In this week’s “Action Comics” #14, world renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson pinpointed Krypton, Superman’s home planet, within the universe. And we’re not just talking about the fictional DCU: We’re talking the actual known universe.
The red dwarf star designated for having the ability to support a Krypton-like planet is located in the constellation Corvus, which is 27.1 light years from Earth. The star, designated LHS 2520, possesses a red, highly turbulent surface, somewhat cooler and smaller than the Sun. For amateur astronomers, the exact coordinates are:
Right Ascension: 12 hours 10 minutes 5.77 seconds
Declination: -15 degrees 4 minutes 17.9 seconds
Proper Motion: 0.76 arcseconds per year, along 172.94 degrees from due north
How’s that for accuracy? Well, thank Dr. Tyson and Sholly Fisch, the writer of the latest “Action” co-feature “Star Light, Star Bright.”
Dr. Tyson has a well-documented history popularizing science, making the subject accessible and exciting to the public. The Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, where “Star Light, Star Bright” takes place, Dr. Tyson recently made headlines by convincing film director James Cameron to alter the night’s sky as seen in “Titanic” due to astronomical inaccuracies. The adjustment was made for this year’s 3-D re-release of the all-time highest grossing film.
Fisch, President and Founder of MediaKidz Research & Consulting, a consulting firm that provides educational content development, hands-on testing and writing for children’s media, was hand-picked by Grant Morrison to write the co-features in “Action Comics” after his run on “The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” Prior to founding MediaKidz in 2001, Dr. Fisch was Vice President for Program Research at Sesame Workshop where he oversaw curriculum development, formative research, and summative research for a broad range of multimedia endeavors.
Fisch and “Action Comics” editor Wil Moss collaborated with Dr. Tyson on the creation of the story, illustrated by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story, and the real-world science which made it all happen. To celebrate this momentous discovery, Fisch spoke with CBR News about the project’s secret origin and how the validity of science, when possible, is crucial in telling superhero stories to readers, young and old.
CBR News: You’ve done it. You’ve found Krypton. How did you enlist the services of Dr. Tyson to assist in your pursuit?
Sholly Fisch: It started with the story idea, which is Superman making trips to an observatory. Over the course of the story, we learn that part of it — and this is only a minor spoiler — is that he is looking for Krypton.
In talking about it with Wil Moss, my editor, he suggested that maybe we should approach Dr. Tyson because he’s very much into the popularization of science, as am I, because I’ve done a lot of that stuff, too. We got in touch with him to basically fill out some of the background and make things a little more accurate. And also, to see if he would be interested in actually appearing in the story.
We spoke to him on the phone and not only was he interested, through the course of the conversation, he said, “Well, you know, if you’d like, we could probably find you some stars that would be in about the right place and that meet the specifications. Would you want us to that?”
And Wil and I, not being idiots, said “Sure.” And he went off and within a week or two, he came back with a list of five or six red stars that were about the right distance from Earth and the right size and basically said, take your pick.
We went through and decided which would be the best fit for Superman and the rest is soon to be history.
You mentioned that you also have a long history of popularizing science for young children working with DC Comics, Sesame Workshop or your own company, MediaKidz. How important is it to be true to real science, whenever possible, when writing comics and/or fiction in general?
The bottom line answer is that I do think it’s important to try and be as true to life as you can regardless. On one level, from the standpoint of just telling the stories, and telling the stories well, if you can have a solid grounding in the real world then it makes the fantastic stuff pop all the more. It’s one thing when you have a hero that can move mountains with his mind and it’s set in a world where anything can happen as opposed to having a hero that can do that in a world that follows pretty much the same that the real world does. It becomes much more striking in that case. And it helps with the suspension of disbelief.
If you are in a world where anything can happen at any time, then if something happens, you go, “Oh. Okay.” But if it’s in a world that you know is following some rules, then it has that much more impact.
From the other side, as you said, I’ve spent an awful lot of years trying to help kids learn all sorts of things through media. And I’ve worked on a lot of science stuff. At the moment, actually, one of my many jobs is as an education consultant on the PBS “Cat in the Hat” show, which is a science show for preschoolers. I feel strongly — and I know the same thing holds true for Dr. Tyson, which is why he got involved with this in the first place — anything that we can do to help bring a little bit of science into people’s lives and do it in a way that makes them care about it, that’s just good for everybody. It’s good for education and it’s good for stimulating people’s interest to try and find out more about this stuff. It’s good all around.
Is this President Obama helping Spider-Man capture Chameleon, or is Dr. Tyson’s role in “Star Light, Stay Bright” fit within ongoing continuity?
No, this is very much in continuity. The Justice League is in the story. Superman is in the story. But now we’ve introduced the cast and crew of the Hayden Planetarium as another little piece of the DC Universe. Again, trying to balance what I should say and what I shouldn’t say, I guess the best way to capture it is to say, this is one of those things that’s been happening between the panels for a long time.
It’s established in the story that Superman has been coming to the Hayden Planetarium roughly once a year. It’s essentially when all of the conditions are right — all the orbital patterns and all that — to be able to get a straight shot between Earth and Krypton. This is something that he’s been doing for a while and it’s just never been mentioned before because it’s happening between the adventures.
Now, we’re getting a little bit more of a peak into that side of his life. There is also some character development and some emotional hook. And at the same time, inserting the real life science that if anyone that wants to pull out their telescope and look at the right corner of the sky can certainly do it. You probably won’t be able to see 27 light years from here and actually see Krypton’s sun or anything like that, unless you have an incredible telescope, but you can do it.
It provides a little bit more insight into Superman and it’s a little bit more of a link to the real world.
You mentioned these visits have been going on for years. Now that Dr. Tyson and Superman have found Krypton, will the storyline continue in future issues?
I would say, read the story! [Laughs] That will help to explain why you will or won’t be seeing more of this. I can also say that it won’t be popping up again in the immediate future. What long-term implications there might be of the relationship and of the things established in the story… we can leave open for now.