SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains some minor spoilers for “Superman” #10, on sale November 2.
Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have been telling stories with superheroes and their super-heroic offspring for most of the past five years on titles including “Batman and Robin,” “Robin: Son of Batman” and now “Superman.”
It was only a matter of time before Jon Smith (née Jonathan Samuel Kent), the son of Superman, and Damian Wayne, the son of Batman, came to face-to-face. And while it took a kidnapping, that time is now in the pages of “Superman” #10 — on sale this week by DC Comics.
Written by Tomasi and Gleason, the two-part story arc titled “In the Name of the Father” (illustrated by Gleason) not only follows the historic first meeting of the new Superboy and Robin, but also serves as a springboard for a new series coming in February 2017, “Super Sons,” which will also be written by Tomasi.
The long-time creative collaborators shared their thoughts on raising super spawn, as well as the strong sense of loyalty each son has for his own father. The pair also discussed the role of Maya Ducard — the granddaughter of Henri Ducard — in the story arc, promising it won’t be all head-cracking and crime-busting for the new dynamic duo; there will be lots of time for boyhood missteps and the hilarity that ensues, as well.
CBR: I’m missing my dinosaurs, but Damian Wayne is a pretty good consolation prize. [Laughs] If Damian and Jon slipped away to play video games and/or fight crime, do you think Superman and Batman would be quick to dole out some parenting advice to one another?
Patrick Gleason: Bruce would say, “Don’t trust Damian.” [Laughs]
Peter Tomasi: [Laughs] Yes, that’s it. These two are definitely the odd couple, right now. Damian and Jon are going to be wary of each other and at the same time, they’re kids and in their own world, they might be a bit lonelier than you might think. They’re going to bridge a little bit together but at the same time, still be at odds with each other.
Readers should really look at this as a prologue to “Super Sons.” It’s a one-two punch that will — boom! — lead us right into February when “Super Sons” launches. People who get on right now at this stage with these two issues will definitely find it a real nice tip of the toe into the water of “Super Sons.”
Gleason: The excitement for “Super Sons” coming out in February is everywhere, and we definitely wanted to give everyone a preview of what’s to come. We really bridge the gap from Pete’s and my run on “Batman and Robin,” what I did with “Robin: Son of Batman,” what we’re doing now with “Superman” and what’s to come in “Super Sons.” We really wanted to go big and have it very much established before the new series launches.
We see it every day. A child trying to live up to the glorious past and/or present of his or her father or mother whether it’s the father who was the star quarterback in high school or the mother who is now a doctor and a pillar of society. It certainly can’t be any easier on the child when your father is Superman or Batman, right?
Gleason: That’s huge, and when Pete and I were writing “Superman” #10 and 11, we talked about that a lot. The fact that their dads are Superman and Batman weighs heavily on both of these characters. It motivates them and drives them, too. That’s something that we’ve explored heavily with Damian in “Batman and Robin.” He really looks up to his father. We’ve started to explore that in Superman, as well, with Jon. We’ll learn that both of these boys want to be the same thing. They want to be like their fathers. And in many ways they don’t, too. [Laughs] But for the most part, they’re the children of these two really great men and they feel that weight and responsibility and it causes conflict within them. Having to live up to that is not an easy thing. They’re both trying their best while finding their own path and their own way to prepare themselves for who they are going to be.
Tomasi: It’s all about shadows and stepping out of shadows and how sons, especially, deal with that aspect. As Pat was saying, it’s a theme that’s been running throughout our “Batman and Robin” run, through his “Robin: Son of Batman” run, and our “Superman” run. Obviously Batman and Superman cast, even though the shadow is black, a very distinct shadow across their own mythology and across their own families, so it’s really one of those things where each son will be reacting to that shadow and what it means to them and how they move on with their own lives. They both just want to prove to their pops what they’re capable of and what they’ve learned.
