On the final day of Comic-Con International 2013, DC Comics brought some of the New 52's foremost Superman creative talents to discuss the Man of Steel's place going into the third year of the publishing initiative. The panel included group editor Eddie Berganza, "Superman Unchained" artist Jim Lee, "Superman" scribe Scott Lobdell, "Supergirl" writer Michael Alan Nelson, "Superman Unchained" writer Scott Snyder and more.
After panelist introductions, moderator John Cunningham launched things with "Superman Unchained," which Snyder and Lee were happy to discuss.
"Thank you guys so much for being so supportive," said Snyder, who noted he was nervous about doing a Superman story. "It's a story that I want to be something that challenges Superman deeply. It's going to ramp up in a huge way in issue #3. This is really the issue where Superman gets owned, for one thing. We went through all these different ways. ... Jim is just so great about taking the things in the script and making them more expressive and widescreen and articulating the ideas in ways -- I'm not as good a visual storyteller. I see them and they're transformed into things that are exponentially better than I was hoping for." Snyder went on to mention that Superman will get attacked both physically (taking a punch that rockets him across Utah) and also emotionally. General Lane says Superman needs the love of the public, while the new antagonist has been the real Superman, taking on real problems and making the world a safer place.
"The idea is we wanted to do a story that takes Superman to task in every way," said Snyder. "It challenges him in ways that he really has to question himself. ... I want to tear them apart in the same way I do with Batman so you can see them rise to that challenge."
In October, DC plans to launch "Superman/Wonder Woman," and Berganza described it as "epic, punching -- Superman and Wonder Woman try to have dates, but things that are dangerous and kill always get in the way." Written by Charles Soule, there is a little bit of romance in the book, but it's mostly an action book. The villain in the book makes "a major return" for his first appearance in the New 52.
Scott Lobdell, who recently took on "Action Comics," said he was excited about treating the book almost like a bi-weekly, so that every two weeks, readers get stories that set up Superman in the New 52. "In the old days, there was a lot of competition between [Jim] and Todd -- you'd send each other your stuff and there would always be this one-upmanship," said Lobdell. "That's what I love about seeing all this Superman art -- it helps us all to step on the gas with this character."
The writer is hoping to bring an element of fun back to Superman in the New 52. "The thing I like about this story is it takes place in space, but until now, a lot of the Superman stories we've seen have been really serious," said Lobdell. "There's also a fun element to Superman that helps us able to tell stories that are more fun. Hector Hammond is one of those characters that straddles the line between being horrific and quirky."
Lobdell is also the scribe on "Superman," and emphasized that in terms of momentum, "there's just so much happening in 'Superman' that we can't cram it in to 20 pages a month." Lobdell said that the 25th issue will be a game-changer. "By the time we get to the 25th issues, the Superman universe won't be the same from 25 on," he said. "It's something so major that we're bringing the three of them [Superman, Supergirl & Superboy] back together."
The current "Superman" arc sets up a psionic character as a "Superman-level-threat." "Around issue #23 in the middle of a fight when Hector has the best of her, we suddenly see how horrific this character really is and how her grip on Metropolis has lasted since Brainiac went out of his way to take Metropolis," said Lobdell. "When he did, we discover there's a lot more damage he did to the city than we've ever known."
Lobdell also crafted a Lois Lane story for the "Superman Annual" #2 issue. "It's her 75th anniversary, too," said Lobdell.
"Action Comics Annual" #2 deals with the consequences of "He'l on Earth," which saw He'l transported to Krypton's past, which is the "worst place you could have dropped him." The Annual will kick off the "Return of Krypton" story, which ends in "a staggeringly different way" than previous Krypton stories, according to Lobdell.
The Batman/Superman logo popped up onscreen to cheers, given the recent announcement of the new movie. The current thrust of Greg Pak's series sees a young Batman and Superman who are thrust into Earth 2 to fight their counterparts. "Greg Pak is doing some really cool stuff and this is just the beginning of some amazing things," said Berganza. "There's punching, but a lot of heart. That's what we like. Punching with heart."
