The ongoing “Action Comics” from DC Comics has seen a myriad of creative teams take on the Man of Steel since the New 52 relaunch, exploring every facet of Superman’s life, origin and mythos. Writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder are next in line to put their own stamp on the title. The duo kicked things off with last month’s “Zero Year” tie-in and launch a new storyline this month that will introduce new foes, old faces and a mysterious monster who might not be as terrifying as it seems.
Beginning their “Action Comics” run with the issue #25’s “Zero Year” tie-in, December marks the beginning of the creative team’s first standalone story arc, bringing in a new character known only as Ghost Soldier and putting a new spin on Lana Lang. Introduced in 1950 as the literal girl next door, Lana began life as a love interest for Superboy, turning into a TV news reporter and love interest for the grown-up Clark in the 1960s and 1970s. Lana was then retconned in the ’80s after “Crisis On Infinite Earths” as Clark’s childhood friend, dogged journalist — and one of the few people who knew of Clark’s dual identity.
Now under the guidance of Pak and Kuder, the New 52 Lana is an adventure-loving electrical engineer who, as Pak explained while speaking to CBR News about the series, will quickly become a key part of his “Action Comics” cast and story.
With “Action Comics” #26 on shelves now, Pak dove into a discussion of the big questions and bigger picture in “Action Comics,” the universal themes he’s hitting and why Lana Lang might just be the most important and influential force in turning Clark Kent into Superman.
CBR News: “Action Comics” #26 is on sale now and one of the things that really struck me about it was how Clark reiterated over and over that he considered himself a freak. I know from speaking with you about “Batman/Superman” you mentioned that in some ways what happens in Earth 2 is Clark and Bruce’s fault, which also seem to tie into that idea. Is Clark seeing himself a monster an integral part of your modernization of Superman, something you see as an important theme going across both “Action Comics” and “Batman/Superman?”
Greg Pak: Definitely! When you’re able to start telling stories from the beginning of Superman, if you get a chance to seriously imagine what that experience would be like — to discover you have these kinds of abilities and powers and gradually discover the range of powers and under what circumstances you discovered them and what your emotional state might be — I think it makes a lot of sense that the first time some of these powers manifest themselves it would be terrifying! A very real part of Clark’s experience is feeling different, feeling other, feeling like he can’t be completely open with people and that he has to hide things. If people knew the truth then the people he loved would be in danger and he would be treated differently. I think growing up that way contributes to the sense that Clark will always stick up for the underdog. I mean, already a couple of times in different issues he talks about his father telling him to never punch down, and I think that’s a huge part of Superman. Superman is the opposite of a bully. He’s the strongest person in the room but he’s never going to bully anybody, he’s always going to speak up for the underdog.
That’s why I love him and I think that’s why so many of us love him — we’ll never be as strong as him, but he’s one of us in the sense that he’s an outsider. I think everybody feels like that on some level, whether you’re a racial minority or a different religion or if you’re the overweight kid — no matter who you are, at some point you’ve felt you’re different and strange. I think it’s no coincidence that stories like “Harry Potter” or the X-Men, all of these massive, huge blockbuster tales are about outsiders. It’s ironic that everyone’s experience is that we’re outsiders, but that’s part of the human experience! [Laughs] So that’s an important part of Superman, because he’ll stick up for us in that way. I think that Superman knows how easy it is to be labeled a monster so if he sees someone labeled a monster he’s going to think twice about whether or not that’s the right label.
One other thing I’ll say, I think as a kid when these powers manifested it brought him pain and fear but also constantly brought him huge joy. That’s part of him too. These gifts were mind-blowing and amazing and it’s fun to be Superman!
It’s not all grimly throwing monsters into the sun!
[Laughs] That’s definitely something that we explore and embrace in this book; Clark loves who he is, but at the same time given the reality of how he grew up and certain moments of his life, it made him different and caused him moments of doubt and fear. That’s life, you know!
But we’re having a ton of fun with it, I love working with my editors on the books — Eddie Berganza is the main editor and the assistant editor on “Action” is Anthony Marques and Rickey Purdin is the assistant editor on “Batman/Superman.” We’re talking about these things all the time; all our conversations are about exactly this kind of stuff, which is where you want to be when you’re working on these stories! It’s a huge amount of fun delving into these big character questions and playing with them. I feel really fortunate to be able to work on these books.
Looking at your first issue after your “Zero Year” tie-in, at this point we know that the mysterious alliterative character from Clark’s past you’ve alluded to is Lana Lang. What interested you in using Lana specifically, and why turn her into an electrical engineer?
[Laughs] Yeah! So massive credit to Aaron Kuder who is the artist on the book — I’ve been working plot first on this, I write a very detailed outline and break it down page-by-page, panel-by-panel, but I don’t write out all the dialogue. I indicate what’s being said in every panel. Then he does some breakdowns and we get on the phone and talk through the script. So at this stage of the process I’ve been talking to Aaron — I talk to Aaron a lot! [Laughs] We bounce around ideas and I tell him about pieces of the script I’m working on and pick his brain. With Lana I knew that I wanted to have a really great, strong, fun female lead in the book and Lois wasn’t available when we first started. I’m always up for expanding the supporting cast and exploring the supporting cast, and I particularly love the fact that there are multiple really awesome women in Superman’s supporting cast. Wonder Woman of course is playing a key role in Charles [Soule’s] book and of course Lois is amazing and in the ongoing “Superman” story, but Lana is a key character and there was room to do fun things with her. We saw her a little bit in the New 52 but not that much and there was a huge opportunity to do some cool stuff with her.
I knew I wanted to give her a job and put her out in the world as someone who does things and has a mission. The reality is that she’s one of the very few people who knows Clark’s secret who is out in the world. He trusted her with that; they knew each other when they were very young and were incredibly close and somehow who Superman is, is influenced by Lana. When you know someone from that young age they’re a part of you. They help make you who you are. Part of Superman’s heroism comes from Lana, and part of Lana’s heroism comes from Clark. They both had to be really special people for the other to come out the way they are.
So my idea is that Lana’s got a lion’s heart, a hero’s heart. Like Superman she’s somebody who grew up with this feeling that she’s got things to do in the world — she’s a crusader, she wants to go out and help. I wanted to give her a physical kind of job, because every day millions of people are out there doing Superman’s work, you know what I’m saying? There are people who do what seem like very mundane jobs but are literally saving lives everyday and nobody ever says anything or notices. Just because they’re doing good work in a concrete way in the real world, millions of people’s lives are better. That’s the person Lana is. So I wanted to give her a very practical job one that would make people’s lives better. When I was talking to Aaron, he said, “Why don’t you make her an engineer, an electrician?” I think Aaron had actually worked as an electrician for a while before he became a comic artist. I rolled that around my head for ten seconds and said, “That’s perfect!” [Laughs] When you think about the problems the world is facing, a number of them center around energy, the way in which we as a species are fueling our lives. So that seemed like a field someone could make a huge impact in terms of improving people’s lives.
Also if you have a character who is an electrical engineer you can have them involved with all sorts of crazy sci-fi hi-jinks which would bring them to interact with Superman and Clark. So it came together in a nice way and I had a built-in expert in my artist who I could ask questions as we moved along! [Laughs]
You’re going to be thrilling all the engineers who read comics from here on out.
[Laughs] There’s actually an electrical engineer on Twitter who chimed in to say some nice things about the first appearance of Lana! That was cool!
“Action Comics” #26 is on sale now.