response from the internet, and from family and friends, reinforces the feeling that this is a big deal. Of course, the only way to deal with that is to ignore the pressure and hope your best shot will live up to it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention your two recent Hugo nominations, congratulations. One of the two was for your critically acclaimed, yet recently canceled “Captain Britain and MI: 13” series for Marvel. Would you love a chance at writing Captain Britain again?
Always. Any time. Any of the MI: 13 cast in fact. I want desperately to be able to keep those characters going.
What else are you working on these days?
I have a pilot of what can only be described as a medical horror show, “Pulse,” on BBC3 in June. There are some other comic books and television things coming along, about which I can’t talk yet, and I’m nominated for another Hugo for a Novelette, which can be read for free at my blog: http://www.paulcornell.com