For the entire month of September, DC Comics is turning its books over to the villains, the bad guys and the good-for-nothings of the New 52.
Comprised of a series of one-shot comics centered on various antagonists, DC Villains Month will also reintroduce bad guys who have yet to make an impact in the New 52, such as Cyborg Superman whose story will be chronicled this fall by “Supergirl” writer Michael Alan Nelson.
“It made sense for me to tackle Cyborg Superman since he’s going to be primarily a Supergirl villain,” Nelson told CBR News about the “Action Comics: Cyborg Superman” one-shot featuring art by Mike Hawthorne.
While some readers might already be confused regarding the villain’s change in Target, Nelson has anticipated he confusion. “I know, right now a lot of people are probably scratching their heads. But this isn’t the Cyborg Superman you know. There’s a very specific reason he belongs more in Supergirl’s world than Superman’s and, if I do my job right, the one-shot will explain why.”
Created in the 1990s by “Adventures Of Superman” writer and artist Dan Jurgens, Cyborg Superman began life as scientist Hank Henshaw. In Jurgens’ storyline Hank, his wife and and two other astronauts were zapped with radiation as the result of a LexCorp experiment and space shuttle crash. In a gruesome parody of the Fantastic Four, rather than getting physical powers Hank and his fellow astronauts became disembodied consciousnesses as his wife began to phase out of their dimension, the story essentially ending with Hank the sole survivor of the accident.
Blaming Superman for the tragedy, the character assembled a mechanical body and an enduring hatred for the Man of Steel, plaguing both Superman and later the Green Lanterns over the decades. Hank Henshaw has already appeared in the New 52 as a colleague of Caitlin Fairchild’s and DC teased a New 52 Cyborg Superman in April featuring a new design by “Superman” artist Kenneth Rocafort
For many fans, however, Cyborg Superman remains best known for his part in the “Reign Of The Supermen” and ’90s storylines that followed the giant “Death Of Superman” arc, also co-written and drawn by Jurgens, something Nelson acknowledges with a wink and a laugh.
“I spent most of the ’90s in a collegiate haze of… study and eclectic career choices. Yeah, we’ll go with that for the moment!” Nelson joked when asked about the seminal Superman storyline.
As a result, “I didn’t follow the ‘Reign of the Supermen’ storyline and never knew much about Cyborg Superman beyond the basics, and when I came to write the new Cyborg Superman, I wanted to keep it that way,” Nelson explained. “I felt that since this new Cyborg Superman was going in a different direction, I didn’t want to be tempted to recreate what we’ve already seen before. Oh, there are similarities for sure and many readers might not see much of a difference at all, but I wanted to have as fresh of an approach as I could.”
Villains Month is all about examining the bad guys that populate the DCU, and when it came to Cyborg Superman Nelson was frank about not knowing exactly how his new take on the decades-old villain would be received.
“I honestly have no idea how readers will see him. All I can say is that I find him incredibly sympathetic. Don’t get me wrong, I would still describe him as malicious and then some, but at the core of who he is I find his situation absolutely heartbreaking,” Nelson said. “To tell you more would be to spoil some things that are coming in the one-shot. But it’s my hope that I tell his story well enough that readers will feel as sorry for him as they are disgusted by him.”
The issue hitting stores in September also explores the origins of the New 52 villain, and while Nelson was mum on specifics the character will also appear in “Supergirl” #23, convinced Kara can help him. This sets the stage for a larger confrontation between the two in the pages of Nelson’s ongoing series.
“The one-shot will definitely inform the current ‘Supergirl’ story arc and add a greater element of emotional weight to the story. At least that’s my hope. When we come back to the Supergirl story after Villains Month, I really twist the knife for both of their characters,” Nelson said.
Like the rest of the Villains Month one-shots, “Action Comics: Cyborg Superman” focuses on the bad guy, and despite being part of the villain’s New 52 life Nelson asserts the issue will primarily be about the mechanical menace and not Kara.
“In a way, [Supergirl will] be a very big part of the one-shot, but not directly. She’ll make a small appearance. As for her being able to help him, that’s certainly something he believes. But there’s a reason this current ‘Supergirl’ arc is called ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ It doesn’t just apply to her,” Nelson said. “The one-shot is Cyborg Superman’s origin story interwoven with several vignettes that get at the core of his fatal flaw. And that flaw is the catalyst of that origin.”
Beyond Cyborg Superman, Nelson has already introduced another mechanical foe to Supergirl’s world in the form of Sanctuary, her AI lair turned clone-obsessed kill-bot. The writer told CBR that while both Cyborg Superman and Sanctuary are mechanical characters pursuing Supergirl, with Sanctuary he was more interested in creating a fresh villain rather than trying to set up an all-robot rogues gallery.
“Sanctuary is just one of those characters that I had free reign to play with. She was new and had never been used as a villain before so I was like a puppy whose owners left the gate open. I ran with it as hard and as fast as I could,” Nelson said. “That’s what draws me in as a writer, just being excited about a character or a situation. With Sanctuary I had this great opportunity to have some fun and try to use that to bring out some of Supergirl and Power Girl’s character. And that’s ultimately what it’s all about.”
As for his artist Mike Hawthorne, Nelson had nothing but praise for his creative collaborator on “Action Comics: Cyborg Superman.”
“What I really dig most about Mike’s work is his great sense of detail,” Nelson said, concluding that come September, “There’s quite a bit of alien architecture and technology coming up and I think his approach to the mechanical menace is going to be something to see!”
“Action Comics: Cyborg Superman” hits shelves September 4.
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