Nearly 20 years ago, a massive monster of a supervillain tore through the DC Universe on his way to a showdown with the Man of Steel that would stop Superman cold and temporarily kill the beast known as Doomsday. This year, the publisher revives not just the villain but his path of destruction with a few familiar guest stars standing in the way.
Beginning with last month’s “Steel” one-shot, DC’s “Reign of Doomsday” event sees a newly powered Doomsday working his way through the four Supermen who briefly replaced the Last Son of Krypton in the ’90s. While the hammer-swinging John Henry Irons fell first, his survival remains unknown. In the meantime, the story continues in March and April as Doomsday targets the Eradicator in “Outsiders” #37, Cyborg Superman in “Justice League of America” #55 and “Superman/Batman” Annual #5, Superboy in “Superboy” #6 and finally the real steel deal himself as Superman enters the fray in “Action Comics” #900. To prepare for the coming path of destruction, CBR News is checking in with some of the creative minds behind the event in REIGN OF THE DOOMSAYERS starting with DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio.
As DC has realigned its executive staff over the past year, Didio has been moonlighting as mild-mannered monthly comic scribe with “Outsiders” where the traditionally Batman-led team has been torn in two thanks to the influence of the Eradicator on team leader Geo-Force’s plans for his country of Markovia. Below, Didio explains how Doomsday’s arrival throws a wrench into the survival of all the Outsiders, how the book was built for massive action sequences and how Keith Giffen is helping him bring the entire run home as Batman returns with exclusive art!
CBR News: Dan, the “Reign of Doomsday” story has found a way to thread itself through a few different DC titles including your own ongoing “Outsiders.” How did this event get hatched, and why did you want to play a part in it as a writer?
Dan Didio: It was a couple of things. We were sitting around and talking about some fun things to be doing with Superman right now. We knew we wanted to build up to a fight with Doomsday in “Action Comics” #900, but we had stories running in both “Superman” and “Action.” As we started to think on this, we thought it’d be fun to do “Reign of Doomsday” as a play off of “Reign of The Supermen.” We looked at where those characters were, and since Eradicator was in “Outsiders” at this moment, it seemed to fit perfectly.
Eradicator certainly had a history with the Outsiders team before now, but his inclusion in this series is one of your key changes to the modern version of the franchise. What was the initial attraction of placing a piece of the Superman world into a book most closely associated with Batman?
We wanted to play that gag of having a Superman character take the lead rather than a Batman one, and Eradicator and the Outsiders had a past. We were also playing into the New Krypton storyline, which was originally going to be a bigger part of our story. But we made some changes as the “War of the Supermen” series was adjusted. Ultimately what happened was that we wanted Eradicator to play the trigger for so many of the events that had happened to Geo-Force over the last year. He came on board and convinced Geo Force that a relationship between Markovia and New Krypton was better than taking sides with the rest of the world, which ultimately set the Outsiders apart from all the world governments.
You’re picking your story up from Steve Lyons “Steel” one-shot that left people worried about the status of John Henry Irons. Is that character dead or alive? Might we be seeing him in your story?
He’s off the table within the “Outsiders” issue, I’ll say that much. I like to think of this issue as a 20-page fight scene where the Outsiders are discussing a lot of Geo-Force’s choices in regard to his relationship with the Eradicator and how they’re now at odds with so many other countries in the world because of that relationship. But that discussion takes an immediate stop as soon as Doomsday shows up searching for Eradicator.
The classic Death of Superman issue was known for being a non-stop, all splash page fight. Did the legacy of how Doomsday was used change things up as far as how you approached working on this issue?
Actually, this fit into everything I’d had planned for “Outsiders” from day one. “Outsiders” was always going to be a giant fight book with a B-movie feel. We were always looking to capture that along the way, and that’s exactly what’s going on here. You’ll see a lot of comics out there with people sitting around talking, but in this book I wanted to do non-stop action and get all our exposition and the storytelling happening through the fight sequences. The Doomsday bit gives us a chance to explore some of the characters on the team as he’s beating the hell out of them.
This book has been plotted out in a kind of modular style, where each issue focuses on a particular event or relationship in the cast like what’s going on now with Freight Train, Black Lightning and Metamorpho in Canada. It’s almost as though each issue has to work as a done-in-one story despite the larger plotlines. How does that continue here?
The plan right now is that we come back to Markovia in another kind of done-in-one and we focus on Eradicator through the fight with Doomsday. We capture a lot of the same essence that Dan Jurgens brought when he had Doomsday fight the Justice League, where he’s just cutting a path through the Outsiders on his way to the Eradicator. There’s a lot of fun there. After this issue, we’ll return to the fact that the other Black Lightning Outsiders team is preparing an invasion into Markovia with the sheer purpose of taking Geo-Force down — that is, of course, if he’s still standing after the battle with Doomsday. Then we’ve got a three-part storyline where Geo-Force’s team takes on Black Lightning’s and in the middle of it a certain caped crusader shows up to pull everything together.
What’s it been like working with Keith Giffen as an artist? We’ve seen you guys giving each other the business at convention panels. Has he been a handful to work with as a collaborator?
[Laughs] You know, I knew exactly what I was getting into with Keith. This has been a fun run for me because we’re working plot-to-script on everything. I did that with Philip Tan and had some great results, and I’m sad to see him go as he’s moving on to other projects. But then I did plot-first for Joe Bennett for an issue, which was a lot of fun, and now Keith is a guy that this is built for. Literally, we talked for 45 minutes on the phone, and he broke out three full issues from that. Now he’ll call me back and forth on the phone and ask about things he wants to do, and I’ll tell him the things we need to have in the story to hold it together. Keith is one of those guys who I’ve had infinite respect for from the moment I walked in the door here, and we’re having a blast on this.
For him of all people, he’s excited by it because this isn’t a group that he really had a lot of affinity for, but as he’s worked with the characters, he’s really enjoyed them. To harken back to his Marvel days, he said it felt like he was working on “The Defenders” again, which is some of the feelings we’d hoped to get from this book.
Even though we’re still not sure on the fate of Steel, I have to ask what the odds are that Eradicator will survive this issue. Is there a chance he won’t be showing up in part three of “Reign of Doomsday”?
Part three, definitely not. Part six is the real question. Doomsday is definitely tearing a path through the four guys that took Superman’s place in “Reign of the Supermen,” and basically they’re all not left standing by the end. Let’s leave it there.
As for “Outsiders,” are you looking for this next run to be the capper on your entire time with the book?
Doing this book has been a labor of love, and it’s been great for me to work with so many great artists. Now we’re coming to the end of the story as everything is culminating. I can’t think of a better person than Keith for that. When we did the issue with Achilles, Keith caught everything I’d hoped to do and more. The moment where Eradicator gets punched through the top of a building and his shield gets ripped off his chest — I told him that that was the kind of over-the-top action this book was made for, and he captured it in the first few pages. We’re just going to go bigger and crazier in the next couple of stories.
I should say, though, that the Doomsday issue was done by Philip Tan, and he’s been experimenting with a new style on this one where he made it a big, brawler too. So between Philip and Keith and Joe Bennett on that one issue, I couldn’t be happier with everything that’s been going on. It’s been a real joy to work on.
“Outsiders” #37, part 2 of the “Reign of Doomsday” event, is on sale March 9 from DC Comics.