Chris Roberson knows he's a lucky man. He's writing a creator-owned series for Vertigo Comics ("iZombie"), as well as a spinoff of "Fables" for the DC Comics imprint ("Cinderella: Fables Are Forever") and he's also working with legendary comic creator Stan Lee on a new title for BOOM! Studios ("Starborn").
But the biggest news to date for the rising star came in DC's announcement last month that Roberson would be finishing J. Michael Straczynski's run on "Superman," beginning with February's #708.
Roberson told CBR News that even though he's working from Straczynski's outline for the "Grounded" arc, there's a lot of room for improvisation along the way where he'll able to put his background as a science fiction writer to good use.
CBR News: First off, congratulations on the new gig. How did it come about?
Chris Roberson: Back in September, I was contacted by the editors on the Superman titles, Matt Idelson and Wil Moss. They'd read and liked my work on "iZombie" for Vertigo, and wanted to know if I was interested in doing a fill-in for "Superman/Batman." As someone who grew up reading "World's Finest" and "DC Comics Presents," I was over the moon. When they told me I could use the "DC One Million" versions of the characters like I wanted, I was over the moon.
A few weeks after I turned in the first of the two scripts I'm writing for "Superman/Batman," Matt and Wil called back and asked me if I was interested in "Superman." Consummate professional that I am, I managed not to just scream, "Yes!" over and over again. And now I'm writing "Superman."
Are you a long-time fan of the Man of Steel? If so, what do you love about Superman?
Superman has always been my favorite superhero, for as long as I can remember. I had a Superman costume I wore for Halloween one year when I was six or so, and I wore it for months – all of the Thanksgiving and Christmas photos from that year show me still wearing it. I must have owned a dozen sets of Superman Underoos over the years, and used to wear them under my clothes when I went to school, just in case.
I think I love two things most about Superman: the mythos surrounding him, and the character himself. When [Jerry] Siegel and [Joe] Shuster created the character back in the 1930s, they managed right out of the gate to create the perfect superhero. He's the archetype, the mold from which all others were cast. But what's even better about the character is that there is so much room in the concept for interpretation, so much semantic space in him to contain an endless variety of meanings. He's the ultimate immigrant, but he's also a demigod in the classical Greek sense, and the definition of the self-made man, and on, and on. Plus, he can fly.
But as much as I love the character, I've always been obsessed with the mythos surrounding him. Siegel and Shuster laid the groundwork, and over the years an endless parade of talented writers, artists, filmmakers and more have elaborated on it. I have a particular fondness for the Mort Weisenger run, which introduced the Bottle City of Kandor, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Krypto, Supergirl, the Phantom Zone and on and on. But if pressed, my absolute favorite era was probably the Bronze Age under Julius Schwartz's direction. In particular, the stories of Elliot S! Maggin.
What was your introduction to the character? The Christopher Reeve movies? Super Friends?
I honestly can't say when I first was introduced to Superman. As far as I'm concerned, he's always been around. But I went from being a fan to being a super-fan when I started reading a lot of Silver Age reprints in the late seventies, starting with a mass-market paperback I bought at a school book fair when I was eight. When "Superman: The Movie" hit theaters, I was already one of the converted.
Do you have to swallow your pride when you write Superman or do you feel you need to puff out your chest and say, "I can do this, no problem?"
I didn't hesitate a second, but I am well aware of the responsibility that's fallen in my lap. Writing the character of Superman in the "Superman/Batman" title was one thing, but this is the actual "Superman" title that's been running continuously under one name or another since 1939. Long after I'm dead, the handful of issues that I will have written will still be around. I try not to dwell on it too much, and instead just keep my head down and try to write the kind of Superman story that I'd like to read.
Have you had a chance to talk to JMS about the story he had planned, or are you working from his story notes?
When I signed onto the book, they sent me JMS's outline for the remainder of the "Grounded" storyline. It spells out the end point of the storyline, but there's a lot of room for improvisation along the way.
Your prose writing has been predominantly science fiction over the years, but you're picking up from a story that JMS started that is literally "grounded" on Earth as Superman walks across America. Will you get a chance to go intergalactic with the character during your run?
Just because Superman is walking across America doesn't mean he can't take a side-trip or two along the way. I don't know that he'll end up in another galaxy, but rest assured, I've been able to put my background as a science fiction writer to good use.
Doomsday is coming back to the DCU in the spring. Will the Kryptonian superkiller be playing a role in "Superman?"
No, I'm afraid Doomsday doesn't raise his bony head in this story, which isn't to say that there aren't a few surprise guests lined up.
Superman hasn't been to Austin, Texas yet on his walk across America. Are you going to have him make a pit stop in your neck of the woods?
Superman's route across America had already been mapped out by the time I came onboard, so, sadly, a trip to Texas isn't in the cards this time out. Maybe next time.
What else can you share with us about what's to come for Superman during this current arc?
Wonder Woman in Nebraska. The Flash in Colorado. Bruce Wayne in Utah. Jimmy Olsen in Las Vegas and he's on the run from the Gorilla Mob. And did I mention the Superman Squad?
Once the "Grounded" storyline is complete, is it the plan for you to stay on as the writer of "Superman?"
That's up to The Powers That Be at DC. At the moment, I'm just happy to be writing this storyline.
I know you have "iZombie" and a second "Cinderella" miniseries coming from Vertigo. Can you give us updates on those projects and anything else you have cooking?
The second arc of "iZombie" has just started, and all of the characters and storylines we set up in the first arc are beginning to collide. I'm just starting the scripts for the third arc, where things get really crazy. I'm working on the third issue of" Cinderella: Fables Are Forever" this week, and it's starting to come together nicely.
Other than those, I've also been working on a series with Stan Lee for BOOM! Studios, called "Starborn." So I get to write my own book, play around with the "Fables" universe, write the ongoing adventures of the first and greatest superhero ever and collaborate with Stan Lee. Seriously, I'm the luckiest kid in comics.
Chris Roberson joins "Superman" artist Eddy Barrows and cover artist John Cassaday with February's issue #708