With Grant Morrison set to leave “Action Comics” early next year, DC Comics needed an accomplished writer who was prepared to step into the shoes of the meta-textual mega-talent. Mission accomplished.
On the eve of New York Comic Con, the publisher just announced that Andy Diggle, who recently completed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics, is the new writer on Superman’s flagship title, with superstar creator Tony Daniel joining him as the new ongoing artist.
Diggle, who made his name on the British comics scene editing and writing for “2000 AD” and “Judge Dredd Megazine,” previously enjoyed success at DC Comics and its Vertigo imprint, scripting critical and commercial hits like “The Losers” and “Green Arrow: Year One” with his long-time collaborator Jock.
With his run set to begin in “Action Comics” #18, Diggle told CBR News he believes DC Comics tagged him for the series because he’s noted for telling action-heavy stories. And when the word “Action” is right there on the cover every month, you need a writer that can deliver the goods.
CBR News: You have a long and successful history in the industry but do you take the reins of “Action Comics” with some nervous excitement as it’s arguably the granddaddy of them all?
Andy Diggle: Totally. It’s enormously exciting and very flattering. I imagine the reason they asked me to do it is that I have the reputation of being something of an action guy, so they want me to put the action in “Action Comics.”
Growing up in London, were you a fan of the Man of Steel?
No, I have to admit that I wasn’t. I watched the movies obviously but I really discovered the Superman comics through, I guess the work of Alan Moore. He was my gateway to American comics, generally speaking. I was very much a “2000 AD” kid growing up but in the eighties and I discovered American comics via the work of Alan Moore. “Swamp Thing” was my gateway drug and the first-ever issue of “Swamp Thing ” I picked up, I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it turned out in hindsight to be the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover issue with Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Batman, Hawkman and all the DC superheroes. And that led me to discover Forbidden Planet to pick up back issues and find out about the wider world of DCU.
Writing Superman, I presume, is a challenge because he is so powerful, making it difficult to find villains that are worthy or even able to confront him.
Of course it’s a challenge. That’s one of the things that makes it interesting. I have turned down lots of fairly high profile superheroes in the past, and the reason I said “yes” to Superman is because he is the superhero. He is the original and the best. He is the archetype of what we now think of when we think of a superhero. With a character like that, it’s always a challenge to try and make him an underdog — if everything is too easy for your hero, there is no drama.
When you are as powerful as Superman, you have to raise the stakes to a level high enough to meet his abilities. At the same time, you run the risk of making him so powerful it’s difficult to relate to him on a human level. It’s about finding that balance. The great thing about Superman is, not only is he super-powerful, but he also has a very, very human heart. Deep down inside, he’s this very decent, all-American, wholesome guy. I think it’s the contrast between those two extremes that makes him human and very relatable. It’s an interesting challenge to tackle.
Can you give us a tease on the direction you plan to take the series, starting with your first arc?
I don’t know how much I can talk about how it will relate to other titles, but like I said, I very much want to balance the extremely epic, massive-scale action heroics with the human side of Kal-El and Clark Kent too. I would like to see him explored a little bit more. And I would like to see his relationship with Lois Lane explored a little bit more in the New 52.
Obviously, the relationship with Wonder Woman is going to complicate that whole dynamic. That could all seem pretty predictable, but with the Wonder Woman wildcard there, it makes everything a little bit more interesting and dramatic.
One of things that really appeals to me about coming into “Action Comics” now is the fact that, with the creation of the New 52, continuity has stopped exploding for the first time in years. It’s created a level playing field where you can actually go in and start building new stories from the ground up without having the continuity turmoil, which used to be the case for a long time. It’s actually very exciting to build something new, and everyone at DC is pulling in the same direction. Everyone is building this new continuity from the ground up and giving it a degree of internal cohesion and internal logic rather than piecing it together over decades, which is what we had before. That’s exactly what you want as a writer in a shared universe.
