Renowned child psychologist Sholly Fisch has been writing comics for nearly 30 years, but it was his work on “The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold” a few years back that caught superstar writer Grant Morrison’s attention and catapulted him into the spotlight. Morrison handpicked Fisch to write the co-features for his New 52 relaunch of “Action Comics,” and Fisch delivered supporting stories during Morrison’s entire run.
But while he is no longer writing the “Action” co-features, Fisch has been tapped to return to Metropolis to write not a pair of Villain’s Month one-shots: “Action Comics: Metallo” #23. 4, featuring art by Will Conrad and “Superman: Bizarro” #23.1 with interiors by Jeff Johnson and Andy Smith.
Fisch shared his thoughts on introducing good guys and bad guys to young readers with CBR News, explaining how Metallo’s tale of betrayal includes Lois Lane’s father General Sam Lane and how his Bizarro story ties into Geoff Johns and David Finch’s “Forever Evil.”
CBR News: You’ve delivered television programming and comic book writing geared to children for years. Is fiction, in any form, a sound vehicle to introduce the concepts of good and evil to kids?
Sholly Fisch: Frankly, I think kids are aware of that concept whether you introduce it to them or not. You can contrast how we did bad guys in “Super Friends” with how I’m doing bad guys in Villains Month, and they are two different treatments. You have to do it age appropriately. Kids think in terms of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ whether you tell them to or not, so better to guide them along the right path rather than letting them figure them out by their own resources.
Are there teachable moments when kids are reading about good guys and bad guys?
Again, you go back to “Super Friends.” That was an extension of how I’ve always dealt with this stuff with my kids. You want kids to see themselves as good guys. When you see yourself as a good guy, that sets an expectation of how you should be behaving and all of that. The last thing you want is for a kid to think he or she is bad.
My father was a teacher and he used to say, “People will live up to your expectations or they will live down to them.” If kids have this concept in their head of what a good guy is and what a bad guy is and the kind of things that a good guy does and if you get the kids thinking of themselves as heroes and the good guys, that’s a good thing. That’s why when we did “Super Friends,” we had the “Super Friend of the Month” feature on the letters page, which was a young reader telling us how and why they were a good friend to somebody. You want kids to think of themselves that way. And if you handle it in that kind of context, it’s great and it is a teachable moment.
If you handed your five-year-old all of the Villains Month one-shots, that’s probably not the best way to do it. [Laughs]
True enough, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to tell me all about what you have planned. Both of your one-shots, “Action Comics: Metallo” #23. 4 and “Superman: Bizarro” #23.1, feature Superman villains. Superman is super-strong, super-fast, super-smart and, if you believe Jerry Seinfeld, super-funny. How difficult is it to deliver a villain worthy of facing off against the Man of Steel?
The advantage that I have with these things specifically, or when I did the origin of the Kryptonite Man in the annual, is I have a lot of really good stuff to fall back. I don’t have to do it all entirely from scratch. The real issue is more a question of identifying the key elements that are at the core of each of these characters and how you play that out in a way that makes them interesting characters but also makes them a really serious threat for Superman, something that’s going to be a real challenge for them to overcome.
When you are dealing with characters like Bizarro or Metallo, that’s not real hard because they are so powerful. It’s just a question of finding the angle you want to take that’s a little bit different from the stuff that you’ve seen before. Hopefully, it’s going to be interesting for the readers.
John Corben, now Metallo, is driven by a time-honored villain-shaping device: revenge. Why is revenge such a great catalyst for producing a villain?
Metallo is really interesting in the way that we’re handling him in this incarnation. When we last saw him at the end of “Action Comics” #8, he was in a funny position. We left him in a coma. We left him without a kryptonite heart. And we left him as a villain, because he was being controlled by Brainiac. When he broke that control, he was actually helping Superman. How do you get from that place to the place where he is no longer Metal-Zero, the super-soldier, to where he’s Metallo, the supervillain?
As I think is the case in all of these Villains Month one-shots, there is really little or no involvement of the superheroes that they generally go up against. With Metallo, it is a revenge story, but it’s really a story about betrayal, and it really focuses on him and Sam Lane. As for which one betrays which, I’ve going to leave that ambiguous because really, it depends on which one of them you ask. [Laughs]
Isn’t that always the case with a villain? They never actually believe that they are doing anything wrong.
That’s one of the things that we all learned from Stan Lee. Villains become so much more interesting when they believe, in their mind, that they are the heroes.
You’re also writing Bizarro, a character I’ve loved since his days on the animated “Super Friends” in the 1970s. I believe this is his new 52 debut, correct?
Let me start by saying this: The story we are doing for the Bizarro one-shot would be really strange for any other character, but it makes perfect sense for Bizarro. The Bizarro one-shot is sort of a story about Bizarro. [Laughs] You will understand that better when you actually read the thing. I believe this issue is coming out first but his full-blown Bizarro-ness will be on display in one of the issues of the “Forever Evil” series.
This is kind of a prequel to that story. Basically, where we’re at when it begins is, Lex Luthor, ever since his first encounter with Superman, has had the idea that it would be great to create his own Superman that would be a perfect Superman, which basically means that he would be a Superman completely under his control. And one that is smarter, stronger and more powerful who is just there to do his bidding. That’s what Lex is trying to do here, but things don’t work out quite the way he was expecting.
Originally, Lex Luthor recreated Professor Potter’s duplication ray so he could try and make a duplicate of Superman. We’re going back to basics in that sense, although there is no duplicating ray. I was given the idea by my editors that Geoff [Johns] was going to be using a specific take on Bizarro in “Forever Evil” and I was asked to create a backstory, but as I said, as is only appropriate for Bizarro, this is sort of Bizarro’s origin story but because if is sort of his origin, I was able to go my own way with a lot of it.
As I said, he’s a character I’ve loved since “Super Friends” was on TV. I loved him because he was such a funny character, but he’s not always played for laughs. Throughout his publication history — I specifically remember the arc Eric Powell drew for Geoff Johns — he’s been terrifying, as well. Are we going to see funny Bizarro or terrifying?
I think that’s the appeal of Bizarro. You can pick your version that is your personal favorite. If you love the goofy version that lives on Bizarro World and does everything wrong, you can go that way. If you love the creepy, scary, Frankenstein-ish version, you can equally go that way. They are both legitimate takes on the character. For me, it’s a question of what the purpose is that I’m using him for and what series I’m using him for. When I did my Bizarro issue of “Super Friends” — and I love that issue, it’s one of my all-time favorites — we could just go completely over the top with it and make it completely hysterical. This one, not so funny. [Laughs]