Nelson's "Supergirl" was up next, and the writer said the current arc is more about Supergirl fighting her own past. "As she cuts the puppet strings manipulating her, she finds out she's not the only one being manipulated," he said. "She finds herself underfoot as two giants are battling each other." One of those giants is Cyborg Superman, and Supergirl will encounter the cyborg in "Supergirl" #22.
The final Superman-family title, "Superboy," has introduced the newest Psycho Pirate and ties in to the Psi War in "Superman." "We'll start discovering layers of what Kon's going through and how he's being used by others," he said. "One thing the Supers aren't good at dealing with are people attacking them psychically." Kon-El is unique in that he actually is able to tap into those psychic powers.
The first question of the Q&A period was a young fan who asked about the currently cancelled "Superman Family Adventures" and "Tiny Titans."
"I think Tiny Titans, we're keeping those trades in print," said Lee. "We generally do [kids' comics] through Cartoon Network. That said, we have some plans for this year and next year. And please share with us next year how we're doing."
The second question from the young lady was, "Does Superman ever smile?" As the applause died down, Lee said, "He does, he does. Only two issues have come out, but there are a lot of moments where he's a compassionate person, a passionate person. What I love what Scott's done is he's established all these great foils -- Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor -- it was fun drawing Lex Luthor drawing for the first time"
"I promise after he gets up from being destroyed, I'll have him smile," said Snyder. "What we want is for Superman -- he's a symbol of inspiration and hope. When he triumphs, you'll see him smile pretty big."
A question about why there weren't any female pencilers in June's creative teams on the New 52. "Historically, there have been fewer comic book creators that are female, but that has changed in recent years," said Lee. "It's great that it's much more inclusive. I think that percentage you're talking about will change as more people are getting into comics at earlier ages. There's no policy of trying to exclude people. The best part about comics is you're based on the work that you create."
"There are a couple books coming out soon from new female writers," said Snyder.
"I'm in the process of adding a female pencilers to one of the Super-books," said Berganza.
"In general, I think we could always do a better job. It's something we discuss and something we aspire to. We're always looking for new voices. It's a slow process of changing the talent pools that we use," said Lee.
The New 52 redesign of Superboy was the subject of the next question, and Lobdell explained why the uniform hadn't changed. "I think because that costume was the costume he wore when he was introduced into the world, he self-identifies with it," said Lobdell. "If you look at it specifically from his point of view, this is how he identifies himself."
Nelson and Snyder both had a background in horror comics before coming to the Superman family, and Nelson stated he's actually written quite a bit of different genres. "I always like the stories where there's that little dark twist or that darkness hovering underneath," Nelson said. "I think that darkness is interesting only when it has something to contrast against. I wrote a horror story where it was just this dirge of darkness from beginning to end. There's no dynamic to it. ... Even though I'm known for horror, it's not my go-to every single time."
Snyder said he thinks about it a lot and his kid is "turning into a super-villain," relating a story where he saw a picture his child did where a kitty cat was getting eaten by a giant squid. "My biggest fear was that he was going to be jock -- not that there's anything wrong with jocks," said Snyder. "He'd be an Ultimate Fighter and I'd be like, 'Why don't we write a poem?'" Snyder noted that good horror stories don't necessary need monsters, they just need something that you're terrified to see -- something he's trying to do with Superman. "Those are scary moments when you look in the mirror and you see something you don't like," said Snyder.
A question about "Batman/Superman" came up, and Berganza teased the upcoming developments. "What starts happening as the story goes on, you're going to find out that it's not all roses," said Berganza, saying the world actually didn't trust Superman. "What you'll find out is the world was stockpiling against Superman." Readers will find out that people have been stockpiling Kryptonite against Superman.
One fan had a question about the current events nature of DC Comics and comics stories that might arise due to events like Wikileaks and Edward Snowden.
"I'm sure there's great stories to be told about that," said Snyder. "It is fascinating and it's definitely something that's topical and interesting to me, but I'm loving this one right now."
"In 'Superman' #13 where Clark left the Daily Planet, it was about him making a decision and a statement that was reflective of real world change in the way that news is presented to us," said Lobdell.