James Robinson looked like he'd just given away where the Christmas presents were hidden.
The British writer of DC Comics' "Superman" series was at Seattle's Emerald City ComiCon to discuss the next year of title, but by this point the conversation had drifted far afield. Fans at the "Superman Goes To War" Sunday panel were asking about scripting in general, and how far ahead a story arc is plotted.
"I have two years worth of 'Justice League' worked out now," Robinson told the crowd. "Like, I know the relationship Supergirl and Batman are gonna have, and I know the relationship of Starman and Jade and ... oooh. SHIT!"
"So, anyway," said a grim Ian Sattler, DC's senior story editor. "Next question."
Jade, the daughter of Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott and a onetime girlfriend of Kyle Rayner, died in the "Infinite Crisis" event, and was resurrected as a Black Lantern -- then destroyed again -- during "Blackest Night." So perhaps that was more plot revelation than DC might have authorized. But it wasn't the first slipup during Emerald City, Sattler said, admitting that a few other DC scoops had already made their way into the infostream from the Seattle con.
"War of the Supermen," the new "Superman" mini-arc, helps cap off the events of "New Krypton," the inter-title crossover by Robinson, Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates in which 100,000 Kryptonians were turned loose on Earth. The super-speed "War" storyline will take place in just 100 minutes of narrative time, launching with issue zero on May 1 for Free Comic Book Day. The weekly title will conclude at the end of May.
"I got all kinds of giddy about it, because it's exactly what we want out of this story," said Sattler, presiding over a panel with Robinson, Johns, Gates, writers Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann and artist Pete Woods. "It's insane action and huge stuff, and these guys are pulling out all the stops."
But the chatter among peers quickly slipped into farther corners of the Superman and DC mythos, and into a friendly exchange with the fans.
The audience question that spurred the most philosophical discussion went to the creators' hearts: What personally drew each of them to the character of Superman?
"To me, he is the ultimate immigrant to America," Robinson said. "He's sort of an encapsulation of what America's supposed to be. You come to America, work hard, do good, and America rewards you -- in this case, by making you the ultimate superhero." Robinson cosigned the longstanding notion that while Batman is always Batman, Superman is really the good-hearted Clark Kent pretending to be Superman.
"I like that he fights for what's right, and he's an honest and inspiring superhero," Gates said.
"You know that whether he's superpowered or he's just a guy in the street, he's going to make sure that you are okay," Woods said. "He would put his life on the line for anybody, for any reason. That's what makes him a hero."
"The very first comic I ever bought with my own money was an issue of 'Superman,' in the hospital gift shop while my grandfather was dying," Trautmann said. "So there's clearly an issue there, in that Superman is the hero who's going to make everything okay. Whenever I have the honor to write that character, a lot of that is kind of reminding me who that 6-year-old was back then, and that's always been very special to me."
"At the very base level, we all want to try and do the right thing," Johns said. "I actually find him the easiest character that I write—"
"And that's the difference between us right there," Rucka interjected.
"... because you always know what he's gonna want to do," Johns continued. "His motivations are very clear and selfless. People say he's hard to write because he doesn't have angst, he doesn't have this, he doesn't have that. But I just think that at a very base level, wanting to help people and wanting to do good is very inspiring to me."
"I don't think Superman himself is hard to write," Rucka said. "I think it's hard to write stories that are worthy of him, if that makes sense. When Superman is put in front of you, you want to serve him well. You don't want to ever write story that makes -- in any way, shape or form -- Superman look any less than what he is. And what he is is magnificent. I think the beauty of Superman is that he is all of our nobility. We all want to be that good and genuine."
Rucka circled back to that theme when the panel was queried on why the sales of Superman titles consistently fall outside the top 10. He blames irony.
"I've heard comics creator say this: 'I can't believe in Superman because nobody would be that good.' It's like, God, what a sad life you must live. This whole practiced, disconnected, ironic, I'm-so-savvy — God, man, what part of you died when you turned 12?"
Among the tidbits the creators were authorized to drop:
- The heroic Mon-El will vanish from current-day continuity after Adventure Comics No. 11, due in May. Scripting legend Paul Levitz will take over the character for the new "Legion of Super-Heroes," set in the 31st century. "We're basically giving him all of those things he created back," Robinson said.
- Supergirl and Dick Grayson will grow closer as members of the Justice League, Robinson said. "They're gonna become their own version of the World's Finest."
- J. Michael Straczynski may be taking on "Superman" starting in September, but "Action Comics" will remain a title to watch. "It's gonna be a pretty important book to follow, just for the DC Universe," Johns said. "Can't say much yet."
- As the new chief creative officer under DC's February restructuring, Johns is keeping a firm hand on the 2011 Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds, as well as other DC properties in the film and TV media. "You'll see the stuff start to represent the comics a lot more than it has been in the past," Johns promised.
- And the Metallo drawn by artist Gary Frank for "Superman: Secret Origin" No. 5 was modeled after Kevin Bacon, according to Johns.