DC Comics’ ongoing monthly “Superboy” series has seen quite a few changes in the past four years, the biggest occurring last year with the death of the book’s titular hero, Kryptonian clone Kon-El. But from the ashes of the old a new, alternate future Superboy has risen, chronicled first by writer Marv Wolfman and now by writer/artist Aaron Kuder.
Introduced with the New 52 relaunch, Kon-El was a clone with Kryptonian and human DNA, created by the organization N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the mysterious villain Harvest. Breaking free of his sci-fi prison, Superboy joined the Teen Titans and, over time, moved from apathetic anti-hero to more enthusiastic superhero. However, when flung into the future during “Forever Evil” Kon came face to face with his clone progenitor: the evil Jon Lane Kent, alternate future son of Lois Lane and Superman. Raised by Harvest, who seeks a cure for the disease that is slowly killing Jon, this Superboy plans on ridding the world of all metahumans in one murderous swath, and after Kon died in the “Krypton Returns” story Jon took his place.
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With one Superboy dead and another one who may not be long for this world, Aaron Kuder flies from drawing “Action Comics” to writing “Superboy” to tell his Jon Lane Kent story with artist Jorge Jimenez. Kuder spoke to CBR News about just how evil the new Superboy is, Jon’s mortality and where his story fits into the “Forever Evil” and New 52 “Superboy” timeline.
CBR News: Your run begins in issue #30, and according to the solicits ties directly into the aftermath of “Forever Evil.” Then in #32 we’re going to see Superboy go up against the Ravagers and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. as well as finding another clone. Will the first two issues of your run be wrapping up “Forever Evil” and Marv Wolfman’s run and then your story kicks off with issue #32?
Aaron Kuder: Wolfman’s run kind of wraps itself up; Superboy is in the future in his run and he is aligning himself with other super powered beings, and then he gets thrown back in time again at the beginning of my run. We find ourselves with Superboy, Jon, kind of being a lost puppy! [Laughs] A lot of the stories that all the various Superboys have had talked about this disease that he has, this chronic illness. Superboy has never really been at his peak throughout any of the stories. We really address that right away; we see this version of Superboy realize, for the first time, that he’s dying. I mean it’s not too heavy — we introduce some new people, the premiere of the New 52 version of the Guardian, and it really picks up on a new storyline.
Let’s talk for a moment about Jon, who may be a lost puppy but one who was plotting the downfall of all metahumans! [Laughter] With that description do you think Jon is a sympathetic character? Or is he the villain at the heart of your story?
See, the thing about Jon is that he was brainwashed from an early age. I mean, his “dad” was Harvest who is not a very likeable character, in the sense of he’s not a nice guy. This realization that he’s dying, the realization that he doesn’t have anywhere to go, really pull in his motivations for world domination. He’s not the villain that we all think of him as.
Then how do you sum up Jon? How would you describe him as a character at the onset of your story, and what makes him tick if not world domination?
Right now it is the confrontation of his imminent demise. There’s something insanely humbling about the idea of dying and Jon is completely confronted with it. He can’t ignore it anymore, he can’t trick himself into thinking he’s all-powerful anymore. And also he’s confronted with the modern day world, the present time. He was raised in a dystopia; he knew nothing but war and violence, and here he is, back into today’s world, and people aren’t dominated by the metas, people aren’t living in refuse the way they were in his time. It’s like he’s dying but all of a sudden he’s in this utopia, so we deal with that stuff.
Along those lines, what can you tell us about your story arc with the Guardian and Jon coming to terms with the fact he’s dying and that the past is a better place than he was led to believe?
I don’t want to give out too many spoilers. He does find help in ways he couldn’t have predicted, and he’s also dealing with some psychological issues that he realizes he has. He has this darker side and it’s proposed he has to confront it eventually. That really is the crux of where the beginning of the story goes; like you were saying, the first couple of issues are set up and it all leads to a specific place in issues #32, #33 and #34.
In those issues we know he’s meeting the Ravagers — are the Teen Titans, Ravagers and other young heroes of the DC Universe heavily involved in your story?
