Spoilers ahead for this week's Superwoman #2.
Lending further fuel to the belief that "New 52" Superman and Lois Lane might return, Superwoman writer/artist Phil Jimenez is emphasizing that even though Lois died at the end of Superwoman #1, her story "isn't over yet."
Whether that includes an actual 'rebirth' of the character, Jimenez isn't saying. But the writer/artist hopes that readers who didn't like the death of Lois will stick around until, specifically, the end of the first story arc on Superwoman.
In the meantime, Superwoman features Lana Lang, "New 52" Clark Kent's friend from childhood, who received superpowers from that Superman when he died at the end of the "New 52" era.
Now Lana will have to face the possibility that she, too, might die like her friends Lois and Clark; an anxiety she'll face with help from her boyfriend Steel. The two won't have a lot of time to think about it, as they deal with an attack on Metropolis by the villain Ultra Woman and her Bizarress Army.
Superwoman launched August 10 as part of DC's "Rebirth" initiative, which seeks to return the DCU and its characters to their "core." The book is the latest writing effort by Jimenez, who's just as well known (if not better known) for his artwork, having drawn some of the best-selling DC titles of the last couple decades including Infinite Crisis.
Newsarama talked with Jimenez to find out more about his plans for Superwoman, whether he can confirm the identity of Ultra Woman, and how he's trying to keep the female characters in the book authentic.
Newsarama: Phil, I know you're looking forward to issue #2 and beyond right now, but I think readers are still kind of reeling from the end of Superwoman #1. I don't think anyone was expecting that, particularly since this book was promoted as an ongoing Lois Lane book. That appears to not be the case now, right?
Phil Jimenez: I actually let DC Comics do all the marketing on that. The plan was, of course, to have that ending [to the first issue], from the beginning, for a variety of reasons. Partly it was that I was taking a page out of the old Game of Thrones book, where sometimes really unexpected things happen to really important characters.
And it turned out to be fairly effective. I was a little nervous, of course, because it's, you know, quite a game to play. But I'm glad it worked out for so many, although I do know that some people were kind of upset by it.
Nrama: I'm sure some people who are Lois Lane fans might have been upset, but there is another Lois Lane. Did that play a part in the decision to kill "New 52" Lois? And was it a more DC-wide decision to make her death mirror the way "New 52" Superman died?
Jimenez: What I like to keep saying, and it's really obnoxious, but I believe that it's true, is that Lois' story isn't over yet. Certainly Lois' story in Superwoman is hardly over.
But there are links back to the death of the "New 52" Superman. That stuff will come out for a while, in multiple Superman books, including mine.
But certainly, we were concerned about duplicates of Lois, and concerned about any kind of confusion that new readers might have between multiple versions. And so we thought about that a lot while planning this first story arc.
And even though the first issue is kind of a big thing - "Oh my God, it's shocking!" - my intention is for this story to play out over the first two arcs of Superwoman, which will take us, I believe, to issue #6 or #7.
My hope is that anyone that was interested in the first issue - shocked by it, angered by it, etcetera - will just check back in here and there, hopefully reading it full-time, but if not throughout the arc to see how it ultimately plays out.
Nrama: OK, let's look forward at this story arc. It's been revealed on covers and solicitations, even though we didn't see him in that first issue, that Steel shows up in future issues as Lana's significant other. Now that we know Lana is starring, at least for awhile, is Steel a key supporting character?
Jimenez: Steel, to me, is the heart of the book, actually. One of the bummers about the first issue, to me, from a pacing perspective, is that we had to focus entirely on Lana and Lois - the Superwomen - to get the book going.
So Superman #2 is almost like a #1 for me. The supporting cast is finally introduced beyond the two lead characters. So in my head, and proceeding forward, Steel is a huge, huge contributor to that book.
I inherited Lana Lang, and she is dating Steel. And that relationship and its implications both personal and political and superheroic remain a vital part of the book.
