Since Charles Soule and Tony Daniel launched the new Superman/Wonder Woman title last year, the comic's been developing the relationship between the two powerful beings, while concurrently pitting them against some of the most dangerous and high-profile villains in the DCU.
This month's Superman/Wonder Woman #6 brought together the those two threads with a huge battle that combined with the characters' growing emotional investment.
As the two faced the end of their lives, they shared a declaration of love.
Before purposefully causing an explosion that would potentially end their lives (to save the world, of course), Superman turned to Wonder Woman and said, simply, "I love you." Her reply? "Of course you do."
It might all sound a bit melodramatic, except for the fact that the exchange took place right before something that's potentially nerdgasm-worthy — Wonder Woman and Superman worked together to split an atom with her sword, causing a nuclear explosion in order to close the Phantom Zone.
The combination of "kick-ass" with "feels" took the comic all the way to its final-panel cliffhanger: After a battle scene that included fun, bombastic superhero concepts — from Zod and Greek gods to Warworld and magic armor — the comic ended with Superman and Wonder Woman seemingly dead, in an embrace.
Although Newsarama already interviewed Soule what's coming in next month's crossover, "Superman: Doomed," we talked to him again after the release of this week's issue to find out about the writer's approach to the first six issues of Superman/Wonder Woman — and what Diana meant with her answer to Clark.
Newsarama: Charles, although there was plenty of action in this issue — and we'll get to that in a moment — I think the big surprise for readers was the declaration by Superman that he loved Wonder Woman. Did you always know this was going to go down in this issue, ad that the story was leading up to this moment?
Charles Soule: My initial pitch on the book included this ending. So I've known this was going to happen since before I started scripting issue #1.
So yes, I knew it was coming.
And I hope that it's clear, from issue #6, that many of the choices I made in issues #1-5 were building up to this ending. I think it comes together really well, and I hope the readers agree.
Nrama: Yes, you pulled together the people and places they've visited over the last five issues into one big finale. But before we talk about the last five issues, we haven't addressed Wonder Woman's answer. I'm sure you'd like readers to come to their own conclusion, but in your mind, was Wonder Woman being a little stand-off-ish, or is she just confident about the way they feel about each other?
Soule: I think that Wonder Woman is a little… One of the things you've seen with her throughout the first six issues, including the one that just came out, is that she's having to deal with emotions and feelings that she has not necessarily dealt with before, to this degree. I think they're both very inexperienced at love. They're both kind of new to it.
So she wants to make sure that when she says it, the time is right, and she wants to understand what it means. There's a lot going on at that moment, and maybe she was taken a little aback, and has to think about it for a second. But it's not being stand-off-ish.
Nrama: Wonder Woman's response almost feels like it puts her in the position of power in the relationship. I don't know if you thought that through that way, but it's the way it came across to me, maybe because I'm a woman. It stands out to me that it's the woman who reacted that way.
Soule: I think that one of the things I'm playing with in this series is the occasional reversal of what would be considered "normal" gender roles. And I think that Superman being just a little bit more emotionally open than Wonder Woman — as you saw, that's something I put in there a little bit intentionally. And I think that, in stereotyping, a woman might be considered to be more emotionally open than a man. And so flipping that on its head is something I thought was legitimate.
You know, relationships in general are not the way they're portrayed in popular media most of the time. They're much more complicated. Power balance is always shifting. The fact that there is a power balance is rarely acknowledged in TV relationships, you know?
We don't have to talk about this at length, but one of the things that I really wanted to make clear in this story was that, you know, when you're dating someone, sometimes you let them take the reins because… you want to protect their ego, you want to let them have a moment to shine, or you just want to be proud of them taking the reins. Right?
Nrama: Of course.
Soule: All of those things are legitimate reasons why you might let someone else handle something.
I think, with this series — one of the things I've heard on Twitter and so on is that people find it hard to understand that, because they're Superman and Wonder Woman. You know, "Wonder Woman would never let anyone do that for her." And, "Superman would never let anyone show him up." But that's not how it is in a relationship. You do that kind of thing all the time, because it's just how it is. Relationships are about give and take.
And a way that you give is by giving other people the chance to do what they're best at.
