Lex Luthor, Doomsday, General Zod, Mongul, Brainiac and Bizarro weren’t enough enemies for the Man of Steel. Greg Pak thought Superman needed his own Joker, too.
The Batman/Superman writer has given the DC Comics superhero an enemy who’s just as psychologically deviant, sociopathic, ruthless and unpredictable as Batman’s infamous Clown Prince of Crime foe. Superman’s mysterious Joker, who has been toying with the hero from afar and targeting those closest to the Man of Steel, will finally be revealed in the newest issue of Pak and artist Ardian Syaf’s series Wednesday.
“We’re going to find out exactly who he is, what his motivations are and why he’s done all this, and it’s pretty terrifying,” says Pak about a character who’s been seen before in Superman’s 77-year history.
“I check the Twitter from time to time, and I haven’t seen anybody guess it yet.”
Kandor, the lost city of Superman’s home planet Krypton that was miniaturized and stuck in a bottle, also plays an integral role. Its residents, who have been lying in comas for basically all of the Man of Steel’s life, have been used as living bullets on folks connected to Superman.
Batman/Superman No. 19 digs into what exactly has happened to Kandor, Pak says, “and it’s not pretty.” Plus everybody Superman cares about is in harm’s way. Batman was shot with a speeding Kandorian in the previous issue, and because this psychological villain is obsessed with Superman in a very specific and disturbing way, the heroes have to deal with the escalation of the bad guy’s game plan.
So far, it’s been an incredibly dangerous shock to Superman’s system having to deal with a new kind of villain. Batman’s used to dealing with psychos — guys such as Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Two-Face are less about trying to change the world and more about burning the whole place down, Pak says. “They’re built on mayhem and deviance as opposed to trying to take over something or establish order in some twisted way.”
Most of Superman’s baddies are maniacs, but tend to also want to take over something, the writer adds. “As a result, as twisted and as frankly evil as most of them are, you can track what they’re doing in a rational way. You could totally question their motivations for doing what they do, but they have a plan and they want to build something, and Superman’s in the way. They’re trying to destroy him as a result.”
Pak liked the idea of giving Superman somebody who’s unpredictably sociopathic, but also powerful enough to challenge him, and then exploring the reactions of the two superfriends to this menace and how it affects their relationship.
“This is one of the creepier, scarier Superman stories I’ve had the pleasure of writing, and also it’s a big mystery, which is also not necessarily your typical Superman story,” says Pak, who also pens the good guy’s solo adventures in Action Comics. “It’s a great opportunity to hit some unexpected notes and see how they play out in Superman’s universe.”
Pak can’t answer what Superman’s reaction will be to the villain’s reveal without getting into spoilers, but will say that “everything that happens to Superman is tweaking his thinking in certain ways. These are new experiences and there are going to be consequences to them.”
Plus, he adds, “not everything gets put back into a neat box. Certain things can’t be tied up so easily and certain locks may be broken.”
And when the Superman fan base gets a full look at this insane threat, Pak hopes they’ll “be surprised and deliciously freaked out,” he says. “The joy of thrillers and horror stories is (they) gives us a safe place to indulge in the worst fears we have. It’s that kind of crazy thing where we laugh the most when we go to horror moves — it’s our nature.”