Beginning his run with #20, Jordan's inaugural issue saw the writer balancing both old threats and new as Doctor Psycho and H.I.V.E. emerged from the shadows to threaten the TK-powered clone. Combing through his first issue with CBR (as well as sharing exclusive pages for issue #21), Jordan spoke about his decision to use the previously introduced Psycho, his humor-infused approach to writing and why his Krypto has more in common with "Game Of Thrones" than "Action Comics!"
CBR News: In your first issue, you picked up a lot of ongoing threads from the previous creative team, from Doctor Psycho to Superboy trying to turn himself in for a robbery he committed early on in the title's run. How much did you want to balance new characters and a new threat in H.I.V.E. versus tying up the loose ends that had been left in the issues prior to yours?
Cover art by Ken Lashley
Justin Jordan: It's trying to find a balance; fundamentally, it's flat out not a number one [issue], so there's stuff that came before that needs to be addressed. The tricky part was trying to find the stuff that allows us to move on in a fairly organic way. For instance, the whole idea of Superboy giving the money back and trying to turn himself into the police is a fairly important evolution in Superboy's character. He is developing a different moral code -- an actual moral code compared to what he used to have. That felt like a good place to start. We needed to address that, because that's where we're going with the book; we're going to be examining, on a larger level, who Superboy is and why he does what he does. That gave us a good starting point. He's trying to turn himself into the police and he finds something more important than trying to punish himself for robbing banks.
It seems like Superboy's also developing a real snarky sense of sarcasm, at least in the case of talking to Doctor Psycho. [Laughter]
I'm trying to write him as a super-teenager, which he is, in a literal sense! When you're a teenager, you're experiencing all this stuff basically for the first time; you get your driver's license, that's a huge responsibility and you're experiencing that for the first time. You're trying to decide who you are versus who you've been told you are, which you don't necessarily think of in those terms, but that's what the whole teenage rebellion thing really is. That's where a lot of your adult personality starts to form. I thought it'd be interesting to examine that in somebody where all that's true in a more extreme way. Superboy is only a couple of months old at this point. He's got an education, he has knowledge installed in his brain, but he hasn't really experienced all this stuff. There's a difference between knowing something and going through it. So we're evolving that idea.
The snark is probably because that's just how I write characters -- I tend to snark a lot myself! [Laughs] But in Superboy's case, it's an appropriate thing because, for all that he doesn't know the world, he's still really confident. He thinks he knows a lot and he comments on a lot of stuff he really shouldn't be. I think that's part of the teen experience, kind of knowing everything.
Along those lines, you've got H.I.V.E. coming in, a group that was originally a Teen Titans antagonist. What does using H.I.V.E. and Psycho as possible bad guys bring out in Superboy?
Well, Doctor Psycho in particular is a good foil to Superboy because in many respects he is the complete opposite. He actually has a lot of experience and his world-weary cynicism is earned. He's had a rough few years, which we'll elaborate on in the next few issues as we'll see how Doctor Psycho got to where he is. At the same time, Superboy's tall, he's buff, he's handsome, he's young. Doctor Psycho is also fairly young, but aside from that he's short and scarred and ugly. He's got purely mental powers where Superpower's mental powers manifest physically. So they make good foils.
With H.I.V.E., I kind of wanted a background threat that nobody knew about that Superboy could pursue actively rather than waiting for them to come after him. He does wait to a certain extent with the Dreadnought and Psiphon incident, but after that, he's actively trying to thwart H.I.V.E. rather than waiting for them to do damage. The reason I'm being vague is there's a lot of difference between this version of H.I.V.E. and the old version of H.I.V.E., and I don't want to spoil those too soon. One of the ideas behind H.I.V.E. is, if you were an evil organization, it would be pretty interesting for you to target people who have the ability to mess with perceptions of reality and hide your existence. When they're targeting psis -- people with psionic and psychic powers -- they're basically targeting people who will allow them to both expand their power base and conceal it. H.I.V.E. is sort of an unknown entity, even though they've been lurking around for a bit, and that makes Superboy's job more difficult.
Superboy's TK really sets him apart not just from Psycho but also from Superman and Supergirl. How important are his powers when it comes to defining him as a character?
It's pretty fundamental to how the stories are told. It's probably not as huge a character thing as it is that he can use his powers differently. Flat out, he can do things Superman just can't. At the same time, Superman can fly into the sun, whereas Superboy's at a stage in his life where he's going to be screwed if he tries that trick! Superboy could theoretically use his TK to disassemble a car around somebody if they were trying to escape rather than lift it, or if he can refine his TK enough to affect molecules, there's nothing to stop him from turning water solid or heating up something. It gives you a wide range of powers that can be used differently, and that means how he approaches what he does in terms of super heroics needs to be approached differently. For one thing, and we'll see this in the issues coming up, his powers can be used a lot more subtly than super strength could be. He can act without being recognized, which can be both a benefit and a hindrance, depending.
One of the biggest revelations about Superboy's past is that we've learned is that Lois Lane is part of his clone parentage. Is this something you knew going in? Are you planning on playing with or addressing that at all?
