Over the course of the last seventy-odd years DC Comics icons Superman and Batman have been friends, enemies and everything in between. With the New 52 relaunch of the DC Universe that relationship was reset once again, their beginnings and evolving friendship now the focus of writer Greg Pak’s ongoing monthly series, “Batman/Superman.”
Working with artist Jae Lee, Pak’s opening salvo gave readers a look into the duo’s forgotten first meeting, taking Clark and Bruce to Earth 2 to confront their parallel selves and their mistrust for each other. Now back on the main New 52 Earth in the modern day, Superman and Batman have paired up again to face off against the villain Mongul — but for Earth 2 fans there’s more parallel world action on the horizon as February delivers a crossover between Pak’s “Batman/Superman” and writer Paul Levitz’ “Worlds’ Finest.”
Emerging from Gotham’s shadows to answer the clarion call of THE BAT SIGNAL, Pak dove into his “Batman/Superman” plans with CBR News, including the upcoming crossover with “Worlds’ Finest” and where Earth 2 fits into his corner of the New 52 DCU.
CBR News: While the next story arc in “Batman/Superman” has the two heroes interacting in the modern day, coming up in February you’re doing a crossover with “Worlds’ Finest” and Paul Levitz that, like your opening story, is much more Earth 2-based. Because the current Mongul story is being sandwiched in between two very Earth 2-focused stories, is this current arc something of a palette cleanser — a standalone story before getting back into the main action?
Greg Pak: Well, all these stories that we’re doing can be read on their own. I think in sequential comics that’s always a challenge; folks will sometimes hear great things about a book but they have no idea where to jump on, and I think it’s smart to give people plenty of opportunities to jump on so that any individual story can be read on its own. At the same time, all of these stories are also building things long term. So in the fullness of time some of the things we’re introducing in any one of these issues may come back a year from now in a very big way.
I think one of the fun things about working in the New 52 is a lot of the times we are introducing characters for the first time and we’re defining some pretty important things that have the potential to pay off big time. So in this current story arc we’re working on, you don’t have to read the first to jump onboard. At the same time it definitely matters in the big DC Universe sense! [Laughs] There is definitely stuff here that has the potential to play a big role as the DCU rolls on.
The other cool thing is that Brett Booth is drawing this second story arc, issues #5 through #7, and I always love it when I dive into working with a new artist and think about the stories from their point of view. I see their art in my head as I’m writing. I had the great fortune to work with Brett on the “Doomsday” Villains Month book and he just did an amazing job. So I was really excited about working with him on this “Batman/Superman” book and it’s just been a lot of fun. The tone is a little different from the tone of the first story arc and Brett is the perfect match for it. It’s got a lot of big, great, fantastic super hero punching and battles, and it also has a certain amount of quirky humor that he’s just having so much fun with. So it’s been a pleasure working with Brett on this story arc.
Speaking of artists, the February solicits list Kenneth Rocafort on art for your next arc. Are you looking to turn “Batman/Superman” into a rotating cast of artists, or will Jae Lee be returning to the book after some fill-in issues?
I think Jae is going to come back and do the crossover — that’s the plan right now. It’s tough for any artist to maintain a monthly book; I think back in the day you had some artists drawing three or four titles but not with that level of detail, the quality is a lot higher these days! [Laughs] Its very tough to have artists keep going month in and month out so there’s definitely been times where we’ve embraced the chance to give Jae some breathing room.
Again, with “Batman/Superman” you saw it in some of the individual issues where we had certain pages drawn by other artists and that happens in books all the time — we work in certain flashback sequences done by other artists so it makes sense aesthetically. It’s always a challenge as a writer to make that work; at the same time it’s the kind of thing where often that pushes you to find something really special. I feel like it’s worked out well for us, and giving your creative collaborators breathing room is always a nice thing!
Looking ahead to February, obviously Paul Levitz has been working with the Earth 2 characters of Huntress and Power Girl this whole time. Since your first story kicked off on Earth 2, was this next arc something you had planned from the get-go to tie into what Paul was doing, or was it driven by what was happening over in the Earth 2 corner of the New 52?
We knew that we were setting up stuff that would eventually pay off — where and how remained to be seen, but we knew this was something where there was great possibilities for stuff. I’m not actually sure whose idea it first was to do the crossover between “Worlds’ Finest” and “Batman/Superman,” but of course it makes total sense! We knew that we wanted to have the Earth 2 stuff be on again, off again, and once it was suggested to me it made perfect sense because there’s a lot of great character stuff you can do. You’ve got Batman and Superman in one book and then you’ve got the alternate world daughter of Batman and the alternate world cousin of Superman in another book. It provided for a lot of great character beats to play with while we visit this mind-bending alternate world at the same time. It just made a lot of sense.
While you worked with Brett Booth on the “Doomsday” Villains Month issue, you also worked on the “Darkseid” one that introduced Darkseid’s hall of Supermen and his larger plans for the DC Universe. When you started on “Batman/Superman” did you want what you were doing to set the tone for the interactions between the main New 52 Earth and Earth 2?
Well, essentially with our first “Batman/Superman” arc there we were definitely playing with the idea that the Earth 2 characters were older and more experienced and thought that would set a good contrast and dynamic; also that their world was frankly in a better place! Those heroes had been doing those things for a while. I really enjoy that there’s a panel in there where we show the deep freeze containment facility where they have the different villains on ice; they’ve figured a lot of stuff out and they created a better, safer, wonderful world. That provided a really great contrast with the more dangerous and volatile world of our heroes.
Those kinds of contrasts are always meaty stuff to work with. Of course their world, spoiler alert, came off on the other side of Darkseid’s invasion much worse for wear and so tables may have turned a bit — the relative position of the two worlds may have turned a bit. So that will provide some interesting contrast.
Looking at our characters, which are really where the heart of the story is, the real juice there is that you have Superman and Batman from our world who, you could say, were partly responsible for the destruction of Earth 2 — or that the way the Earth 2 heroes fell in that war was partly their fault. So one of the questions is whether Helena and Kara will find out, and what their reaction is going to be — and also what the reactions of Batman and Superman are going to be if they regain those memories. They don’t remember what happens, so that’s an open question to where that will all lead.
We also have the “Batman/Superman Annual” coming up, and that seems like it’s also going to show Batman and Superman’s first meetings with other superheroes in the DCU. What can you tell us about that story — are we going back in time like in the first arc?
No, this is a current time story but you are going to see these members of the Batman family and members of the Superman family getting up close and personal with varying degrees of friendliness and hostility involved! [Laughs] There are certain elements from the current “Batman/Superman” story arc that set this up, but as it’s a world-threatening adventure our heroes are going to be thrust into a situation in which both families are needed in order to save the world and we’ll see how well they can or can’t work together as they struggle to do so.
Then will the “Annual” tie into the next arc in “Batman/Superman” as well, or have an impact on what you’re doing in “Action Comics?”
It definitely ties into “Batman/Superman” in the story arc we’re telling right now in issues #5 through #7. It’s linked to that and certain things will be escalated to the next level. In the “Annual” its my first time writing members of the Batman and Superman supporting cast so I’m having a blast with that, and definitely some of those characters will recur later on down the line in either “Action” or “Batman/Superman” or both. It’s a lot of fun getting the chance to play with them for the first time in the “Annual.” So yes, there’s stuff we’re setting up that will pay off later — sometimes it’s little relationship moments and sometimes it’s big plot elements that are coming up.
It’s a big, fun story involving a ton of characters and it’s going to be a kick in the pants! Don’t miss it! [Laughs]
“Batman/Superman” #7 goes on sale January 8, 2014; the Annual follows on January 29.