It’s definitely focused on Jon, very steadfastly. Any of the characters are there to highlight him. I’m not attempting to write a “Teen Titans” spinoff or new “Ravagers” or anything.
He also finds another clone in N.O.W.H.E.R.E., which he does while coming to grips with his mortality, a hard thing in any context but especially for a young teen. Is that idea of death driving the meeting between himself and the new clone?
There’s a very specific reason he is going to find his other clone self. I don’t want to go to far into it, but there’s a purpose, there’s a reason. It’s not that he wants to look at himself in a different perspective, literally! [Laughs] Once he realizes there’s another version of himself in this timeline there is a reason for him wanting to connect with him.
Now the implications Jon has for the DC Universe in general are rather large: he’s from an alternate future, he initially wants to rid the world of metahumans and was working with Harvest. Are these things going to spillover into the New 52 at large? Will events in your book impact events in the other Super books or books with the younger heroes involved?
I can’t speak to how much impact it will have down the road. I think this will change the way people think of the new Superboy, at least of Jon in that context going on. I think Jon has had a very troubled childhood!
To say the least!
[Laughs] He’s got a bad rap, and moving forward I’m of the mindset that everybody deserves a second chance. In many ways this story is Jon’s second chance.
Being raised by Harvest seems like it would leave most of us with a somewhat messed up state of mind. [Laughter] You said you see Harvest as the true villain, so does that mean he’ll be involved in this story?
Not heavily; the way that Jon and Kon-El were created, you can’t talk about where they come from and their origins without dealing with Harvest on some level. I feel like a lot of the stories with Superboy up until this point have been overshadowed by that stuff and they haven’t really focused on who he is as a person or getting down to, after his brainwashing, what does he think?
Like I said, this is a very specific story. When this particular story wraps up I really can’t speak of what will happen down the road. There’s definitely an element, in the story, that it is really self-contained, but it could potentially impact a lot of other things.
When does your story end? Is it around issue #34 or are you on longer than that?
Right now my story is plotted out until #34.
To turn back to the issues at hand, you’re working with artist Jorge Jimenez. As an artist yourself, what is it like going from artist to writer working with a different artist? Is it freeing? Is it weird?
[Laughs] Well, let me just say Jorge is amazing! He’s really blowing me away with his energy and his ability to capture movements and time and all these abstract concepts that we as artists try to illustrate. He’s super talented and in days to come I’m sure he’s going to do some really great stuff. That being said, the work process is really fun! I don’t know the way other people write but the way I write is very visual. I draw out the book, like rough-outs of the whole story and the whole arc and usually a little more so I can go in and cut stuff out, and then I write it out and send it to him. So he can look at my roughs as a guide if he wants, or he can come up with his own stuff, and the stuff he’s created on his own is just fantastic.
After “Superboy” are there other DC projects you’ll be writing, or any other projects or collaborations fans should keep an eye out for?
After this run of “Superboy” I really want to get back to focusing solely on “Action [Comics].” In some ways I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with writing “Superboy,” drawing “Action” — and I’m getting married in ten days! [Laughs] So I’m getting very little sleep and getting very grumpy! For my own personal sanity I need to step back and look at one project at a time, and the stuff that [writer] Greg [Pak] has been doing on “Action” has been so great! I’m really happy to be paired up with him; he’s not only a phenomenal writer but a phenomenal guy. So yeah, that’s my personal plan!
Get married, work on one project at a time–
Before you jump back into wedding plans, is there anything else you can share with fans about your self-contained “Superboy” story or your work on “Action Comics?”
In particular I’d like to give a tip of the hat to all the editorial staff who have been working with me on both books. They’ve been very kind, very patient and, again, Jorge is blowing me away with the stuff he’s doing. I’m really excited to see how people react to his work because I think beyond whether people like the story or not it’s really going to highlight his skills and his skill set. And thanks for all the kind words and support — the Twittersphere has been most encouraging!
“Superboy” #30 goes on sale April 9.