After months of hype, DC Comics’ Superman group crossover “H’el On Earth” has arrived, courtesy of “Superboy” creative team Tom DeFalco and artist R.B. Silva; “Supergirl” writer Mike Johnson and artist Mahmud Asrar; and “Superman” writer Scott Lobdell and artist Kenneth Rocafort.
H’el, a mysterious villain of Kryptonian origins, made his debut appearance in October’s “Superman” #13, hovering menacingly above arguing Super-cousins Kara and Clark. In this week’s “Superboy” #14, the crossover kicks off in earnest as readers and the Super-family learn more about the villain with the S on his chest, and exactly what it is he wants from each of them.
Having previously spoken with DeFalco about the crossover, CBR turned to Johnson and Lobdell for their takes on the villain cutting a swathe of devastation across the Super-titles. The two writers shared insights into H’el’s motivations, jokes and the way they see the crossover affecting the concept of the Superfamily.
CBR News: How did this crossover collaboration start? Did the three of you flesh out the “H’el” idea and character together?
Scott Lobdell: I think when I left “Superboy” in the more than capable hands of Tom, all three of us were not so much trying to figure out a “crossover” in the traditional sense. We were just looking for ways to pull the Supers (as we call them) together into a more cohesive universe. Originally, we had planned to just use each other’s characters and supporting players a little more freely, but as H’el started to become more and more developed, and the threat he posed became more horrific ,it became pretty clear that his origins, motivation and actions were things that could play out in all three books over the course of one massive story. There is always a chicken and the egg argument about crossovers — what came first, the marketing or the idea? In this case, it was very much the idea — the story — dictating the crossover.
Mike Johnson: We’ve been charting the evolution of [Kara’s] relationship with Superman since the last page of our first issue, and the time was right to really bring things to a head. We didn’t want to keep re-treading the same territory of Kara doubting whether Kal was really her baby cousin all grown up. In the crossover, we see that Kara has come to accept the truth, but that doesn’t mean she agrees with everything Kal has to say, especially when it comes to H’el. We haven’t seen as much of Kara’s relationship with Superboy, but that changes starting with “Supergirl” #14 and onwards. As different as they are, they have a lot in common given that they are both young people struggling with questions about their place in the world and how best to use their incredible powers.
This crossover villain seem to be hitting the Super-family in a more personal way than we normally see, pitting Kryptonian against displaced/cloned Kryptonians. What does facing this foe mean for your heroes on an emotional and personal level?
Lobdell: I think for Superman there is a little “there but for the grace of Rao…” If he were raised on Krypton and not Earth, would he be more H’el than Clark? In many ways, the notion of H’el’s pride over Krypton is, well, alien to Clark. Krypton, for all its richness and history and brilliance and science? It was gone before Clark spoke his first words. So there is no way he can have more of a connection to his home planet that H’el has — or can he?
Johnson: What I loved about Scott’s concept for H’el, and the fact that H’el would be the centerpiece of this crossover, is that he is so intrinsically tied to Krypton and the story of the House of El itself. It not only makes for a more interesting adversary, it raises the emotional stakes for everybody involved. Especially for Kara, who has yet to embrace Earth completely. Her heart is still on Krypton, so to speak, and H’el can relate to that in a way that no one else can.
Along those lines, what was the underlying inspiration for H’el and this story? How would you describe our bad guy?
Lobdell: If I had to use one word, it would be tragic. Yes, he does a lot of dark and “evil” things over the course of this story — but scratch the surface and you realize that he is coming from a good place. Without giving away his whole story in this article, I would say that if I were in his place, I might do the same thing.
Mike, as you said, it seems Kara is not as hostile to H’el and his ideas as Superman and Superboy are. Why would Kara be on his side?
Johnson: Because H’el speaks her language, both literally and figuratively. Kal is the “Last Son of Krypton,” but he never really knew it like Kara and H’el did. The things H’el does that bother Kal don’t bother Kara in the same way, because she can understand and sympathize with H’el motivations. One of the many cool things about the crossover is that each title has its own unique role to play. In “Supergirl,” you will get to see a side of H’el you don’t see as much of in the other titles, because in “Supergirl” you’re seeing him through Kara’s eyes.
Lobdell: Uh oh, I just said I might be on his side! What does that say about me?!
This is the first time the three Super titles have crossed over in the New 52, and while fans refer to them as the Super-family, Superboy, Superman and Supergirl are just getting started. Was one of the goals of the crossover to start to unite the characters as an actual family, at least in the face of this new villain? Will they be more involved in each other’s lives after this?
Lobdell: I’m glad that we got to spend the first twelve issues of the New 52 developing the characters and their continuity in their own books. Now that that’s done, I’m excited about the chance to really see how these three disparate characters will interact going forward. I would caution anyone, though, who thinks that the “Super-family” are those fresh scrubbed faces of yore — all of them sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with Krypto and Streaky out on the porch playing cards with Comet the super horse. Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Did I get it right?
Johnson: I believe Tolstoy’s first draft said, “Every Super-family is super-unhappy in its own epic, action-packed, mind-blowing way.” So there you go!
“H’el On Earth” begins this week in “Superboy” #14 and continues in “Supergirl” #14, on sale 11/21, and “Superman” #14. out 11/28.