With the return of Doomsday taking over the Superman books in DC’s Doomed crossover, we sat down with Action Comics writer Greg Pak to hear about the end to the Ghost Soldier-centric arc, the strange transformation of Doomsday, and how he views Superman’s stance on killing.
Check out what Pak had to say and then let us know how you are liking the Doomed crossover in the comments!
IGN Comics: Leading up to Issue #30, it looked like the Ghost Soldier had these shadowy masters, like mysterious men in suits sitting behind a boardroom table, but Harrow ended up being the one in control. That was pretty shocking, but what was the inspiration behind her character? Can you talk about how you came up with her?
Pak: Yeah, it’s been pretty great. When I’m coming up with the story, lots of times I will know that there will be this figure where we’re either going to use an existing character or create a new character to be this particular character, who may be an antagonist or a friend to Superman. In the early stages of the outline, I don’t always have things defined. I know what function the character serves and what the general angle this character has and how that character is going to challenge or affect Superman. But I’m pretty open to the details of who exactly that character is and what his or her powers may be, etcetera, etcetera.
So in the development of the story, we went through a few different ideas of who it could be behind the tower. The same thing with the Ghost Soldier. When we first came up with the Ghost Soldier, in the first draft, the Ghost Soldier was kind of a patriotic super soldier-type, like an armored Captain America — which would have been awesome, but at the same time, we’d kind of seen a lot of that in comics in general. So I challenged myself to think a little more about that. I’d had that name “Ghost Soldier” in the back of my head for awhile, and Eddie Berganza, my editor, was like, “That is a cool name. What does that mean?” That’s how we ended up with Ghost Soldier. We just kind of explored that, and that kind of back and forth, just bouncing around ideas, led to the Ghost Soldier and then led to Harrow, to exactly what kind of figure that would be. You know, this idea of someone whose power is the ability to raise the dead, essentially, to call on dead spirits.
First off, it was a different kind of enemy to fight, which would always be interesting, you know, a different kind of challenge for our incredibly powerful hero. Also, it applied a different sort of mindset. This character was always going to be challenging Superman. “Hey, you’re too dangerous for Earth. We can do it better.” What I love about it is that she represents ghosts! But her take is, “You know what? We’re human. We understand what this world needs. You’re an alien. You outside of our world, and you don’t get it.” So it allowed us to challenge Superman on multiple different levels and do something crazy. We got to get an insane, ghost war elephant into the book, which is not a bad thing. [Laughs]
IGN: Going with the fact that she can summon the dead — this might be nothing, so feel free to say no to this, but I’m going to throw this out there — but when I was read Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chang’s Wonder Woman, the God of War also summoned a bunch of what looked like undead warriors to fight for him. It was the exact same imagery that I saw in your book. So is there any connection between those two, or was that just purely coincidence?
Pak: That could be coincidence, but it could be genius. I don’t know. It depends on what we do with it. Someday maybe I’ll come back and say, “Oh yes, that was just sheer comic book-making genius in a shared universe.” In fact, I’ll just say that now.
IGN: [Laughs] Okay, okay. Obviously one of the biggest parts of the book was that Doomsday is here. Last time we saw him, he was briefly in Charles Soule’s Superman/Wonder Woman, but then he disappeared. Now he’s in the arctic killing polar bears. But the crazy part is that when we see him at the end, he’s transformed into some type of sea urchin Doomsday creature. I don’t want any spoilers, but can you say as much as you’re allowed to say about what we’re seeing there?
Pak: Yeah, I don’t want to spoil anything, because you’ll get a lot more when you check out Superman/Wonder Woman next week, but I think I can say that the Doomsday we’ve always known and loved and feared is just the Doomsday of one phase in his cycle. There’s a process of metamorphosis or development going on here, and we’re about to see what Doomsday becomes next.
IGN: That sounds pretty cool. This is all part of the Doomed crossover with the other Superman books. Where did the idea of Doomed come from?