I knew going into it what his actual origins were, I've known that for a while. As far as influencing the story, that's not a thread I'm planning on picking up for a while yet, just because I want to spend more time establishing who Superboy is now before I start looking into the threads of how he got there. I just don't think we're at that place in the story for what I have in mind.
We've also seen Krypto in your first issue. Grant Morrison brought him back in "Action Comics" and the Krypto/Superboy duo is kind of a standard pairing, albeit this take seems a lot grittier than the Silver Age-influenced versions. Are you trying to invoke that past in the New 52 present? Is he another foil for Superboy?
Yeah, pretty much! I like Krypto and I like this version of Krypto -- granted, I'm doing a lot to establish this version of Krypto, so I probably would like him. [Laughs] But I like animals, I'm a big animal fan, and a dog is a boy's best friend; that's not an opportunity to be missed, especially when they're both super-powered. He's partially inspired by the Dire Wolves in George R.R. Martin's "Game Of Thrones: Song Of Ice And Fire!" A lot of people have this idea of Krypto as this hokey Silver Age thing, and I don't think Krypto is necessarily hokey. I think if he's presented right, he's really cool, so my egotistical goal was to make Krypto cool!
So we've got the Superboy equivalent of Ghost running around with him?
Yes! [Laughter] It's also the fact that we want to play around with, and you'll see it in the next issue, this version of Krypto -- he's not mean but he is a giant wolf-dog-thing, so he is kind of scary! But Superboy thinks he's just about the greatest thing ever, and is kind of pleased how much he terrifies everyone else.
Since we're talking about the way characters look, let's touch on series artist R.B. Silva. Now Kenneth Rocafort and ChrissCross also contributed to your first issue -- after issue #20 is the art going to be entirely Silva, or are they helping out for the rest of this first arc?
It's going to be R.B. Silva, as far as I know and as far as I hope. Not that ChrissCross and Kenneth aren't awesome -- if you're going to have people helping out on an issue, those are the guys to get! But R.B.'s work with my scripts have been really good. We gel really well; I look at the pages and I'm like, "Damn, that's as good or better than what I had in my head!" Of course it's also incredibly pretty! [Laughs] So yeah, R.B. is on the book for the foreseeable future.
Its funny you bring that up, because R.B.'s version of the otherwise arrogant and cocky Superboy is so baby-faced and pretty! Is this something you two decided to deliberately play with?
[Laughs] It kind of relates, and we'll see this going in: He is a good-looking guy, Clark and Lois are attractive people, so it's not at all surprising they have a good-looking kid -- in as much as he's their kid. That's a genuine advantage in the world and is actually one of the things we're going to address. While he is kind of an outsider and he was raised in a fake version of our culture, which is a fairly simplified version -- and we'll get into the VR experience and how he got his memories -- he's still a really good looking guy. That's a really big advantage, especially when you're doing things that put you in the public eye. If you're a superhero and you're going to have media coverage on you, the fact that you're prettier than Justin Bieber and a teenager is going to factor in! The way R.B. and the other artists draw him is going to factor into that.
Actually, based on how he draws the other characters, the version of Doctor Psycho is probably different in the writing than if someone else had drawn him just because the visual portrayal in comics really influences the character version, for me at least.
Bringing it back to Psycho, while this was a character who was introduced before you came on, what's the approach you're taking in turning an old Wonder Woman villain into a Superboy character? Why use him?
It's mainly his contrast with Superboy that makes him interesting, and a lot of that is based on going back and looking at how he was presented in "Wonder Woman." One of the things that was consistent in his "Wonder Woman" portrayal was the way he looked. His self-professed ugliness affected how he looked at the world and why he did the things he did. That's something I thought would be interesting to bring in contrast with Superboy, because he's got all those advantages: he's smart, he's good looking, he's got superpowers, he's friends with the Teen Titans. It's interesting to contrast him with a villain -- or maybe not a villain, depending -- who doesn't have any of that. Psycho doesn't. He's pretty much homeless, or close to it. He's not good looking, he doesn't have a family, he doesn't have friends. He's had really horrible stuff happen to him that will explain those scars, and he has a different power set. So once Doctor Psycho was in play and I was looking into whether we wanted him in the book moving forward, I thought he made such a good foil it was worth having him there. Quite frankly, playing them off each other has been fun, so it's been great!
Looking at the solicits, there's mention of the Teen Titans being involved in the title. Bunker also has psionic powers which would seem to put him on H.I.V.E.'s radar. How involved will his teammates be in Superboy's life and book?
At least initially, my preference is to keep the Teen Titans off the page, to a certain extent. Obviously Bunker is Superboy's best friend, and frankly, I like writing Bunker. He's a fun character, so he's in there, but I'm trying to keep this more Superboy doing his own thing, separate from the Teen Titans. I think we need to spend some time with Superboy more or less on his own to really get into the character and his personality -- who he is and how he's different from Superman, and how he's going to continue to be different from Superman. We need to really establish him before we start bouncing him off the Teen Titans, which is not to say we won't see members or the whole team show up in the future. But I would prefer it not be as crossover-y right now.