In celebration of Superman’s 75 years of existence, CBR News engaged the all-star team of writers DC Comics has assembled to tell the Man of Steel’s adventures during his landmark anniversary and Andy Diggle (“Action Comics”), Scott Lobdell (“Superman”), Greg Pak (“Batman/Superman”) and Scott Snyder (“Superman Unchained”) were all too happy to share their unabashed admiration for the world’s first superhero.
Yesterday, the Super-scribes discussed the character’s grounded roots (in comics and Kansas), an aspect of his make-up which allows him to remain largely unchanged over seven-and-a-half decades of stories and why that presents both a challenge and a clear and simple focus when writing him for a new generation of readers.
Today, we explore what impact, if any, Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder’s upcoming “Man of Steel” film has had on the four Superman titles, the possibility of a future crossover in the mold of the 1992 best-selling event “Death of Superman” and why Clark Kent remains central to the storytelling, even when he’s not featured on the page.
CBR News: With the two new titles launching just in time for the release of “Man of Steel,” do you think the Nolan/Snyder film will affect readership for the comics? And does the movie affect your storytelling at all?
Scott Lobdell: I can only speak for me, but I think all we know about the movie is what’s in the trailer. [Laughs] Unless somebody has an inside scoop that I don’t know about.
Scott Snyder: They really haven’t given us any marching orders to steer clear of anything or to use anything. We’ve been left to our own devices, I think.
Greg Pak: The nice thing is that all of these books are at a place where anybody can jump in, which is a great place to be when a movie comes out. Hopefully, folks that are excited about the movie will step right and jump into the comics. They are thoroughly accessible and will give folks that are interested in Superman many different opportunities to find one they love.
Andy Diggle: I’m obviously hugely honored that they asked me to write “Action” at all, but I think I’m just very, very lucky to be stepping into to it to start a completely new run right before the movie is about to hit. I think my first issue comes out a month before the movie, or something like that. On one hand, it’s very flattering; on the other hand, it’s slightly terrifying because it puts it under a big spotlight. If I make any mistakes, I will be making them in public.
Snyder: It’s so scary, dude. I’m with you. We can have a conversation later where we can work through our anxieties. [Laughs]
Diggle: At the pub, ideally. [Laughs]
The last time DC Comics had four core Superman titles, it was 1992 and “The Death of Superman.” hit. Are there any plans for interplay between the four books or a big crossover event?
Snyder: I don’t think so. We’re all pretty friendly, and I think we’re all fans of each other’s work. I’s been a lot of fun to share what we’ve been doing and make sure that we don’t step on each other’s toes and confirm that we each have a different take and a different kind of story.
I think part of the fun of each of us coming on the book sort of around the same time, other than Scott, is, it’s great that we can set our own tone and our own story. We’re in a shared world, so you’ll see things from Scott’s series, for example, in “Superman Unchained.” Clark won’t be working at the Planet, and who knows if he will return. Some of the continuity that Scott has set up will be mentioned. Other than those kinds of touches, [which let] you guys know that we are in the same universe, part of the fun will be for each of us to establish our own voice and book.
Pak: I think as time goes on, you may see things that happen in one book reverberate in others. That’s also fun. It’s particularly fun when we’re writing books that happen at slightly different times of characters’ lives.
Lobdell: I can’t speak for everybody else, but I tend to write a million miles an hour and write a whole bunch of issues at once. I get the sense that from the time they start to where I’m at it, I will be well ahead of these guys. Because Andy and Greg, for the moment, are in the past, I think Scott and I are closest, in terms of keeping an eye on each other.
Snyder: It’s been fun collaborating with Scott. We’re friends from the Bat-world, as well, so now we’re coming to Metropolis.
Lobdell: So far, there’s not much that I have done that has ramifications in other books. There’s some, but I fully expect in the next weeks and months that there are things happening in the other titles that I will be reacting to, as well. It feels like we are co-equal branches of government. We’re not only sharing the Super-verse, but there is a give and take going on that I have found really fun and exhilarating.
I promised DC that I wouldn’t try to trick you into saying anything too spoiler-ific, but can you offer any teases of what we can expect in your first few issues, or for Scott, in your next arc?
Snyder: That’s tough.
Lobdell: I think we should go around and give away each other’s spoilers!
I have read online that taking Clark out of the Daily Planet, and taking him away from Lois and Jimmy, is somehow separating him from humanity. As someone who has had a few jobs in the past, I know that leaving a job doesn’t mean leaving those people in your life. So for all of those Jimmy Olsen fans, I can tell you that in the coming months, he is going to play a pretty different role in Clark’s life and how it unfolds. He’s not going to turn into a super turtle for four issues, but we are going to see him having a very big impact on Clark’s life.
Diggle: One of the things that I am actually having fun with is coming up with some new villains. Grant [Morrison] has done a great job of reinventing the rogues gallery during his run, but Superman doesn’t have a vast rogues gallery – at least not a lot of really good villains. And now that we have a slightly more action-oriented, punchy Superman, it’s fun coming up with some new villains that can actually match him on a power level and a raison d’Ãªtre that can rise to meet that.
For my second multi-part arc, I’ve been having fun coming up with a villain that comes from several billions years in Earth’s future. The sun is a red giant and it’s basically the last vampire on Earth who has basically killed everyone else. He’s the last man standing. Earth’s got a ring system of bones around it, and this guy realizes that he can’t go off and conquer the rest of the galaxy because he is allergic to sunlight, he’s a vampire. But if he goes back in time, and takes Superman’s blood, then it’s a whole new ball game. Hopefully, that will be quite an epic story with quite a serious villain who can basically punch Superman through the moon, so that should be fun.
