Pak Making BATMAN/SUPERMAN an 'Epic' Character-Driven Story
Batman/Superman #1 First Look
CREDIT: DC Comics
It's time for DC readers to meet writer Greg Pak, and that meeting is going to take them all the way to Earth 2.
Batman/Superman, the new series that debuts this summer from DC Comics, will take place in the past of the newly relaunched DC Universe. Drawn by Jae Lee, the series purports to show the first meeting between Batman and Superman in the current DCU…
And it will thrust both characters — pretty quickly — onto one of DC's best know alternate earths. And as readers of the current comic Earth 2 know, there was once a Superman and Batman on Earth 2, and they were older and more experienced than the two heroes of the New 52.
It sounds like a lot of story to pack into the first couple issues of a new series, but that's the way Greg Pak tends to write. While he might not be a name that DC readers know, Marvel readers are very familiar with his work on the epic "Planet Hulk" stories in The Incredible Hulk and his X-Men tales in comics like X-Treme X-Men.
And for DC fans who want to know more about Pak, a primer: Pak (pronounced "Pahk") was raised in Dallas, Texas, as the son of a Korean immigrant father and Midwestern-raised mother. When he was in high school, he caught the "make-the-world-a-better-place" bug and pursued a political career that took him through a degree in political science from Yale University and a stint on Texas Gov. Ann Richards' campaign staff.
But that all changed when Pak was at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He was studying history in hopes of preparing for a political career, but he ended up being exposed to the excitement of telling a story in a student film. He was hooked, and decided to switch career goals to making movies — a decision that took him to NYU's prestigious film school and brought him dozens of film awards for his films, especially his Robot Stories feature.
Eventually — about eight years ago — he started dabbling in comics. And the rest, as they say, is comic book history.
But just like the brand new DC Universe is giving a clean slate to the Superman and Batman characters, Pak is taking on a new challenge at a new company in a new universe with Batman/Superman.
Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about his plans for Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne — and how this all fits with their alleged "first meeting" we saw in Justice League.
Newsarama: Greg, is it a little daunting to think that your initial project in the New 52 is not only handling two of the best known and best loved characters in the DCU, but you're also creating a pretty important time period for the two of them as they first meet?
Greg Pak: Yeah, I mean, it's a ridiculously huge and exciting opportunity. I'm just really grateful. And it's a funny thing, because like everybody, I've thought about Batman and Superman for years. You know? Just in my head, as a comics reader. I've loved the characters forever, so when I started writing comics professionally, of course, I would think about, "What would I do if I had a chance to write a Superman story or a Batman story?" And I'll be honest: For a long time, I was kind of intimidated by just the notion of it. These characters are the most iconic superheroes on the planet. And that's a huge thing to think about tackling.
But when it came down to it, when I actually had a shot at doing it, I put on my writers' hat and started thinking about it seriously — and also looked at the lay of the land at DC and realized how much of an incredible opportunity the editors and writers had created by taking the huge plunge and launching the New 52, and starting these characters from scratch, and giving all kinds of new entry points and creating interesting, new angles on some of these characters. It all just started to fall into place in a really nice way.
Nrama: So you liked having the New 52 as a backdrop?
Pak: Yeah, I think I'm really lucky to be coming on board at a time, and being able to build the story around Morrison's Action Comics #1, because that's a point where you've got a very young and raw Superman. He's kind of a cocky crusader. He takes risks. He's young enough that he might make some mistakes. His heart is always in the right place, but he's much more raw and rash than the Superman we knew before — the older Superman.
So you take that Superman, and you put him in a story with Batman, who is similarly a younger guy, newer to the whole thing. And similarly younger and cockier.
And you put them together at a time when neither of them has even heard of each other.
So the first time they meet, each of these guys are going to think the other guy is the most dangerous guy on the planet. And sparks fly.
And it's just a really fun and exciting place to start a story with these two iconic characters.
Nrama: OK, let's just immediately talk about issue #2's solicitation and cover. You are taking these guys to Earth 2?
Pak: Oh, yeah! All that we've revealed is what's in that solicit, but yes, indeed, they're going to Earth 2.
I'm really excited about this story because, like I said, we've got the young, raw Superman and Batman from our world, and now they're going to meet an older, more experienced and, frankly, stronger and better Superman and Batman. And also, the Earth 2 Superman and Batman have a very different relationship from the Superman and Batman in our world at this point in time.
So they're going to be challenged on all sorts of levels. And of course, there's going to be be another threat — a sort of a big, worlds-threatening threat that all four of these characters are going to have to figure out what their response is going to be.
There are going to be some great opportunities for all these characters to be challenged on multiple levels. And it's just really rich, meaty stuff. I'm having a blast with it.
Nrama: Can you reveal who the villain is that they all have to battle, possibly together? It sounds like you're dancing around who or what this "threat" is that they have to deal with.
Pak: I am indeed doing my little dance. And I'll continue to dance. All will be revealed in the fullness of time. All I will say is this is an antagonist who will open up a whole new corner of the DC Universe for us in a really interesting way.
Nrama: Is the Apokolips War going on over on Earth 2? Or does this pre-date that?
Pak: This pre-dates that. Yeah, because....spoiler alert! [Laughs.] The storyline that's going on in Earth 2 now takes place after that war, and Superman and Batman didn't make it.
So this story happens before that.
