Last week, “Doomed” hit DC Comics’ Superman titles as the massive monster called Doomsday infected the Man of Steel with his horrific DNA. But even as the event continues to wind its way through “Action Comics,” “Superman/Wonder Woman,” “Batman/Superman” and “Superman,” as May turns into June, writer Greg Pak is continuing his own long-running story plans that reach beyond when the beast is unleashed.
As the mind behind the monthly “Action” and “Batman/Superman,” Pak has put a particular focus on the supporting cast of Superman’s world — reintroducing Lana Lang in a powerful new role and expanding the lives of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson and others across multiple worlds of the DC Multiverse. And as “Doomed” continues its arc, the writer will expand his cast to include the likes of armored hero Steel and superpet Krypto.
CBR News spoke with Pak about his take on the super supporting cast, and the writer explained how from Smallville to Metropolis, the other characters in Clark Kent’s world do a lot to prop up his personality. Below, Pak describes his plans for Lana Lang, the mystery Lois will seek through “Doomed,” the new face of Steel and more.
CBR News: Greg, I feel like one of the central elements you’ve focused on since coming to DC is Superman’s supporting cast. What do you see in that extended family of characters that’s so viable?
Greg Pak: Superman’s supporting cast is iconic, right? We’ve collectively known these characters for 75 years — longer than we’ve known any other characters. Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olson and Perry White have been in our heads forever. I remember when I started working on the Hulk, it felt like this too. In that very first issue of the Hulk, all the principal supporting characters are introduced, and it provided this great dynamic where all the supporting characters pushed the Hulk in different ways and provided all sorts of interesting opportunities. The Superman characters are very much like that, and there are certain characters that have been added to his cast over the years that flesh that out. John Henry Irons as Steel is a character I’ve had a ton of fun working with, recently. So I’m happy to be working with the classic characters and building them up as well as bringing in new characters like the Ghost Soldier, who we introduced in “Action Comics” alongside Baka the monster child from Subterranea. We will see Baka again. And Krypto is a character I obviously didn’t create, but I’ve been writing him lately, and that’s wonderful. All of these characters give us a great way to bring certain elements out in Superman.
And especially with someone like Lana, it seems like you’ve been trying to add a little meat to the bone in some ways.
So what’s the challenge like when you are working with something iconic but you’re trying to add to it? Does that increase the pressure?
I think that’s great. The thing is, these comics have been around forever, and these characters have been around forever. Every story that you can think of telling has already been told. It’s even gotten to the point where I was trying to come up with a new superhero name the other day, and literally every name I could think of that wasn’t just something goofy like, I don’t know, “Pop Bottle iPhone” was already taken. Any semi-serious superhero name I could think of, I would Google it and someone had already done it. It’s insane. So many stories have been told.
So if you’re going to tell a story, you’ve got to have your own spin on it. It’s not about novelty; it’s about having a perspective that no one else has taken before, or nuances that no one else has explored before. Bringing back Lana, for example, was something where we wanted to make a spin on her that no one had seen. So we made her an electrical engineer as a really cool job, and gave her a mission to be on. But fundamentally, we’re just playing up the stuff that’s already there. She’s the woman who grew up with Superman or with Clark Kent. She’s his oldest friend. And so she knows stuff about him that nobody else does. She’s had his secret forever, and she’s kept his secret. That makes her a special person in the mythology. Whoever is your best friend that you grew up with influences you as much as you influence them. The way I see it, Lana has to have been a really special person for Clark to be who he is. So I started with the presumption that Lana is a friggin’ hero. She’s got this blazing tiger heart of a hero, and she’s out there fighting the good fight every day in her own way. That provides interesting parallels and contrasts for Superman.
That was what we really thought about, and the fact that she’s an electrical engineer comes from my artist Aaron Kuder, who when I was talking about giving her a cool job to do, told me that he was an electrician before he was a comic book artist. So he said, “Why not an electrical engineer?” and I said, “That’s perfect! She can make stuff and zap things!” [Laughter] That’s a great sci-fi job, and at the same time it can fit into this idea of her having a mission. The first time we see her out in the world in current times, she’s in South America helping out with this energy project. She’s trying to save the world. She’s a crusader.
