promo imageIn March, Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel take over Action Comics, bringing the title up-to-date with the rest of the DC Universe and more in sync with the other Super-titles.
And according to Diggle, the promo image DC released for Action Comics showing a darker Superman does not mean the character will be dark.
In fact, he told Newsarama he's "bright and optimistic."
As their run starts, the setting is one year ago in the DCU. Readers will learn more about Superman's life in Metropolis, but Diggle will also be adding sci-fi action to the title, featuring villains both new and old.
First up? A battle with Lex Luthor set about one year before the current DCU. Newsarama talked to Diggle to find out more about his plans.
Newsarama: Andy, as you take over Action Comics, how would you describe the new direction you're hoping to bring to the book? And how does the new direction influence your portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman?
Andy Diggle: Grant Morrison’s run is showing us Superman’s early years, as he gets to grips with the extent of his powers and his place in the world. He’s younger and a little more impetuous and quick to anger than we’re used to seeing him. So I think we’ll see a calmer, more centered Superman once we bring him into the present day. He’s gotten his head around who he is.
That said, my opening three-issue arc is set one year before the present day, showing how Lex Luthor finally steps up to become one of the most lethal supervillains of the New 52. That’s a big responsibility.
Nrama: Yeah, a recent issue of Superman established that the two have quite a bit of history. Does that mean the story is a dark one?
Diggle: Tonally, I’m wary of taking Superman himself dark. He’s inherently a bright and optimistic character. I think if you mess with that too much, you’ll break the core concept. I’m known for writing rather dark and cynical stories, which works great when you’re writing a characters like John Constantine or The Losers – I’m just not going to put any of that into Superman himself. I’m pouring all my meanness and cynicism into Lex Luthor and the new villains I’m creating, and then letting Superman react to that.
Nrama: So that preview image DC released to announce your run doesn't mean Superman is dark now? Readers will probably be relieved to hear you say he's "bright and optimistic," since, as you said, that's what you've often written in the past.
Diggle: After years of writing dark, tough-guy anti-heroes, it’s a breath of fresh air being able to write a hero who is 100 percent pure and good and doesn’t have a cynical bone in his body. He’s a paragon.
Nrama: There's mention in the solicitation of a character called "Oracle" who is "at the edge of the Solar System." Does that mean you're bringing some sci-fi elements to the comic?
Diggle: Story-wise, yeah, I’m definitely bringing something of a sci-fi vibe to it. I think that just makes sense on a modern Superman story – he is from another planet, after all. The DC relaunch has given us the opportunity to create more coherent back-stories for some of the super-powered characters. I think modern readers are too sophisticated to buy the whole “bitten by a radioactive lawnmower” origin stories that writers got away with in decades past. I think readers who enjoyed my Adam Strange: Planet Heist will enjoy this.
Nrama: How would you describe your vision for Superman as a character?
Diggle: I think the ultimate definition of heroism is self-sacrifice, and Superman is the exemplar of that. He’s driven by conscience. So no matter how much he does, how hard he strives, he can never rest on his laurels. There’ll always be that nagging doubt at the back of his mind that he could have done more… or should be doing more, right now. He’s pretty tough on himself.Action Comics #18 Obviously I’m working in a shared universe so I have to be consistent with the Superman that’s already been established in the New 52. He’s shown himself to be a little more impetuous, a little more punchy than the Superman of yesteryear. A little rougher around the edges. I have big love for the wholesome, squeaky clean “Gosh Lois” Christopher Reeve incarnation, but this is something else.
Nrama: What other DCU characters are you looking forward to working with?
Diggle: I’ve been really impressed with Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s take on Wonder Woman, and her burgeoning relationship with Superman gives me the perfect opportunity to explore the characters’ different approaches to the world. They’re both outsiders, trying to find their place in the world, and that’s what brings them together.
And Lex Luthor, of course. I love writing smart, ruthless villains. I had a lot of fun writing Lex in the launch arc of Batman Confidential, so it’s great finally to be able to pit him against Superman. We haven’t really gotten to see Lex assume the role of full-on supervillain yet in the New 52, so I get to show how ruthless and diabolical he can really be.
Nrama: Let's talk about the process of writing Superman. What does this comic offer you as a writer — how does it challenge you and entice you as a creator?
Diggle: Superman is the ultimate superhero – the original. And there’s a big spotlight on him right now, what with the 75th anniversary and the new movie coming up this year. So it’s exciting to be a part of that. I just want to respect the history of the character and the amazing roster of talents who have brought his stories to life. I want to build on that pedigree and tell stories with both brains and brawn. “Heart and swagger,” as my writer friend Daragh Carville puts it.
Nrama: How do you think your planned adventures for Superman and your writing style will differentiate this book from other Superman titles?
Diggle: I bring what I bring, I guess. I don’t like to over-analyze my own work, and I’m certainly not interested in comparing it to other writers’, but whatever it is that makes an “Andy Diggle comic” is what I’m trying to do here. I’m bringing my own voice to it. Otherwise why bother?
It’s my role to bring Action Comics up to the present day and to sync up with the other super-books. A lot of moving parts that have to mesh perfectly. There’s always a balancing act you have to strike when working in a shared universe, between finding your own voice, meshing with the vision of the other writers, and accommodating the wishes of the publishers who own and control the characters. It’s about knowing when to be diplomatic and capitulate, and when to stand your ground. You have to pick your battles.
Nrama: How is Tony Daniel's art influencing your story?
Diggle: Tony’s just a natural born superhero artist. He brings dynamism and an amazing sense of design to the sci-fi technology. And his Metropolis is going to look awesome. I want to write to his strengths and give his artwork room to breathe.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Andy, can you give us a tease about your overall plans for the series?
Diggle: I’m looking forward to digging into some of the back-story elements in a way we haven’t seen before. Obviously I don’t want to spoil it, but we have some major plans there. And I’m having fun creating some major new villains who are really able to stand their ground against the Man of Steel. It’s going to be epic!
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