Wizard World LA, Day 2: A Look at Superman, Beyond the Man of Tomorrow

Saturday at Wizard World Los Angeles Eddie Berganza, Superman Group Editor, started off the "Superman: Beyond the Man of Tomorrow" which took a look at the immediate future of the Superman titles, with a quick introduction of creators who joined him on the dais. Among the Superman scribes were Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Jeph Loeb, Karl Kerschl, Mark Verheiden, and a late arriving but nattily dressed Grant Morrison.

Without much fanfare, Berganza asked Greg Rucka to speak about his plans for "Adventures of Superman." First up, Rucka said, was the unmasking of Ruin, the villain currently making troubles for the Man of Steel. This unmasking would serve to increase complications in Superman's life, rather than alleviate them. Also mentioned were more big fights, as if anything else could be expected of a Superman title. Lois will finally learn who shot her; the only hint given at this point was that it is a she. That discovery will lead into other plots and plans across the DC Universe. The names of Lex Luthor and the Parasite were also floated, but nothing more than that was said.

Karl Kerschl spoke up at that point, mentioning how glad he was to be returning to the Superman universe. He said he was finally getting his shot at actually drawing Superman in a Superman book for a change, instead of dealing anyone and everyone besides the Man of Tomorrow.

Jeph Loeb chimed in next, talking about "Superman/Batman." The current plans include the finishing up of the Carlos Pacheco drawn story arc and tying up the "Absolute Power" storyline. In answer to many fans' questions, this isn't an imaginary story; "Absolute Power" will create big ripples across the DCU for some time to come. The Ian Churchill one shot, focusing on Supergirl, follows the end of "Absolute Power." This will set up the launch of the new "Supergirl" book later on this year. Jeph Loeb's final storyline will feature Superman and Batman coming into conflict with a government sponsored, "Marvel-ous" superteam. Many long-standing questions (like, who was the mysterious Superman in "Superman/Batman" #2, questions about Lex Luthor, and others) will be answered by issue #25, Loeb's last.

Eddie Berganza introduced Mark Verheiden next as the man who has the pleasure and difficult task of taking over "Superman" when Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee's run ends. No stranger to Superman because of his work on "Smallville," Verheiden, along with artist Ed Benes, will explore The Man Of Steel's powers and his place in the DC Universe. Verheiden hopes to return a sense of wonder and awe to Superman as well as exploring his alienness on planet Earth. On the villain front, a retooled and pumped up Black Rock (an obscure 70s villain who could use television and radio waves to power a handheld black stone which enabled him to perform Green Lantern-esque feats) is coming soon. And fans can look forward to the return of Brainiac as well. Verheiden concluded by praising the art of Ed Benes, saying he draws great looking women, but this book will see him tackling the fellas for a change. Gail Simone chimed in, saying Benes draws hot guys also.

That comment served as a segue for Simone to speak about her run on "Action Comics," with art from John Byrne. She promised a mix of old and new in terms of villains. Their first issue will feature Dr. Polaris on the run from similarly powered new villainness Repulse. Her other plans include making Lois truly worthy of being with Superman and going back to her reporting roots.

Next up was the mysteriously charming Grant Morrison, speaking on "All Star Superman", his new book with artist Frank Quitely. According to him, he's doing an everyman's Superman, a book that just about anyone can read, so the non fans can get it as well as the long timers. In his story, Clark and Lois aren't married and Clark was Superboy. The plan is to go back to a Silver Age kind of fun and weirdness Superman used to have. The relationship between Clark and Lois was the classic battle of the sexes blown up to mythic proportions. Early on in "All Star," Clark will reveal his identity to Lois who will not believe it for a moment and will spend the better part of the issue trying to prove Clark is lying. Grant mentioned Quitely in passing, saying he's finished three pages so far, but is gearing up to the task (a quiet laughter ran across the room at this comment). In more serious tones, Morrison equated Quitely's work on "All Star" to Neal Adams. He finally said the fans should treat "All Star" the same way he was, as the folk tales of Superman, the stories told about Superman centuries from now. A final tease was some interplay between Morrison and Berganza concerning "All Star Superman's" take on the Bizarros. It seems the Bizarros will be more a disease infecting people a la George Romero zombies. The gleaming smile on Grant's face really said it all at this point.

