Geoff Johns: Superman's Emotional Crossroads

Just when Superman sees his homeworld come alive on Earth, just when he stands on the threshold of a reunion with his long-lost family from Krypton, things go horribly wrong.

At the end of Action Comics #870, the joy of gaining a Kryptonian city on Earth is lost in Superman's grief for his father, Jonathan Kent, who died after saving his wife's life.

Now, an emotionally torn Superman faces the challenges of "New Krypton," a storyline that will cross between all the "Super-books" over the next three months. The character was once deemed special because he was the “last son” of Krypton. With more than 100,000 children of Krypton now on Earth, readers will find out what makes Kal-El the one and only "Superman."

"That's the whole point of the storyline and beyond," says Geoff Johns, the Action Comics writer who set the stage for Superman's upcoming struggle. "I hope people give the special a shot."

That "special" is the oversized Superman: New Krypton Special which hits stores today, kicking off a crossover that promises to, as January solicitations have announced, bring "major change to the Man of Steel's status quo." Pulled together by the team of writers, including Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates, the issue is the first of nine issues that cross between the ongoing titles Supergirl, Action Comics and Superman.

As Clark Kent faces what Johns is calling an "emotional crossroads," Newsarama talks to the writer about the character's state of mind and what awaits him in New Krypton. As a companion to the commentary the writer provided for Monday's "Field Guide to New Krypton," Johns talks to Newsarama about the death of Pa Kent, the role of Supergirl, and how Superman's hoping to welcome 100,000 New Kryptonians to Earth in the same way his parents once welcomed him.

Newsarama: In Action Comics #870, Brainiac says to Superman, "what can this vacuous world possibly provide you?" Can Kal-El answer that with confidence?

Geoff Johns: Kal-El knows exactly what this world provides. He’s based everything he does off what this world provides and what Earth has given him. He feels extremely fortunate for everything he's gotten.

NRAMA: Is that knowledge going to be central to what happens in New Krypton?

GJ: Absolutely. In the New Krypton Special, that's a big part of it, there's a huge culture clash. There's a big difference between Kryptonians and humans, obviously. So he wants to try to build a bridge for everybody. Like the bridge he had.

NRAMA: By the end of Action Comics #870, he's lost part of what made him so aware of what this world provides -- his father. As a storyteller, why does this moment of his death fit with this story you're telling now?

GJ: Superman's trapped, Clark Kent's trapped, between his Kryptonian roots and his human roots. He's really a man of both worlds. He grew up believing he was human and then discovered he had been sent to our world. So just as he's gotten this amazing, unbelievable touchstone to a planet that was long dead, a world he never thought he'd see again, and even his family -- I mean, literally his family, with his uncle and aunt and his cousin -- just as he receives the greatest gift that he could ever dream of, he loses one of the most important people in his life, Jonathan Kent.

And I have to say that if anybody's going to illustrate the death of Pa Kent, that huge, iconic moment, Gary Frank should do it. I think he's undeniably one of the greatest Superman artists of all time already.

NRAMA: There are so few words spoken on the issue's final pages, so it relied heavily upon his art to communicate the story. What was it like to see his artistic interpretation of the scene as all the different threads of this story converged on those last few pages?

GJ: It was breathtaking. Gary's one of those few guys, everything he draws is so visceral and full of heart, good and bad. Everything that his Superman does looks natural and real. I can’t say enough about what an amazing talent Gary is and how fortunate I am to be working with him on Superman. And he’s a wonderfully nice guy to boot, with no ego. I’m unbelievably lucky.

NRAMA: Gary has told us that Christopher Reeve as Superman has influenced the way he draws the character. Now that Superman's father has died in a way similar to the movie continuity, was his death scene in the film in your mind at all when you wrote the comic book death scene?

GJ: Not really, but there was a choice to make on how he was going to die. And I knew I wanted Brainiac to be partially responsible. But I didn't want him to be caught in an explosion or targeted by an android or something horrible like that. I really wanted it to be a natural death induced by the heroism he taught his son, and not necessarily a direct result of Brainiac, but of his rescue of Ma Kent, the rescue of his wife. Like son, like father, I guess.

NRAMA: With the loss of his father and the addition of Kandor on Earth, Superman's dealing with some pretty extreme emotions, isn't he?

GJ: He's dealing with one of the greatest tragedies of his life along with the greatest triumph. And getting Superman to an emotional point like that is, it's very rare that Superman experiences something that emotional and is torn that much. I can't really remember the last time he had to deal with this push and pull.

