Scott Snyder launched the New 52 with the best-selling solo book, Batman. Jim Lee launched the New 52 with the best-selling team book, Justice League. So doesn’t it make sense for the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel to put the pair of superstar creators on a Superman book?
That’s exactly what DC Comics did with the June launch of Superman: Unchained, a brand-new ongoing series that approaches Superman in a unique way. While it gives him something to punch, it also tries to give him something to think about, and really challenges the way that Superman has done his super heroic gig for three quarters of a century.
And of course, it’s not just Superman’s 75th, it’s also the anniversary of a certain intrepid reporter, Lois Lane. While the character has taken a backseat in the New 52 at large, especially since Superman started dating fellow godly Justice Leaguer Wonder Woman, Snyder tells Newsarama she’s absolutely one of the stars of this book, and sums up Superman’s career in one simple sentence: “He couldn’t do it without her.”
We sat down with Snyder on the busy show floor of Comic-Con International: San Diego 2013 for a chat about Superman Unchained, why Clark might be doing it all wrong, and why Lois is a true hero.
Newsarama: Scott, we’ve talked about the idea of “Triumph out of Tragedy” when speaking about Batman, but it’s also one that fits well with Superman – how do you relate that theme to Superman in Superman: Unchained?
Scott Snyder: Well, in Superman: Unchained, in terms of his origin and stuff, there is that same primal story, I think it’s the story again of losing your parents, losing your home, having to come someplace new and figure out who you are as an outsider. Do you stick up for people who might not like you or are afraid of you? We’re playing on that in Unchained, differently, I think than they did in Man of Steel or elsewhere.
Our focus is on challenging Superman emotionally and psychologically where the antagonist, Wraith, is part of an operation, essentially that has moved in secret, that’s why he’s called Wraith, he’s a ghost in history. The place he works is called The Machine, and the idea is that they’ve moved the direction of American history and Global history for a long time. And he’s done it in secret. His attack on Superman is this idea that “you need the sound of this, Clark” [Snyder Claps], “You need to be the hero that everyone loves, and cheers for. And you’re basically a p*ssy for that, because deep down there are things that you could do geopolitically if you dealt with them secretly and didn’t need the adulation, that you know you’d want to do: taking down a dictator or a warlord. Why don’t you do that?”
This guy does it. He’s done it for years. And you look at a map of the world and here’s how dangerous it used to be and here’s how dangerous it is today, so “who are you? You’re not even actually a hero, you’re a villain. You kill more people a day by not acting than you actually save. So you know what? Go back to your effing home planet. Oh, that doesn’t exist? Leave ours anyway.”
And that’s the attack. I really want to challenge Superman that way, and say you don’t do enough, why don’t you? And he has a reason. It’s an argument, but I really want it to be something that takes him to task. Wraith is stronger than him and has been here longer – part of the fun of the story is that his physiology is similar to Clark’s. He has powers that he says to Clark, “You’ll learn how to do this later, watch:” then he does something and you’re like, “What the f***? Is Superman going to learn how to do that, that’s amazing!” Wraith promises he’ll learn how to do what he’s doing soon, but not yet, and then “WHAM!” Superman is owned.
Again, Spoiler, but I love you guys at Newsarama so I’ll give you what I can. In issue 3, you see Wraith punch Superman across the state of Utah. It’s a satellite map where he’s just a streak across the entire state.
Nrama: A Google Earth view?
Snyder: No, it is, we actually used a Google Earth image, we asked if we could get it but couldn’t use it because of their copyright, so we had to trace it. But it’s the actual map of the state of Utah as he’s soaring across it.
But I’m trying my best. I really want to challenge the characters, and really hurt them in that way, and try to really make stories that rock them to their core. Otherwise, why do it, you know?
Nrama: Let me ask you this, there’s a large contingent of fans – I’m thinking of a couple in particular that I interact with on Twitter a lot - that really miss from the old universe, the Clark and Lois dynamic, and the way that she helped him in grounding him, in helping him stay “human.” You’ve promised in the past that you want to explore Lois more. What can you tell us to give them some hope?
Snyder: Lois is the second biggest character in the story, or maybe third behind the antagonist. Lois doesn’t just have a role, she has a crucial role in being an investigative reporter. Just as a tease, at the end of Unchained #2, for example, you see Lois is going down in a plane. The common wisdom and expectation is that Superman is going to come save her. But I want to do a Lois story where she is bad-ass and saves everybody else.
I promise when you open up #3, you’ll see there’s a lot of fun Lois stuff that starts there, where she is smarter than everybody around her. All I can say is, I really have no bones about saying to you: this is a huge Lois Lane story. I wouldn’t say that to you if it wasn’t. She has a crucial role in it that is much more than any tiny supporting role. She doesn’t need to be saved. She is the key to unraveling the mystery of Wraith, of Ascension, of everything.
He couldn’t do it without her. I promise you, a lot of Lois and important Lois, and I love writing her.
There are other books, obviously, that will focus on the Superman/Wonder Woman connection and I’m excited about those, but that’s not in my book. I’m not exploring that. This is about the relationship of Superman and Lois. So if that’s what you’ve been missing, come check it out, because it’s in there.
Nrama: Cue the squee!
Snyder: It’s true! My favorite panel of issue 3 is Lois… I don’t want to give it away, I don’t want to explain it too much, I want you guys to see it. But Lois is bad-ass. She’s doing something here and everyone around her is like “what the hell are you doing?” and she just says, “Quiet, I know what I’m doing.” It’s a very “go Lois!” moment. The pilot is even begging her to call Superman and she just says like, “Superman has more important sh** to do. I can handle this.”
That’s what I want. Lois is a hero, and you have to show that.