One of the stories you have coming up will put Lois Lane and Wonder Woman on panel together, and it seems from what you said at your C2E2 panel, you were hoping to swerve away from playing that dynamic as part of some cliched romantic triangle. What’s in that relationship for you?
Yeah. You see Lois and Wonder Woman together on the same page in interesting circumstances in “Superman/Wonder Woman” #8, that Charles Soule has written, which comes out after “Action Comics” #31. It’s part of the progression of the “Doomed” crossover, which will continue on to “Superman” #31 at the end of May. Lois has her own very specific and interesting angle in this “Doomed” storyline. Every one of these characters is coming at this crisis from a different angle, and there’s a bit of a mystery exactly what Lois’ angle is. That will be revealed in the fullness of time, but it’s different than the traditional expectation.
Looking at “Doomed,” that seems like its own variation on the “modern take on a classic” idea, but unlike reinventing Lana, you guys are harkening back to a huge story that a ton of fans have read or experienced in some way. When you consider the legacy of “The Death of Superman” and “Reign of the Supermen,” what do you want to keep from the original and what do you want to jettison?
The way I think about it is that everything you think this story is going to be happens in the “Doomed” one-shot, and that is just the beginning of our story. In “Action” #31, you find out where we’re going, and it’s completely different. We use all the inspiration from the idea of Superman clashing with this titanically powerful monster as the starting point before taking it in a new direction. So get ready for [Slides Into Movie Announcer Voice] “Everything you know is WRONG!” [Laughter] It’s not quite like that, but we do raise the stakes to do something huge that will challenge Superman not just physically but on every emotional and ethical level.
And it seems like you’ll be utilizing the full range of that supporting cast to tell this story as the original did.
Right. That’s the joy of this kind of project. You’ve got multiple books and a lot of real estate to do justice to seeing how this huge event will play out. You see how it effects all these characters and how these characters effect the story. There are big moments for all the supporting cast — Wonder Woman, Lois, Lana, Steel, Krypto. It’s a big one.
I heard you mention that you had plans for Steel coming up that would recast him a bit. The version Grant Morrison introduced in his “Action” run was almost proto-Steel from the character we know. Is this 2.0?
Well, it’s the next natural step. There are some things that happen in the “Doomed” one-shot that impact him in a big way, and you see the fallout of that in “Action” #31 that will continue into #32. Steel is a big, proactive character who’s really a hero, and he’ll be out there doing his best to deal with what’s going on in some surprising ways. And he will be different. There is a change coming for Steel.
Meanwhile, you get to kind of play in a different world with “Batman/Superman.” Despite this event, will that book continue on as its own little biosphere?
Yeah. I feel like “Batman/Superman” is inspired by how Joss Whedon used to talk about “Astonishing X-Men” back in the day. That book was totally in continuity, but at the same time, it took a huge amount of time for the story of the series to come out in real time. The story only took place over a few months in comic book time, which is very short. But it took several years to actually arrive in real world publishing time. If it had tried to link in with continuity all the time, it would have been impossible. But Joss talked all the time about “dancing between the raindrops.” You’re trying to tell a story that’s in continuity, but at the same time you’re carving out a place where you can do crazy stuff. “Let’s all give this book room to breath” is what he told the comic reading crowd. Let’s not worry about whether Wolverine can be on Brinkworld and wherever else at the same time. Let’s just assume that all of this will link back up in the fullness of time.
With “Batman/Superman,” we’re telling these crazy big stories with these two characters and finding different milieus with which to play and do huge things. We’re opening up new corners of the DC Universe to explore with these two characters. And we’re evolving the relationship of these two characters to its next stage with each new issue. That’s a huge gift. I’m so grateful for the chance to work on that book. It’s been a blast.
“Action Comics” #32 arrives in comic shops and digital on June 4 from DC Comics.