Berganza continued, mentioning Judd Winick and Ian Churchill's three-part Superman versus Captain Marvel story, coming in April.

At this point, Greg Rucka and Jeph Loeb started bantering about "DC Countdown," the upcoming crossover which plans to change many things in the DC Universe. Loeb kept pumping up and pimping the fact the book will feature 80 pages of story and art, by such people as Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Ed Benes, and Phil Jimenez, all for for $1. Almost as if he couldn't wait the ten days for "Countdown" to come out, Loeb said, "I'm excited. I may just leave right now!"

Once the pimp session died down, the floor was opened up to questions and answers.

When asked if John Byrne had any ideas for "Action," Gail Simone answered that while he does have them (mostly about certain scenes may not work), she does everything writing wise.

Grant Morrison reaffirmed "All Star Superman" as a 12 issue limited series, saying Frank Quitely would explode if the story was longer than that. But he would like to do more, maybe another 8 issues, or for the rest of his life if possible. Either way was fine with him.

Jeph Loeb, answering a question about Supergirl's choice of residence, said Themyscira was the best option, given the others were living with her 29 year old, male cousin or bunking up in the Fortress of Solitude with Krypto who hates her. Initial plans for the "Supergirl" book are a meeting with Power Girl in #1 which helps to clarify their relationship. Then in the following order, Supergirl will meet the Teen Titans, The Outsiders, and The JLA. Loeb said Supergirl as a book is a big roller coaster ride on the surface and the coming of age and development of a young girl story under the surface. To him, Supergirl isn't quite sure what her role in the DCU is and what exactly does the big red 'S' mean to her, not yet.

Grant Morrison elaborated on the appearance of Clark as Superboy, saying that's planned for "All Star Superman" #5. With coaxing from Berganza, Morrison hinted the Legion of Super-Heroes may be in the issue as well.

When asked if Superman would cross over into other titles he writes, Greg Rucka started to speak, held a quick confab with Berganza, and then simply said yes. Rucka attempted a football analogy to explain crossing between Superman and his other books, but fumbled it. The best he could offer was to stay tuned until July, when all would be revealed.

A question about the upcoming Bryan Singer directed Superman film was asked. The only one on the panel to have actually read the script was Karl Kerschl, but all of the panel were excited about the movie. With Greg Rucka being the one exception. Which earned him a scolding from Jeph Loeb for being a downer.

Morrison fielded another question about All Star Superman's place in the DC Universe. For him, this book is a new take on Superman, which will cover and use a spectrum of pre and post-Crisis concepts.

When asked if Supergirl was more powerful than Superman, Jeph Loeb deftly handled the question by first staying mum. When he answered, it was to point out that Supergirl does not have Superman's view of their powers. An answer which wasn't a yes but wasn't a no. A follow-up question about this Supergirl's background led Loeb to say this new book would spend time setting its ground rules first and foremost. That he has no plans to deal with anything from Peter David's run of "Supergirl." He made a Patty Duke Show reference (identical twin cousins!) in regards to his and David's Supergirls, but reaffirmed that this is a new character.

There were many different answers to a question about a possible return of Team Superman. Greg Rucka said he has big plans for Superboy in Teen Titans, with a big reveal scheduled for "Teen Titans" #24; Loeb mentioned the cover featuring Superboy with a shaved head and an 'L' carved on top of the 'S.' Eddie Berganza mentioned the recently completed Superman summit, saying there are big plans in place for both Superman and Superboy. Mark Verheiden plans to spend time focusing on Superman and Superboy bonding with the Kents, with his eye towards adding some "Smallville" flavor to the Kent family. From his point of view, Superman's relationship with his adoptive parents is complicated and worth exploring, particularly when you add Superboy into the mix.

