SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Superman: The Coming of The Supermen” #1, which is available February 3.
While speaking with CBR News about his six-issue miniseries, “Superman: The Coming of the Supermen,” Neal Adams makes it clear that he likes his Man of Steel the way Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel did Superman, and his New Gods the way Jack Kirby did the New Gods. No costume changes, the same powers, and lots of action. What’s not to love?
Adams is banking that readers are looking for a Superman story that feels like it could have been told back when the superhero made his debut in 1938. Of course, Kirby’s ’70s villain Darkseid joins Lex Luthor in playing major roles in the series — possibly in cahoots. Meanwhile, New Krypton is located in a place people on the Internet have assured Adams actually exists.
In addition to our discussion of his anticipated miniseries, CBR News also has a sneak peek at Adams’ process for the comic’s first cover, as well as his process for the cover of “Grayson” #17, based on Adams’ cover for “Batman” #237. It’s one of 27 variants Adams is creating for DC Comics to release in February, all homages of classic covers that he has delivered for the publisher over the past half-century.
CBR News: You have said that this is the “Superman You Want.” What do we — the royal we — want from Superman?
Neal Adams: The question is, can I read your mind and give you the Superman that you want? [Laughs] When I first did Batman and sort of revolutionized Batman, everybody said, “This is the way Batman ought to be!” They didn’t want him the way that he was depicted in the television show. “Neal Adams has created Batman!” No, I didn’t. It was the same old Batman that everybody forgot. His cape flows, and he goes around at night. He’s Batman. Hello! It’s just that [at the time] nobody seemed to know what Batman was anymore.
I’m not saying DC Comics has lost their vision of Superman, but he does seem to be flying off the mark in different directions. I liked what Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel did with Superman: Superman!
I like Lois Lane, and I like [Lex] Luthor. And I don’t like Luthor being a handsome, younger man. I like him being heavy and bald and cranky with a big nose. I want him to be Luthor — a mean, awful genius that’s actually jealous of Superman’s hair.
I actually have a panel in “The Coming of the Supermen” where Superman and Luthor are in a confrontation, they’re yelling at one another, and as a last statement, Luthor leans forward and says, “By the way, I hate your hair.” [Laughs] I always wanted to write that. You know he has to hate Superman’s hair.
It reminds me of the scene from Seinfeld where Jerry says to George, “He’s got super strength, super speed… I’m sure he’s got super humor.” And he’s got super hair, too.
You’re exactly right. And so yes, Superman is Superman. He’s got muscles. He’s clearly got muscles. He doesn’t have a lot of body armor. He’s got a real anatomy. Obviously, he’s got someplace to work out. I don’t know exactly where that is. Various people have tried to come up with where he works out. He’s got to work out, otherwise, he wouldn’t have all of those muscles.
I’m going back to the old costume — although I conceded to change the belt — and the curl is on his forehead where it belongs. He looks like Superman. And guess what? Girls look at him and say, “Wow.” They kinda like him.
I’m doing a Lois that you fall in love with. That’s right — you’re going to say, “That’s the way that I remember Lois.” She’s the total package. And Luthor is Luthor. It’s just them, the way they are supposed to be. I like the way Adam Hughes draws almost all female characters, and if you’ve got Superman, women ought to look at him and go, “Hmm. That’s a hunk. I kinda like that. I’m not going to tell my boyfriend, but look at those biceps.”
We’ve seen other Kryptonians come to Earth before, but not since the “Death of Superman” storyline in the 1990s have we seen multiple Supermen. These new Supermen refer to themselves as “brothers” in the first issue. What else can you share about them?
Did you see the movie “Gunga Din”? If not, you must see it. Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. are my three new Supermen. They get along. They shove each other. They’re discovering their superpowers the way Superman used to. “Oh, I have heat vision. Oh, I burned that guy. That’s pretty cool.” [Laughs] There is a fun thing about these characters. They’re in a serious business, and they’re taking it seriously, but they get along. They’re okay. They’re like those guys from “Gunga Din.” They’re tough. They do their job. They slap each other on the back and steal each other’s girlfriends.
