While the Bible and Ozzy Osbourne both tell us that there is no rest for the wicked, there also isn’t much downtime for Marc Guggenheim, and he’s actually quite lovely.
The co-writer of the upcoming “Green Lantern” movie starring Ryan Reynolds, Guggenheim has recently left two high-profile assignments as both the showrunner of ABC’s “FlashForward” and a member of the braintrust that is bringing “Amazing Spider-Man” to Marvel fans three times a month.
But faster than a speeding bullet, Guggenheim has landed himself yet another writing gig, this time as the new writer of “Action Comics,” taking over from current co-writers Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann. Announced Thursday as part of DC Comics’ week long, “DCU in 2010” marketing campaign, Guggenheim’s run will take flight the same month as DC’s “War of the Supermen” event series begins, most likely in June.
“Action Comics” is Guggenheim’s first ongoing assignment for DC Comics since he wrote the death of Bart Allen in “Flash: The Fastest Man Alive” in 2006 and 2007, an arc that tied into Geoff Johns’ and Brad Meltzer’s “Lightning Saga” crossover in the pages of “Justice Society of America” and “Justice League of America.”
But if you can’t wait until next summer for Guggenheim’s return to DC Comics, he also serves as the guest writer on “The Web” #5 in January, an important issue that bridges Angela Robinson’s opening arc on the title with Matt Sturges’ upcoming run.
The co-creator of ABC’s “Eli Stone” and “Resurrection” for Oni Press, Guggenheim told CBR News that his run on “Action Comics” will begin with a five-issue arc that ties directly into “War of the Supermen,” but he has big plans beyond the Super-centric event for the Man of Steel, including the creation of a number of new villains.
CBR News: You’re by no means a newcomer to professional writing. In fact, you’ve had plenty of success in comics, TV and film, but still, it must pretty cool to be the incoming writer of the granddaddy of them all, “Action Comics.”
Marc Guggenheim: Oh yeah, completely. It’s weird. It’s very, very, very strange. I’m still a little like, “Did they make a mistake? When are they going to come to their senses?” But it’s very, very flattering, and the only way to approach this project is just with humility and hard work. You just go in and do your best.
What’s your affinity for Superman? Did you grow up watching “Super Friends” and the Christopher Reeve movies?
Oh god. Yes, I watched “Super Friends.” Yes, I watched Christopher Reeve. I remember very vividly – one of my earliest memories – sitting on the floor in my bedroom flipping through a Superman comic. This was even before I knew how to read. One of my other earliest memories was buying a Mego Superman action figure. Or I guess it was a doll back in those days. I remember, vividly, the store I bought it in and everything. It’s funny. It’s very weird to write a character that basically, your association with the character, your familiarity with the character, goes back to your earliest, earliest, earliest days of your childhood.
What about Superman as subject material? Is he more difficult to write than other superheroes, because, theoretically, he should be able to get his way out of just about any situation?
It’s funny. I’ve actually given a lot of thought precisely to that problem. In part, one of the things I want to do is introduce some villains that Superman could be defeated by. The truth is, his powers are not infinite – he has weaknesses and he has limitations to his powers. Truth be told, I could come up with a cosmic character that could just squash him like a bug. But the bigger challenge is, if I were to tell that kind of story, convincing the reader that there is some legitimate danger. Just because it’s Superman, it means I’m not going to squash him like a bug. Even if I did a whole arc where Superman lost his powers, I think people would be kind of hip to the idea that Superman is probably going to come out of this OK. They’re not going to let me destroy a multi-million dollar property.
When writing characters like Superman or any of the icons: Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, you name it, you’re going to deal with that problem. The trick is to tell stories that emotionally engage you. That don’t all just hinge on some false jeopardy.
You mentioned writing the major comic book icons, and you’re just coming off a run on “Amazing Spider-Man.” Are there any similarities between those two characters, Superman and Spider-Man?
I think probably the biggest similarity between the two guys is that both heroes have chosen secret identities that are much more, no pun intended, “mild-mannered.” They’re heroic identities. And both had childhoods that were taken away from them. It’s an interesting angle that, as writers, we don’t always have the opportunity to explore, that psychology of both Superman and Spider-Man not really having a real childhood.
For me, I probably won’t be delving into very dark, psychological territory. I don’t see “Action Comics” as that type of book or that type of project. Truth be told, I’m very much coming to the project with a much less grand design. I feel like I have to make my way up to shifting stuff around and delving into big stuff.
