Baltimore: Superman Panel
The Baltimore Comic-Con Superman panel was moderated by editor Matt Idleson and included the new creative team behind Superman, Action Comics and Supergirl, which will begin having a closer relationship with each other (which one fan in the crowd unfortunately referred to as “the Supergirl book becoming a three-way with Action and Superman“). There was Geoff Johns, writer of Action Comics, James Robinson, who recently began writing duties on Superman, and the new Supergirl team of Sterling Gates and artist Jamal Igle.
Towards the end of the panel, Johns pointed out his Uncle Roger who was sitting in the audience and had first gotten him into comics as a child.
Supergirl #35 is the first issue under the new creative team of Gates and Igle. It is said to be a perfect jumping-on point, with a quick introduction to Kara Zor-El, including her origin and place in the DC Universe. And since it is part of the “New Krypton” story arc that will be running through the Superman books, Gates will touch on the recent discovery of her parents being alive. The story will also introduce a smear campaign by Cat Grant after she publishes an article in the Daily Planet entitled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Supergirl.”
Gates will also be giving Supergirl a rogues gallery of her own, starting with a “tussle with Silver Banshee”. Robinson commented that Gates and Igle are “going to be one of the greatest combinations that DC has seen for a long time.” Igle himself said that he was so impressed by Gates’ writing that he felt he had to step up his own game on art chores. He added that Gates will defeat fan criticism of the teen Kryptonian, as he has made Superiglr “not only a likable character, but a sympathetic character.” Gates himself explained that he wanted to portray Kara as a fun, teenage hero rather than one focused on angst.
Several fans asked about the previous Supergirls and if they would be referenced. The panel pointed out that Linda Danvers is appearing in the Reign in Hell mini, but that otherwise they wouldn’t really be referenced as they don’t affect today’s Supergirl stories nor have any impact on Kara Zor-El’s life. But that doesn’t mean Supergirl isn’t going to have a more experienced mentor. Lana Lang, recently fired a LexCorp’s CEO, will be joining Kara and lending her advice from time to time.
I asked Johns who was running LexCorp now that Lana was gone and Lex was still a criminal. Johns said “Keep reading.”
When asked if Supergirl would have a secret identity, Gates smiled and said “Good idea.”
I met with Jamal Igle afterwards and looked over the artwork for the next issue of Supergirl, folks, and it looks wonderful. I also asked Jamal if Kara would be getting a new costume soon, since several fans have been critical of her exposed stomach and a new costume was hinted at in Final Crisis #3. Jamal Igle replied that he had submitted a subtle re-design but that it was felt there was no need to change her look completely now since she was still recognizable on sight and no one wanted to mess with that.
I’m also guessing that DC may be a bit protective of a costume that was designed by Michael Turner, who sadly left us so recently.
And what about this “New Krypton” story arc? The Superman panel was rather hush-hush about the whole thing, saying little more than what’s already been released weeks ago. The people of Kandor will be released upon Earth and assume that it is New Krypton (why they will try to make their home on Earth and not some nearby uninhabited planet will be explained). Superman will try to tell them otherwise, but the Kryptonians won’t listen, desperate for a new home. Originally, Johns admitted, he was only going to have 2,000 Kryptonians but James Robinson had then insisted that a large city should have over 10,000 inhabitants at least.
Johns stated that Wonder Woman, the Creature Commandos, the Teen Titans, the JLA and even Agent Liberty, not seen since the 90’s, would be showing up during New Krypton to find out what was going on. Likewise, Ultra the Multi-Alien would be running around. He also pointed out that while all Kryptonians will have equal powers under the yellow sun, the Kandorians will be just discovering these whereas Superman has had years of experience in using them and honing them.
One thing the story is meant to illustrate is why Superman is still unique if there are so many other survivors of Krypton and how it’s his spirit and not his powers that make him a hero. Johns described a scene in which two Kryptonians are nearby when a deadly car accident happens. When asked why they aren’t helping to save the accident victims, the two Kryptonians are taken aback, not sure why such help would be expected from them by these strange alien creatures.
Johns also pointed out the very real danger that among Kandor’s population are roughly 600 soldiers who used to work under General Zod and who still see him in a heroic light, having not been around for his attempted coup and subsequent imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. These soldiers will not take kindly to Kal-El seemingly spreading lies about their leader. Likewise, many Kryptonians are xenophobic and may get very annoyed by the Earth people who are running around everywhere.
“New Krypton” will introduce new Kryptonian champions Nightwing and Flamebird and will also feature a new character called Superwoman. Although she will be wearing a costume similar to the Pre-Crisis Superwoman, she will be a different person entirely. Whereas the Pre-Crisis Superwoman was a human being who used future technology to simulate powers, this Superwoman is a Kryptonian, plain and simple.
Robinson also added that he would be focusing on Jimmy Olsen, showcasing him as a vibrant young man who is becoming a great investigative reporter. One of Jimmy’s stories will lead him across the Cadmus Project and, naturally, the original Guardian, Jim Harper. Robinson stated he wished to really develop the Guardian’s personality, criticizing that the character has seemed very “cardboard” depending on what story he was in. He would also reveal the Guardian’s daughter and might bring in his niece, who was introduced in the Batman: One Year Later story “Face the Face.”
When asked if the Guardian from Grant Morrison’s 7 Soldiers of Victory would be shown or referenced, Robinson stated “not at first.” He also said that, for the time being, he would not be focusing on the fact that Jim Harper is the uncle of super-hero Roy Harper, the Red Arrow (formerly the original Speedy).
