Team-ups are old news in superhero comic books, as are romances, but for their latest DC Comics ongoing series, writer Charles Soule and artist Tony Daniel are hoping to explore some new territory on both fronts.
This October 9, “Superman/Wonder Woman” #1 ships to comic shops offering up a monthly exploration of the relationship between the two Justice League icons in the wake of the headline-grabbing romance. The possibility of love between the Man of Steel and the Amazon Princess isn’t new per se, but this is the first time DC has fully turned the page on the idea in its modern universe, and both Soule and Daniel say that the long term growth of that relationship is what’s drawn them to the book.
Of course, “Superman/Wonder Woman” isn’t being billed as a teary-eyed romance comic either. In its first arc, the series will bring party crashers to the young couple in the form of some of the biggest villains from Superman’s pantheon. The creators spoke with CBR News about how foes like Doomsday and General Zod will make their full New 52 debuts in the series, how the overall tone of the book will be a full-on adventure comic rather than a simple relationship drama and why keeping secrets on the particulars of the launch is a very good thing.
CBR News: This week fans who have picked up any of the Villains Month issues from DC saw a massive two-page ad for your series trumpeting it as the next big DC release. No pressure there, I’m sure.
Tony Daniel: Oh wow. Is it the first issue cover?
Charles Soule: It is!
But I wanted to start with that because that cover because in it Tony draws in almost every major figure from both Superman and Wonder Woman’s worlds since the advent of the New 52. How indicative is that of what we’ll see in the book?
Daniel: For that gatefold I really wanted to try and encapsulate both Superman’s world and Wonder Woman’s world — to show them in the middle and kind of have a meeting of the two in the centerpiece. Talking to Charles about the series and where we’re going to go with it, I wanted to throw as many characters as I could. I knew that not everybody was necessarily going to be touched upon during our run, but that didn’t matter to me as much as it mattered to illustrate those worlds coming together to get people interested in the series.
Soule: I agree with Tony. The point of that cover is to emphasize the fact that these are two characters with extraordinarily complex lives. They are surrounded by friends and foes, and they rarely have a moment of peace except when they come together. The idea is that they find something in each other that’s not in either world. I think the cover does a great job of showing that, and it does a great job of showing the scope of the book, which is gigantic. A lot of amazing things are happening in this story that I think will surprise readers. One of the cool things about this book is that we’ve been kind of cagey about saying what happens in the story, so I don’t think anyone expects what’s going to happen. That’s a great position to be in. It’s really fun.
Well, let’s talk a little bit about the contents of the story. We know that things start off with the arrival of Doomsday, and while we know that the New 52 Superman did die at that monster’s hands, all the particulars of that history are still undefined. What sort of opportunities does that give you in terms of launching this book in a big way?
Soule: Sure, well what I’ll do here is tell you everything about Doomsday — his whole deal, his backstory, everything top to bottom. It’s going to be great. [Laughter] Or I could say that Doomsday brings with him a lot of freight, which is nice. People know what Doomsday means, and so introducing him at a story from the beginning instantaneously lets you know that this is going to be a story with weight and meaning and scope. Those are all things we thought about very carefully before we decided to bring him in. So Doomsday’s introduction to the modern New 52 universe is something we’re thinking a lot about — how we use him and how we can reflect what he means to someone who’s been reading DC Comics a long time versus someone who’s just jumped on with the New 52. There’s a real opportunity to create a story that resonates with old readers while at the same time doing something that’s really fresh to new readers. That’s a high bar to set, but I think we’re doing some good work on that front.
Daniel: Drawing Doomsday brings me back to my youth when I was drawing my creator-owned series “The Tenth” where I had a gigantic hero with a big monster and my leading lady, Esperanza, who had psychic powers. This is kind of a reflection that takes me back to those good old days when I was drawing giant monsters and action pieces and a beautiful heroine. Fifteen years later, here I am drawing not those characters but similar stuff using Superman and Wonder Woman. A big monster like Doomsday really brings me back to those days, and it’s really a lot of fun. I haven’t done that in years at this point, so doing it now is great because it’s something I’m good at and I get to do it with these iconic characters. It’s a joy ride for me. I love working on these characters and this book.
