DC continued its presence during [email protected] weekend with the Truth, Justice, and A Better DC Universe: A New Future for The Man of Steel panel. Moderated by DC editor-in-chief Marie Javins, the Superman panel included writers Tom Taylor (Superman: Son of Kal-El), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Action Comics), and the creative team of the Superman and the Authority miniseries writer Grant Morrison and artist Mikel Janín.
Johnson started things off discussing how he aims to put Superman on a bigger stage as a part of not only the universe but the multiverse with the current “Warworld Rising” story arc. Perennial Superman villain Mongul naturally plays a major role and Johnson is carrying over elements previous Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis established with the character such as Mongul being a title that is usurped by a successor. The Mongul in the current storyline is a new Mongul that Superman hasn’t met yet and is much more threatening than this predecessors.
When Javins asked the question on most readers’ minds as to why Superman/Clark would be leaving Earth and leaving his son to take his place on Earth, Johnson kept the answer close to the vest, only suggesting that Superman will feel that he has no choice.
That perfectly segued into Taylor talking more about his upcoming Superman: Son of Kal-El book. Taylor will be exploring Jon Kent’s search for identity as the son of the greatest superhero and his role in the world. Fans of the Super Sons will be delighted to hear that Robin a.k.a Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne/Batman, will be part of the supporting cast in the book.
As much as Jon takes after his iconic father, Taylor also said he shares his mother Lois Lane’s fire and desire for truth. It’s these qualities that Jon inherited from his parents that feed into the premise of the book, “Truth, Justice, and a Better World.”
Returning to Johnson, the Man of Steel panel then turned to the involvement of The Authority. Johnson admitted he could take credit for the idea of including The Authority, but once again played coy regarding what’s to come, teasing that “things are coming to a head” and “there will come a point of critical mass where the status quo on Earth will be critically changed and things will not be able to continue the way they are.” It will be at that point where Taylor’s Superman: Son of Kal-El and Morrison’s Superman and the Authority take place.
That led to Javins to ask Morrison about their Superman and the Authority book: “What do those two things have to do with each other?” Morrison explained they’re taking a similar approach as when they took over Action Comics during The New 52, going back to the well of the original Superman as a radical superhero. “Imagine a midlife Superman, but what’s midlife?,” said Morrison. Now that he can trust his son to take over, Superman is now looking to make significant changes to the world that he couldn’t before, according to Morrison.
As to why Superman would choose to work with such a team, particularly Manchester Black who has historically despised the Man of Steel, Morrison also kept coy only saying that layers of reasons will be peeled back as the series progresses. While mainstay members Apollo and Midnighter are part of Superman’s new Authority team, Morrison looked through the DC Universe to find substitutes for the other members such as Natasha Irons/Steel in place of Engineer, Enchantress instead of The Doctor, and Lightray instead of Swift.
Artist Mikel Janín admitted being somewhat naive when he first started at DC on the Justice League Dark title during the New 52 launch over a decade ago. Now that he’s more experienced, Janín believes he has a better grasp as a comic creator, and said that designing a visually balanced team in terms of size and colors is critical for him.
As to the new design of Superman in the book, Janín took cues from the way artist Rags Morales depicted him in the aforementioned New 52 Action Comics book as well as the classic Kingdom Come Superman by Alex Ross for the shield emblem.
Taylor also teased a new look for Jon Kent in Son of Kal-El, designed by artist John Timms before Taylor came onto the book.
Lois Lane won’t be appearing much in the Warworld storyline in Action Comics, but will be playing an important role in the series down the line according to Johnson.
As Morrison mentioned before, they began working on Superman and the Authority back in 2018. When Johnson became involved in the Superman books, Morrison was able to speak with him and read his pitch document and connect with pieces that Johnson was setting up. Johnson was approached by the Superman editors after his work on the DC Black Label book The Last God and joked it was because he “established a rep as the guy who was willing to sink 10x too much time into world-building.” He’s using those same sensibilities to build Warworld and its denizens the Warzoons as a real place.
Johnson cited Superman Annual #10 as an inspiration from his childhood for his direction to make a “huge sprawling Frank Frazetta Superman space epic.”
Since Janín is known for his renditions of the Dark Knight, Javins asked him the difference between drawing Batman from Superman. Janín finds drawing the Man of Steel more difficult than the Caped Crusader, with the art focused on the face and the body language.
While most people assume writing Superman is challenging, the panelists all agreed that they find themselves elevated when writing Superman and it’s a satisfying experience. As someone raised by a single mother, Taylor grew up idolizing Superman since childhood.
The Man of Steel panel ended with Taylor summing it up perfectly, “Angst is easy. Earnest is harder. Inspiration is so worth it. Being able to write a character that you look to and love and who’s there for you and believes in you, that’s absolutely worth it and that’s Superman.”