While the epic tale Paul Cornell and Pete Woods have been telling with Lex Luthor comes to a close in "Action Comics" #900 today, the 96-page landmark issue from DC Comics also boasts a cover by all-star artist David Finch and an impressive roster of guest writers including "Superman: The Movie" director, Richard Donner, "The Dark Knight" screenwriter David Goyer and the co-creator of "Lost," Damon Lindelof.
In this candid interview with CBR News, Lindelof said he feels as though he crashed a party at the Fortress of Solitude -- sharing a byline with the esteemed creators involved in "Action Comics" #900 -- but as a lifelong fan of the Man of the Steel, he wasn't about to turn down the once in a lifetime opportunity.
Lindelof, no doubt best known as the co-creator of "Lost" with J.J. Abrams, also served as a producer and writer on this summer's Jon Favreau-directed "Cowboys & Aliens" and the upcoming "Star Trek" sequel, scheduled for June 29, 2012. No stranger to comics, Lindelof previously wrote "Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk" for Marvel Comics and while he admits the much-delayed miniseries may have frustrated some fans, no one was more upset about the impeded process than him.
Lindelof also shared which book he's reading these days and if you follow him on Twitter, you may be surprised.
CBR News: You've stated in the past your belief that "Watchmen" is the greatest piece of popular literature ever produced. The antiheroes of the classic Alan Moore miniseries are the complete opposite of Superman. So what are your thoughts on the Man of Steel?
Damon Lindelof: Superman was very much on my radar from a very early age. I think the original [Richard] Donner movie was the entry point for me. Although I was certainly aware of the comic books because my dad was a huge comic collector.
I was also Superman for Halloween several years running and I have photographic evidence of such but I just loved the fact that he had this ability to fly and had super strength. All that stuff was just very appealing to me as a kid.
Being such a fan of the Donner movie, is it surreal to be sharing a byline with him for "Action Comics" #900?
It's supercool. I read the entire run he and Geoff Johns did for "Action Comics" and I thought that was just supercool. That movie and "Superman II," obviously, were hugely impactful on me as a kid and definitely formed a lot of my sensibilities that I wanted to write and make myself. The coolest thing about "Action" #900 for me is all the enormously talented writers involved and all the enormously talented artists, as well. It's going to be a really good looking book I think. I feel like I'm the one that crashed the party but I'll get in there however I can.
How did you come to be involved in "Action Comics" #900?
They [DC Comics] came to me. I was always sort of a Marvel guy, but there are certain DC characters I have always loved and books I've sort of kept up with. I've been talking back and forth with the guys over at DC, who are all awesome guys, about when and if I should ever do something to keep them in mind.
Obviously, my last foray into comic book writing, it took me three-and-a-half years to write six issues, which is just embarrassing, so I made a commitment to myself and everyone else that I would not do it again unless I could really deliver in a very timely fashion. So when they came to me and said, "Do you want to write an eight or a 10-page story for 'Action Comics' #900?" that sounded like the perfect commitment to make. I couldn't possibly be late. [Laughs]
What can you tell us about your story?
It's 10 pages. All I can say is that one of the really interesting things to me about Superman is his origin story. It's been told so many different times and so many different ways over the years, and I just thought it would be cool to look at it from just a slightly different angle. That was the idea for the story.
Can you tell us that angle?
Sure. I wanted to do something a little bit off the beaten path. I said, "Wouldn't it be cool to do a 10-page story where you're not exactly sure where you are in time or what's going on," which is sort of the thing I love most about storytelling. So you really don't get to Superman until the last panel. I asked myself, "Could you tell a Superman story without Superman in it?" Whether I succeeded or not is yet to be determined, but that's what I tried to do.
Doomsday, the ubervillain responsible for the death of Superman, is back bigger and badder than ever in the DCU and plays a featured role in "Action Comics" #900. Is he in your story and looking back, did you follow the original 'Death of Superman' storyline back in the day?
He's not in my story. I stayed away from Doomsday and left him to the pros. Of course, I followed that story back in the day. I still have my black bagged "Superman" #75 somewhere in my comic box. I followed that entire story through "Action Comics," "Man of Steel," all the Superman titles and "Justice League of America." I have specific memories of that storyline. I remember Guy Gardner getting beat up very, very badly and Blue Beetle being put into a coma.
My first memory of Doomsday is that he's sort of punching his way out from underground or something like that and he finally gets above ground and this little bird lands in his hand and he just crushes it. [Laughs] I wasn't a kid anymore, I was probably 16 or 17 when Superman died or maybe a little bit older but I remember seeing Doomsday and thinking, "Oh, that's cool."
You're no stranger to writing villains, especially after unleashing the Man in Black on the "survivors" of Oceanic Flight 815. Do you think it would be tricky writing Doomsday, a force of destruction who goes around crushing canaries for no apparent reason versus a more cerebral supervillain like Lex Luthor or Brainiac?
