This September, the phrase “faster than a speeding bullet” may take on an all-new meaning in the pages of DC Comics’ original superhero title.
As part of the publisher’s 52-series, line-wide relaunch of its DC Universe titles, writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales will be chronicling a new introduction for Superman in the pages of “Action Comics” #1, and as the writer told CBR News, making the Man of Steel fast and furious were the cornerstones of his new, blue collar approach. Set five years before the modern stories being told in other DC books like George Perez’s “Superman: The Man of Tomorrow” and Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s new “Justice League,” “Action” will rework the first superhero’s earliest adventures and his relationships including his romance with Lois Lane and his struggle against Lex Luthor.
Below, Morrison explains how his new prose book “Supergods” (which he shared a look inside yesterday) influenced his approach to “Action,” why this young Superman is more dangerous and faster than his “All-Star” counterpart, what dynamic working with Morales has brought to the series and when fans will finally be seeing the end of his blockbuster “Batman, Incorporated.”
CBR News: You spoke about your rediscovery of the original “Action Comics” #1 in the process of preparing “Supergods.” It seems that even with the career you’ve already had, someone coming up to you and saying, “Would you like to write ‘Action Comics’ #1?” would seem like a daunting task. Did the work for the book help ground you while you figured out how to reintroduce Superman again?
Grant Morrison: Yeah, it totally gave me the idea for how to do it. Basically, when I started the first “Action Comics,” I started thinking about how I had to live up to that. It was the first time I have been quite daunted by the project. I was really looking at different techniques to find a way to do the series for a modern audience and also to take the core values of Superman and represent them in a way I hope we haven’t seen before. And it’s all there in that original story: what Superman is all about as a champion of the oppressed basically. I thought it’d be good to get back to that. It’s a much more blue collar Superman, a Bruce Springsteen Superman. [Laughs] He’s in a t-shirt and jeans, and he’s fighting for poor people and people on the breadline who have been messed over by big businesses. It’s back to that original Depression-era hero but updated to our current Depression era.
You already had great success with “All-Star Superman” which was viewed as your “everything I want in a Superman comic” story. How is this different? Obviously, it plays into the bigger universe, but did that change how you approached things?
“All-Star” was about Superman at the end of his life, and it was very ordered and majestic. I really wanted to do an earlier Superman because I hadn’t touched on that in “All-Star.” I liked the idea of a much younger Superman who’s a bit more brash and more wild. He’s willing to take the law into his own hands. At the end of “All-Star,” I had all these ideas to go back to those early days, and I took some of them and used them to turn it into this new version of “Action Comics.”
The storytelling style is quite different. It’s a lot faster because I think if you have a comic called “Action” it should have a lot of action in it. [Laughs] The idea is to keep Superman constantly moving in every single scene. You open the first page, and he starts running and doesn’t stop until the end. That’s a different style from “All-Star” which was a kind of static, 1950s style, Wayne Boring colossal Superman.
Rags Morales is an artist who has a style that sets his characters in a real, physical world. Did you write the scripts for him from the start, and what kinds of strengths did you see in his work that you could play to in the scripts?
Oh yeah, I knew he was going to be drawing it, and obviously that meant I could put a lot of texture into the world, and he’d be able to do it. So it’s quite phenomenal and amazing. It looks very real, even though Superman is a lot more… almost traditional. He’s like an American folk hero again. The work Rags is doing is quite fantastic, and I can put in a lot of detail because he can actually do that. There’s a chance to overload him with descriptions of machines and alien landscapes.
Superman has been reintroduced so many times and that original story has been “played” by so many other people hitting its grace notes in a different way like John Byrne’s redesign of Krypton. A lot of people will be taking cues from you here as the character moves forward. How have you thought of that, and are you placing elements in to be intentionally picked up by other creative teams at DC?
We’re trying to tie in to everything. I’m telling stories set five years prior to the stories, say, George Perez is telling in his “Superman” book. So we’re kind of doing different parts of Superman’s life, but there’s definitely things that will tie in. I’ll be setting up things in my book that will peel off into other books. The plan, of course, is quite big and always changing. We’re introducing a lot of new characters and villains for Superman — new environments and new takes on some familiar stuff as well.
There must be a level at which you can’t entirely look to Siegel and Shuster because Lex Luthor hadn’t become the villain he becomes and other changes…
And we’re playing a very different take on the Lex Luthor/Superman relationship. It’s quite flipped on its head. Luthor is almost the good guy to a certain extent. All of the relationships are going to be different. Superman’s relationship with Jimmy Olsen is completely different, but it makes sense in a way that I’m surprised nobody has thought of before now. The same goes for Lois Lane. Things won’t be quite the same for Superman and Lois, and we’ll see how truly different their lives will be. I think it’ll add some new tension and a new dynamic to it. It won’t be predictable at all.
So we know that the book starts out running as fast as it can. Does it end with a wink?
Huh. I don’t know how it’s going to end. Not necessarily. And I think we’ve done the wink so often it may not be the best thing to end on. [Laughs] I’d like to do something at the end that’s as different as the way we’re starting it.
You’ve got a reinvention of the original superhero coming, you’ve got a book on the origins of that hero and the whole superhero concept… where does the page turn next? You’ve written and talked so much about how these concepts can work in the 21st Century. How does the work you’re doing next help push those ideas forward?
There’s always new opportunities coming up. The book has opened certain doors, and working in movies has opened certain other doors. But I just love comics more than anything else, and I can’t imagine not always coming back to them. Certainly, the stuff I’m doing now seems somewhat like a huge slamming door. It’s all tied in to “Supergods,” but I don’t know what’s coming next. I know what the next few years are, so it’ll probably all work out.
People were quite worried when September books hit and there was no “Batman, Inc.” title solicited, but as I understand it, you and Chris Burnham are giving that series its final push quite soon, right?
Yeah. That first season took quite a long time to do because it’s quite an intricate series to write as I was writing the parts of “Supergods” about “Watchmen” at the same time as “Batman, Incorporated.” I kind of got into all those techniques of clockwork-like stories with repeated motifs and everything. [Laughs] It slowed me down repeatedly, and that slowed my artists down tremendously. So now we’re setting up to finish that off, and then after a couple of months hiatus, we’re launching a 12-part finale. This is my big race to the finish with Batman, and Chris is just getting started on all that stuff right now. But I’m very excited about that one because I’m using a completely different storytelling style, which I think will be quite exciting.
For more with Grant Morrison, stay tuned to CBR’s coverage during Comic-Con International.