Nearly 20 years ago, a massive monster of a supervillain tore through the DC Universe on his way to a showdown with the Man of Steel that would stop Superman cold and temporarily kill the beast known as Doomsday. This year, the publisher revives not just the villain but his path of destruction, with a few familiar guest stars standing in the way.
Beginning with January's "Steel" one-shot, DC's "Reign of Doomsday" event sees a newly-powered Doomsday working his way through the four Supermen who briefly replaced the Last Son of Krypton in the '90s. The hammer-swinging John Henry Irons fell first, and his survival-status remains unknown. Next up, Doomsday targets the Eradicator in today's release, "Outsiders" #37. In the weeks ahead, the Kryptonian Killer takes on Cyborg Superman in "Justice League of America" #55 and "Superman/Batman" Annual #5, Superboy in "Superboy" #6 and finally the real steel deal himself as Superman enters the fray in "Action Comics" #900.
Keeping up with the ongoing path of destruction, CBR News is checking in with some of the creative minds behind the event in REIGN OF THE DOOMSAYERS. Today we present Jeff Lemire, the writer of "Superboy."
Lemire, whose creator-owned titles "Essex County" and "Sweet Tooth" have been nominated for multiple Eisner Awards, now finds himself as a major player within the DCU, writing a new ongoing series starring Conner Kent for the publisher. Created by Karl Kesel and artist Tom Grummett, the current incarnation of Superboy made his debut in "Adventures of Superman" #500 after Doomsday killed Superman in 1992's "Superman" #75.
CBR News spoke with Lemire about Doomsday crashing smack dab into Smallville for April's "Superboy" #6, but first we asked him a few questions about "Superboy" #5, which features the first ever race between Superboy and Kid Flash.
CBR News: While your first work in the DCU was a series of co-features starring The Atom, for your first ongoing series assignment, you were able to launch "Superboy." Is writing the monthly adventures of Conner Kent everything that you expected?
Jeff Lemire: With the Atom stuff, especially with the early chapters, I was learning as I went, so there were definitely some growing pains there. I don't know if my voice really comes through as well as I would have hoped for in those early Atom chapters, but "Superboy," right from the first issue, is a book I'm really proud of. It really represents the kind of superhero stories that I like to tell. I think "Superboy" has a strong voice and a strong personality and that's what I wanted to bring to my first ongoing book set within the DCU.
You have another relative newcomer to DCU, Italian artist Pier Gallo, along for the ride, as well.
He's been great, and if anything, he just keeps getting better and better with each issue. It's really fun to see that happening. I think Pier has a really bright future with DC and American comics. I couldn't have asked for a better partner. He really gets what I'm trying to do, he really gets excited about it; he's passionate and very enthusiastic and he's really open to my input on his layouts and things like that, which is nice.
When this project was first announced, you said you wanted to layer "Superboy" with a greater mythos while telling important monthly chapters. In just four issues, you've introduced zombified Grant Wood-inspired farmers known as the Hollow Men, had a guest appearance by Poison Ivy, started a storyline featuring the time traveling Psionic Lad and introduced four or five new supporting characters based in Smallville. How do you balance introducing too much, too soon and possibly losing new readers with keeping "Superboy" multilayered, providing a big payoff for long-time readers of the series?
I don't think there is a danger of introducing too many characters, as long as they all serve a purpose, they all reflect that bigger story and add a piece to it. If you're just throwing a bunch of stuff in, it gets noisy and it's not going to be coherent or interesting. But so far, all of the new elements, I hope, are all sort of slowly adding to Smallville and all reflecting the different parts of Smallville that I'm trying to show. Like you said, there is a big story that is starting to, now in the fourth issue, fully come together and is revealing itself slowly. That is obviously going to continue throughout the rest of the year and I'm really excited about it. I'm writing "Superboy" #9 and #10 right now, and that's sort of when the climax to all that stuff starts happening. I can't wait for that to start coming out because I'm really happy with how it's coming.
Was I right in calling those eerie farmers the Hollow Men?
Maybe. [Laughs] Yes, they are called the Hollow Men, but that's all I want to say about them right now.
As you've layered the plotlines, you've also layered the genres you're playing with in "Superboy." You have a big, cosmic, Silver Age-style superhero story with Psionic Lad, but you also have this horror story brewing, not to mention "Superboy" is a funny book, as well. Is that how you like to write, or did the series grow this way organically?
