DC Comics hits its big #0 month in September, with zero issues for every single New 52 title — and writer Scott Lobdell has a Superman-sized origin story for “Superman” that doesn’t involve the Man of Steel. Alongside his “Red Hood and the Outlaws” cohort Kenneth Rocafort, Lobdell plans to bring readers a first glimpse of Superman’s home planet of Krypton, casting Jor-El as the protagonist.
Lobdell spoke with CBR News about bringing Jor-El and Krypton to the New 52, what to expect from Superman’s biological parents, crossover between the Superman family of books and teases things to come for the Man of Steel during his upcoming run.
CBR News: Scott, “Superman” #0 is coming up in September and you’re bringing Jor-El on as the protagonist. Tell us a bit about your take on the character — who is he in the New 52 and how do his actions influence the direction of Kal-El?
Scott Lobdell: I always got the impression that Krypton was a planet of very brilliant people — so you can only imagine how smart Jor-El must have been in order for other scientists the world over to look up to him. This is a guy, after all, who probably woke up in the middle of the night, grabbed a pen and paper off the nightstand, and jotted down his theories about the Phantom Zone! To me he is so smart that he’s more like an artist than a scientist.
To that end, I think that is where Kal gets his own ability to adapt so quickly to any situation. While certainly Pa gave Clark a foundation of solid bedrock, nothing he could have said would have prepared his son for the ability to speed through space or use his fists to dig into the core of the Earth. I think he got the ability to fit in from his Earth parents, and his ability to adapt from his Kryptonian mother and father.
Also, I think Kal is going to learn, soon, that his biological mother was infinitely more resourceful and tenacious that perhaps we’ve seen her before. No Shrinking Violet, she.
This will be one of the first glimpses readers have had of Krypton in the New 52. What was it like developing Superman’s home planet from the ground up for this new universe?
I didn’t feel any need to reinvent that world — just like [New] 52 Earth looks like pre-52 Earth, I think Krypton looks much as it has in the past. It’s not like we’re turning it into a jungle world or a prison planet — it is still the “futuristic” planet we’ve always known and loved.
(I put the word in quotes because it is only futuristic in that we all imagine that some day we’ll be as technologically advanced a planet as Krypton, at which point we’ll be able to put all of [our] mental efforts towards the Arts and Sciences. Yeah, I know we’ve made great strides in our world and right now we have people clicking “Like!” and kittens juggling on YouTube taking up all the brain cells in our heads that used to be focused on fighting off saber-tooth lions — but, you know, hope springs eternal.)
I will tell you, though, in the coming months we’ll be learning more about the ins and outs of Krypton and its history in ways we never have before! Promise!
The solicit teases more information on the Eradicators. What kind of introduction can readers expect with you on board?
I would say to toss your expectations right out the window. I say, tie your expectations to a balloon and watch them fly away. The Eradicators we’ll be meeting are unlike any others we’ve met before — and yet, still, frighteningly eradicating.
You’re taking over the series beyond the zero issue with your partner-in-crime on “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” Kenneth Rocafort. What can you tell us about the upcoming story you have planned for “Superman?”
It is going to be scary — like, speeding fast down a mountain road in the middle of a night during a hurricane with really bad brakes and you’re trying to text someone at the same time — that kind of scary.
As an industry we have lived under the umbrella of decompression for the past decade. I really think that “Superman” is going to be throwing down the gauntlet: this is me and Kenneth saying, “Comic books are supposed to be jam-packed with character and action and subplots and tears and bruises and supporting characters and a world you don’t see every time you look out the window!” We are taking you on a thrill ride, every month for the next few months. And I’m not being hyperbolic.
Why do you think Kenneth’s art is well-suited to depict the Superman story you have planned?
I think Kenneth and Kal share a lot of the same characteristics. Just as Kal was rocketed to Earth from Krypton, I’m pretty sure Kenneth was sent to us from a world where children learn to be master artists from the day they are born. It would explain how everything he draws is so other-wordly.
