This January, it’s a new beginning for the Man of Steel. That’s meant literally, as DC is relaunching the core Superman title with a new creative team — Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell — and a new mission statement, as Clark Kent reconnects with the important people in his life (look at the cover to the first issue above to see who we’re talking about) and looks to the future.
The new Superman series has just been announced here at New York Comic Con 2022, but Popverse has a few more details about what fans can expect from Metropolis in 2023, courtesy of the man who has all the answers: Joshua Williamson himself.
Popverse: What can you actually tell me about Superman? It feels like a book that’s entirely right for you.
Joshua Williamson: I’ve thought about Superman for years. Everything I've done at DC, I thought about Superman. I mean, Superman is DC Comics, right?
For a really long time, I had this notebook — it's my Daily Planet notebook, it literally says "Daily Planet" on it — and I would write notes in here. You know, like, 'oh, I have an idea for Superman,' or 'I want to do something with this villain,' or whatever, but there was a part of me that was never sure if I was ever gonna be able to do that. And then, a while ago — like, a long time ago — one of the editors called me and they're like, 'do you want do Superman?' And I was like, 'yes, but…!'
'…but I have other things to do, like this whole Dark Crisis thing.' [Laughs]
It was more, 'well, if we're doing it, these are the things that I would want to do.' Over time, we sort of started talking about it more and more, and then I started talking to the [other Superman writers] about it, talking to Tom Taylor, and Phillip Kennedy Johnson, and getting an understanding of what they were doing, what their plans were for the future, and was there a space for me in that. That was also part of it; I don't really want those creators that comes in here and is like, 'well, now, I'm in charge!' I've never been that person, and I don’t want to be that person.
In this case, it was like, 'alright, well, Tom is doing a great job with Jon Kent, and Phil was doing an amazing job with Action, and I think those things should continue.' So I got to meet with them, and talk with them, and call and text — you know, we have our chat and our Google Doc that we share and everything. We just started talking about more and more and there was a couple times I was like, I'm not sure this is going to happen, and then I just had this day, I just stayed up really late, and I figured it out. It just kind of clicked. I grabbed this notebook, and I went through and I just started adding all these notes. And all of a sudden, I had this huge Superman plan, this huge Superman idea. I pitched it to DC and then we were off to the races.
I’ve seen Jamal’s cover to issue 1, and it’s just amazing.
And that cover actually is, it's a cool Superman cover, but that's also a ton of teasers. It's like, 'this is gonna happen, this is gonna happen, this kind of tells you something, this is a mystery.' [Laughs]
It’s such a good cover. I love seeing what Jamal does with the characters.
Jamal has been amazing to work with, just such a thoughtful artist and creator. He really gets it. There's a scene in issue one, where — it sounds really silly, but it meant something to me personally — there's a scene where Clark and Lois are talking about what's been happening in their lives recently, not to get into spoilers, and they're on the roof of the Daily Planet. They're talking, and they go to kiss each other. He's wearing a baseball hat, and she takes the hat off, and they're kissing each other, and then all of a sudden, Jimmy Olsen bursts out onto the roof and is like, 'oh, my god, you guys are up, you saw it too,' and they see something dramatic. This thing is so subtle, but Jamal has Lois get kind of embarrassed that Jimmy basically walked in on them kissing that she put Clark’s hat on. When I saw that I was like 'oh, yes.' That’s a small version of what Jamal has brought and how much thoughtfulness and emotion and fun that they’re bringing to the book.
Can you tease what’s coming? I don’t mean in the sense of saying what the dramatic thing Lois, Clark, and Jimmy see, but more generally. What is Superman all about?
You know, there's a lot of stuff that's going to be coming. It's the first big launch post-Dark Crisis not just for me, but for DC Comics. We're doing this Action Comics #1050 special that sort of sets the table for all the books that we're doing — for the three [ongoing Superman] books, and for other stuff, without getting into too many spoilers — but there's some big moments in Action #1050 and then that goes out into Superman.
It was interesting when they approached me about it. I've been reading Superman comics for a really long time. I have all these like eras that I love, and basically, I realized that I've loved Superman this whole time. [Laughs] Of course, I went and I watched Superman: The Movie again. It was the first thing I did; I was watching all these clips with Christopher Reeve talking about playing Superman, and just thinking about how important he is as a character — not just for DC Comics, but how important Superman is on a global scale, what he means for us on a bigger scale.
Then I start thinking about what my Superman run is going to be like. In the past when I've worked on some projects, particularly The Flash, there was a part of me where, because I loved what Geoff Johns and Mark Waid did so much, that bled into my work a lot for the good and bad. With Superman, I thought, 'okay, I have to tune everyone out for a moment.' I need to just think about what I want to do with this character, and how am I going to do it differently, but stay true to the character. This is one of the most iconic characters in the world, and I didn't want to do anything that doesn't feel like Superman. I needed to find my way into that, and make sure it still felt like something that was me. And I figured it out.
