With its collected edition hyped as the “best-selling graphic novel of all-time,” “The Death of Superman” storyline sold millions of copies for DC Comics in 1992. In the epic confrontation, Superman was killed by Doomsday (an ancient Kryptonian monster created by Dan Jurgens) only to return the following year in the equally eventful story arc, “The Return of Superman.”
This week, DC launched a new storyline, “Superman: Doomed,” which once again explores Superman’s demise at the hands of Doomsday. According to the creative talent writing the story, the difference in this New 52 Tale of the Tape is that it’s not the character Superman that dies, it’s his character.
The mega-event kicked off this week with the release of “Superman: Doomed” #1, which was written by Scott Lobdell, Greg Pak and Charles Soule and featuring art by Ken Lashley, a 48-page oversized one-shot that closed with the reveal that after fighting the Kryptonian killer to its apparent death during an interplanetary showdown battled on Earth and Venus, Superman crashes back to his adopted planet only to find himself infected with the very essence of Doomsday.
A terrible idea for a perfume, but it sets up a major crossover that continued this week in “Action Comics” #31 by Pak and artist Aaron Kuder and “Superman/Wonder Woman” #8 by Soule and artist Tony S. Daniel. With the story continuing next week in the Pak-written “Batman/Superman” #11, CBR News connected with Soule and Pak to discuss where the story goes from here and why by the time “Superman: Doomed” comes to an end, the Man of Steel may have been better off if he’d just been killed by Doomsday like he was back in the day.
And while Pak and Soule wouldn’t confirm or deny that “Superman: Doomed” kickstarts what Geoff Johns, John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson are doing in their highly touted upcoming run on Superman,” they did share their genuine appreciation for the classic storyline that Jurgens told in the 1990s, revealed that the defining theme of the story arc is trust and insisted that the evolution of the New 52 Doomsday and the devolution of its Superman is not unlike the life cycle of an insect — only with a lot more death, destruction and despair.
CBR News: “The Death of Superman” was a monster success for DC Comics back in the early nineties. Did you follow that story at the time? And why do you think it worked?
Greg Pak: I read comics as a kid and got pulled back in with “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman: Year One” and then I branched out to Superman when “The Death of Superman” story hit. And I remember being blown away. I bought all the books, including “Reign of the Supermen.” I loved it. I thought it was huge and it kept building and it was just tons of fun.
Charles Soule: I remember picking it up off the stands and being very excited about it. It was just a really well constructed event, and it was really the first one of that type that I read. There were all of these crazy mysteries that are so easy to understand and follow. For my young, impressionable mind, it was all very exciting.
I know you don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of pre-New 52 and current continuity, but this is obviously a very different Doomsday than we’ve seen before. Dr. Veritas actually says to Superman: “Whatever you fought before was just a larva. It’s only now reaching its mature form.” Obviously, this is something you’re going to explore in “Superman: Doomed” but what are we witnessing in terms of the Kryptonian killer’s evolution?
Pak: It might help if you think of it as the life cycle of an insect. Different animals go through different stages and what we’ve seen before is only the beginning of Doomsday. This is a creature that’s evolved to kill everything — everything and anything that it encounters. And it will just get better and better at doing that. Even it’s apparent death may be the next step in it becoming stronger. We just tried to challenge ourselves to think of the most dangerously bold kind of creature that we can and write the story that let’s us unleash that horror.
Early in “Superman: Doomed” #1, Veritas also tells Superman that he can’t beat Doomsday and thinks that he may be the only person on the planet who can survive 10 minutes with it in the ring. Is there a giant chart in the DC offices that lays out for editorial which superhero or supervillain can beat who in the DCU? Doomsday can beat Superman but Superman is stronger than Wonder Woman but they can all beat Steel…
Soule: Yes. More than 300 interns at DC are constantly updating the rankings. [Laughs] It’s like the Oompa Loompas in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” They’re everywhere — updating the rankings every second of every day.
Pak: But honestly, any character can beat any character if there is a good story there.