One of things that I admire about John Byrne’s run on “Fantastic Four” was that he started with a very back-to-the-basics approach. His first issue was called, “Back to the Basics,” and it wasn’t until he was on the book for three years that he started throwing curveballs in, like changing the costumes or getting Sue Storm pregnant, or having her have a miscarriage, or writing She-Hulk into the team. His first couple of years on the book was just good, solid “Fantastic Four” stories, and my goal with “Action” is to pretty much follow the same game plan. Just come in and tell really classic Superman stories and see where that takes me.
Earlier this week, DC announced “War of the Supermen,” a major event featuring the Man of Steel. Will you be knee-deep in that story, and will “Action Comics” be crossing over with it?
I will be knee-deep in it. In fact, I came out last month to New York to help break the event, and my first issue of “Action” will coincide with the same month as the first issue of “War of the Supermen.” So yes, my first five issues on “Action” will be linked to the event, which is a weird way to come into a book. But yes, I’ll be knee-deep. I’ll be nostril-deep.
It’s well off, but do you have plans already in place for what’s to come with Superman in “Action Comics” once “War of the Supermen” is complete?
I do. I definitely do. I have a plan, which I haven’t even had a chance yet to write up and share with the folks at DC, for my first arc post-“War of the Supermen.” I still feel like I’m a guest in the house. James Robinson has been writing “Superman” for several years now. I don’t feel like I’ve earned yet the chance to come in and upset the apple cart. So that’s why I’m really trying to focus on what’s a good, sort of self-contained Superman story that I can tell coming out of this event – just a tried and true Superman story. And sort of along those lines, one of the reasons to do that is the fact that the Superman books have been doing something really new and different for the last year, taking Superman off Earth and putting him on New Krypton and essentially changing up the cast of all of the Superman books, including “Action Comics.” And so for me, coming out of the event, in addition to not wanting to come in and upset the apple cart too much, my first post-event issue will be the first non-“New Krypton” related story in “Action Comics” in over a year, so I feel a strong compulsion to come in and return to the book to its roots. Return the book its normal status quo. And that’s what I’m aiming to do with this run.
You mentioned that you were planning to give the Superman mythos some new villains. Why is that necessary, as opposed to tackling some of his classic rogues?
Superman’s rogues gallery is a little thin. There’s a not a lot of villains that will stand the test of time. A lot of them have been overused. People will have had their full of Brainiac by the time the event is over. Lex Luthor is always going to be in the mix. You want to play around with that a little bit. As I think of Superman stories, I find that I’m wanting to stretch and find some new villains.
Can you tease us about your supporting cast, at all? Obviously, we’ll see Lois and Jimmy Olsen and Perry White?
I’m a big fan of the whole Daily Planet environment. I feel like James and Geoff Johns and Greg have done a really nice job over the past couple of years of crystallizing exactly who is in that bullpen. It’s sort of a dream team of all the most memorable Daily Planet staffers, from all the runs, going back decades, and I really am looking forward to getting in there and playing around with those characters in that environment. I like the high-octane, old feel of a newspaper. And as a locale to play with, that will be fun. It was always fun to write Daily Bugle scenes [in “Amazing Spider-Man].
Have you ever worked at a newspaper?
A little bit. I did a little bit of writing for my college paper. Believe it or not, I used to illustrate a comic, too. I used to be a very, very bad illustrator. That was my original artistic outlet, in fact. Believe me, if people hate my comic book writing, they would really hate my comic book illustrations.
So you’re not drawing “Action Comics,” we can safely assume.
Thank God, no. That would take forever. And it wouldn’t look very good.
The artist hasn’t been announced yet for your run. Any teases?
That is a secret. It is hush-hush, and so it will remain.
You’ve written the “Green Lantern” movie, and just recently you left the TV show “FlashForward.” Do you have other film or TV projects in the works?
I’m actually working on a TV project now that I can’t say anything about yet. Ever since, I left “FlashForward,” my phone has been ringing constantly with various different film and TV projects, and I’m basically in the very early stages on a lot of them. But nothing that is ready to be announced. I’m actually having a lot of fun exploring all the different options. It’s nice to be able to take a step back and say, “OK, here’s the landscape and here are the projects that I would like to do.”
For me, right now, it’s just about working with people I like. And working with people I know. And having fun.