Tom Taylor, fresh from blowing up the DC Universe in his best-selling digital first series “Injustice: Gods Amongst Us” landed on “Earth 2” in November. And faster than Jay Garrick can say “in a flash,” Taylor, along with artist Nicola Scott, shook another alternate Earth to its core.
In “Earth 2” #17, his first issue as the series’ new writer, the scribe not only unleashed a new Batman on the evils of Earth 2 but reimagined (and resurrected) Lois Lane as Red Tornado, a move that Taylor told CBR News was his first priority when starting his run on the title.
The award-winning playwright, former theater director and ex-professional juggler, shares his thoughts on writing yet another far-from-perfect Superman, giving General Sam Lane his first human moment in not-so-recent memory and collaborating with Scott, a fellow Australian.
He also teased that readers will soon learn who is under Batman’s cowl, that the mysterious superheroine on the solicited cover of “Earth 2” #20 will be revealed in “Earth 2” #18 and that those who pay close attention to Doctor Fate’s gibberish (after being smacked around by Superman in the last issue) may discover clues of what’s to come in the months and issues ahead.
CBR News: Did you find Earth 2 an easy world to jump into?
Tom Taylor: I had to make sure that I was keeping everything James [Robinson] had put in place and kept that spinning. You don’t want to go in and scorch everything that’s come before. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s something that I do like to do. I think James and Nicola [Scott] made it a lot easier by creating and crafting a very good world, a very real world, a very established world. But it’s also still a very young world and it’s a newish title. They created something big and you knew what was happening and you knew it was scarred and you knew that it was an Earth that had already been through an enormous war and something big and bad was coming again.
And when you are working in a world where your main villain is Superman that certainly sets a different tone, as well, right? In the DCU-proper, he’s the benchmark for all that is good, but with this Earth 2 version, that notion gets turned upside down.
Absolutely. It’s a bit like “Injustice” in that way, but this Superman is a lot further along than our “Injustice” Superman. Our “Injustice” Superman still thinks he’s doing the right thing. He’s doing things he believes with his heart in the right place. He’s actually still trying to the save the world. Whereas the Superman we have on Earth 2 is a zealot for Darkseid. As you’ve probably seen, he is literally insanely evil. He’s tearing people in half. He’s killing at random. He’s not a nice guy! [Laughs] Which is particularly hard for me because I am such a huge Superman fan. He is my absolute hero. This is my second chance to write him, and once again, he’s a dick. [Laughs]
Is there any chance during your reign of terror over Earth 2 that Superman might see the light?
In a way, that was the reason I wanted my first big act on Earth 2 to be the resurrection of Lois Lane. There is a lot of dark and grim, nasty sadness and a sense of despair on Earth 2. Bringing in a beacon of hope like Lois is fairly important and gave us something important that we know we are working towards with Superman. It puts them in an obvious path towards each other. And who knows what the outcome of that will be.
Having Lois return as Red Tornado, was that your idea or is it a storyline you inherited?
Honestly, it was the first thing that I wanted to do. The first thing I had to do in “Injustice” to Lois and Superman and their relationship was awful. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to write. And for me, a bit selfishly, I just wanted to bring Lois back in “Earth 2.” The fact that she was already dead on this world, I just thought, “I know how to bring her back.” The fact that she’s in Red Tornado’s body isn’t as important as the fact that we have the character of Lois Lane back on a world where there is an evil, rampaging Superman.
What’s was DC’s original reaction to your plan for Lois and her return as Red Tornado?
The reaction was really positive, as soon as I mentioned it. I think it was the first thing I said that I wanted to do. I said to them, “What happened to Lois?” And they said, “She died. We’re still figuring out how.” And I said, “I want to bring her back.” That’s the first thing I wanted to do. Mike Cotton and I had a brainstorm and worked out exactly how we could that. Red Tornado, I think, was my first suggestion and it just worked right away. Particularly, once we came up with the idea that General Lane would be the one to resurrect her.
Obviously, her coming back to life in Red Tornado’s body will be a strain on her relationship with Superman at least from the outset. I’m interested to see how that plays out.
Yeah. Me too. [Laughs] But remember, where there is Lois, there is hope.
I’m glad that you mentioned General Lane. He’s not the biggest villain in the DC Universe, but it’s rare when he gets a chance to look good. I think it’s the first time that I remember General Lane doing something warm and fuzzy.
I think you’re right. He’s often the antagonist in most of these things, and he’s also usually at loggerheads with Superman, but we have our own Earth here, so we can do what we want with it. No matter how nasty he was to Superman or whatever his agenda was in other stories, he always has this fierce loyalty to his daughter. And I think that everybody knows that. It’s been a short-hand to use her father in our story because everyone knows that this is his daughter and that’s the reason he’s bringing her back. Not only does he honestly believe she can save the world, but he wants to bring her back because he’s her father — and he had a way to do it.
And then, just like that, in the final pages of your first issue, Sam Lane dies. While I know this is comics, so nothing is final, his death will obviously have an effect on Lois moving forward — or is she a different animal now that she exists within the Red Tornado?