Speaking of the characters, I’m sure you guys have gotten a million questions about the romance aspect of this series from the so-called “kiss heard ’round the world” on through to Geoff Johns’ flip side of that in “Trinity War” where they were often at odds in some fundamental ways. Did you guys want to play toward their similarities more or their “opposites attract” nature?
Soule: I think they’re attracted to each other because of their similarities. There are things that they can discuss and do with each other that the dating pool doesn’t allow for. The number of people Superman can talk to who can fly is limited. There just aren’t that many superheroes in the world. And so for me, it’s really about how they’re alike, but over time, the things that are alike can be overshadowed by the things that are different, and it’s about working through those differences where a mature relationship comes from. I’m mostly trying to write them as adults — as grown-ups who have real, legitimate emotions about what’s going on with them. It’s not just one thing. It’s many things like any actual relationship is.
Looping back to that image from the cover to issue #1, we see a lot of the pantheon who are Wonder Woman’s family, and I get the impression that they’re going to have to meet Superman for the first time in this series and maybe not approve of him. Are you in some ways approaching this story more like a classical romance comic where those conflicts will be just as important as the big action stuff?
Soule: This question comes up a lot. I think people are focusing on the romance element because it’s new and they don’t know what to expect from it. It really hasn’t been done before. But ultimately, the romance element of this book is one element among many. The book is absolutely a delicious stew of great comic book ingredients. A lot of times when I’ve been talking about the series, I’ve been referencing “The Empire Strikes Back” because that movie had everything you could imagine from space battles to lightsaber fights to Yoda. It had everything you’d want, and it also had a great blossoming romance between Han and Leia. And that movie probably still would have been great without that romance even in there, but adding the romantic element and being able to access that piece made the movie that much stronger. I think “Superman/Wonder Woman” will work the same way. Having these characters in a romantic relationship means we can write and draw things that are not available to the average comic book with characters on the same iconic level. It’s cool. It makes the book deeper and more interesting.
If each of you had to pick one central theme the book is dealing with as it tells the story of these two characters together, what would that be?
Soule: That’s a good question, actually. For me, each arc of this series is going to be different, and they will each explore a different aspect of how these characters relate to each other — not just romantically but in the way they are in each others’ lives. In the early days, it’s going to be about them learning more about each other and learning whether the world will let them be together. Is this something they can even do? Can they be a couple, or should they just be colleagues? And over time, those ideas will develop. But as far as the two of them now, they’re still in a very early phase of learning a lot about each other.
Daniel: I’m just really excited to grow with these characters, and that’s what readers will really like about the book. This is a monthly ongoing series. It’s not going to be seven issues and then we’re done. If all goes well, this will be going for a long time. That doesn’t mean they’ll be a couple forever, but we’ll get to grow with and see these characters blossom as their relationship grows. We’ll see all the triumphs and struggles two superhero characters who are dating would go through with each other. I think that alone is very interesting and fun. It’s something I look forward to, and their relationship, as Charles mentioned, is going to evolve. Being a witness to it as a reader will make people want to come back and see what happens next — to see the effects of whatever obstacle they may face and how it will bear on them as a couple. That’s so much more interesting than a typical team-up book.
Speaking of obstacles, Charles hit on the idea that the first arc will be about the world testing them on whether they can be together, and the biggest force pushing against them will likely be General Zod. We just saw Zod in the New 52 for the first time this week with Greg Pak and Ken Lashley’s Villains Month one-shot, and you may not want to say whether his appearance here is the first encounter he has with Superman in this universe. But with “Man of Steel” giving that character his biggest platform in years, do you have a particular version of Zod you look to before you present him in “Superman/Wonder Woman”?
Soule: As far as how Zod’s going to work, it’s not exactly the way I’ve ever seen him done before. There are some elements that are archetypal General Zod you always want to keep: he’s very smart, very aggressive and a very formidable solider and foe. But the way his relationship with Superman evolves and the reasons he does what he does is all new to me, and that’s great. That’s what you want. You want things familiar enough that readers can latch onto, but you also want to give them something unexpected. The way we use Zod is a great example of that.
Daniel: I just want him to look badass! When we see him, I want it to be worth the wait. When you turn the page and see him for the first time, I want it to be the Zod we’ve all been waiting for. That’s pressure I put on myself, and I haven’t even drawn that page yet. [Laughs] I’m gearing up for it, and that’s what I aim to do.
“Superman/Wonder Woman” #1 ships October 9 from DC Comics.