Grant Morrison wrote his run on “Action,” setting events five years in the past. Will you continue that or will you be bringing “Action” up to speed with the rest of the New 52?
It’s going to sync up. When Grant first struck off on “Action,” he was doing his story five years in the past. But when I step in, it’s all going to sync up. It’s going to be very much a part of the New 52 moving forward.
Not unlike “Detective Comics” and “Batman,” traditionally “Action Comics,” “Superman” and the other Super-books co-exist, albeit not always following the same storyline. Will your run fall more in line with what’s happening in the other Superman-starring titles?
I think you’re going to see the Super-books start to have a bit more shared continuity between them. I think Grant was very much doing his own thing on “Action” because he wanted to set his stories during the early days of Superman in Metropolis. But we’ll bring that to present day continuity, which opens the door to us being able to play more with the idea of the shared universe, which is what DC Comics is all about. I am very much looking forward to bouncing ideas off the writers and the other characters Superman is sharing this universe with.
He’s going to figure out what his heritage means to him as the last son of Krypton. Not the last Kryptonian, because he’s discovered Supergirl is there, too. But he’ll be learning more about what that all means. That all opens up the scope of the kind of stories we can tell.
Superman has one of the most recognizable supporting casts in all of comics. You mentioned Lois Lane, but will you be featuring Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White?
Absolutely. It wouldn’t be Superman if it didn’t have those characters in there. They’re an essential part of the mythology of Superman. It’s very appealing that we’re getting to explore more of the backstory of Krypton, as well, beyond what we have already seen in some of the Super-books, some of the stuff that we didn’t get to see so much before in the classic continuity. At the same time, I think it’s important not to ditch those stark elements that have always been part of the Superman mythos — the Daily Planet and Jimmy and Perry and all of these characters are a fundamental part of Superman.
Like I said, it’s important not to lose sight of the human aspect of the story. If it’s all superheroes, all the time, I think that the human angle or the human aspect gets lost in the mix. You want to see Clark, as well as Kal-El.
You touched on this, but we’ve seen countless interpretations of the Superman/Clark Kent/Lois Lane relationship over the years. Now, DC has thrown the ultimate monkey wrench into the mix in the form of Wonder Woman. Did you know that was happening when you agreed to take on “Action Comics,” and if so, was that part of the appeal?
The way I approach it is that I welcome it as a story element. As a writer, you want interesting stuff to sink your teeth into not to mention, dramatic situations and conflict based on character rather than just fights, so for me, it’s perfect. A love triangle is actually the type of drama you want to tackle in a character-driven book. It can’t just be fighting bad guys all the time because that gets pretty stale, pretty quick.
And it kind of makes sense from Superman’s point of view in the New 52. When we’ve jumped into the present, Superman is still finding his feet, to a degree. He’s still trying to figure out his place on the planet and how he fits in, and even though deep down inside he’s this very human character, he still feels different and alone in certain ways. I think that he feels a bit like a fish out of water, and I think Diana feels the same way, so to a degree, they feel like kindred spirits, which is not quite the same as his relationship with Lois. I think there are different aspects of the character that you can explore through those relationships.
This is comics. Things are always changing. Relationships change all the time, so if something happens this month in a comic, it doesn’t mean that’s the way it will always be, forever. Not that I have any inside information on where things are going in the future, but stories move forward.
Finally, the new “Action Comics” artist is Tony Daniel, who has been writing and drawing “Detective Comics” and other Batman-related titles for the past three or four years. Have you had a chance to connect with him yet for his initial thoughts on the Man of Steel?
We haven’t actually had a chance to meet yet because we live in different countries, but I’m hoping to sit down with him in New York if he can make it. We have corresponded by email and he has a very strong vision for the type of visual storytelling approach he wants to take with the character, which meshes very well with my vision for the book.
Obviously, he’s a great artist with a beautiful style and I’m really looking forward to it, because the way he’s described his intentions — I can’t wait to see how it looks on the page!
Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel take over “Action Comics” with issue #18.