It’s kind of interesting because I’ve inherited a world that’s spinning very, very fast. It’s constantly in motion and it’s going to take us a few issues to get anyplace where we can just stop and take a breath. You’re going to see — in the next issue, it escalates. And in the next issue, it escalates again. We’re going to see new characters. We’re going to see some very big events that are going to have big ramifications. So yes, at some stage, Lois is going to have to stop and we’re going to have to see how this has affected her. In our story, an hour ago, she was dead. [Laughs] How’s that going to affect her? Her husband is a mass-murdering zealot for Darkseid. How’s that going to affect her? Her father has just died in front of her. How’s that going to affect her? And she has a big role to play. But we’re not, unfortunately, going to be able to address that very quickly.
And she’s now living in a metal body.
No spoilers or surprise here, because he was featured right on the cover, but Batman was back for your first issue, too. He comes in, guns a-blazing like you knew he would, but he appears to be a beacon of hope for this world, too.
â€¨That was one of the things that was pre-established. Batman was there. It was not something I needed or wanted, but it’s nice having him on Earth 2, for sure. He’s not the Batman we know — at all. This is something we’ve never seen before and you’re going to find out moving forward. At the end of “Earth 2” #18, you’re going to see that this isn’t the Batman we know. There are things coming that will shock and surprise people. In January, you’re going to understand where he’s come from. Make sure you read “Earth 2 Annual” #2.
It doesn’t sound like this is Bruce Wayne.
I’m not going to say anything yet. But there will be a clue next issue.
Another character that I like is Khalid Ben-Hassin, the Doctor Fate of Earth 2. I was watching to see what you did, and you swiftly allowed Superman to open up a can of whoop ass on him — and he turns into a babbling mess. Are there some clues within his gibberish of what’s to come, or was he truly just babbling nonsense?
Absolutely, yes. There really is. He’s not just rambling. Sometimes he might be, sometimes he won’t be, but a lot of those words are going to have some meaning moving forward — some soon, some much, much, much later.
We had to do that to him. For me, it’s a bit of a short-hand. Superman’s vulnerability is magic. It made sense to me for Superman to come back and immediately, the first thing he does, is stomp on the head of the magic user, repeatedly.
It sounds like you’re not going anywhere anytime soon, so let’s talk about world building. Where do you go from here?
It’s a very new world, but already it’s very established and already it’s broken, which is something very interesting about Earth 2. Everyone knows that there are these firepits everywhere. There is an enormous scar across the entire continent. It feels like an entire world of people that are reeling, just waiting for the next terrible thing to happen.
We’re running with that. It’s going to feel like that. It’s not going to feel safe. Superman’s actions are going to become much clearer in the next issue, and by “Earth 2” #19, you’re going to know exactly where this is going. It’s not looking great for anybody. Anybody that knows me knows that I don’t like going all dark and grim and gritty all of the time, so there will be moments of hope. There will be moments of levity. There will be characters that step up and become something new and become shining beacons of hope. We’ll get there. But there’s going to be a trial first.
You’ve been writing this series for a few months. Is there a character you’ve connected with that you’re particularly excited about writing?
I have just written a big scene for Lois in “Earth 2” #20, which I’m pretty happy about. But it’s actually the person that she’s talking to, which is going to have, what I think, the greatest ramifications for the DC Universe. Nobody knows who this person is yet. We’re going to meet this person moving forward.
I wanted to ask you about this other person, as there is an unnamed character with Lois Lane/Red Tornado and Hawkgirl on the solicited cover for “Earth 2” #20. with some speculation leaning towards it being Aquawoman. I think I know what you’re going to say but can you tell me who that mystery character is?
I won’t tell you who she is yet. [Laughs] I will tell you that you find out who she is in “Earth 2” #18, but that’s also the character that I’m talking about. Like I said before, there are new faces coming. We’re building an entire world here, and the building blocks are still being put into place. We’re adding our own building blocks to what James previously established.
Finally, you’re building this world with a fellow Aussie in Nicola Scott. Can you talk about working with her and what she brings to the project?
Nic and I get along insanely well. Any convention we did together, we’d hang out. We talk way too much and we get along just like a house on fire, so it was amazing to land on this book together. It really was just a book we landed on together; it was never crafted this way. It just sort of happened. James was leaving “Earth 2,” Nic was already on it and DC was looking for something from me at the time and this was the one. They offered it to me and I said, “Yes. Absolutely.” Nicola was going to stay on, and suddenly two Australians have their own world in the DC Universe.
She’s amazing to work with. She’s one of the most talented artists working for DC right now. She’s astounding, and she just seems to be able to do everything. She does the massive action, but she’s also does the small bits of emotion. For me, as a writer and a former theater director, it’s more important that an artist can show a character having the right emotions than they can blow up a building, if that makes sense. That’s what tells the story. You don’t follow explosions. You follow characters, and Nicola can show some very complex things that we, as a reader, can identify with and that allows us to feel what these people are feeling.
“Earth 2” #18, by Tom Taylor and featuring art by Nicola Scott, is available this week from DC Comics.