Pak: That’s awesome.
Snyder: Totally. I was going to say, “I’m going to use Perry White.” [Laughs]
Lobdell: Perry White… from the future.
Diggle: I would happily write a Lois Lane solo series, too. I think she’s a great character. I’m trying to figure out ways to get her into that story, but I don’t have it yet. I’ll figure out a way.
Pak: We’ll be revealing our villain — actually, I’m not sure when we are going to reveal our villain for real, but we’ve got a new villain that causes some pretty interesting ramifications, in terms of the wider DC Universe. It opens up some new possibilities for the New 52. I think that it will be fun for new readers and also something that’s a big Easter egg for long-time readers. How’s that for vague?
Lobdell: It makes me wonder who it is.
Snyder: Without giving anything away, the villain in our series is brand-new. He’s someone that I made up with Jim [Lee]. I’m really excited about him. For me, one of the fun things is balancing him against the rogues and the supporting cast.
This is also the first time I’ve been able to write Diana (Wonder Woman). And I get to write Clark with Bruce. You’ll actually see that pretty early on, when they’re members of the League.
But, to create a villain that actually winds up meaning something to Lex Luthor and actually build him into the world of Superman and Metropolis is pretty amazing. Gotham, for me, has been pretty insular to the Bat-family, so the notion that the things that Superman does are so global really gives me a chance to try and write characters that I never expected to before.
Sorry that’s not as sensational and as wonderful-sounding as what Andy gave you, but I guess I want to play a little bit closer to the chest!
Pak: One of the other things that I can tease is that we bill our series as the first time Batman and Superman ever meet, but it’s also the question of what happens when Clark and Bruce meet for the first time. That’s one of the glories of writing these characters, is that you get to write multiple characters. You get extra bang for your buck when you are writing these guys because they have multiple levels, including their secret identities.
One final question, and Greg, what you just said is a perfect segue into it: What role does Clark play in your books and how active a participant will he be in the storytelling?
Pak: I love Clark Kent. That’s part of the genius of Superman: Clark Kent. The fact that you have this kid who grew up on a farm with loving adopted parents and how it forms him is a perfect base. I’ve heard some folks say Superman is Superman and Clark Kent is just his persona, Clark Kent is this fake thing. And while I might go back and forth on this, I think Superman is Clark Kent. That’s who he grew up as and that’s who he is, deep down inside. That’s the fascinating thing, to have this guy, this genuine, mild-mannered guy with this huge amount of power and responsibility. I love that combination. A lot of us have mentioned Christopher Reeve, and I think there is a reason for that. Because he did for Clark Kent what Robert Downey Jr. did for Iron Man. He made this hero totally human in this way that we all could relate to. Long-winded answer, but I hope to write a lot of Clark Kent.
Diggle: There actually isn’t a whole hell of a lot of Clark Kent in “Action,” certainly in the early run. As I said, I am ramping up the action level because it’s “Action Comics.” I’ve got it set a year in the past, before Lois went over to the TV division, so I get to start it off where we actually get to see Lois and Clark out in the field, being foreign correspondents. That was a lot fun. It was just before she met her current boyfriend, John Carroll. I know there are a lot of people out there who like the idea that Superman is with Wonder Woman, but there are also a lot of people that like the idea of Lois and Clark being together. It’s not like I have them getting together, but it’s been to fun to at least suggest that maybe they could have and might want to, but it’s really not supposed to happen.
Snyder: There is quite a bit of Clark Kent in the first arc of “Superman Unchained.” Being on “Batman,” my first impression was that Batman was the true character and Bruce Wayne was more of a mask, but as soon as I started writing him, it changed for me really quickly. At least for me, in my version, Bruce Wayne is an incredibly important part of who [Batman] is and what he means to the city through the legacy of his parents.
I had the same experience with Clark. Again, the first impression for me is Clark is the mask, and some of the common wisdom is that it is just an act that Superman puts on. But for me, it’s been a total inversion of that, and I am glad I figured that out before I really started writing him. What makes him heroic is his moral compass. He has this very strong set of ideals, which were imparted on him by his human parents. That’s what makes him utterly alone sometimes as a superhero, and also makes him the greatest superhero on the planet. The powers that he has are almost secondary to what makes him who he is. At his core, he’s Clark Kent.
We all have different ways in how we portray him as Clark, and that can be a lot of fun. I love when he puts on the buffoon act in the movies and Grant Morrison’s stuff and Geoff Johns’ stuff. I also love it when he is an intrepid reporter. He is just who he is. He’s Superman with glasses, walking around — we just don’t notice him.
[Jim and I] lean towards the latter. Our version is a little less bumbling reporter and little more Superman wearing plain clothes and glasses. He’s doing the same thing that he does as Superman, but with a pen.
Lobdell: I think Clark and Superman are the same. There is no distinction. If it were up to me, we would have alternate “Superman” covers where one cover would be Superman doing something exciting and the alternate cover would be Clark doing something exciting happening in his day — just one more reason that it’s not up to me.
The Superman stories where Clark isn’t in the story and it’s all Superman, all of the time, I think those stories are the least interesting Superman stories.
Pak: It’s a funny balance. I wrote “Planet Hulk” where we hardly ever saw Banner, but for me, Banner was always right there under the skin. Even when I’m writing Superman and Batman, Clark and Bruce are right there under the skin. Even if we only see them in their costumed identities, they are totally motivated by who they are: Clark and Bruce.