Hold the Fortress Part II: Robinson and Gates on "War of the Supermen"

With the release of "Last Stand of New Krypton" #1 this week, DC Comics' two-year long "New Krypton" saga kicked into high gear as the story speeds towards its explosive conclusion. The three-issue miniseries, written by James Robinson and Sterling Gates, ships twice in April (April 7 and April 28) to make way for the final chapter, "War of the Supermen," a four-issue miniseries shipping weekly in May.

Robinson and Gates, who previously spoke with CBR about "Last Stand of New Krypton," will, once again, share writing duties on "War of the Supermen" and will also team for "War of the Supermen" #0, which arrives in stores across North America on Free Comic Day. Each issue of "War of the Supermen" will feature a different art team, with the solicited artists listed as Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan (#1), Jamal Igle and Son Sibal (#2), Eduardo Pansica (#3) and Eddy Barrows (#4).

CBR News spoke Robinson and Gates about the upcoming Superman event and the two shared details about the major players involved in New Krypton's 100-Minute War with Earth, including Zod, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl and General Zod. 

Robinson also shared his thoughts about leaving "Superman" as J. Michael Straczynski ("Brave and the Bold") becomes the new series writer with #701.

CBR News: Leaping from the pages of "Last Stand of New Krypton" is "War of the Supermen." The Kryptonians have to deal with Brainiac first but can you tee up what's coming next in the four-issue weekly series?  

Sterling Gates: The war has always been the plan. Even when Geoff (Johns) and James were talking initially, the plan was always that Earth would go to war with New Krypton. Because Geoff's workload with Blackest Night got to be so heavy, he had to bow out right after the first "New Krypton" story. Greg Rucka came on board, and James and Greg and I have been building towards this war from day one.  

Everything we've done in our books, be it "Superman," "Action Comics," "World of New Krypton," or "Supergirl," everything has been heading towards this eventuality. 

As for why it's a 100-minute long war: that came out of a conversation DC Comics Publicity Manager Alex Segura had with Dan Didio. From the way I heard the story, Dan was talking about the war and Alex said, "War with Kryptonians?  So that lasts something like a hundred minutes, right?" Dan said, "That's a great idea!" and called James and I and pitched it to us.  

We loved it - it's really a brilliant device - so that became our framing device. 

And I guess with Superman, Supergirl and Superboy facing off against Zod, Ursa and Non, not to mention another 100,000 revved up Kryptonians, there is not going to be a lot of time for quiet moments and pages and pages of solitary self-reflection?  

James Robinson: Well, it's war. There are emotional beats to be had, absolutely, in terms of loss and humanity. But the fact is, with it being a 100-minute war and the reason why this works so well, is that if it were a monthly book, it would be a terrible thing. You'd have too much time between issues. So for May, there is no "Superman," there is no "Supergirl," there's no "Action," there is just this book, every week. So there is a momentum that we can establish so quickly that you don't have time for walks on the beach of New Krypton.  

SG: And where some of the power of the story comes from is its immediacy. War is hell. This story is brutal, and it's savage and it's war - all-out war - in a way that the DCU hasn't seen before. That's what I think is so cool about this story. We've never seen Earth go to war with Krypton like this in the history of the DCU, so for me, that's what makes the story exciting. Making it a weekly story makes it feel huge. Every week you're going to get slammed upside the head with 25 minutes of hell. 

JR: And plus the one thing, as Sterling said earlier, we've planning for this war for two years. So we're trying to set thing ups with General Lane and the 7734 and the Human Defense Corps so that, although it is 100 minutes, it isn't like Earth is without the ways and means to combat Kryptonians. It's a real battle. It's not just the Kryptonians overwhelming Earth. There will be battles won and lost on both sides in the course of 100 minutes.  

SG: And I also want to take this opportunity to emphasize the fact that everything we've done has been part of a grander plan. As you're starting to see pieces in "Last Stand" fall into place, know that nothing we've done has been random or without forethought. Everything has been building towards the story. So people that have stuck with us all along, it's going to pay out in a big way for them. 

That said, the zero issue on Free Comic Book Day is still a really clean place to come on board. We tried really to make the zero issue an easily accessible story that sets up our main players and gets people interested right off the bat and sets the story in motion. And it has some phenomenal art. Eddy Barrows is drawing the main story and he's phenomenal, and there are a whole slew of amazing artists are drawing the backup story.  

DC - and Dan Didio - gave us a lot of support for our story by making the zero issue the Free Comic Book Day issue, and we can't thank them enough. 

General Lane poses a big threat in this story. What makes him just as scary as more notable supervillains like General Zod or Brainiac? And why does he so desperately want to destroy the Kryptonians? 

SG: Well, General Lane is very much a xenophobe and a racist. As Eric Trautmann is exploring his great back-up stories in "Adventure Comics," General Lane looked up at Superman and saw not a savior, but a threat. Over time, he's really built up a hatred for alien races, and he's ready to go to whatever lengths to keep them away from Earth. He's built an empire of anti-alien sentiment and weaponry around him, and he's prepared to use it. 

JR: And at no point should Lane's skewed views detract from the fact that he's a master strategist, and more than capable of matching Earth's might with that of New Krypton's. 

