The panels surrounding DC Comics impending "New 52" relaunch of comics during Comic-Con International 2011 in San Diego have been crowded and sometimes contentious affairs. Fans have lined up for answers as to the big and small changes hitting the DC Universe line, and on Friday afternoon, it was the Man of Steel's time in the spotlight at DC's official Superman panel. Group Editor Matt Idelson joined writers Grant Morrison and J. Michael Straczynski to look inside Clark Kent's world.
Moderator John Cunnigham of DC's Marketing division introduced the panel saying, "It's Friday...if you're not in pain, you're not at Comic-Con." Incoming "Superboy" writer Scott Lobdell also joined the panel along with "Supergirl" co-writer Mike Johnson.
September's "Action Comics" #1 was up first as Morrison explained "This is Superman five years before the current continuity" adding that he wanted to explore what makes people care about Superman, which was apparantly that he wore his underpants outside his pants. "People go crazy when they think you're going to change everything, but this is about how Superman got his costume and why he got it...the whole idea of being a 17 year old guy whose mom sews your costume [is a bit ridiculous.]" The book explores the realism of what a young man in Superman's position would be. "'All-Star' was Superman at the end of his life, but this Superman is young and brash and more take-charge...we want to see this guy fight on the streets for the common man."
Idelson added that "'Superman' takes place in the present...he's been around for five years, but how that works will take a lot of people by surprise." Clark Kent in the book will not be the much beloved, Pulitzer-winning journalist fans may expect. Idelson described him as kind of a lonely guy finding his place in the world at the hands of writer/artist George Perez.
Art was shown from "Superman: Earth One" Volume 2. Straczynski said the first volume was on the New York Times' best seller list for 27 weeks. At that point, DC called him up and said, "Get your ass on the second one!" The second book focuses on Clark Kent getting into a life in Metropolis – including the question of whether a powerful Kryptonian can have sex. When a neighbor comes on to Clark very hard, the story shifts to the hero in Smallville having "the talk" with his father. All this ties in to Superman's battle with the Parasite whose act of depowering the young Man of Steel opens up some interesting and embarrassing doors for the young hero. The panel showed select scenes from this sequence as drawn by artist Shane Davis.
Idelson spoke to the changes in the core Superman titles for Lois Lane who finds herself working with the TV and new media portion of a Daily Planet bought out by a massive media company. This twist in the workflow of the classic fictional paper introduces her new love interest which DC announced this week.
"Superboy" was up next with its writer saying, "In the story, Connor has been kidnapped...and he's being reverse engineered by this group called N.O.W.H.E.R.E." who screw things up thanks to his tactile telekenisis. Lobdell described the book as "pretty much the character you've always known" but physically taken apart. "Rather than retell his origin, we took it from another level of explaining his powers." A red-headed, glasses wearing love interest will work her way into the series as the Boy of Steel tries to put himself back together.
Johnson spoke to a mystery at the heart of "Supergirl" saying that the Maid of Might does not remember who she is or where she came from, so when she meets Superman for the first time, she does not instinctively trust him. "What we really want to drive home is feeling like we're with her every step of the way and that we're seeing everything as she's seeing it." The writer compared it to the whole relaunch of the New 52 as fans will see the DC Universe with fresh eyes.
Fan Q&A started with the hot topic of whether digital comics would replace the print model of serial stories. Morrison and JMS both spoke to the power of print while acknowledging the new formats digital comics can explore. JMS said he expected audio tracks with dialogue and music to soon become part of the standard digital comics reading experience.
When a reader asked if Superman would fight the New Gods, Morrison said, "You're asking me" before promising the characters in his forthcoming "Multiversity" series rather than in "Action Comics." Morrison also told the fan that as far as what Superman's armored suit will do for him, the books will "give you a reason why" it exists so it stands for something. Morrison argued that "capes should come back" in modern fashion. In "Action Comics" the cape will be Kal-El's "baby blanket" that he's had since he left his home planet as an infant.
The writer also promised that Steel would appear in "Action Comics" in a significant but different way when asked whether the "Death of Superman" story still counted in continuity. "We're not completely divorcing what's come before, but we're going to definitely have some changes to it," Mike Johnson said in terms of how past stories impact "Supergirl." "Everything that's come before matters...but it's going to be a fun mystery."