Greg Rucka was asked how does he work with the supporting cast without dealing with Superman. He will handle with the issues concerning Lana and Lois and other cast members. He hopes to do right by Lana, given her treatment in recent years.

At this point, Eddie Berganza mentioned that new supporting cast members will be showing up in all the Superman books. He used that as a segue to explain the connection between the various books. At first he asked if the crowd were concerned about this, to which he received no response. He kept fishing until Rucka asked, in Johnny Carson audience fashion, how connected are the Superman books, and saved him. Berganza confirmed the main Superman titles would be separate, except for upcoming crossover storylines. "All Star Superman" and "Superman/Batman" are separate, period.

An audience member wondered if a change in costume was coming for Superboy. Rucka said no, pointing out how Superboy would probably pass on wearing tights again, that the t-shirt and jeans look is cool and fits his personality.

Berganza mentioned that Eclipso would be the villain in the Superman versus Captain Marvel issues, which will usher in changes and new ripples in the DCU.

Greg Rucka said there were no plans to create a "Gotham Central" type book for Superman. According to him, there are enough characters in the supporting cast to do similar stories in the Superman books proper, bring new viewpoints into the mix.

Jeph Loeb, in response to a question about Supermanesque characters coming from other comic companies, said he plans on handling that issue where it belongs, in "Superman/Batman." That his plans for the book will lead into showing exactly how all the knockoffs of Superman fit in the grand scheme of things. When opened up to the entire panel, all of the participants agreed with Loeb's feelings, pointing out that Superman is too iconic to really be duplicated. For example, Loeb wondered out loud why JMS is doing "Supreme Power," why not either do new characters or do the JLA proper? Greg Rucka wondered why is JMS taking a piss on the JLA with "Supreme Power," as if the real toys weren't available to him and wasn't happy about it. Karl Kerschl mentioned that Majestic fits this class of character, that he is similar to but isn't Superman. Superman is bigger than the imitations, is pure and true, Kerschl continued.

The entire panel was asked if there were things they would like to do with Superman, but couldn't for editorial or corporate reasons. The unanimous feeling of the panelists was, even if offered the chance to do something radically different with Superman, they wouldn't. That there's something about Superman, something inherent to the character, that keeps them true to his legacy and myth. Morrison agreed with this assessment, saying "Superman is realer than we are." Rucka pointed out that writing Superman, for him, is hard, because his character keeps Rucka true, from going places were Superman wouldn't go. Morrison again said, "Superman elevates his writers," relating the Man of Steel with Jesus and the Buddha; Rucka agreed. Mark Verheiden said, "Superman is a generally ernest character." Jeph Loeb concluded this question by saying that writing Superman, or even Clark Kent, is a big moment for any writer.

The inevitable question about the Internet came up, allowing Greg Rucka a chance to vent. To him, going onto the Internet regularly, going through message boards, is the worst thing a writer could do. That a writer has to write his or her own stories, ignoring the Web and its participants. As far as he is concerned, the Internet fans are a portion of the audience, not the whole audience. And that a writer should never give everyone what they want or ask for.

Gail Simone had a different view, given her origins on the Internet, including this very Web site. She likes being able to talk with the fans about comics, especially since she lives in a small town. She doesn't let the Internet fans drive her writing. Simone views the Internet as an online comics convention.

Rucka chimed back in mentioning the Internet fans' lack of civility.

Jeph Loeb picked up on that thread, adding he found the attitudes on the Web to be a bit harsh and agreeing with Rucka. Loeb wondered if the anonymity allows for bad behavior and silly opinions. Mark Verheiden remarked that he loves the Internet, which earned him a few laughs from the crowd.

A final question asked about the bottle city of Kandor, wondering if it was destroyed along with the Fortress of Solitude. Eddie Berganza fielded that question, saying a new Fortress was being built, but unless a good Kandor story comes along, there were no plans for the city in a bottle yet.

With that, the panel was ended and the fans and creators alike flew off into the future, to prepare for the wonderful Superman stories to come from DC Comics.

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