SUPERBOY's Jeff Lemire: A New But Steady DC Super-Writer

Jeff Lemire Talks SUPERBOY

 

For fans of the new, critical hit series Superboy, it might be comforting to know that writer Jeff Lemire's not going anywhere.

The series, which just released its second issue, is one of the bright spots in DC's field of Superman titles, where creative teams seem to be using a revolving door. With the Superman comic already experiencing a mid-story writer change after J. Michael Straczynski's departure, DC announced last week that Supergirl's creative team is also changing again, as the anticipated run by Nick Spencer gets stopped short.

But last month's launch of a new Superboy ongoing series has caught the attention of both readers and reviewers, and Lemire plans to not only stick around on the title, but claims that best is yet to come.

And in Superboy #6, the comic will be part of the "Reign of Doomsday" event, which kicks off next month in Steel #1, then crosses into Outsiders, Justice League of America, and Superboy.

But for now, the series has clearly established itself as a truly unique superhero comic, mixing Conner Kent's quirky small town life with Superboy's horror-inspired battles against strange supernatural elements and villains.

In this first installment of a two-part interview, Newsarama caught up with Lemire to talk about his inspiration for Superboy's guest stars and what's coming next in the title.

Newsarama: Jeff, this comic is filled with the unexpected. How did you come up with the idea to have someone like Phantom Stranger in a Superboy book that's based in Smallville?

Lemire: Well, for me, on that book, I’ll be completely honest. Initially, I wasn’t really completely enamored with the character of Superboy himself. I mean, this was all before I actually wrote the script. It was a matter of me trying to figure out what my take on that character would be, and it took me a little bit of time. I think it took me a bit of time to figure out who he was to me and what his story would be.

 

So at first, as I was kind of thinking about the book, and I think I was trying to surround Conner with people that I did like a lot, like the Phantom Stranger, and I actually really liked the supporting cast that Geoff [Johns] had set up in his run [on Adventure Comics]. So initially, I was really focusing on that kind of stuff, and that’s how I built the world around him and the story.

But, thankfully, over the course of doing that and working on it, I really did start to fall in love with the Conner Kent character as well.

The other side is I really wanted to do totally something different with the book. I just didn’t want it to be, like, him fighting a different villain every month or something.

I wanted to almost model it after Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, where there were different monsters, and a different horror element every month, but with a bigger mythology. I thought it’d be really cool to do a horror story instead of a serial story with the character. So that’s why you see supernatural characters like Phantom Stranger and then there'll be more later on popping up. I’m actually trying to develop a horror story with superheroes.

Nrama: And from the covers in the solicitations of what’s coming, it looks like he’ll be meeting quite a few villains. We’ve already seen a couple just in the last two issues.

Lemire: Yeah. I wanted to use two recognizable villains at the beginning, just to make sure it was firmly set in the DC Universe. But now, as we move forward, I think what I have planned out is all new characters that I’m creating, new villains. So that kind of will go along with this bigger sort of secretive mythology.

Nrama: Is January's issue more about what’s going on in Smallville and what his life is like there?

Lemire: Yeah. That’s exactly right. I think Issues #3 and #4 are a two-part story, and that one really does focus in a lot more on his school life, his friends, his relationship with Ma Kent, and the town itself. So, yeah, it really is just a matter of building the world around him now, and there won’t be any big supervillains yet. Not that there won’t be action, obviously.

Nrama: Any new characters that we might not recognize?

Lemire: There will be a new hero introduced that I created. Those two issues, #3 and #4, are the best ones I’ve done so far, I think. So I’m really ready for those to come out.

Nrama: You had some fun teasers at the end of Superboy #1. Was that something you came up with or something that DC wanted?

Lemire: I think Matt Idelson, my editor, kind of threw that idea out at me. With the first issue, I think we were allowed to have a couple of extra pages. I liked the idea, because that’s something Geoff Johns kind of started doing a few years ago for his books, and it was always really exciting when you saw that stuff.

 

I had actually done it a couple of times in Sweet Tooth as well, at the end of each arc. It was just a way to get people excited about the book. So I was obviously happy to do it for Superboy too.

Nrama: I saw some reaction to one of the teasers on the Internet. That image of Superboy meeting Superboy had people hoping you remember Superboy meeting the original Superboy from Zero Hour.

Lemire: I certainly do. I actually love those books. I do remember that, yes. This will be a different kind of meeting. I can’t – I actually don’t want to ruin it. There won’t be – it won’t as literal as that. Let's put it that way. And I won’t say anymore.

As for the other teasers, I can't reveal all the details about them, but there is going to be a Kid Flash-Superboy race coming up in Issue #5, I think it is. And Bart Allen pops up in Issue #3.

Nrama: Is Bart Allen going to be a frequent guest star?

Lemire: I hope so. There’s a lot of expectation among fans to have Tim Drake stories, because people love seeing Conner and Tim together. But I didn’t want to do that again right away, so I thought it’d be fun to do some stuff with Kid Flash. Kid Flash is such a big personality that you automatically put him in any scene and the characters could play off what he’s saying and stuff. So he’s a lot of fun to write. I think he’ll probably be a character that’s always around here and there in Superboy, because I really enjoy writing him.

Nrama: Will 2011 mostly be Superboy on his own in his title? Or will he interact with the Superman Universe, or Teen Titans?

Lemire: The way we’re playing it now is that, in the monthly Superboy book, we’ll use his adventures alone. Those adventures will begin in Smallville, for the most part.

 

And then J.T. Krul’s taking care of all the Titans stuff. I’m still going to have to reflect things that are happening in Teen Titans, but they won’t cross over or anything like that. If there are any life-changing events that happened to the team, then I’ll just sort of reference that or something. But for the most part, it’s really me on my own.

The only exception will be in Superboy #6, when the title will be part of the Reign of Doomsday crossover with the other Superman books. I think there’s four or five titles that it crosses into, so that’s really the only kind of crossover I had to sort of squeeze in. But other than that, yeah, it’s really my own kind of story and he’ll just be in Smallville doing his own thing.

Nrama: Then to finish up on Superboy, what does Pier Gallo bring to this title?

Lemire: He’s really fun to work with. He’s a very passionate guy. He’s Italian and he has a real European flair to his art and his personality as well. The thing that that I think he’s really bringing to the book is his attention to detail. It’s pretty spectacular. He puts a lot of detail in the panels, and he’s a really clear, clean storyteller as well, which I like. So those two strengths are in the pages. This his first time doing a monthly book, so you’ll see him actually get better each month. I’ve seen up to Issue #4 now, and it just takes a jump each month. It’s pretty great to watch.]

 

Nrama: Before we switch to discussing Sweet Tooth, are you doing any other work for DC, now that your Atom back-up features are ending? I know you have an Atom special coming up, right?

Lemire: Yeah, the backup features I was doing in Adventure Comics were supposed to be 10 chapters, and then they ended the backup feature thing. So the last four chapters that would’ve been backup features, I’ve now reworked into a 46-page special, which will come out in March. And that’ll be the end of my story with that character for now anyway.

As far as me doing other work in the DCU, there’s going to be some more stuff next year.

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