Also confirmed was the fact that Superman's time with the Legion of Super-Heroes when he was a teen will stay in tact, and that the Legion will appear in "Action" #1, however – like with so many things – the history won't be exactly what longtime readers expect. Lobdell piggybacked on that by saying that the first year of "Teen Titans" will feature Superboy as the main villain.
Idelson explained that the DC Editorial staff discussed making drastic changes in the July and August issues of the DC titles as a sort of "Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?" style of story, but ultimately, they felt it would cheat fans to shake things up in that continuity and then take it all away. The focus instead became making the New 52 titles a solid jumping on point.
Morrison repeated the comment he's made about ideas from "All-Star Superman" about a younger Man of Steel morphing into the "Action" relaunch. Idelson said when asked about a sense of whimsy in the books that a grim, serious Superman all the time would be condescending to the reader. Knowing who Superman is and what he can do compared to a hero like Batman is key to the franchise. "Superman will be what we want. This is kind of a 20th Century version," the writer promised, noting that the best elements that are unique to the hero would continue on.
Johnson added that Supergirl will be a fun character despite her mysteries. "We didn't want her to be this very serious character surrounded by a wacky supporting cast." He said a book without humor would be no good. JMS again cited the scene between a depowered Superman and his neighbor as one that will be built on wry sexual humor amidst the action story in "Earth One" Volume 2.
Morrison described Lex Luthor as an up and coming science whiz and businessman who's working with the government. "He's not a mad scientist," but there will be twists to the villain's presentation that cast him more like a hero. "All the old stories are still there...Superman's a pop culture myth who reflects the times we live in...you've got to understand that these characters are in constant flux," the writer added of the constant retelling of the origins that had wore out a fan. "You shouldn't be exhausted reading superhero comics, it's supposed to be fun."
The writer followed up a comment on Superman as the Bruce Springsteen of the DCU saying he's "Born to Fly."
While Lex Luthor will likely appear in the "Earth One" continuity, Morrison has no plans to incorporate characters like Lionel Luthor or Chloe Sullivan from "Smallville" into his "Action Comics" run. The writer said that he started working on the story for "Action" in March so the idea that the teams are far ahead for the September relaunch should hold true.
Lobdell has "about the first year" of "Superboy" planned out, and there's no plans for villains like Superboy Prime right now. While he's enjoying playing different versions of franchise characters like Red Hood and Red Robin in the DCU, he doesn't feel Superboy Prime adds too much to the Super corner of the universe. Idelson said that when they do other versions of the Superman family like Superboy and Supergirl need to feel significantly different than the Man of Steel. Johnson promised Supergirl and her powers would manifest in a way that "She's not just a Superman clone."
Since Morrison has plans for Steel in his first "Action" arc, he hopes that the interest in the character will remain high so a spinoff series could be possible in the future. He also promised a fan who wanted to see a tougher, more powerful Superman that "Superman's going to kick a lot more ass in this book."
Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent were described by Morrison as "two geeks together" and that the friendship between the pair will be pretty natural for the characters. The writer won't use a lot of the big, sci-fi villains of "All-Star" like Solaris in "Action." Instead, he's creating new villains to make this a very different book. He has plans for around 16 issues of the series so far and "I'll probably just keep going."
The status of Superdog Krypto came up, and while no one said the character was written out the book, Morrison won't be using the character. Eventually, Morrison may fold in Batman or other DC characters, but he'd rather do something more unexpected.
A fan who loved Superboy for his relationships with characters like Tim Drake and others asked whether those ideas would stand. Lobdell said that since he's sticking true to who the characters are, those relationships will build in "Teen Titans." He thinks that if readers view Superboy and Wonder Girl as the perfect couple, the way they are drawn together should be played up in a subtle way in the book.
The final question was about the core of Superman and how appropriate his adventures will be for younger readers. JMS said that "Earth One" will not be for children but more for adults while Morrison said "Action Comics" will be more of an all-ages take for everyone. "I'm not messing with Superman's sex life," he joked. "I always saw him as a proactive character...he's defined by what he doe and not what he thinks. That's why I think of him as: a guy who gets things done and does them fast without sticking around to hear thanks."