Greg Pak and Jae Lee’s upcoming series finds the two heroes at the beginning of their careers.
Writing Batman and Superman in the same comic book? That’s the offer Greg Pak couldn’t refuse.
A longtime Marvel Comics scribe for everything from Incredible Hulk to X-Treme X-Men, Pak makes his DC Comics debut a memorable one with the company’s two most famous superheroes in the upcoming ongoing series Batman/Superman, debuting in June and teaming the writer with artist Jae Lee (Inhumans, The Dark Tower).
“Working in comics, almost every project you do for DC or Marvel deals with these amazing characters that are so much fun to work with,” Pak says. “But, wow, Superman and Batman? That kind of lifts your hat and spins it around in the air a bit.
“It is a real thrill, and it’s particularly a thrill because we’re being given some real leeway to do some really important storytelling with these characters. It really defines some great things and to depict some really key moments for them.”
While Justice League as well as various Batman and Superman comics showcase the superheroes in the present, Pak and Lee catch up with the world’s finest in the past of DC’s “New 52” relaunched continuity.
Bruce Wayne is new to putting on a cape and cowl and patrolling the streets of Gotham City, while Superman — when not in civilian mode as budding journalist Clark Kent — is a recently realized hero to the working class clad in jeans, cape and a spiffy, S-logo T-shirt.
When the two run into each other, well, sparks fly. Some steely stares and maybe a few punches, too.
“We’ve been given the incredible opportunity to show these two icons meeting for the first time at this very early and raw stage in their careers,” Pak says. “Neither one of them has ever heard of the other guy.”
While there’s a threat to both men that will be revealed in time — “Folks are going to be very pleasantly excited when they find out about it,” Pak teases — some conflict from the first Superman/Batman arc will come just from these two guys. Both are figuring out who they are as young men and as heroes but also have a lot of questions about each other.
“What would your reaction be if you saw a guy running around in a bat costume in the dead of night attacking people for the first time? And what would your reaction be if you met an alien who could crush steel in his bare hands for the first time?” the writer says. “These guys are going to have very different immediate impressions of each other than we’re used to seeing with these characters.
“There’s an element of danger to the book that I think is very real and very exciting.”
Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness debuted the last ongoing team-up comic with the two, Superman/Batman, in 2003, and the title lasted until DC’s “New 52” relaunch in August 2011.
DC co-publisher Jim Lee, one of the architects of the company’s new direction, tapped Pak and Jae Lee for the new series. Pak has been friends with Jim Lee since they met at the San Diego Asian Film Festival some years ago, while Jae Lee, who like Jim Lee was born in South Korea, worked with the DC executive and artist at Image Comics in the 1990s.
Batman/Superman marks Jae Lee and Pak’s first time working directly together — Lee had done covers for the 2005 Marvel miniseries Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects, one of Pak’s earliest comics.
The atmosphere and strong image depth of Lee’s drawing style — colored by his wife — is key for a series like Batman/Superman “where you’ve got these two complementary and contradictory figures who are coming from two very different places,” Pak says.
“The idea of Jae Lee drawing Batman is sort of a no-brainer. That makes total sense. (But) he’s doing some cool new stuff and when you put these two characters together, they’ve got different palettes and environments.”
Similarly, Pak’s past work on projects such as World War Hulk has shown the kind of epic scale “a book like this needs and deserves,” Lee says.
“These are two of the biggest iconic characters out there, and as much as I enjoy reading their comics and watching their movies, working on them is a lot of pressure. I want it to be fun but it’s also scary at the same time.”
Superman and Batman have been under Pak’s skin for a long time. He remembers poring over an oversized book of Silver Age Superman stories as a youngster, and after a period of not reading comics, Pak was pulled back in with Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns.
“It’s a real privilege and I am real grateful to get my feet wet with them,” Pak says.
Batman/Superman is “a really exciting place to discover who these guys are, and the things we’re going to discover particularly in this first story arc will have ramifications later on down the line,” he adds. “We’re going to start in the past but it’ll reverberate through. It’ll be big and crazy and tons of fun.”