At DC Comics "Superman Unchained" panel, part of San Diego’s Comic-Con International, writer Scott Snyder joined artist and DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee, artist Dustin Nguyen, inker Scott Williams and colorist Alex Sinclair to speak about the New 52 title and answer fan questions.
The panel began as Moderator and SVP of Sales at DC Bob Wayne brought the creative team out to thunderous applause. Bringing the cover to issue #1 up on the big screen, Snyder laughed, “It was really scary moving from Gotham to Metropolis!”
Explaining that he wanted the story to challenge Superman physically and emotionally, Snyder continued,“We really want to tear him apart...so we wanted a cover for this one that looks heroic and has that huge, epic quality, but at the same time he’s struggling with something."
“I’m really, really proud of what’s coming up too," the writer added.
Showing pages of the script, Lee told the audience that the idea began at San Diego Comic-Con last year. The audience then bust into applause for inker and Lee’s long-time colleague Williams.
“He’s been a longer partner to me than any of my two wives,” Lee joked as the room cracked up. Sinclair was also one of Lee’s hires over at Wildstorm who came over to work on Lee's DC work.
As for backup artist Nguyen, the artist laughed as Lee teased him, “He wanted to contractually obligate himself to one page, but we pushed the bastard to two pages a month!"
Speaking about inking Lee’s work, Williams said he wanted to change up the look of the inking for “Superman Unchained” and move away from full bleeds -- the artwork going out to the edges on every page.
“The rest of the story and the pencil pages, let’s keep that a little more confined in a traditional scale,” Williams said.
Showing an example of a full bleed cover with colors, Sinclair chimed in that like “Hush,” which both he and Williams worked on, he played around with adding texture to the foreground and different combinations of coloring methods. This included digital, which the art team tried to use more sparingly.
“You’re constantly fighting using ciphers that used to signify certain effects [in photoshop],” Lee added.
Displaying an intricately penciled double-page spread of Nagasaki from issue #1 by Lee, he explained that he put bars in the background in order to help move the readers’ eyes from left to right. Snyder added that Lee drew Snyder’s wife, who just passed her medical board test, into the issue.
“He drew her in, she’s a doctor..She’s like, 'listen Lois,'” Snyder laughed.
“And she kept showing up,” Lee joked.
“I just keep writing her in!” Snyder laughed.
Lee also told the audience that Snyder loaded his script with reference pictures, such as images of the atomic bomb. “He does all my Google reference for me,” Lee laughed again.
Speaking about the decision to put in a pullout poster, Lee said they wanted something that could only work with the print edition, though the physical reality of printing those posters and inserting them into the comic proved far harder than Lee originally thought.
“All those posters are hand-inserted into those comics, and I want to thank Scott and Alex for helping me out,” Lee joked.
“People thought you were being serious and yelled at me on Twitter,” Snyder said as the room cracked up. “They were like, ‘You didn’t use enough glue on mine!’”
Looking at an un-colored and un-inked image of Superman from issue #1, Lee admitted that while he puts in tons of lines in his pencils, when he inks himself, “That’s all black. I don’t do any of that!”
The panelists then played a time-compressed video of Williams inking, taking a forty-three minute process and turning it into a minute-long clip.
“Change that, I don’t like that!” Lee joked to Williams as the video played.
After watched for another 30 seconds, Lee pointed out how Williams changed the line weight (how thick the lines are) and where he just colored things black.
“Wow, that’s a lot of lines," Lee said as the audience laughed again.
“And then I cover it in captions. I look at the meanest places to put them in,” Snyder joked as the room cracked up and applauded the end of the video.
Lee explained that in the poster they had to move the lettering around as they drew it over four quadrants, like two double-page spreads, and they had to mess with the way it fell in order to make sense when read.
But when it came to coloring it, “I just saw it as one big page,” Sinclair said, adding that the digital image size was nearly 2 gigs. “When I work with Jim I send to him and Scott first...and then he kicks back revisions,” Sinclair added.
Pointing to an uncolored page from issue #2 of the Batcave, Lee said that it was done close to the deadline and the art team broke it down in a similar way to one of Lee’s old “X-Men” comics he did back in the ‘90s. “We did that issue in nine days, pencils and inks...we literally cut up pages so we could all work on it at the same time,” Lee said. “This reminded me of that time.”
Lee then took off for another engagement, apologizing to the audience and praising his collaborators before he left. Nguyen took the microphone next, pointing to his un-inked and un-colored images from issue #2. The artist said he’d often call Snyder to see what the writer was going for, adding he inked his own work for the most part.
“There’s only so much pencils can do and I don’t do a lot of hatching,” Nguyen said, adding he did black gutters to contrast with Lee’s white gutters and to mimic the after-credits scenes from a move.
“Hey, let’s give you guys some spoilers,” Snyder said as the audience cheered. He then showed the cover for issue #3 which showed Superman fighting a new, blue/gray villain: Wraith.
“Here’s what the story is about basically...not only does [Superman] get owned physically, he gets punched against the state of Utah. They did a Google map image of Utah and you see him as a streak,” Snyder laughed.
Explaining that in 1938 a group of scientists sent out a mathematical formula pleading for help from the stars, Wraith, “basically lands with a more complicated version of that...he’s basically Superman if Superman does what he might want to do but doesn’t do,” Snyder says.
Snyder explained that General Lane accuses Superman being a coward because he doesn’t take out warlords or change the world as he needs the praise and adulation of an audience calling him a hero before he does anything.
But with the new character, “Not only has this guy been here longer and is solar-powered...he’s not a straight up villain, he’s Superman’s nightmare, he’s the guy doing what Superman wants to do but doesn’t,” Snyder said.
Snyder also clarified that Lois Lane will be the third biggest character in the book. “She’s the third protagonist in the book,” Snyder said.
Talking about General Lane specifically, Snyder said that in issue #3 readers will see the things the military man has prepared to fight Superman, especially since the US cannot count Superman will always be on their side -- letting them bomb and fight who they want, for instance.
“We’re not pulling any punches...Lex has a big part in it too, next issue he has a really big sequence with Jimmy Olsen,” Snyder said, adding, “We really wanted to do something that builds on the classic Superman character: Lex, Lois, Jimmy, Lana, but at the same time make it modern...what’s coming is the best stuff.”
“I think I just found out more stuff about this book in the last fifteen minutes than I did talking to him,” Wayne said as the audience laughed, ending the panel to whistles and thunderous applause.