Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr. did the unthinkable last month in the pages of DC Comics’ “Superman” #43 when Lois Lane revealed Clark Kent’s secret identity to the world. In today’s “Superman” #44, Yang and Romita, Jr. take the tiniest of steps in showing where Clark and Lois’ relationship goes from here while also delivering a story that shows what Superman sans secret identity has become to both his friends and his foes.
This issue also marks the final issue for Romita, Jr. as the living legend is moving to a yet-to-be-announced new project, presumed to be with DC Comics. CBR News connected with Yang to discuss the impact he believes his collaboration with Romita, Jr. will have on his career and the Eisner Award-winning writer also shared his thoughts on the new regular artist joining him on “Superman”: Howard Porter.
Yang also revealed the next arc of “Superman,” titled “Justice,” will leap forward within DC continuity and shift back in step with the timeline of fellow Man of Steel titles “Action Comics,” “Batman/Superman” and “Superman/Wonder Woman.” And while the writer refused to clarify the identity of the villain featured in the final pages of “Superman” #44, Yang confirmed Hordr Root — whom he described an “evil Mark Zuckerberg” — is connected to (and maybe even is) a classic DC Comics’ character.
CBR News: Now that the “truth” is out there, everyone from the Royal Flush Gang to Livewire is out to wreak havoc in Superman’s life. Clark obviously didn’t agree with Lois’ decision to out him as Superman, but is reconciliation a possibility for Lois and Clark somewhere down the line?
Gene Yang: I think that Lois will always be important in Clark’s life. In pretty much every iteration of Superman, regardless of the universe, the reality or the era, Lois and Clark will always be important to each other. How long it will take to reconcile here? How it will play out? You’ll have to read the comic.
There is a panel when Livewire says to his cronies, “Superman really is just a dweeb called Clark Kent.” You can almost see him kicking sand in Clark’s face like those classic Charles Atlas ads — but it’s 2015. Isn’t it time to reassess Clark? He’s hardly a dweeb even if he wasn’t Superman. He’s tall, dark and handsome. Super smart; a great reporter; a better friend. What’s not to love?
Obviously, one of the parts of Clark’s disguise is that he portrays himself as something very different than what Superman is. But you’re right. When Superman was first created in the 1930s, the idea of what a successful male was a little bit more limited. Nowadays, we have a lot of different examples of what it means to be a successful man. You can absolutely be a very successful, very powerful dweeb. I feel like half of the Silicon Valley is run by dweebs nowadays. And beyond that, I think regardless of how successful Clark Kent is, his enemies will always see him in a certain way. From Livewire’s view, Clark Kent will always be a nobody — at least compared to Superman.
But we may be seeing less of Clark Kent as Superman delivers what Lois calls an “eye-for-an-eye” warning in this issue via satellite to all of his enemies. Are we going to see a different Superman moving forward?
There is a theory that the reason why Superman is good is because his strength allows him to be good. If you were super-strong and were basically the most powerful being on the planet, it would be easy to be good because nothing can actually threaten you. But since he’s been de-powered, we’re going to test that a little bit. And that’s the driver in the next story arc. We’re going to see what makes Superman good. Is it his strength or is it something else?
This issue featured another big change for Clark as he was fired by Perry White from Daily Planet after the chief and some of Clark’s co-workers were attacked following Lois revealing his secret identity. Are we finally going to see Clark choose Superman as his full-time job?
Well, right now, he’s being forced to be Superman full-time. He no longer has a secret identity so he has doesn’t really have a way of getting away from it. His face is what people now associate with Superman. The other books have already done this. “Superman” #41-44 has been playing behind the other three Superman books and the other Superman books have already shown Superman’s new reality where he is Superman full-time.
This is a bit of a housekeeping question, but will the next arc of “Superman” fast forward a bit and shift back in line with “Action Comics,” “Batman/Superman” and “Superman/Wonder Woman”?
Yes, the next arc is called “Justice” and everything line up. “Superman” will line up with the other books.
After Superman releases his video in “Superman” #44, the story cuts away to a character that I thought was Lex Luthor but now I’m not sure as he asks Yurei if she likes his new node. So it may be Hordr_Root, who may be Lex or someone else in disguise. Is it Lex? Hordr? My other two guesses are Alexander Luthor, Jr. and, based on solicitations for the upcoming “Superman Annual” #3, Vandal Savage. I’m guessing you’re not going to tell us, but I have to ask.
[Laughs] That’s why we want you to read the book. That’s why we threw that in there, to keep you guessing. I will say that Hordr is tied into a character with a much longer legacy.
I love Hordr as your villain. Obviously Lex tests Superman intellectually and there are others in his past, but most of the time the Man of Steel battles heavyweights like Doomsday, Parasite and Bizarro. Does a villain like Hordr, who controls information as oppposed to super-strength or god-like powers, allow for a different kind of Superman story?
Absolutely. We wanted to explore the notion of a secret identity, which is core to who Superman is. Superman established the superhero genre, and because he had a secret identity almost every superhero out there has a secret identity. He is the one that made it a convention within the superhero genre. We wanted to see if that notion would stand in modern times in an age when information flows freely around the world. We wanted to explore whether the idea of a secret identity was even viable anymore. And Hordr, like I said, definitely ties into a character with a much longer history within the DC Universe, but what he is supposed to embody is the very modern idea of information. Nowadays, it is just very hard to contain information. It is very hard to keep secrets. We thought of Hordr like an evil Mark Zuckerberg.
Today’s “Superman” #44 also marks your final issue with John Romita, Jr. How would you sum up your collaboration with the living legend?
It was a thrill of a lifetime to work with John Romita, Jr. When I was in high school, I would go to local comic book conventions and I used to line up to get his autograph, so now to work with him on the very first superhero ever, it was amazing. I learned a lot working with him. He’s the master of action and choreographing fight scenes. And he’s also a master of portraying deep emotion. John Romita, at his best, can handle both the action pieces and the drama — the really intense conversation. That’s something that I hope to be able to take to my other comics, as well. In a lot of ways, it was like getting to study with the master.
And what about your new artist, a fan-favorite in his own right, Howard Porter?
I think like most people, I became aware of Howard’s work during his “JLA” run with Grant Morrison. I’ve spoken with him a few times on the phone already and he is super gentle but on the page, he has this really intense dynamism. And I am really looking forward to readers seeing that on the page. He is really good at character designs, too. He did a lot of new characters for that “JLA” run. He designed a new Hourman, and he did a whole bunch of character designs for “Justice League 3000.” We’re going to give him a chance to design some more characters in this next arc. In “Justice,” we want to explore Superman as modern mythology. That whole eye-for-an-eye thing from “Superman” #44 is really going to be explored too. We are going to look at Superman’s strength versus his inherent goodness and his good heart and see what the relationship between those two things are.
“Superman” #44 by Gene Yang and John Romita, Jr. is on sale now.
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