You’re on the record as saying this isn’t a retelling of “The Death of Superman” but it does have the feeling that you are “killing” his character. Maybe not physically, but Superman’s character is going be transformed in a major, major way now that’s he’s infected, right?
Soule: You’ve hit the nail on the head. The idea is to suggest that the events of “Superman: Doomed” #1 have a very dramatic effect on Superman and it’s not entirely positive. In some ways, it’s the loss of his humanity. And the things that he does that keep him from exercising his powers to the extent that they can be exercised and I think that creates a very interesting dynamic. And it also creates a Superman that’s a little scary and a little wild and it’s been great to write and I hope it going to be very interesting to read.
You mentioned Superman losing his humanity, which is going to affect the character exponentially as there were so many great moments in “Superman: Doomed” #1 when his human side is on full display. There is a great sequence with Wonder Woman and another one with Batman and even Lex Luthor though it’s slightly confrontational. How much of this story is going to ride on his relationships, or potentially lack thereof, with these characters?
Pak: A lot. I think the big theme of the story is trust. Spoiler alert here, but now that we’ve seen the story that many guessed this event was going to be all about is basically over at the end of “Superman: Doomed” #1, we start digging into what the story is really about, which is Superman has been infected by Doomsday and as we move along, we’re going to have all of the characters challenged with the same question: “Can you trust Superman when he’s infected in this way?” And Superman wonders if he can trust his friends. And more importantly, can Superman trust himself? It’s going to test these heroes in hugely emotional ways and it’s going to test all of these relationships. And that’s going to be explored in every single issue in ever-deepening ways. That’s solid gold for us as writers. And it’s exactly the kind of meaty emotional stuff that’s we have a blast writing. Hopefully, it will resonate with the readers.
This is a huge year for the Man of Steel. You’re writing this major arc right now, which crosses over with all of the Superman books and of course, Geoff Johns, John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson are coming on board “Superman” next month for a highly anticipated run. Is the story you’re telling in “Superman: Doomed” set up what’s to come in their run on “Superman”?
Pak: All will be revealed in the fullness of time. [Laughs] If we say too much about any of that it can spoil what’s to come. Sometimes these stories are happening concurrently and if we are too explicit about what’s going on with timelines while they’re happening, it can spoil the beginnings and ends of the different stories. I really shouldn’t say any more than that but keep on reading. There’s a lot of great stuff coming your way.
We’ve talked about all the bigger than life characters featured in this super-sized special from Superman and Doomsday to Wonder Woman and Batman but there’s an awesome subplot running through it featuring the New 52’s Thelma and Louise: Lois Lane and Lana Lang. Will you continue to explore that story in “Superman: Doomed”?
Pak: Yes. And it’s been a blast to finally write those two together. I’ve been writing Lana in “Action Comics” and had a chance to write Earth 2 Lois and a little bit of Lois herself in some other books but it’s been a blast to put them in the same room together. They are incredibly fun characters with great contrasts. That being said, Lois may not quite be herself at the current moment in the “Doomed” storyline. And things will definitely develop so any interactions between those two characters will also develop as time goes on. There is tons of fun stuff coming so please keep on reading.
Soule: We have a lot of fantastic characters with Wonder Woman, Lois, Lana and others and we’re not interested in having them compete with one another or anything like that. What we have is an amazing cast who are prime supporters of Superman and it’s great to be able to write them and use them in that way.
Pak: And because not everybody knows this, I should add that “Batman/Superman” #11, which comes out next week, is actually the third chapter of this arc. It’s a crazy story where our heroes are going to look for the origins of Doomsday in an effort to tackle this menace. The pencils are by Karl Kerschl, Daniel Sampere and Tom Derenick and it’s awesome so please do check it out.
Soule: And don’t forget we’ve got “Superman/Wonder Woman” going through the whole event. Every issue is going to be epic. I’ve seen art for issues for #9 and #10 and it’s gorgeous. Tony Daniel and Paulo Siqueira are knocking out of the park as always.
“Superman: Doomed” #1, by Scott Lobdell, Greg Pak and Charles Soule and featuring art by Ken Lashley, is available now.