Pak: DC basically got the Superman writers into a room and asked about what kind of stories we wanted to tell over the next couple of years. Over the course of about six months or so, Charles Soule, Scott Lobdell and I — and the various editors at DC — just kept talking about stuff, bouncing ideas around. We talked about where our books were and where we thought they might be going and looked at how these books could come together. We looked at all the different pieces on the table and eventually started to put this thing together. Each of us had been working with different kinds of themes and elements.
I don’t even know who first said the word “Doomsday” in the room. I mean, I’d written that Doomsday Villains Month book back for September, and we always knew we were laying groundwork with that book and would eventually do something more with Doomsday, but eventually, like I said, I don’t honestly remember who suggested we use Doomsday in this particular story, but he was one of the characters we were bouncing around. I can’t remember who came up with what ideas, but gradually this story came together, and that’s how it happened. We didn’t have any editorial mandate at the outset other than to just come up with some great Superman stories.
IGN: Before those meetings took place, how did you personally view Doomsday? He showed up as a character pretty much built just to kill Superman, then he was gone. We’ve seen him over the years try and come back, and he’s never quite been as cool or impactful as his debut when he killed Superman. What was your opinion on the character?
Pak: You know, the idea of an unstoppable killing machine is interesting. Like, what do you do when you’re faced with something that can’t be reasoned with. What I love about Superman is that he will always try to — [Laughs] he’s gonna smash stuff, but he’s always willing to turn the other cheek, he’s always willing to extend a hand, and he’s always willing to try to figure out how to not fight. That’s what makes him Superman. He’s the guy who’s going to make peace if it needs to be made. But what happens when you come up against an enemy that you cannot make peace with?
First, what does that do to your world, and what does that do to you personally, physically? I think in different stages of our lives we all like to believe certain things. We want to believe in one another, we want to believe in the human race’s potential to be good. Other times we’re absolutely horrified, and we lose faith. Doomsday as this avatar of destruction is a pretty powerful figure to throw in there to challenge somebody who wants to keep faith.
IGN: Some of what you said made me want to ask you this, even though it’s not directly related to Action Comics, but going back to what you said about Harrow, Superman had an opportunity to kill her, and when he didn’t, she said, “That’s why you’re weak. That’s why you can’t do this.” What’s your personal opinion on Superman killing?
Pak: You know, I don’t think Superman will never kill, you know what I’m saying? Any character you can imagine, you can put them in certain circumstances — you know, you can push a character to do anything under certain circumstances. I don’t necessarily think that having a character do something is going to necessarily, fundamentally going to destroy the character for all time, particularly what happens in a different medium. These characters have been around for three quarters of a century and continue to be totally compelling and relevant to generation after generation after generation, and they’ve all gone through different stages of how much violence they employ and exactly what they do, whether they’re jerks or heroes or whatever.
They’ve gone through many different stages, and I think it’s up to each generation and each writer to kind of figure out what that character means at that time and at that moment. So for me personally, I think it’s pretty evident when I’m writing Superman what he’s struggling with and what his challenges are and where his breaking points are. I will always push him harder and harder and harder. His life will never get easier. [Laughs] This is serial storytelling and human drama, and you need conflict and huge challenges for your characters. A loss of innocence is also part of that process. At the same time, how far I will go, you know, you’ll just have to keep reading.
IGN: The solicit info for the next issue of Action Comics shows we’re getting four new Men of Steel, just like the classic Doomsday story — Metallo, Ghost Soldier, Atomic Skull and Steel. So what can we look forward to with that? What made those characters a good fit for what you’re doing next?
Pak: Well, there is going to be an effort to take care of certain things that require the deployment of certain characters in surprising ways. Those various characters, they fit nicely into the story because they’re actual characters with actual histories. I think the most interesting thing is the fact that you’ve got Steel alongside these other characters. What does that mean? A lot is going to be revealed. I love Steel, and I love what we’re doing with Steel in this story. We’ve got some big, big, fun things happening with Steel — they’re not that fun for him all the time, but Steel’s going to play a big role. I love the emotional story we were able to create, and what he’s going to be going through is going to be something very special I think.