Anyone who has seen the grandeur of Kenneth’s “Chamber of All” or Kori’s grounded spaceship or the S.S. Starfire on one hand — and the tear inspiring Jason’s memory or the gorgeous Kori basking the warm summer sun — knows that he is a guy that can draw anything.
I’ve seen his pencils for the first scene of “Superman” #0, where Jor-El is examining the center of a diseased Krypton — it is at once majestic, frightening and heartbreaking all at once. It’s that beauty and attention to detail that you can expect every thirty days.
How does your take on Superman take into account the character’s rich history while still bringing a fresh perspective?
Honestly? I think it isn’t so much as the past as it is the moment. The very moment that the story is taking place in. I think it is easy for us as writers and readers to spend more time trying to fit the story into some bigger picture than we do looking at the story right in front of us. Like, we shouldn’t care about how many times Superman has fought Lex or how many times Lois almost discovered Clark’s secret identity — the fact that Superman is fighting Lex now is what is important and has to feel vital and in the moment with huge stakes — I think that is how you keep things fresh.
Continuity is great — and when it can help and inform, awesome — but it shouldn’t get in the way of a great story.
By the same token, how will you be building on the work done by previous “Superman” New 52 writers?
Well, Lois is still the big kahuna at Galaxy with her generally great boyfriend, a foreign war correspondent — and Jimmy is still sleeping on the couch because he can’t sleep in his own apartment for the moment. And while Lucy had to rush back home, Clark is going to find himself heavily immersed in the life of another longtime Daily Planet employee. I think George [Perez] and Keith [Giffen] and Dan [Jurgens] did an awesome job laying out the world and layering in all the character details in the New 52 here in the present — all I’m going to be doing is applying both feet to the gas pedal!
I think Grant [Morrison]’s work in the past has been Totally Grant — in the first few issues we met Steel, Lex, Brainiac, Metallo, the Legion of Adult Heroes, Krypto, Zod, the Little Man, Colonel Lane — the list goes on and on. It’s like he shot Clark out of a cannon and he landed in the heart of the New 52. The way Kenneth and I will be building on it is to give the raw creative energy we saw in “Action Comics” and inject it into the heart of the “Superman” series.
You’ve done a great job so far linking “Superboy” and “Teen Titans” together. Although Tom DeFalco is taking over writing duties on “Superboy,” do you have plans to revisit Superboy in the context of your work on “Superman?”
Oh, yeah. I think one of the best things about to Superman “Family” of books — to me — was always that you got to play around in this Super-verse. While we spent some the past year focusing on the individual characters and their respective titles, I can tell you that moving ahead Superman, Supergirl and Superboy are going to involved in each others lives in ways that are going to stagger the fans! I know, because I’ve been speaking to Tom and the Mikes (Johnson and Green) and I’ve been bowled over by what Editorial is letting us do — so I can tell you that the fans are going to be too.
It is fun for me to read the message boards sometimes and see people getting arrogant and dismissive as they insist we’re going to do this and that… (“H’el is just the new Eradicator!” “Oh, big surprise! I’ve already guessed that H’el is Superboy Prime!”) and I just silently smirk and want to post “You have no idea what is coming!” but I don’t!
Before wrapping up, let’s talk villains — the solicit for “Superman” #13 teases the Man of Steel matching wits with “his greatest enemy for the final time.” Obviously, you can’t spoil much here, but which villains are you hoping to pit Superman against during your run?
Well, I will give you the biggest spoiler imaginable here — and tell you that the solicit was written at a time when an entirely different plot had been planned for the book, but then we rethought it and came up with a much bigger, more exciting direction. You know, we work in a very creative and sometimes chaotic business — and I’ve never been one of those artists with a five-year plan (yeah, right!) for a book. I like to be surprised — I like to be challenged by the characters and by the editors and sometimes even the fans.
So, while there will be a butt load of action and story in “Superman” #13, the “greatest enemy for the final time” doesn’t happen in that issue, at this particular time.
“Superman” #0 by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort hits stores September 26.