NRAMA: Are you saying that's unique to Superman, that it's rare to get him to this point?

GJ: For any character, really, to put them into a situation that is so clearly pulling them in two directions. For Superman, this is clearly an emotional crossroads for him.

NRAMA: Is it important that his cousin is there with him through this?

GJ: Absolutely. She's one of the most important characters in Superman's life. And with Sterling and Jamal on her book, she’s in great hands.

NRAMA: And as we head into this New Krypton storyline, she's becoming even more incorporated into the Superman universe and is particularly important to this story, isn't she?

GJ: She's a great character and she should be incorporated into the Superman mythology. That's something I wanted to do when I got on the book, and that James wanted to do as well. James wanted to bring Krypto in, and we both wanted to bring in Supergirl and we had a lot of great ideas on her. We wanted to incorporate her into Superman's life just as much as Robin or Nightwing is a part of the Batman world. It felt like Supergirl hasn’t been as connected to Superman as of late, maybe because the events in their lives weren’t reflecting one another.

Now, with her parents coming back, and Kryptonians being back, and her growing up on Krypton and not really spending as much time on Earth, and still having a bit of a disconnect because of the things she's gone through in the last few years, it puts her into a situation that's going to force her to make some tough decisions.

NRAMA: She had an important role in Action Comics #870, saving the world after admitting she was scared. What are your thoughts about, when her cousin said it's OK to be scared, why did that make her suddenly so brave?

GJ: Superman knows her so well. And Superman knows her probably better than she knows herself sometimes. This time Supergirl saw that. She's had a lot of doubt, and she's made wrong decisions, but that’s okay. She's even been arrogant at times or maybe a little confused, but she's a good person. And for Superman to tell her, you can do this. You're fast enough. You can do this. And for her to go, but I'm scared. You don't understand that I'm scared, Kal. And for Superman to say, that's OK. He's basically telling her, you don't have to be perfect. I'm not perfect. You'll feel things like we all do, but you can still shore up your resolve and do this. And that's important to me. Seeing that resolve on her face as she realizes, you know what? It's OK to be scared. And with that it frees her and you know what? She's not scared anymore. And I think it's a really important moment between those two characters. It's understated because Gary Frank's art is so brilliant and his emotions are so brilliant. I can convey that in a single line of dialogue and let the images say everything else. That's why I love working with Gary. Even if I have this complex emotion behind a scene, he nails it with a single image.

NRAMA: You talk about it being OK for her not to be perfect because he's not perfect. Is Clark going to struggle with the fact that he was distracted when his father was dying?

GJ: You'll see a bit of that in New Krypton.

NRAMA: Is there any blame for Brainiac?

GJ: There’s blame, sure. Again, New Krypton deals with all of that. The New Krypton Special in particular deals with that. Brainiac's a big part of the Superman storyline for a long time to come. His story is not near over.

NRAMA: Will we be learning a lot about Kryptonians?

GJ: You'll see Krypton through Kandor. There's various guilds and various ways of dress depending on their profession and everything else. And remember that some of General Zod's soldiers are in Kandor. The main Kryptonians we'll be dealing with are Supergirl's parents, Zor-El and Alura, we'll be introducing an all-new Nightwing and Flamebird, who are Kryptonian vigilantes. We'll be introducing a new Superwoman. Those will be joining our cast, and they've appeared on covers for New Krypton. The thing we really wanted to do was focus in on the characters that were going to be important to the story. There will be other Kryptonians present, obviously, but those will be the main five that we'll be focusing in on for the start.

NRAMA: We've talked a lot about the storyline here on Newsarama. But can you kind of sum up what we'll see in the New Krypton Special?

GJ: The whole Superman team jammed on it, so it's James [Robinson]; myself; Sterling [Gates]; Gary Frank; the terrific Pete Woods, who's coming onto Action for a couple months; and Renato [Guedes].

There's obviously a lot of fallout happening from the Brainiac storyline, and also other Action Comics storylines that have happened since I've started on Action Comics. All that's culminating in what we've got coming up now. And the same with James, with everything he's been setting up. We've been setting up things with Jimmy Olsen and some of the supporting cast and the world of Metropolis. That's going to start to feed in as well, and you'll see both of the books merging into New Krypton as Superman moves forward in a single storyline.

But mainly it's 100,000 Kryptonians on Earth... and what comes next.

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