Talking Comics with Tim | Aaron Kuder on 'Action Comics'

Action Comics is quickly becoming a fan favorite since the creative team of writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder boarded the series. With the release last week of Action Comics #27, it seemed like a good time to interview Kuder and get him to explain how his experience as a budding electrician had an influence on Lana Lang's current career choice of electrical engineering.

Tim O'Shea: I know from reading the recent CBR interview with you and Greg Pak that he is writing the book plot-first and as a result he thinks it really boosts the collaborative dynamics between you two. Can you speak about the process from your perspective?

Aaron Kuder: Yeah, I am really, really loving this process. As previously discussed, Greg sends me a well-defined plot, and in that he covers the major movements, character moods, concepts, etc. of the story. So when I get the plot, I have a lot of freedom, artistically.

I am curious about the process of bringing Lana Lang into the New 52 universe and how your background as an electrician might have been an influence on her choice of profession?

So yeah, I’m particularly proud of this part of our story. As you mentioned, before I got into comic books, I was a budding electrician. Around the time that I made my “break” into comics, I was close to getting my journeyman’s card (which is basically between junior electrician and big-boy electrician).

One of the half-baked plans I had before breaking into comics was to use my journeyman’s card as a way to travel the world. So there’s this cool thing that happens in the electrical world: When someone comes up with a new way to deliver an energy source to people, they have to test it out first. With all of the interests in alternative-energy sources right now, there is a need for new forms of delivering alternative energy to people. [And] when one needs to test a new delivery system of energy, it’s easier to do so in a country or area that doesn’t have an electrical grid, as it were. That way, if you have a problem with your new delivery system, you know that it’s not connected to the old delivery system. Anyway, blah blah blah …

I wanted to hook up with a group that was installing new electrical systems around the world, thereby doing a little something to help the world, while also getting to travel it.

Fast forward to the first conversation I had with Greg. We were discussing how to bring Lana Lang into the present-day New 52; he already had the idea of having her be a world-traveling adventurer of some sort, the idea of what kind of adventurer was still up in the air. I suggested an electrician, told him about my half-baked plans, and then at some point between that discussion and the final script, Lana went from an electrician to an electrical engineer. (I don’t know where she found the time to go to school, though.)

Action Comics affords you the opportunity to design some new characters. Can you discuss some of the designs? In particular, how challenging was it to settle on the look for the Ghost Soldier?

DC has been absolutely great about letting me design new characters, and redesign old characters. On my first gig with them for Legion Lost #8, I got to design a whole bunch of new villains, the new evil Earth 2 Superman, the new Doomsday -- like it or not -- is mine, of course, Parasite, etc.

The most challenging part about designing Ghost Soldier is that there were so many directions we could have gone in. Unfortunately, I can’t go into much more because of spoilers.

What is it about drawing monsters that you clearly relish?

Again, this touches upon my love for design. Everybody has an idea in their mind about what a monster looks like. So, I really love the challenge of getting to make them stop and go, “Oooh, creepy!” But beyond the wow factor, designing creatures allows me to explore my love for nature. In some ways, I think I’m not really designing new creatures, but rather taking aspects of animals, plants, minerals, etc. in our world and smashing them together in a Dr. Moreau/National Geographic/Dali/Mary Shelley-brand blender (for my morning smoothie).

Currently, I’m drawing these creatures that are used for transportation in Action #28, and I would call them a jellyfish/swan/ostrich/snail combo. Can’t wait to show you!

In Issue 27, you got to draw the underground world. Did that require any research?

Oh, sure. I’ll look at caves and rock formations. I’ll look at the architecture of ancient civilizations that would make their homes in rock and then try to push it into a new direction. I’ll take inspiration from Aztec and Mayan cultures to a degree, but no more than I would hit up inspiration from Middle-earth.

Were you intimidated at all when you first learned you would be drawing Superman?

For a minute, of course! But, you can’t let that slow you down, you just have to use it as fuel to push yourself in new ways. The biggest challenge with Superman is not just trying to show him in a way we haven’t seen, but also in a way that’s unique to the story. And in my opinion, by doing that, drawing the best Superman that I can draw, and representing the best story that I can, I hope to be able to pay homage to all the greats that have come before me.

What is it about getting to draw the adventures of Clark Kent (and Superman, of course) that you enjoy the most?

Something I haven’t been able to draw yet that I look forward to is Clark popping open his shirt for “The Big S Moment.” To date, I haven’t had the chance to draw Clark in Action, but I look forward to it.

As for Supes, I really loved drawing him in this Action run, particularly because the way that Greg and I are using him in the story allows us to have these beautifully humane moments. We’ve been able to weave into, what would normally be a pulse-pounding action scene, said moments that show Superman’s “cuter” side. Smiles and smirks abound. I find these scenes to be awesome because they help to break down the iconic stereotype of Superman. They allow us to see Superman as Clark, the good ol’ boy from Kansas, dressed up in a cape almost playing the superhero instead of the Man of Steel which allows us to empathize more with him as a character.

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