Superman’s status as a hero and and his enduring legacy were the main topic of discussion in today’s Superman: The Man of Tomorrow panel. Multiple creators were on hand to discuss the characters impact and continued relevancy, including John Romita Jr., Aaron Kuder, Ken Lashley, Eddie Berganza, Charles Soule, and late entrant Geoff Johns.
Moderator Bill Wayne, DC’s SVP of Sales, kicked off the panel by asking Romita Jr. to describe his initial thoughts working on the book. The artist likened it to “getting on the freeway on a tricycle.” He acknowledged feeling a bit daunted tackling the Superman character after working on a book like Kick-Ass, stating that it wasn’t till he finished the double page spread in Superman #32 that he felt like he was back to where he wanted to be.
As images from Superman #33 flashed on screen, Romita Jr. talked about capturing the look of a true superhero vs a gangly teenage wannabe, noting the importance of everything from the costume to the hair to the jaw. He also brought up his love for assumed antagonist Ulysses, and more specifically his long, flowing mane.
Discussion turned to the Superman: Doomed storyline, Berganza noting that it’s the one thing Superman treasures most, his humanity, that’s ultimately at stake. Art from Action Comics #33 (currently out) was shown, artist Kuder joking that the beefed up Superman is “Kinda ‘roided out, he hasn’t had his coffee.” Soule mentioned transition as a focus going forward, noting that though Superman is the linchpin of the event, the ramifications affect everyone.
The Superman Action Comics Annual was advertised, Soule describing his goal to go extremely big, doing something that hasn’t necessarily been done before. The imminent Brainiac invasion was teased, along with some interior art. “That looks awesome, that’s amazing,” Lashley gushed, regarding his own art. Though Soule described the oversized annual as a huge pain to coordinate given the numerous pages and huge action set pieces, he was also quite happy with the end result.
The talk of legacy then came up, all involved acknowledging the stiff task they face in working on such an iconic character. Lashley described spending 3 days finishing his issue’s final pages, dedicating the extra time in order to “get it right.” Romita Jr. echoed the sentiment, but also noted that you can’t let the pressure of what came before affect what you’re creating now. Kuder shared a fun anecdote regarding him tweeting about the expectation that comes from working on a character so revered in Action, only to have Jim Lee respond “Don’t forget about the 70 plus years of history!”
Talk shifted back to the Doomed storyline, Soule detailing how it affects his Superman/Wonder Woman run. He described the books first arc as the honeymoon phase for the power couple, and now that that’s over we’ll see “people are starting to be themselves.” He addressed the frequent Wonder Woman vs Lois debates, but refused to pick a side. “I don’t think he ‘should’ be with anybody, I think he should be with who he’s with.” That said, he did acknowledge the strain Doomed is placing on them, musing “I hope they work it out, I hope they can stick together.” He then talked of the challenge that goes into writing these large events far in advance, talking of how nothing is concrete, and often changed last minute should the story work better in a different direction.
From there we got to the fan questions, the first of which centered around the somewhat controversial killing of Zod in the Man of Steel film, and how that choice affected the tone of the comics. All involved agreed that such a choice was not made lightly, and while something of that ilk hasn’t necessarily happened in the New 52 thus far, the events of Doomed and beyond will present many moral quandaries.
New addition Ulysses was the focus of the next question, a fan wondering what it was that made him unique. Aside from being written by Geoff Johns, Romita Jr. carefully answered that the direction the character is going will be “as good as it gets,” even stating that he has the potential to be one the best new Superman characters of the past 30 years.
Another fan asked why writers seem to be hesitant in having Superman unleash his full powers. Soule brought up the epic brawl with Doomsday in Doomed #1, with Lashley interjecting “Superman ripped that dude in half. What do you want him to do, put him back together?”
Romita Jr. and Lashley then discussed the difficulty in re-designing Superman’s costume, stating there are just some things you can’t change. Soule also echoed the standing iconography of the character, his belief being that it’s not the powers that make him long lasting, it’s how he chooses to use them. He told the audience how he spoke to persons in life saving professions such as surgeons and police officers in order to get into the mindset of such a character, as they have to deal with life altering decisions on a daily basis.
Johns then appeared to briefly discuss their goal to bring back the philosophy of Superman as the Man of Tomorrow, his definition being that he represents being the best you can be. He and Soule also talked the importance of having Wonder Woman not feel like a sidekick, Soule noting that in a relationship there’s a give and take in who gets to shine, something that he tries to show in their interactions. Johns did have one recommendation, joking that the title should be changed to Wonder Woman/Superman
Finally, a fan demanded an answer as to how Superman is able to do his quick costume changes no matter where he is and how inconvenient the situation. Johns’ response — “He has the power to create clothes.” At last we know.