What’s old is new again, as fans were re-introduced to the pre-New 52 Superman as the one true Man of Steel in the post-Rebirth DC Universe. But adding a new dimension to his never-ending battle is his Clark’s young son Jon Kent, who is now growing into his powers. Oh, and Lex Luthor is now a super man in his own right. DC Comics has brought together Gene Yang, Pat Gleason, Dan Jurgens, Tyler Kirkham, Peter Tomasi, and moderator Hank Kanalz at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the goings-on around Metropolis and what’s coming next.
The panel kicked off by Gene Yang talking about “New Super-Man.” Jim Lee and Dan DiDio came up with the concept, “and when they brought it to me I said, hell no, I don’t want to do that,” Yang said, noting he did not have first-hand experience of living in China. But the character “started speaking to me” and he accepted the gig.
The book was originally called “The Super-Man,” but Yang noted that the Chinese language does not have “the.”
Kenan Kong’s name comes from Chinese words for “overcome” and “south,” Yang said. “Even though Shanghai is not in southern China, people in Beijing refer to folks who live in Shanghai as ‘southerners.'”
Dr. Omen is “a Chinese version of Amanda Waller,” who works for the Ministry of Self Reliance that gives Kenan his powers, Yang said.
“Superman is supposed to be about Truth, Justice, and the American Way — what does that mean in China?” Yang said. “That’s a cultural landmine.” But Yang will be searching for ways to have Kenan experience an arc, like Clark Kent or the monkey king epic (which inspired “Dragon Ball Z”), to embody Chinese-ness in the way Superman does for America.
Yang compared the Chinese versions of American superheroes to the country’s “state approved religions” in real life — “they found they couldn’t suppress religion, so they made state-sponsored versions.” For superheroes, “they were really into American superheroes, and since they couldn’t suppress them, they created state-approved versions.”
“New Super-Man” #4 will see Kenan fighting an analog to the Freedom Fighters, “a pro-democracy group of supervillains — yeah, we just went for it.”
Since Yang will have to leave the panel early, Kanalz took fan questions for him briefly. A woman said she enjoyed the first issue of “New Super-Man,” but “my only criticism is the size of the dumplings, they were a little too big.”
Asked about the Great Ten characters, Yang said, “August gGeneral in Iron shows up in #3.”
As Yang departed the stage, attention turned to Kirkham and Jurgens’ “Action Comics.” Kirkham noted that, though his design for Doomsday is based on Jurgens’ original, the character evolves, leading to a changing visual presence.
Jurgens compared the dual artists/double shipping situation to movies not being shot in order. “That means that, yes, sometimes you have to go back and make corrections” if certain elements don’t line up, as Kirkham confessed he had to do for the plaid on Clark Kent’s shirt.
Doomsday’s ability to hone in on Kryptonians will cause trouble for Super-family. “He’s located another Kryptonian on Earth,” Jurgens said, “and that is actually Jon.” The fight comes to the farm, placing Superman’s wife and son in danger.
Tomasi said he looked to “what everybody loves about Superman” to write the eponymous ongoing.
“Having Jon in the story is a great way to view Superman,” Gleason said. “It’s a way to have Superman come back and appear trustworthy.”
“We both really love writing the character based stuff,” Tomasi said of himself and Jurgens, who set up the family dynamic in the “Lois and Clark” miniseries that preceded “Rebirth.”
“One of the great things about having a book coming out twice a month, you can explore corners you might not be able to in a monthly book,” Jurgens said, as having “forty pages a month to play with” allows for more detours.
A fan asked what the Time Masters have been up to since “Convergence.” “It’s on my list of things to get to,” he said. “The good thing about two books a month is you can get through a lot of material really quick.”
Using Doomsday in Superman’s new circumstances “allows us to say new things” about who Superman is today, Jurgens said, since everyone knows the original story.
“There’s a lot of cool stuff coming up for Lois,” Tomasi said, particularly something in “Superman” #5.
“Without ‘Action Comics’ #1. we wouldn’t have the industry we have industry today,” Jurgens said, “and we know that because that’s where Superman debuted. But that’s also where Lois debuted, and I take that very seriously.” Both “Action” and “Superman” will examine what it means for a character in her unique situation to be a mother.
Kirkham noted that, as Jon watches Superman fight Doomsday on TV, “Lois knows how this could end.”
Tomasi said there are no plans at present to have Jon join the Teen Titans.
A fan’s perceptive questioning led the panelists to reveal that “Superwoman” #1 addresses the fates of the multiple Lois Lanes as well as Lana Lang.
Asked about Lex’s future as a hero or villain, Jurgens noted there’s a wealth of material to work with. “What’s fun about Lex is he is so complex, and I think there are many more angles to be explored,” Jurgens said. “He wants to do the right thing, but when the chips are down, will he follow through. We also know he’s a murderer, and I really feel you can’t atone for that until you stand up and say, I am a murderer.”
Asked about the complications inherent in the old-new Superman from a new reader standpoint. “You just have to let go sometimes and go along with it as a reader, get immersed in the story and trust the creators,” Tomasi said. “You can’t let it feed your reading all the time. … I’ve never been one to get too bogged down in continuity, I just let the current creative teams tell their story.”
On the topic of the restored Lois and Clark marriage, Jurgens noted that Lois and Superman had been connected since “Action” #1, but with the New 52, “not only were they not married, but they didn’t even have that connection.” When he wrote several issues early in the New 52 run, Jurgens said “I felt that absence, I think we all felt it.”
Will the Legion be showing up? Tomasi: “No comment.” Kanalz added that there have been hints in recent issues.
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