Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

It's a big year for Superman — beyond the box office success of Man of Steel, it's also the 75th anniversary for the DC icon.

2013 has also seen the debut of Superman Unchained, the new ongoing series from Batman writer Scott Snyder and fan-favorite artist (and DC co-publisher) Jim Lee. That comic is getting the spotlight Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, with Snyder and Lee both in attendance, in a behind-the-scenes exploration of how the first issue came together.

We'll be there live, so keep updating this page for the latest updates, starting at around 4:15 p.m. Pacific time.

On the panel along with Lee and Snyder: Superman Unchained back-up story artist Dustin Nguyen, inker Scott Williams ("a longer partner to me than either of my two wives," Lee says) and colorist Alex Sinclair, plus DC senior vice president of sales Bob Wayne, serving as moderator.

Discussing the cover to Superman Unchained #1, Snyder says he wanted to do a "story that really takes Superman to task" and "really shakes him to his core" — with the cover reflecting that, as it looks like Superman is "struggling," while still appearing heroic.

Williams says that for Superman Unchained, he suggested to "save the full-bleed shots" for certain moments within the story, where the drama will need to seem to "come off the page," but the rest would be more confined and traditional.

Talking of the binoculars double-page spread in Superman Unchained #1, Lee says that Snyder is good at providing reference material, and that he also likes to do his own research. Snyder compliments Lee for "living in the world" of the comics he's drawing.

Superman Unchained #1 Poster Fold-Out
Superman Unchained #1 Poster Fold-Out
Credit: DC Comics

Lee on the four-page, fold-out double-spread in issue #1: "The reason you've never seen this happen before is it's super-complicated," he says. "All of those posters are hand-inserted into each of those comics. We will never do it again," he adds, to laughs. Williams says that he initially was hoping Lee would draw it on a giant board, but then realized that doing it on four separate ones made more sense.

They're currently showing a fast-motion video of Williams inking one of Lee's pages. "It's easier to show than to explain," Williams says.

"The challenge for me is that whenever you do a double-page spread, you have to marry them, and more times than not, the lines don't necessarily line up," Sinclair says of the four-page fold-out— and for this one he had to do it side-by-side, and top-and-bottom. But he says he viewed this spread as "just one big page."

Lee praises Sinclair's ability to create depth through colors — specifically in the two-page spread in issue #2 set in the Batcave — before exiting the panel early (as co-publisher, he's got a lot going on).

Nguyen talks about his contributions, saying that since they're only two pages per issue, he often talks to Snyder directly on the phone about what he wants. Nguyen is inking his pencils on this book — so his pencils are fairly loose, since he's working on the next stage as well — but he says he still doesn't "consider himself" an inker.

Credit: DC Comics

Snyder turns to story material, starting with Superman Unchained #3, out Aug. 14. "I feel like you've got to swing for the fence. There are so many people who love and deserve the character, that if you get a chance, you might as well do 'the story' you would tell if you have one shot... It's a story that's really about this challenge to Superman, 'does he do enough?'"

The story involves an alien named Wraith that came to Earth, before Superman, to do "the things that Superman might want to do, but doesn't do," like deposing warlords. General Lane believes that Superman doesn't do it because he's a coward — who kills more people than he saves by not changing the geopolitical structure, because he wants to be a public hero that's beloved.

"He's not a straight-up villain," Snyder says of the character. "He is Superman's worst nightmare."

"It's a challenge to Superman," Snyder continues. "My favorite Superman stories are the ones where he's taken to task," mentioning The Dark Knight Returns and All-Star Superman. "This is a story that means a lot to me."

Lois Lane has the third biggest role in this story, Snyder says, other than Superman and Wraith. Lois will be saving herself, Snyder says, and not needing Superman to rescue her.

"We really want it to be not dark, but challenging," Snyder says. "We want it to be a seminal Superman story. We're not pulling any punches — physically or emotionally."

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