Robinson also promised that he would be dealing with Metropolis Science Police soon and may show how they relate to the Science Police who operate in the 30th century. He will not, however, be following up on storylines that Kurt Busiek left unresolved, as Busiek has mentioned that he wants to handle them himself later on.
One fan asked the panel if Bibbo Bibowski, one of his favorite characters, would be returning to the Superman comics. As Bibbo was never a really big part of Superman’s life, merely a rough-necked bartender who admired the Man of Steel, the panel admitted that there were no plans to bring him back into the stories.
Robinson then added, “Just because you bring him up in that way, one of us might step up and take that challenge.”
Johns quickly said, “It won’t be me.” To which Robinson immediately responded, “You know what? I’m going to do it!”
When asked about Steel, a super-hero inspired by Superman’s death years ago, the panel said that there were indeed plans for him down the line. Robinson said that Steel would be part of a storyline dealing with the city of Metropolis itself, as he was always bothered that Metropolis didn’t seem to have a distinct look and that, aside from the Daily Planet adn the LexCorp building, it could be any major American city. He said that his own comics would be exploring the city’s identity and how it grew.
There was no real answer to whether or not Kon-El, Superboy, would be returning, though Johns shrugged and said “Black Lantern.” He also stated that the Cyborg-Superman would be showing up in Green Lantern rather than in the Superman titles.
Concerning classic villains, Robinson said he would be focusing on making Parasite more interesting and would be working with Metallo, the man with the Kryptonite heart. Johns said he would be doing a story featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk. One young fan wanted to know if Comet the Super-Horse would be returning. The panel recommended she check out the younger-audience Supergirl book Cosmic Adventures of Supergirl in the 8th Grade.
What about Christopher Kent (Clark and Lois’s adopted Kryptonian sun)? What about Mon-El? Will they return? Johns simply answered that there were plans down the line. However, there is no plan to use 90’s villain Conduit, who had an obssessive need for revenge against Clark Kent specifically and was armed with Kryptonite coils. “I never understood him,” Johns admitted.
Concering Superman’s constant team-ups with Batman, the panel said the tone of the relationship between the two heroes would change as a result of Batman R.I.P. Johns also hinted that Superboy-Prime may be redeemed soon and also spoke of how he hopes the character will be remembered as “one of the great villains of the 21st century.”
QUESTION: Will the Kryptoian artificial intelligence the Eradicator be coming back?
Geoff Johns: “We’ve talked a bit about the Eradicators, but nothing concrete yet.”
QUESTION: Will we get a definitive book or mini-series showing Superman’s origin and early years as revised by Infinite Crisis?
Matt Idleson: “We’ve been holding back … but yes, soon.”
Geoff Johns: “There’s a reason we’ve been holding back. Keep reading.”
QUESTION: Is it daunting or difficult to write a character like Superman?
James Robinson: “The idea of stepping into the world [of Superman] … Geoff painted such a rosy picture of us frolicking through the tulips that I figured we’d give it a go. Geoff showed me how easy it is to write the character and how fun it can be … I regard Superman as the epitome of the American dream. As an immigrant to America, this has been my home now for 19 years … You come here, work hard, American can reward you in the future. Superman coming from another place, striving to do the best he can, he’s given the title of greatest hero of the world. I think that is a big metaphor for coming to America and what America can offer.“
Geoff Johns: “You don’t have to take away his powers, you don’t have to make him modernized or make him edgy. You just have to show Superman is Superman. If he’s tough, throw more things at thim. If he can fight ten guys, then throw twenty guys at him. But make him fight for a reason he believes in. I think he’s one of the most relatable characters in comic books. He was a normal kid but then he found out he’s an alien with powers and suddenly he became an outsider and ever since then he’s trying to fit in. In a way, when he’s saving people … He’s trying to earn his keep. He’s trying to return the favor … Earth embraced him and made him what he was.”
Jamal Igle: “Superman as a character has always represented what’s good and right. You too can be Superman. If you really look at him, at the core, he’s basically a good guy. He wants people to be happy … I think [some people] get this idea that because he’s an alien and because he’s as powerful as he is, that he should be above us, he should be this god-like presence, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. In his heart, he will always be that farm kid. He was always raised as somebody that was taught that the best thing you can do is to help the least of us, but not look down on the least of us. Extend a hand, but never be disingenous about it. Just be humble.”
The audience applauded these last remarks by Igle.
This next question is one I asked and which I have seen isn’t covered by ComicBookResources or Newsarama. Maybe others don’t think it’s as interesting as I do, but here it is anyway.
QUESTION: Recently, we found that one of Jerry Siegel’s original ideas was to have Superman’s origin be that he was from a dying Earth of the future rather than from the dead planet Krypton. How do you think that would have changed the character and do you think he would’ve still become timeless?
Geoff Johns: “I don’t know if he would. There’s something about leaving a world that’s completely destroyed. If you’re from the future, I bet there’d be a lot of stories of him going back all the time. [Cliches like] erasing his own existence somehow.”
ComicMix: “Hooking up with his mom.”
Geoff Johns: “Exactly, [Superman would become] his own great-great-great-great-grandfather.”
Alan “Sizzler” Kistler can’t wait to see the Creature Commandos again. He has been recognized by Warner Bros. Pictures and mainstream media outlets such as the New York Daily News as a comic book historian, and can be seen in the “Special Features” sections of the Adventures of Aquaman and Justice League: New Frontier DVDs. His personal website can be found at: http://KistlerUniverse.com. One of these days he’d love to write for DC, Marvel or Doctor Who.