Yesterday, we brought you a preview of Action Comics #27, complete with an interview with the series’ artist, Aaron Kuder. Now it’s writer Greg Pak’s turn in the hot seat.
Pak’s had a fairly varied background. He grew up in Dallas, he said, studied political science at Yale, history at Oxford, and film at NYU. He started writing comics 10 years ago and is now taking on the writing chores for DC’s original superhero book.
Superman’s had a fairly inconsistent voice in the New 52. What’s your approach to him as you start your run?
He’s a young man named Clark Kent who discovered as a kid that he has insane powers and huge responsibilities and is still grappling every day with the incredible adventure and massive challenges those powers bring him. Yes, he’s also Kal-El, last son of Krypton. But I think deep down, he’s the kid he grew up as — Clark Kent from Smallville. He’s one of us.
How much collaboration is there with the Superman creative team?
Tons. When I first started at DC, I had a bunch of great meetings with editors to talk about a number of different books and characters. And during that development time, we ended up focusing a huge deal on Superman. So for months before I ever started writing actual scripts, I was talking and thinking about Superman with folks like Eddie Berganza, Bob Harras, Rickey Purdin, and Anthony Marques. That laid some fantastic groundwork for us — I got to kind of lay out my big vision for the ethos and feel of the Superman stories I wanted to write, and I got to absorb the great angle that these different editors were bringing to the character in the New 52.
Since I started working on Batman/Superman and Action Comics, the collaboration has continued with my editors and with other Superman writers like Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, and Scott Lobdell. I really tip my hat to Scott Snyder, who reached out to me when I first came to DC. We’ve had a lot of late-night phone calls to hash out different ideas and stories — it’s just been fantastic. And Charles, Scott Lobdell and I have been working for some time on big plans for Superman in 2014. Big plans are afoot!
Where is Superman in your personal pantheon of heroes? Sure he’s the prototype, but was he a favorite of yours before now?
I think the first comic I ever drew was a Superman comic, actually. I was five or six, maybe. I think I was inspired by that old Sesame Street Superman bit in which he pointed to different things that start with the letter “S.” So my little stick-figure Superman was flying around pointing at snakes or surfboards or whatever. I got my mom to write the captions, as I recall.
So yeah, Superman’s been on my mind since I was a little kid. But as an adolescent, I was all about the Micronauts and Moon Knight. And when I got back into comics in college, I was all Batman, all the time. But somehow as an adult, I’ve gravitated back to Superman in a big way. I think the questions the character raises of what we do with the tremendous power we have is eternally relevant. We’re all more powerful than we realize — in everyday life, no matter how helpless we might feel at times, each one of us has the ability to break hearts or save the day, and we’re constantly learning how we can make a real difference — or our best intentions might go awry. Clark’s playing out those same struggles on a huge stage, which makes the whole thing spectacularly fun, but still completely emotionally real and relevant.
He’s not an easy character to write and a lot of people would shy away from him. What do you expect to bring that we haven’t seen before?
The character’s been around for 75 years. So I’m not gonna kid you — we’ve seen everything before. But I’m going to bring you insanely fun, emotionally relevant stories with a real impact on the DC Universe. You do not want to miss what’s happening with Superman in 2014.
And let me just say this: I love Superman, totally and unironically. I think the character’s forever relevant to our lives and his struggle to do the right thing in a complex world provides tremendous drama. I love the New 52 because it gives us a younger Superman who’s still figuring everything out. He’ll make mistakes — he’ll struggle mightily — he’ll learn things he never wanted to learn — but he’ll never, ever give up. I also think Superman’s an incredibly fun character whose stories lend themselves to great high adventure.
Which is a long-winded way of saying I’m writing Superman because I love him and I have big, fun, emotional, relevant stories to tell, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Oh, and Lana Lang! In Action Comics, we’ve brought back Lana, and she’s huge fun. We’re also creating new characters like the Ghost Soldier and the subterranean monster boy Baka. We’ve got big plans for all these supporting cast members — dontcha dare miss a single issue!
Describe how you and Aaron collaborate. Since he also writes, do you discuss the story’s direction or just how to best to present what you’ve written?
Man, I love working with Aaron. Following the brilliant suggestion of our editor, Eddie Berganza, we’re going plot-first, which means I write out a detailed page-by-page and panel-by-panel outline and give that to Aaron. Aaron then does layouts based on that outline. And then we get on the phone for an hour and talk through every page and every panel to come up with the very best way to tell the story. It’s intense and a total blast. We’re riffing off each other on the fly, bouncing around ideas in real time to figure out the best way to convey a certain action or emotional nuance. Just the best.
Then Aaron draws the thing and I write the dialogue while referring the actual art. So it’s collaborative and organic every step of the way.
Tease one intriguing development we’ll see in the months ahead.
The secret of the Tower will be revealed!
What’s the best Superman story you’ve ever read?
Holy cats. That’s a huge question. I can’t pick one. The answer is also going to change from month to month and week to week depending on what I’m working on and thinking about. But here are three stories that have been stuck in my head for the past year:
“Superman for All Seasons,” from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. The baby Sun Eater subplot of “All Star Superman,” from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. “For the Man Who Has Everything,” from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Reeve, Cavill, Reeves or Welling?
I grew up with Christopher Reeve, so he’s always gonna win. But Cavill’s pretty special.
SPOILER ALERT — IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN “MAN OF STEEL,” AVERT YOUR EYES!
I actually got really excited when Cavill flashed that toothy grin as reporter Clark Kent at the end of “Man of Steel.” I have a sneaky suspicion he’s going to show a whole ‘nother side in the next movie.
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