In case you missed it — like I did the first time around — check out Ron Marz and Evan Shaner‘s tale from Adventures of Superman.
I haven’t been to shy about my disappointment in the latter-day Superman. Whether it’s the movie Man of Steel or the New 52, I don’t feel like the current stewards really have a strong handle on the character.
Now, I don’t pretend to have a deep, abiding love for Superman. I didn’t really like his comics when I was a kid and really didn’t get into the character until Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner came along. As a reader, I still think John Byrne‘s 1980s run was the best.
Those versions appealed to me because Superman enjoyed being a hero who did good things because it was right to do them, yet the stories and scenarios were still modern. Without those elements, I grow bored or even annoyed.
Anyway, I happened upon Marz and Shaner’s Only Child — which you can find three ways (more on that below) — because I was taken by the art. I really like Shaner’s clean style, which is of both yesterday and today. But when I read the story, it was really something special — it’s basically Superman Meets the Iron Giant (though the gigantic robot is never referred to by name) — and it hit me that I hadn’t enjoyed a Superman story like that in forever.
I ran into Ron at Baltimore Comic-Con and we chatted a bit then made later plans to talk again, and here we are with this MIGHTY Q&A:
Dan Greenfield: This was by no means to blow smoke up your ass, but the Adventures of Superman story that you did recently with him meeting the unnamed Iron Giant was probably the best Superman story I’ve read in years. It just absolutely tickled me. How did all that come together?
Ron Marz: It actually involves Cully Hamner in a weird way. A couple years ago, Hank Kanalz at DC reached out to me when they were doing Legends of the Dark Knight stories and said, “Hey, you got a Batman story you want to tell?” And obviously, everybody has a Batman story they wanna tell. So I sent Hank a couple of pitches and he picked the one that I actually liked the best, too.
And Cully Hamner and I have been friends for longer than either of us would care to admit and Cully’s friends with Hank and I’m friends with Hank and it just sort of fell into place that Cully could take on this Batman story that I wrote.
So the Batman story was being worked on and as other things came up, Cully had to keep putting it to the side for various and sundry projects. In the meantime, they started the Superman version of this and I reached out to Hank and said, “Hey, who’s editing that?”
He turned me over to Alex Antone at DC. … It kind of turned out to be the same type of deal where I sent Alex some pitches and he picked the one that I really wanted to do, which is the one that saw print. I kinda twisted Alex’s arm into hiring Doc Shaner to draw it because he was, frankly, the guy that I had in my head from the initial germ of inspiration. I thought Doc was exactly the right guy.
Had you ever worked with him before?
We follow each other on Twitter. I’d never worked with Doc but just being familiar with what his stuff looked like, he was the guy. A lot of times, more than half the job in comics is creative casting and if you get the right people on the right story, everything falls in place. That’s the case with this. The kind of Superman story that I wanted to write was very much reflected in the kind of illustrations that I had seen Doc do.
So when are the two of you going to pitch a Kamandi book?
Man, last week if I could help it! There are a few concepts in comics that I think everybody in comics wants to do. I think Kamandi is one of them. Doctor Strange is another one. They’re the concepts that the creators love but can never seem to find their commercial footing whenever they’re done.
The last time anybody did anything with Kamandi of any great value was in Wednesday Comics. And they did it like a Prince Valiant version, which was great. Dave Gibbons wrote it and it was Ryan Sook who did the art. But now I’m sitting here talking to you and I’m thinking, you know what? I betcha these guys would do a great Kamandi. So anyway, there you go. I get 10 percent if you end up making a deal on that one.
If I do a Kamandi, I’ll give you 50 percent! (Dan laughs) It’s funny because I just bought an extra copy of the Wednesday Comics hardcover in Baltimore.
Did you really?
Mostly for the Ryan Sook pages.
Isn’t it amazing? I loved that story. Batman is my favorite and I write about Batman more than anything else. It’s probably 35 if not 40 percent of what I write. I just assumed that that was mostly what I’d want to read when I read Wednesday Comics but I found that Kamandi was the one I wanted to read where I made sure I had no distractions. That and the Hawkman story by Kyle Baker. If they did that all the time, I would never miss an issue.
Anyway, tell me more about the Superman story and what your thinking was in putting it together.
I had no idea where the story came from other than the fact that The Iron Giant is one of my favorite movies, probably Top Five ever for me. It’s just a beautifully made film and obviously, the overt Superman references in it are perfect. And at some point, it struck me that there should be some sort of reciprocal agreement with Superman meeting a kinda, sorta Iron Giant.
The similarities between the characters, both essentially being orphaned from wherever they came from, to me that’s one of the things that makes Superman work as a character, that there’s a part of him that’s always going to be alone. He’s the most powerful being on the planet but there’s an inner sadness to him that I think you have to touch on in order to make the stories work.
Your story very much felt like a Silver Age story but the best part of the Silver Age, not some of the more self-indulgent parts of the Silver Age. I actually was not a huge fan of that version of Superman. But this to me was like a distillation. It felt alternately like a Silver Age story, Iron Giant and a Fleischer cartoon. So if that’s what you were going for, you certainly hit it.
That’s all the stuff that’s in my mix for that. The Fleischer stuff as well as the Superman animated series that Bruce Timm worked on, which I think is a brilliant Superman version. I loved that series. So all of that stuff was in there and thankfully, they let us tell the story we wanted to tell. One of the beauties of these sort of short-form digital stories is that you can get in, tell your story and get back out. You can just concentrate on your story. You don’t have to be involved in any of the outlying continuity that you have to when you’re doing the regular books, the main books.
What was the reaction from the fans to the story? What kind of response did you get?
That’s a hard question for me to answer. If I say, yeah, everybody liked it, then I look like a jackass. (Dan laughs) But it seemed like everybody liked it. The reaction was very satisfying. Let me put it that way. I think the people that read it seemed to really get what we were trying to do with the story. And obviously all credit to Doc Shaner and Matt Wilson, who colored it for that stuff. It doesn’t matter what I do in the script. If the art doesn’t go hand in hand with what I’m trying to do, the whole thing’s a loss anyway. The story works in very large part because we were both kind of reaching for the same goal. All three of us, really, because Matt did such a stellar job on the colors. It’s honestly one of my favorite things I’ve done in 25 years.
When did you find out that it was going to be the cover of the print edition?
Well, obviously I’m not stupid. I wanted to do a three-part story so we’d have a whole issue to ourselves.
(Dan laughs) Fair enough. Is there anything else that you wanted to add about it?
I think you sort of have to approach these one-and-done stories as, if you were only going to get one chance to write Superman, make this that story. Write the story about that hero that you’ve always wanted to do and that puts your stamp on that hero. I think that to the best of my ability, we did that with this one.
The beauty of digital comics is that they’re always “on the stand” as it were. You can get Adventures of Superman #43-45 at readdcentertainment.com. If you want a hard copy — which is my preferred style — it was Adventures of Superman #15. Aaaaand, if you like trades, it’ll be in Adventures of Superman Vol. 3, due in March. It’s been solicited as the cover story and deservedly so.
Oh, and Ron Marz is one busy guy: Right now, he’s working on Witchblade (Top Cow/Image); John Carter: Warlord of Mars (Dynamite); Skylanders (IDW); Ravine OGN (Top Cow/Image); DC Convergence series Batman and Robin — which I can’t wait for — and the aforementioned Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight story with Cully Hamner, which will be out soon. There’s also Korak and The Mucker strips for the Edgar Rice Burroughs website.