I have moments where I ground myself, because I still have work to do; I still have to write the book [Laughs], plus I have other things I'm working on, there's still a lot for me at DC along with Superman. But then there are moments where I put myself in Clark Kent’s shoes, and just kind of look at the sky and just really think about who he is and the things he's gone through.
One of the biggest things is, and I'm not sure if this is controversial or not, to be honest with you… but I don't know if Superman should feel so burdened anymore. I don't think helping people shouldn't be a burden. I don't think it should be this thing that feels like torture for someone, or sad, you know? I think that Superman genuinely likes helping people, and I want to approach it that way: this is a person who wants to help people. It isn't just about saving lives, or doing something 'for humanity.' I really wanted to kind of navigate some of that, while at the same time having a lot of fun.
I started really looking at this from more of a pulp book perspective. I wanted this book to be like a pulp, fun, adventure book. I want to see Superman go out there, fight some supervillains, have some fun, but also say something about Superman.
The other piece that is incredibly important is Lex Luthor. I find Lex Luthor to be such a fascinating character — one of my favorite characters in all fiction, but also [one of] my favorite characters to write. I think the relationship between Clark and Lex is so, so fascinating. They're disappointing each other. Clark looks at Lex and in some ways Clark is, 'I feel like Lex is the only person I've ever let down, because if I had done these things differently maybe Lex would have been different.' And Lois is, 'no, Lex let Lex down.' [Laughs] That's the reality right? But Lex’s side is, 'oh my God, imagine what Superman could be like if he would do things my way.' You have this kind of balance between them.
You see on the cover, so this is not going to be a surprise, but Lex is actually in prison, and Clark… Clark is attuned to all these other people in his life. Like, he is a superhero and he keep tracks of those he loves. Like, he keeps track of Lois, he keeps track of Jon, he keeps track of the kids, he keep tracks of Bruce. You know he keeps track of Lex. And Lex knows. So just imagine a version of Lex shit talking Superman and knowing that he can hear him do it [Laughs].
Just to fuck with him.
Right? There's this interesting dynamic between the two of them that I wanted to really get into. For the last few years, we've had all these really big epic Superman stories, but a lot of the iconic Superman characters haven’t been used in them. I wanted to use not only Lex, but I wanted to use Parasite, I wanted to use Livewire. We're going to use these iconic supervillains, but, that all being said — and I'm gonna go back to the Flash thing — so much of this book is not about going backwards, is not about nostalgia. It is about moving forward. I'm going to use all these iconic villains, but we’re also going to introduce new, iconic villains.
I did want to ask: you do have all the classic parts. You've mentioned Lex and Lois and Jimmy, and they've all been somewhat out of the comics for a while or playing very small roles. But I think the most I've seen Lex recently, post-Year of the Villain, was in your Batman run.
When I was writing that, I knew we were doing this, so if you like that Lex, you're gonna like my Superman. But yeah, I wanted to go and grab all those pieces. That was part of it. That was actually part of the pitch that DC gave to me; they were like, 'listen, all these pieces are on the table,' and I was, 'oh, okay, well, I’ll take those pieces, but we're gonna level up in some ways, and we're going to introduce new stuff too.' Without getting too deep into some spoilers on actual story stuff, there's a lot of cool stuff coming. There's some new villains, there's some new allies coming.
I have a whole subplot with Jimmy Olsen that I am so excited about, and I think it is so much fun. I'm just gonna tell you what it is; I'm gonna give you like a little bit-- basically, Jimmy Olsen is dating a supervillain and doesn't know she's a supervillain. Clark and Lois, they've figured it out. They know. It's gonna be a whole thing.
I can tell you the names I have a bunch of working titles for the issues. One of them is 'Night of the Parasite.' One is called 'The Last Son of Earth,' one is called 'The Man of Yesterday.' One is called 'The Kryptonite Killer.'
They sound very pulpy, like you were saying. They sound fun.
When I was a kid — again, I don't want to talk too much about things from the past, but when I was a kid, my dad was a huge Doc Savage fan. I have a crazy collection of Doc Savage books, and it's why I feel like I'm the only person that realizes that Bane is actually like an evil version of Doc Savage, but that is a conversation for another day! With Superman, we have a lot of really big plans and the stuff I'm gonna be doing is really, really exciting and really fun. Lex plays an important part, as do Lois and Jimmy. Lois has some new cool stuff in her life that I don't want to spoil, because it kind of involves Action #1050 a little bit.
I love Lois. If you do Lois right, we’re going to be fine.
The stuff with Lois is really fun. She has one of my favorite lines of dialogue in issue one. I wanted the book to be fun, to be funny, but I wanted to be the iconic Superman that we all love. I wanted it to about him trying to help people and also fight supervillains.
That’s exactly what you want Superman to do, right?
Throughout all of New York Comic Con 2022, Popverse is going to be keeping tup with everything that happen, from panels and breaking news to interviews and the best cosplay on the show floor. We’ll be sharing everything as it happens — including exclusive livestreams from the biggest panels at the show — so let us keep you in the loop all weekend.
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