The reason they showed up is because I found a place for New Krypton to be located. If you go on the Internet at all, and I do now and then, and if you read science fiction, and I have done that for many years, there is a planet — on the other side of the sun — that the freaks have called Nibiru. The reason we can’t see it is because it’s on the other side of the sun. It’s in a perfect synchronous orbit to ours, and [in the story] we don’t know that it’s there. What a perfect place to put New Krypton. The Kryptonians have a civilization there, but unfortunately, Darkseid and his Apokolipians have found this place as well, and they want to move in and take over. They’re devious and awful and terrible and horrible, and even though they may not have total superpowers, they certainly are incredibly powerful, and maybe they’ll destroy the Kryptonians and win the planet.
There is a force field keeping them apart for now, but there are powerful battles taking place. The problem is, the New Kryptonians realize that they need some help, so they decide to go and get Superman from Earth. The logic is, if they are going to take Superman away from Earth for a period of time — and you never know how it’s going to be — shouldn’t there be somebody to replace him while he’s gone? They decide to send three Kryptonians to Earth and everybody on Earth says, “Who the hell are these guys?” They look like Superman, they dress like Superman, this guy has red hair and this one looks like a bully, but they look like Superman. Who are they? And they reveal themselves as Kryptonians that are going to take Superman’s place while Superman goes to New Krypton and rescues the planet.
Of course, Darkseid has got together with Luthor to hatch a plot that is going to destroy Superman and New Krypton. And that’s the story.
I am glad you mentioned Darkseid, because you’ve also said that that Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters have, over the years, either been ignored or messed up. What have you done with them to ensure that you don’t mess them up?
[Laughs] I love the New Gods. You saw the last Superman movie, where Zod shows up and he gets killed? How about Darkseid? How about all of these great Jack Kirby characters? Is it because the people doing the films and television don’t remember them or know them because they haven’t been out there enough? Well, it’s about time they get out there. You saw “Smallville,” right? At the end of the “Smallville” show, Granny Goodness shows up. And everyone who watched that show was like, that means Darkseid and Apokolips and all of that stuff is going to show up — and then they ended the show. Ah, no. Wait a second! My high expectations were dashed because Granny Goodness was just the tip of the iceberg. That’s what this series is. I wanted to see what could have been.
Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics after he created, let’s be honest, the Marvel Universe. And he came over to DC Comics and created the New Gods. These are unbelievable characters, and I am trying to do them the way Jack Kirby did them. I’m not changing them. I’m not altering their powers. I’m not giving them new costumes. I am doing Jack Kirby’s New Gods. As much as I can, in a six-issue series, which isn’t a lot. I wanted to do more with Mister Miracle. I wanted to do more with a lot of the characters, but at least I give you more than the tip of the iceberg. And it’s great. I’m having a ball.
Kalibak comes flying in from the moon to bash everyone in, left and right, in the first issue, and he’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s Joe Shuster’s and Jerry Siegel’s Superman and Jack Kirby’s New Gods. And then we throw in Luthor and a kid with his dog.
I wanted to ask about that, actually. When we first see Superman in the first issue he’s “somewhere… in the Middle East” saving a boy and his dog. Why was it important to open the story with Superman in the Middle East?
It’s important because that kid is going to count for something at the end of the story. I wouldn’t have included if it didn’t mean something. This story has what you see, and it has tendrils for other things. Why the kid? Once in a while, Superman flies around the world and helps people in other places. That’s something that we don’t notice very much, but he does, and in this particular story, he is helping people in the Middle East. He helps this kid, and wants to take him back to his family, but his family is pretty much gone and every other option for the kid doesn’t work because nobody likes his dog. So Superman takes him home and thinks that maybe he’ll adopt him. He’s Superman so if he wants to adopt a kid, he’ll probably do it — and maybe he does. Regardless, we get a relationship between Superman and this kid, and I like that.
It’s juicy. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and drawing it. I’m finishing up the rest of the inking this week. I have been turning in pages like crazy and having a great time. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. Maybe Deadman or something — I don’t know. [Laughs]
“Superman: The Coming of the Supermen” #1 by Neal Adams arrives February 3.