Header Image from pre-relaunch Superman #700 by Dan JurgensAt New York Comic Con, DC finally made a public announcement about what Newsarama reported last month: Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens will be the new creative team on Superman beginning in March.
"What's great about working with Keith is that we agree on the type of stuff that has to be in a Superman comic book," Jurgens told Newsarama at New York Comic Con. "And I think we have some new, exciting things to put into the book."
Current writer/artist George Pérez is leaving the title after his initial six-issue run, which began with a relaunch of the Superman universe last month. DC has announced that the departure was voluntary, and Newsarama has learned that Pérez will now pencil another DC project that is yet to be announced.
For Jurgens and Giffen, the chance to work together on Superman actually spins out of their current gig on the newly relaunched Green Arrow. The two have taken over that title because current writer J.T. Krul is leaving after #3 — one of the more surprising creative shake-ups since the "New 52" relaunch.
(The three-issue Giffen/Jurgens run on Green Arrow will end in March when Ann Nocenti begins writing the series with issue #7. There is currently no artist confirmed for Nocenti's run on Green Arrow.)
Apparently, something magic happened when Giffen and Jurgens took over Green Arrow, because DC wanted more. "We got the opportunity to work together with Green Arrow, and that led to Superman," Jurgens told Newsarama.
As readers may remember from our exclusive interview with Giffen about his team-up with Jurgens on Green Arrow, this is the first time the two have ever worked on the same title.
"We've known each other for years, and we've worked together, but on different titles, whether it was when Keith was doing Millenium, or there was a time when I was doing Superman and he was doing Legion, and we actually worked together to blow up the moon in kind of a crossover," Jurgens reminisced. "But we've never gotten to do the same book together before."
The Magic of Giffen/Jurgens
So what makes Giffen/Jurgens so successful that DC is giving them a flagship title like Superman?
"Keith and I agree on what makes a good comic," Jurgens said. "And at the same time, we have a little bit of that yin-yang thing going on. Keith's really creative, so his job is to push things as far as he can, and my job is to bring it back a little bit with the character in mind."
The two also collaborate in a unique way because they both have experience writing and drawing. (Giffen is penciling the current O.M.A.C. series, while Jurgens is writing Justice League International and drawing Green Arrow.)
For Superman, they are following the formula they developed on Green Arrow: They collaborate both before and after the script and art are done.
"We first come up with the story and break it down into issues," Jurgens said. "Keith then hits the keyboard and develops an outline to inform the office of what we're doing. Then I start drawing and moving things around. And then we collaborate more as it goes from there, and the final touches happen as we go. It's really a back and forth process."
"It's hard to tell where one guy stops and the other guy begins," Giffen told Newsarama of the collaboration with Jurgens. "And I've never had that kind of situation in my career... And I love it! I love it!"
"It's the idea of continuing to bounce it back and forth until we get it right," Jurgens said.
Right now, Action Comics is set five years in the past, but Superman is set in the "present day" of the DCnU, which differentiates the two comics.
But when Jurgens and Giffen begin their storyline with Superman #7, that difference in timeline will no longer separate the stories. Beginning with Action Comics #7, both titles are supposed to be set in the same time period, and will be starring the same character.
That opens the door for crossovers and more collaboration between the comics, as well as other related books like Superboy and Supergirl.
But Jurgens said there's no crossover planned anytime soon.
"People have asked me, 'Is this going to be like before where the Superman books are connected?'" he said. "The answer is no."
Jurgens said the fact that Action Comics and Superman share the same time period with #7 shouldn't be a problem because editors will be making sure the comics deal with different stories as each establishes its own style and format.
Action Comics writer Grant Morrison told Newsarama that "for the current day" version of Superman, he's "taking cues" from what's being established now in Justice League and Superman.
Jurgens said he and Giffen intend to collaborate with Morrison, but they don't currently plan to overlap their stories. "Action Comics and Superman will reflect one another in terms of character," he said, "but we'll be telling our own stories with a lot of new concepts as well."
There will still be shared characters and cameos in the Super-books. For example, this month's Supergirl #2 will feature Superman meeting his cousin for the first time. Co-writer Mike Johnson also announced at New York Comic Con that Jimmy Olsen will be appearing soon in Supergirl.
What Giffen/Jurgens Means for Superman
The key to differentiating the Superman book, Jurgens said, will be an added level of excitement, as he and Giffen work to create a book that "feels like a sweeping adventure."
And according to Jurgens, the fact that he and Giffen have past writing experience on Superman actually gives them an advantage, as they challenge themselves to avoid repeating what's already been done.
"We want to make it fresh and exciting," Jurgens said. "We know what's been done before, and we are not here to re-tell stories that were told 20 years ago.
"We spent a lot of time talking about this," he said. "What will we do with the character? Where will we go with it?
"How do you find something new to say with a character that has had that many stories published?" he said.
Jurgens said Giffen is particularly adamant about pushing the adventures and stories they're telling with Superman into directions that have never been explored in the past.
"[Keith's] tendency is to push it almost outside the Superman comfort zone, which I think is a good thing. Like I said before, it's a yin-yang thing. I'm there to be a little bit of a spring brake to pull it back," Jurgens said. "But I think the key is we really do agree on what makes good comics."
New, New, New
When asked if the comic will continue what Pérez has been doing or will instead go in a new direction, Jurgens said "both."
"Obviously, George has introduced some concepts and story threads that we'll want to continue to play with, as has Grant [on Action Comics]," Jurgens said. "But together, we're working to find some new things to do with Superman because we really do have a clean slate.
"That's the real attraction of working on Superman now," Jurgens said. "Anytime you get a chance to work on a character, whether it's Superman or anyone else, to have a clean slate to work on is always an advantage. You can start to shape not just that character, but almost more importantly, the characters around him, the situations around him, and that's always appetizing."
Jurgens said he and Giffen will pick up the story of characters like Jimmy and Lois where Pérez left them, but they'll add a couple new supporting characters to Superman's cast.
They're also already creating new villains for the hero, Jurgens said, crediting Giffen for driving much of the innovation.
"Keith is, I think, flat-out the most creative guy in comics in that he's an idea factory," Jurgens said. "If you look at his career and the stuff he's come up with, he is really good at generating new concepts and characters and ideas. It's a marvelous strength he has to do that."
Newsarama readers may remember that Giffen said the tagline for his Doom Patrol comic last year was "12 new characters in 12 months or your money back." According to this new direction for Superman, the same type tagline could apply.
"I've been doing that for awhile in every project that I do. I've sort of seeded the DC Universe," Giffen said.
But Jurgens said that doesn't mean the two of them are taking away the core concepts of Superman. "I've always thought there are intrinsic, consistent elements that make a good Superman story," he said. "It was that way in 1940, it was that way in 1960, it was that way in 2000, and I think it's still that way now.
"The stuff that makes a Superman story special still is there," he said, "and it's up to us to find that, but also find an entertaining and new way to tell it."
Check back with Newsarama for our one-on-one, in-depth discussion with Keith Giffen about what his idea of "new" means for Clark Kent and Superman's world.