It's certainly more fun to write for somebody who can talk and has motivation. [Laughs] The entire rich history between Superman and Lex was the foundation for the first six or seven seasons of "Smallville." That's just an example of just how much there is. You can always come up with a super-powered bad guy who Superman can exchange blows with, but the idea of getting into the psychological roots of it all and understanding why it is that Lex hates this guy so much starts to speak to the more meta idea behind Superman that are just more fun to write than the fiftieth iteration of Superman flying into space and flying back down and pummeling some guy.
You teamed with J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to re-imagine Star Trek for a new generation of fans. Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and your co-writer on "Action Comics" #900, David Goyer are about to do the same for Superman. Nolan and Goyer certainly had great success with Batman, but are there elements of Superman and his mythos that, as a fan, you hope this creative team doesn't mess around with?
I couldn't feel that the character is in better hands. Look what Nolan did for Batman. And I think that Zack Snyder is a really, really interesting director, who obviously has the same kind of vernacular as all of us comic book geeks. He's one of the few people that I have met who is more religious about "Watchmen" than I am. Whatever you want to say about that movie, I for one was a fan and I really respect what it took for that guy to get that very loyal version of the movie made. I would also say that the degree of difficulty in a Superman movie is a lot higher than people think it is. Therefore, I just admire those guys for taking it on. As you mentioned earlier, what do you want to make it about?
But at the same time, I do think the audience is ready for a sort of re-telling of the origin story with a fresh contemporary twist on it. It's been 30-some years since Donner's "Superman" came out. If they can re-boot Spidey, they can certainly re-boot Superman.
If you were casting Superman, would you pick Matthew Fox, Josh Holloway or Jorge Garcia? Sawyer's glasses were pretty Clark Kent-like.
Yes, I think a southern, kind of bad ass Superman is a very, very interesting way to go. [Laughs] But just in terms of the sheer look, Matthew is probably the guy who would play it best. Matthew Fox does this "I hate myself" thing very, very well, this very sort of emotionally tormented thing. That's one of the things that's always been very interesting to me about Superman. Writers over the years have taken it on, not necessarily with Superman, but with other characters.Kurt Busiek does it and Mark Waid is doing it with "Irredeemable," but basically this idea of when you are Superman, what is the burden of the responsibilities on you? In terms of when are you supposed to intervene? When are you not supposed to intervene? What does it feel like when the populace at large is ungrateful or mistrustful? Or how are you expected to have any degree of personal life when anytime you are on a date, you hear somebody screaming because there is an earthquake halfway around the world? All that stuff is very interesting stuff, so I would get with the more emotional self-hating Superman and I can't imagine anybody better than Matthew to play that character.
What about Lex Luthor: Michael Emerson or Terry O'Quinn?
Well, Terry already has the bald head. I don't know what Michael would like with a shaved head.
You've said Stephen King's "The Stand," "The Prisoner" and "Twin Peaks" all influenced your work on "Lost." Did Superman influence any characterizations or plotlines during the show's six years?
That's a great question and probably Lostpedia would have the answer. "Seinfeld," obviously, had innumerable Superman references. I think there was one in every episode. But I remember talking a lot about Superman, especially when we were doing the time travel stuff, in terms of basically saying, "We can't ever just fly around the Earth really fast and pretend like it never happened, because that erases the stakes." But I don't think a character ever said it on the show.
Before we let you go, I wanted to ask you about your next big project, "Cowboys & Aliens."
Genre fans are always saying, "We're sick and tired of re-boots, of comic book adaptations, of sequels -- let's do something new." And although "Cowboys & Aliens" is based on a graphic novel, it's a lot more and a lot different from that. Whether or not people are going to love it or not is always a crapshoot, but I feel like that idea of doing something a little bit off the beaten path as a big, fun summer movie was cool to me. And obviously Jon Favreau has proven himself.
And now you're knee deep in the script and story for "Star Trek 2," correct?
Yes. We're in the midst of writing the script and we're looking forward to making it.
I have to ask, you had a tweet-off recently with George R. R. Martin about the conclusions -- or lack thereof -- of "Lost" and his "A Song of Fire and Ice" series. Did you get a chance to watch the premiere of "Game of Thrones"?
No, I started reading the first book and I want to finish reading it before I watch the series because you only get one opportunity to read the book before you see the movie or the TV show and I'm really, really enjoying the book. I'm probably going to finish it within the next week or two and then I'll be able to jump on the series and catch up right around midway through its run.
When can we expect to see you back in television with a new series?
I definitely want to come back to TV at some point, but it's just been a little bit less than a year since "Lost" ended, so I've spent this year doing movies. I'm not sure that I can do both at the same time. When I come back to TV, that will be when I'm ready to step away from the movie job for a while, so maybe in another year or so.
And what about more comic book work?
I would love to. One of the things I would love to do is just a straight-up graphic novel so I can just finish the entire thing in one fell swoop, and people don't have to deal with the frustration of waiting for the next issue to come out. I'm not entirely sure if that's going to be an original thing or playing in one of the existing universes, but it's definitely something I have on my bucket list.
DC Comics' "Action Comics" #900, featuring Lindelof's story, is in stores today