Since the announcement earlier this year that he and artist Jae Lee would be taking on DC Comics’ “Batman/Superman” ongoing series, Greg Pak has become one of the Superman family’s headlining writers. In addition to “Batman/Superman,” Pak has since been announced as ongoing writer for “Action Comics” following the conclusion of Tony Daniel’s arc. Moreover, Pak has three major Superman-centric Villains Month one-shots, tackling General Zod, Doomsday and Darkseid.
CBR News spoke with Pak about his upcoming work at DC, his plans for the Man of Tomorrow of both the past and present, digging deeper into the mind of General Zod following the character’s appearance in Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and more.
CBR News: Greg, it’s been a really quick rise for you at DC, with “Batman/Superman,” your three Villains Month issues and it the recently announcement that you plan to take on “Action Comics.” What’s the general idea behind your first arc of “Action?”
Greg Pak: We’re not quite ready to reveal plot specifics just yet. But we’re going to learn about Superman’s greatest secret. We’ll explore his challenging relationship with a key supporting cast member. And as always, we’re going to delve deep into the ongoing struggle of a young hero to come to terms with his insane abilities and responsibilities.
You’ve had a chance to take on a very young version of Superman in “Batman/Superman,” which really focuses on his idealism and his naivete as a younger hero. What’s the contrast like between writing a Superman in his infancy as a hero versus later on when he has more experience and how does your focus change in respect to the character for “Action?”
I’m loving every second of writing Superman at such a young age in “Batman/Superman.” I love the idea that even in current time in the New 52, Superman is still a very young man, still learning about the extent of his powers and still figuring out just exactly what the right course of action is in different situations. As I’ve said before, he’s not an unchanging monolith of a hero, carved in perfect stone. He’s like all of us, a work in progress, struggling every day to make the right decisions. It’s exactly that ongoing struggle that makes him a hero — and that provides his story the compelling drama that makes us care.
“Action Comics” is one of the most iconic titles in comics history, but it’s also been the subject of some controversy recently. Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel took over “Action Comics” from Grant Morrison and Rags Morales in a highly publicized creative shift, only to see Diggle leave the title after one issue. Does all of that add to the pressure of taking on the book, or is it a non-issue for you?
Every mainstream comics project I’ve ever tackled has its own controversies of some kind or another. As a writer, I can’t think about any of that — I just have to lose myself in the characters and do my darnedest to tell the best stories I possibly can.
Visually, “Action Comics” and “Batman/Superman” will be incredibly different. Aaron Kuder and Jae Lee each have very visually distinctive styles, and it really seemed like you were writing to Jae’s strengths in both pencils and page design for “Batman/Superman” #1. How is your approach to writing scripts for Aaron different from your process with Jae?
Every artist has a different creative process. I just try to work with each artist the way that works best for him or her. With both Jae and Aaron, I had some great time early in the process to talk through the characters and feel of the books in some depth, which is always fantastic for laying a great groundwork. When it comes to the actual scripts, Jae loves full scripts, with as much detail as possible up front. Then we’ll exchange emails or get on the phone to talk through any smaller points of confusion or possible ways to improve the storytelling. Jae’s amazing to work with on every level. He’ll always ask if he’s thinking about tweaking a panel or trying something different, and I’ll always say yes, and it’s always brilliant.
Aaron and I are working right now with plot-first scripts. We just had a fantastic 90-minute phone call the other day with editor Eddie Berganza and assistant editor Anthony Marques to go over the layouts Aaron did for the first issue based on one of those plot-first scripts. It’s an intense process working that way — you have to be the kind of person who works well thinking on the fly and coming up with ideas and solutions in real time, but with the right crew, it’s an absolute blast. And yes, this is the right crew. We figured out a number of tiny but really great details that I think will have a big emotional impact in the end.
You’ve become entrenched in the Superman corner of the DCU, not only with “Batman/Superman” and “Action Comics,” but with your Villains Month one-shots as well. Zod and Doomsday feature in two of your one-shots. How do the Superman villains issues help lead in to what you have planned for “Action Comics?”
Yeah, it’s been an exciting process. Once I got tapped for “Batman/Superman,” I had a ton of conversations with Eddie about Superman and his various supporting characters. Eventually he started throwing these villain books at me, which was awesome. And then the whole Action thing came together, which was awesome squared.
The “Zod,” “Doomsday” and “Darkseid” villains books will indeed be of interest to anyone who’s following the various Superman titles. Exactly which books they’ll have the most impact on will be revealed in the fullness of time. I’ll just say for now that the “Darkseid” book will be particularly interesting to anyone who’s enjoying the current “Batman/Superman” storyline.
Doomsday in particular is an intriguing figure for you to take on as the steward of “Action Comics.” Considering the context of Doomsday in comics history, what kind of encounter can readers expect when Superman and Doomsday meet?
All will be revealed in the fullness of time.
Obviously, General Zod has featured very prominently in the public eye with the release of “Man of Steel.” How friendly is your Zod issue for readers coming in to comics specifically from the film with an interest in finding out more?
It’s a perfect starting point for anyone curious about Zod and his past. We’re revealing some very specific elements of Zod’s earliest days for the very first time. So yes, whether you just got hooked by Zod in the movie or you’re a long-time fan who wants to know more about Zod in the New 52, come on aboard!
You’ve also got the opportunity to take on Darkseid in “Justice League” #23.1, where it’s rumored Superman features prominently. How does it explore what readers know about Darkseid from his first New 52 appearance in the opening arc of “Justice League?”
You’ll get the background from Darkseid’s POV of the events that lead up to his invasion of Earth in the opening arc of “Justice League.” We’ll also get some more background on his invasion of Earth 2. And we’ll leave you with a shocking payoff that’s strongly Superman-related. I will say no more.
You seem to have a tradition of taking on these immensely powerful characters in comics, each with their own quirks — Hulk, Hercules and most recently Eternal Warrior at Valiant. In “Batman/Superman,” there’s the added bonus of bringing on Batman as a balance for Superman, but how do you keep a character like Superman, who’s been around forever and has such a strong moral compass, fresh and interesting?
I think the trick with all of these characters is to remember that deep down, they’re human. Yes, Superman is technically an alien from planet Krypton, but he grew up as Clark Kent in Smallville. That’s who he is. And he’s still young enough that he’s still capable of being shocked, surprised, thrilled, and even scared by his own abilities — and forced to struggle every day to figure out just what the right thing to do is in each new situation. That’s a set up for endlessly compelling stories, and I’m hugely grateful to have a shot at telling some of them.