The interesting thing to do with a book like "Superboy" is have some big, fun DC Silver Age-era wackiness and do it in a modern way but also contrast that with something darker. That's the fun part of all this and that's where the personality of the book sort of comes out, when those things start to overlap. If that's coming across to you, that's good, because that's exactly the kind of book I was trying to write.
Sticking with that big, Silver Age fun, in this week's issue, you get to bring fans the first ever race between Superboy and Kid Flash. Was that something you had planned for the series from the outset?
No, that was just one of those things where I was plotting out ideas loosely for the first 10 or so issues and [DC] felt we needed something catchy for the solicitations. I kind of wracked my brain for something and I don't know how I came up with the idea, but it seemed like a no-brainer when I did and I couldn't believe that it hadn't been done yet. It's just one of those big, flashy things that's great to slap on a cover. It's usually around the fifth issue where a new series starts to drop a bit, so we tried to have something there that will hopefully grab some new readers rather than have people start to drop the book.
The age old question is, who wins the race: Superman or The Flash? Can you handicap the Superboy/Kid Flash race for us?
No, I can't without telling you what happens. I don't think anyone will guess the answer, though.
Next month, the series ties into the larger "Reign of Doomsday" story. Doomsday's first go-round through the DCU was arguably one of the biggest arrivals in the history of comics, leading to the death of Superman. Did you follow that original storyline back in the day?
That was right around the time -- and this is going to sound terrible -- I really became disinterested with superhero comics. That's sort of when I stopped reading them and started reading more stuff like Vertigo, and then I sort of discovered independent and underground comics. So that era, which would have been early to mid-nineties, I guess, I never really had a strong affection or connection to. So the Doomsday stuff wasn't really something that I would have read. I knew what happened, but I wasn't a fan of it, so I had to go back and look at all of that stuff. But I know a lot of people reading comics today did read that book and it was a really big book back then.
It's also fun to touch on Superboy's origins because I hadn't done that much in the series. I sort of hit the ground running and showed where he's at now and hadn't really looked back at all on those early days. So it was probably a good thing to have that issue pop up, because it's always good to remind people where the character came from.
What is it like writing Doomsday? He's not the most charismatic guy, right? There's mostly grunting and throwing and punching and more grunting.
Exactly. It's one of those things where that issue could easily be pretty boring. It could be 20 pages of some big, mindless guy punching Superboy. And that's the last thing I wanted to do. Well, I guess that's not true. That's kind of what they wanted me to do, but I wanted to do it, hopefully, in a way that has some sort of emotional resonance and also ties into things that I've been trying to do with the character. So that was sort of the challenge for me, not writing something that was boring and mindless but something that has all the action but still echoes to something larger. It was a good exercise for me to have to try and do that.
You only have so many pages in an issue. Are you able to touch back on some of your other plot threads in "Superboy" #6?
Yes, all those other plot threads pop up in that issue. I think I found a way to tie that issue into the bigger story, as well. It's the kind of thing where you really want it to be accessible for people that haven't been reading the book yet, but have been reading the other "Reign of Doomsday" issues. You also want to reward your monthly fans, so I tried to walk that line and hopefully I was able to do so.
I guess that's the trade off with a tie-in issue. You lose some pages you would have otherwise invested in your own story, but you introduce what you are doing to new readers and hopefully, some of those readers will like what they see and come back for more.
Exactly. The story has to be accessible, but you also want to show off the other things that you're doing in such a way that is intriguing enough so people come back after the Doomsday stuff to see what happens to Superboy and the other characters in the book. It's an opportunity, really. Sometimes, people complain or give a bad rap to how mainstream superhero comics are editorially driven. People are always asking, "Is it hard to work within the DC Universe?" and "Do you have a lot of restraints on what you can do?" The truth of the matter is, when stuff like this pops up, I don't see it as, "Aw, crap. I have to do this Doomsday thing in the middle of my story." For me, I just decided to take it as an opportunity. If you're flexible and you roll with the punches, you can take it as an opportunity instead of something that's a hindrance. I decided to do that and have fun with it, and like you said, hopefully I can showcase what's interesting with the book and some people that are just jumping on to read the Doomsday story will stick around.
"Superboy" #5, written by Jeff Lemire and featuring art by Pier Gallo, is in stores now. "Superboy" #6, which ties into ‘Reign of Doomsday,' is scheduled to ship on April 13