And there would be no drama if they did that perfectly. [Laughs] They’ll be messing up like all kids do. And like any parent, the more you helicopter around a kid, the less they are going to learn and be ready for real life. Parents have to step back and let kids learn from their mistakes. And that’s one of the things that we’ll be exploring not just in these two issues but continuing on in “Super Sons” in February.
You mentioned that Damian and Jon would be “messing up” as they grow into superheroes but will there be time for them to be kids too in the pages of “Superman” #11 and next year in “Super Sons”?
Tomasi: There will be a balance of both. If that balance wasn’t there, I don’t think it’s as interesting a story. There’s a little more of the superhero stuff in “Superman” #10 and 11 but there’s some interpersonal stuff, too. In “Super Sons,” and you’ll see this right away in the first issue, I felt it was necessary to show them just being kids. I wanted to show how being a super would affect their lives as kids. If you want to just see two super kids banging around all of the time, that’s great, but I think you need that balance of showing what it’s like for a 10-year old and a 13-year old, respectively, of how they deal with that banging around — power-wise and legacy-wise. That’s what makes it fun to explore dramatically. And, dare I say, with a lot of hilarity. There is a lot of humor, as you’ve seen in “Superman” #10. And there’s a ton of humor in “Superman” #11 too. I will definitely be continuing that in “Super Sons” too.
Gleason: The other thing to remember is that Damian and Jon are still learning how to be superheroes. That’s what we get into in “Superman” #11 — the meaning of their lives as costumed crimefighters. They really just act like themselves no matter what they happen to be wearing. It’s about them growing into these roles and learning along the way. Pete and I have spent a lot of time with Damian, and now Jon, and we’ve played a big part in that character-building and growing. It means a lot to us.
When it comes to their fathers, is the grass greener on the other side for Jon and Damian, or at least perceived to be greener? Meaning, will Jon or Damian come to realize that life may have been different with some different parenting techniques from either Superman or Batman? Or do they remain fiercely loyal to their family lines?
Gleason: Not at first. “Superman” #10 and 11 is very much, my dad is better than your dad, and that’s really fun to play with. Pete and I have a lot of that back and forth ourselves. [Laughs] As maturity sets in, I think they might start to have some understanding and appreciation for the other way of doing things but right now it’s very competitive.
Tomasi: Moving on in “Super Sons,” Damian and Jon are really locked into their separate camps. They each love their dads and, as we do in “Superman” #10 and 11, my dad is better than your dad. Maybe somewhere down the line we’ll start to peel away some of that, but for a kid to feel that way, there also has to be a bit more interaction in that regard with the other parent. We wanted to have a lot of Batman and Superman in “Superman” #10 and 11, but when it comes to “Super Sons,” Damian and Jon are the headliners, so I didn’t want Batman and Superman to weigh too heavily on the book right out of the gate. There is an omnipresence, but we wanted to make sure that these two kids are really the stars of their own book.
Gleason: They’re basically frenemies. [Laughs] They know that they’re friends somehow deep down inside, but there are definitely fireworks between them, too.
Finally, I wanted to ask you about Maya — the granddaughter of Henri Ducard. She plays a great role in this issue. Will we see her more in “Superman” #11 and beyond in “Super Sons”?
Gleason: I put her in “Superman” #10 and 11, and it was a really intentional thing. When I left her in “Robin: Son of Batman,” she was just kind of out there. In my mind, she has a really big part to play in the DCU, with a really large character arc. One of the things that I wanted was let people know that he is still out there. There is a plan for her in the background so I was really glad to re-introduce her in “Superman” #10. And also, we get to see her in this story as not necessarily a villain. She doesn’t have to be NoBody. She’s operating as Damian’s teammate in “Superman” #10 and you’ll see in “Superman” #11, she can also be a counterpart to Batman and Superman.
Tomasi: We won’t see her in “Super Sons” right off the bat, but having a really cool, youthful character like Maya with a really distinct personality, there is no way that I’m not going to bring her in at some point later down the line.
“Superman” #10 by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason is available November 2.
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