Nrama: Another part of the solicitations that stood out to me was that the first issue called the story "epic." That word is used a lot to describe stories, although I don't think anyone would have applied the word to the former Superman/Batman series, which was more "blockbuster" in feel. But I know what you were able to do with the "Planet Hulk" stories, which were definitely "epic!" What makes this new Batman/Superman story you're doing "epic?" Is it comparable to Planet Hulk, since they're traveling worlds?
Pak: Well, I mean, I think there are two things going on there. One is, yeah, this is a world-spanning story. I think when you go to Earth 2, just that in itself deserves the "epic" tag.
But I think, also, we're having a chance to explore this relationship between these characters at different times — both in the past and present, at different times in their life — and we can really see that grow and see it develop, see how these two guys become heroes. If there is a friendship that's going to develop, how will that happen? Are they going to kill each other? Are they going to be friends? Anything is possible.
That feels like an epic relationship story that's going to play out over the course of this book.
For any story to work, you've got to have great characters in the center, and the emotional story has to be something we can all care about. And in this story, there's so much to play with in this relationship. I'm loving it.
Nrama: Can you talk about who Batman and Superman are going to meet? Obviously, we know they're going to meet Earth 2 Superman and Batman, but who else will play a role in this story?
Pak: Yeah. I don't want to reveal everything just yet, but I will tease one thing.
Awhile back, when I was on Twitter, I had just gotten a page from Jae and I couldn't keep my mouth shut, because it was just so amazing.
So on Twitter, I was like, fans of a certain female DC character are going to lose their minds when they see this page.
And I'll just tell you right now, it's Catwoman.
You'll see a Catwoman on Page 8 or Page 9 of issue #1. And when you get to that page, you're going to know exactly what I'm talking about. Your head's going to pop off, and you're going to do everything you can to figure out who's selling the original art from that page and you're going to mortgage your house, because it's incredible.
There are definitely other characters like that who are going to play a role. Catwoman's definitely one of them, and I'm having a blast with that too.
Nrama: I'm assuming you mean Catwoman of Earth 2, even though it's obvious you're not clarifying. But it's hard to imagine she'd already be introduced by Page 8 of the first issue.
Pak: I... I'll let you read it and find out.
Nrama: Does Earth 2 come about in the first issue? These two characters have never met each other before, and already they're on Earth 2 together? I mean, even if they're already on Earth 2 in the second issue... is this story as fast-paced as it sounds? You say it's character-focused, and yet it seems like they're off on an adventure pretty quickly.
Pak: Well, in the first issue we did of Planet Hulk, we shot the guy through space and got him on a planet in two pages.
Nrama: [Laughs.] That's true!
Pak: [Laughs.] So it's definitely possible to do great character stuff and keep that plot clicking along. I try to do that. I mean, pacing is always a tough thing in comics. You know? I've been working in comics, what? Almost eight or nine years now? And every day I'm learning something new and trying to get better. So definitely, I'm working hard to keep the story moving and, at the same time, every step of the way, make those character moments sing.
It's also worth noting that, in the first issue, there are more story pages than in your typical comic book. So we've got a little bit more room to play, so that helps too.
Nrama: Congratulations. I know writers are always begging for more pages. But I have to ask about continuity. We've seen, in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League, what we thought was the first meeting between Superman and Batman in the New 52 universe. Does this fit with that? It feels like it's going to be a retcon or even a flat-out reboot. Are you doing that?
Pak: Everything will be explained in the fullness of time. Don't worry.
Yeah, all I can say is... I mean, I can't explain it right now or I'll ruin the story.
But no, we're not contradicting anything. And it'll all make sense in the end.
Nrama: Let's talk about the artist real quick. You're working with the great Jae Lee. It sounds like he's got a great design for Catwoman. Is there anything else you can tell us about?
Pak: Oh my gosh, I love every single thing he's doing, and June, his wife, who is just doing insanely great colors on this stuff too.
When I first heart Jae was on tap to do the book, I was thrilled, because of course, when you think Jae Lee, you think Batman, and that just makes perfect sense. Jae is known for his amazing design sense, and his incredible atmosphere. And a real ability to bring out this kind of depth. And that's just a perfect match for Gotham City and Batman, right?
But what's brilliant about Jae is he's got an amazing range, and he's got a real light touch as well that he can pull out, and he knows how to work with small, subtle humor, and also gentle moments with brightness and sunshine.
And his Superman is just amazing!! When we see the Kent farmhouse, it's just gorgeous stuff. He does a great Clark Kent too. I think in one of the preview pages, you see Clark Kent walking through the streets of Gotham. And it's just perfect! He's that big farm boy, and he's walking through the gritty streets of Gotham, and it's that great combination of light and dark. And Jae's totally bringing out those moments.
I'm just thrilled with everything he's doing. He really gets both of these characters and understands how to play those contrasts in really beautiful ways.
Nrama: How long is this story going to be? Or is it open-ended?
Pak: I don't know if we're prepared to reveal exactly how many issues, but this first story arc will last a certain number of issues, and then we've got another story planned after that. We have a bunch of stories planned here.
Nrama: And you mentioned before that we'll see these two characters in the past and the present, and see their relationship develop. Are you talking about future stories? All the plans you have?
Pak: Yeah, we're just going to continue exploring who these two characters are, and how they become who they become, and whether they're going to be best friends or whether they're going to just kill each other at some point.
Nrama: Not that writing Batman/Superman isn't enough, but are you going to be doing more comics for DC?
Pak: Stay tuned. We'll see.