SDCC '08 - 'Superman: Man of Tomorrow' Panel

Superman is generally considered the first superhero, so it makes some sense that DC Comics started their programming schedule at Comic-Con International in San Diego early Thursday afternoon with their “DC: Superman: Man of Tomorrow” panel.

In recent years, heavily comic book centric panels like this at Comic-Con - especially early on Thursday - haven’t attracted massive crowds like the celebrity-filled TV and movie panels. But Superman, evidently still a draw after all these years, attracted a line that stretched outside, with the panel itself filling the convention center’s large 6B conference room. Given that the convention sold out all four days last week, such lines will likely be the status quo for the rest of the weekend.

Panel moderator Matt Idelson, editor of the Superman books, was joined by new Supergirl creative team Sterling Gates (writer) and Jamal Igle (artist), Action Comics writer Geoff Johns, Superman writer James Robinson and artist Renato Guedes. Action Comics artist Gary Frank was in absentia.

The writers started the panel by giving some quick hints about upcoming storylines. Johns discussed the nine-part “New Krypton” crossover, starting in October (running through Action Comics, Superman and Supergirl, with Kryptonians declaring Earth to be “New Krypton).

For more on New Kyyton, check out our recent conversation with editor Matt Idelson in a video interview.

Robinson said his current Atlas storyline was “a little on its own, but with seeds of things to come” pointing towards a “cohesive universe” between the Superman books; and Gates said he wants to counter Supergirl’s reputation as a “b” title, and make “the best book we possibly can.”

“I’m a huge Superman fan,” said Igle. “Getting the opportunity to draw Supergirl has just been amazing. When I got the first script, I was surprised how good it was.” This comment might sound somewhat back-handed (the audience, playfully, thought so too), but Igle quickly clarified that he knew it was going to be good, but was blown away by the quality.

Johns then discussed the character Cat Grant and her recent and upcoming use (she’ll be publishing an article on why the world doesn’t need a Supergirl). After that, the panel was opened up to questions from the audience.

First question - “Ideas beyond ‘New Krypton’?” Johns answered that they recently had a creative summit and mapped out ideas until December 2010. He gave another hint - “Superwoman. Very interesting character. We’ve got a lot of twists and turns coming up in the books.”

A fan then asked if Robinson would mostly be handling new villains and Johns classic ones. Robinson corrected the fan, saying “Atlas isn’t a new character, you know that. He actually appeared in the first issue special. He’s actually a Kirby character.” Johns then said it’ll continue to be a mix of old and new, and that, “We’ll come up with something for Captain Atom, as well”

Johns said that the triangle numbers - prevalent in the 1990s with all four mainstream continuity Superman comics crossed over on regular basis - would return soon, likely with “New Krypton.” “They won’t be on every single issue, but when we do crossovers, there will be there.”

A fan curious about the delays on Richard Donner’s co-writing run with Geoff Johns asked about any possibility of anything similar happening in the future. Johns credited the work of Idelson and made the rather bold assertion, “I don’t think you’re going to see delays ever again.”

Any chance of Jack Knight (who James Robinson created and wrote in his much-lauded Starman run) in Superman? Robinson said, “When you retire a character, you open him up to the potential that he might appear in books that you don’t want him to appear in, or be handled by other writers. Long answer short, no. But I have brought back Krypto.”

“Is there anything in particular in store for Lois Lane?” Johns answered, “Yes. Lois Lane is the second most important character in our books. She’s got to be cool - if Superman’s gonna marry her, she’s gotta be the coolest girl in the world.”

Another famous Superman supporting character, Jimmy Olsen, was brought up next. Robinson said he’s working on a Jimmy Olsen special, and that, “One day he is destined to be the greatest reporter Metropolis has ever seen, but he’s just not there yet.”

A fan made the connection that both Johns and Robinson have screenwriting experience, and asked if there was a chance they’ll work on a Superman movie. “It’s not up to us,” said Johns. “We’d love to do it. It’d be fun to see Brainiac on the big screen.”

When asked about what kind of changes the writers were looking to bring to the characters and mythos, Johns said he wasn’t interested in “facade changes” that will be undone in two years, but ones with more meaning.

Channeling Stephen Colbert, an audience member asked if Krypto was a great Superman character or the greatest Superman character?” Robinson responded, “I love dogs, and he’s going to be an important part of the DC Universe.” The same fan asked if there was any chance of seeing Streaky the Supercat or Comet the Super-Horse - “Now you’re pushing it,” said Robinson. Johns added that both he and Gates love Streaky, so there might be an appearance in the works after all.

“I’ve noticed the Superboy name pop up in solicits. Has that been cleared up?” Johns said, “Superboy Prime is a different character, so we can use him. But we can’t really talk about it.”

A fan acknowledged that he bought more Marvel books than DC, and echoed the common complaint that DC Comics are less accessible and more reliant on knowledge of prior character histories and storylines than Marvel. “Our goal is to make these books extremely accessible,” said Johns.

Other topic covered during the hour-long panel included and if we’ll see Doomsday, Zod John Henry Irons anytime soon (yes to all three), if Jimmy Olsen knowing Superman’s identity in Countdown will be dealt with (it won’t, with both Robinson and Johns expressing distaste for the idea), possible crossovers with Superman/Batman (“That book’s kind of on its own,” said Johns), the differences between Action Comics and Superman (Robinson noted the art styles and the fact that Johns doesn’t use thought captions and he does), and what Superman comics would be good for someone new to comics (Johns pointed to the first issue of “New Krypton” and the first Gates and Igle issue of Supergirl in October).

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