Steel's a character I've loved for a long time. My intent is to play him with a great deal of integrity. And as I say, to me, he's the heart of the book. If Superwoman is the soul of it, Steel is the heart of it.
Nrama: We know from solicitations that there's an Ultra Woman - we've even seen her depicted on the cover of issue #3 and we've seen her Bizarress Army. And I think most readers have figured out who she probably is… but SPOILERS in case anyone hasn't. You've already established that Lex Luthor is also an antagonist, but can you talk about both him and Ultra Woman and how they threaten Superwoman and Metropolis?
Jimenez: What ended up happening, which I thought was beautiful in this weird way, was that all the pieces of my first story arc had already been laid out before me, some of which were in Justice League and Geoff Johns' "Darkseid War," and some of it was just re-establishing long-standing history, since "Rebirth" sought to remind old readers of just what made DC so great.
So we get to bring back some of Lex's power and influence over Metropolis, Lex Corps' impact on the city itself.
Geoff introduced Lena in "Darkseid War," Luthor's sister, who's had various incarnations over the decades. This one is heavily rooted in the current, "New 52," "Darkseid War" version.
What has been really quite fun about her is that her history with Lex provides an enormous motivation - is the motivation - for all of her behavior. So while I play her like kind of a big, overly dramatic, supervillain - kind of like a Magneto, Dr. Doom, or Joker - what I like about her is that the source or root of her villainy, her anger, is very much her brother.
And so we'll see more of Lex's childhood, we'll see their childhood together, and we'll see just what a Luthor can be to even the most innocent people in the world.
And of course Lex is finding out that being a Superman isn't the easiest thing in the world. He's finally achieved everything he thought he wanted, and now a lot of people are just coming after him, including his sister. And I think that's a big surprise to him. You know, he thought he'd be Superman and the people in Metropolis would love him even more, and he's finding that being a Superman comes with a pretty heavy price.
Nrama: We've also found out from solicitations that Lana's powers are killing her. I'm sure, watching Lois apparently die, has freaked her out a bit too. Can you talk about what she's dealing with regarding her powers?
Jimenez: Lana's illness is going to be a huge part of the book. She was really reticent, really resistant to taking this sort of 'Super' role and using her powers in the first place, partially because she didn't actually earn them. She got them because her best friend, Superman, blew up in front of her, and suddenly she had these powers. So while Lois Lane sort of took to them, Lana didn't.
And then Lana's history - a lot of people have died around her: Her parents, her brothers, Superman, and now apparently her partner.
And her partner seems to have died because of the power she inherited. And Lana thinks that could happen to her too.
So what's causing these panic attacks is the fear of mortality, and it's been thrust right in her face. If she continues to use this power of hers, the same thing could happen to her.
So a big part of her journey, certainly through these first two arcs, will be... will she continue to be a Superwoman knowing that, by doing so, she could very well die, and in a really horrific way?
And if she does, what will happen to her?
So that's a big part of this story: Lana's anxiety over the use of this power, how to use it, how to use it properly, how to be a proper Super-person, knowing full well that doing so cold kill her.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Phil, is there anything else you want to tell people about what's coming up with Superwoman?
Jimenez: I would like people to know - and I've been saying this a lot at conventions - I'm keenly aware of a lot of the gender politics that go into mainstream superhero comics right now, and so I actually feel quite a responsibility to write the lives of women in comics authentically. That's sort of my job. And I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, a writer can write and that's great." But I've been consulting as many women as I can. I was really interested in women's reaction to Superwoman number one, and number two, to find out if the voices were authentic. And so at every convention, I've been very keen to court any readers, but particularly women, who can sort of lend help to those voices and sort of express concerns, express what they like. I've been very pleased that so many have responded positively. I know a lot of Lois Lane fans are less excited. But again, I'm very aware of the responsibility, and my hope is that I continue to make characters that are likable and readable and who read and sound as authentic.