From "World of New Krypton" to the work in the monthlies like "Supergirl" and "Superman" and these two projects, "Last Stand" and "War of the Supermen," the "New Krypton" saga has been a massive undertaking. How did you go about managing this beast in terms of coordinating beats and plot threads throughout all of the books? 

SG: Honestly, we couldn't have done it without our editors Matt Idelson and Will Moss. They have been instrumental in keeping us going and keeping us organized. I describe how we've operated the last couple of years as a relay race, whereas one art team and one writing team finishes a script or a page, Matt and Wil are distributing those pages to the rest of us, so we can keep going. That's sort of the nature of the work we've been doing. Everything feeds into everything else. We literally couldn't do this job without our editors.  

I'd also like to take a second to thank Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Eric Trautmann, all of whom have been great supporters - and wonderful co-writers - across this entire "New Krypton" story. 

How and when do Superboy and Supergirl enter the fray? 

SG: When I talk about that first "New Krypton" story, I like to point out that, though it was called "Superman: New Krypton," really the heart of that story was about Superman and Supergirl and her parents. I kind of feel that through all of the New Krypton saga, the story has been about Superman and Supergirl.  

And that's how the war plays out. It's very much a Superman and Supergirl story.  Which isn't to say Superboy doesn't have a role, he does. It's just very different than Supergirl's. Supergirl is really in the thick of things. Superboy has a very active task keeping him busy the first couple of issues. 

JR: Keep in mind, Supergirl was born and raised on Krypton. So she spent more of her life, based on how old she is, as a Kryptonian then as someone from Earth. Whereas Superman, I always see as the perfect analogy for American immigrants. You come to this country, you work hard, you live by the rules of America, and America rewards you. They make you their greatest hero. 

I've never felt that Superman was a Kryptonian. To me, he's always a Kansas City farmboy. He's like somebody who hears about the old country from his grandparents that likes to say they're Italian or Turkish or Russian, but actually they're an American.  

SG: I don't even know if it's as simple as hearing it from your grandparents. I think it's more that Superman reads about Krypton as history. That's the best he can do. The Jor-El hologram can tell him about things, but really, he's reading historical documents. He's not being told about the emotion or the beauty behind a Kryptonian sunset. He's just reading pure history.  

But Supergirl lived it. She was there. And where Clark self-identifies himself as someone from Earth, Kara self-identifies as someone from Old Krypton, who lived on Earth and then moved to New Krypton. And she's kind of bounced back and forth at will. And finally, as we saw in "Supergirl" #50, she isn't sure if she even likes what she sees about humanity.  

The irony of it all is that, though she feels humanity has deceived her, her own mother - a Kryptonian, mind you - has been deceiving her in almost the exact same way, as well. That'll play out in a big way across the war. 

JR: Superboy will ultimately see that this war will help him to define who he is and how he feels about the little piece of him that is Kryptonian by being partly the clone of Superman. He'll end up defining his place in the world, through this, as well. His role is very much linked to Mon-El and the Legion of Super-Heroes and that's part of the "Last Stand" storyline.  

SG: While "Last Stand" and "War" are two separate events, quote/unquote, they really are one giant saga.  I've described "Last Stand" as our "Empire Strikes Back" and "War of the Supermen" as a really, really violent "Return of the Jedi."  

Uh, but without the Ewoks. [laughs] 

Sterling, you're sticking around with "Supergirl," and I understand there is some big news coming this weekend out of Emerald City Con, but James, you're leaving "Superman" after #700, handing off to JMS. I know you are a huge fan of the Man of Steel - is it difficult to be leaving? 

JR: I'm very excited he's coming on. I'm sure he'll do a great job. And I can't wait to be a fan and a reader of "Superman" again and not the writer. 

It's strange for me that I'm the writer that never really wrote Superman for any length of time and I'm more known as the writer of Mon-El. But I think history will show that's kind of a cool thing.  I was always completely into the idea of Mon-El, and with "Adventure" #11, we'll see the end of it. And hopefully, the readers and the fans will appreciate everything that I've done.  

I'll still be staying in the world of Super-characters as Supergirl will be the Super-character in "Justice League of America" for the foreseeable future.  

Do you have any other projects coming up? 

JR: I'm developing a couple of things. One of them, if you're a fan of my work, you'll be a big fan of what I'll be doing, and the other thing is something that I'm a huge fan of and DC has been kind enough to allow me to develop it turn out to be something we get out later in the year. It will all get announced in San Diego, I imagine.  

SG: As someone who knows what he's developing, both of those projects are going to kick ass.  

And Sterling, anything else for you beyond "Supergirl"? 

SG: There are, but unfortunately I can't say anything. If you like what I've done on "Supergirl," you'll be interested in what I do next. I'll tell you that.  

JR: I know what Sterling has planned for Supergirl after "War of the Supermen" and I think, as good as it has been so far, he and Jamal are going to make it 100 times better.  

"Supergirl" is the DC book of 2010 going into 2011.    

SG: Wow.  

Slap that quote on the next trade, Sterling.  

SG: He should write the introduction.  

JR: I'd be honored to do that.  

SG: All right. I'll tell everybody.  

I think we just did.

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