Nrama: That makes sense. But one of the things that stands out about this title is that it has this sort of realistic portrayal of a new relationship happening in front of the backdrop of a blockbuster superhero story. Not only did you kick things off with Doomsday, but in this issue… splitting an atom with a sword is about as fun and "comic-hooky" as it gets. Did you do that on purpose, to make sure this familiar-sounding relationship stuff was being done in an environment of this action-packed, high-stakes, yet sci-fi/superhero story?
Soule: Well, you know how I mentioned that the "I love you" was part of my original set of ideas for this? The splitting the atom bit was there too, because I thought that it would be such a great moment for Superman to say "I love you" right at the moment that they think they're sacrificing themselves to save the world.
Because if you're not going to say it then, you're never going to say it.
And as far as the beat itself, I mean, Wonder Woman's sword can split an atom. That's something that's been relatively established in the books, at this point. And I just thought, well, if you can do that, what would it mean if that happened? What would be a situation where that would happen?
Nrama: With Zod, Faora, Apollo and Strife involved in this issue, it became clear that only the combination of these villains could defeat them, and only the combination of the two of them could fight back. I assume that was also a conscious choice, to bring together the villains to provide this type of challenge to these ultra-powerful characters?
Soule: Some of it evolved over time. One thing that evolved over time was that Apollo would be pretty annoyed at Superman for the way he showed him up in issue #2. So figuring out a way to bring that back in a way that would be satisfying and make sense was one of the big "ah ha!" moments in the plotting path. I was very happy when that idea came to me, and I think it works really, really well.
I think Apollo is the kind of guy who would hold a grudge. He likes to stick to what he does, but the gods have never been the most predictable in any portrayal I've ever seen — and certainly, this alien punching him through a mountain is something he probably wouldn't forget or forgive very easily.
Nrama: I know we just recently talked about how the Doomsday event begins in April in most of the Superman books and continues into May. Is Zod part of that event? He's the one in this issue who opens the Phantom Zone, which presumably leads into "Doomed." Are they part of it?
Soule: Zod and Faora were — well, I mean, I don't want to spoil too much going forward. But for the moment, their story is finished. We may see them again, at some point soon. Actually, I suspect we will. But the way they appear, at least based on the storyline we've all been thinking about, is very interesting.
One of the things that's been great, particularly, about working with Greg Pak and Scott Lobdell on the "Doomed" event is that we can do a lot of layered, interesting plotting. And so events that happen in Superman/Wonder Woman might be reflected in Action. Or we might see a call-back to something like that in one of the big one-shots we're doing as part of the story.
We talk constantly. We're always kicking ideas back and forth. And it just makes for what I think is going to be really neat event, that's going to feel very unified and very cohesive.
Nrama: The growth in the action over the first six issues of this series was mirrored by the growth in their relationship. Last time we talked about this series, you said the strength of Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship will be tested during "Doomed," and it's obvious that the physical strength of Superman and Wonder Woman is going to get a test too. Is this a theme you're exploring as you build the storyline and the relationship concurrently?
Soule: Absolutely! That's some good reading there. Yeah, I mean, you want to try to make something that resonates on one level, and drawing parallels between the exterior fights they're having alongside the interior challenges is something that I've certainly tried to build in.
And then there are all kinds of layered, motif stuff that I try to put in too. You know, the first thing they do is try to go and stop that storm. And then at the end, Wonder Woman says they're each others' shelter from the storm. Things like that.
I'm trying to do something that's as rich as possible, but still is very much a superhero story.
I think the balance is actually working pretty well. I'm very proud of those six issues.
Nrama: And as much as Tony Daniel has brought to the series, it seems like this last issue really relied on him.
Soule: I think this is some of the best work — if not the best work — I've ever seen from him. And over the course of the six issues we've done together so far, I think it's gotten better and better. I think he's felt inspired by this. I don't want to quote him too much, but based on conversations we've had, I know he felt very interested and revitalized by this project. And I think we got some really good work together.
Nrama: The last image we saw, with Superman laying there, with his cape wrapped around Wonder Woman's body — I don't know how much you can say about what we're seeing there. How would you describe that final image?
Soule: Yeah, the last image of the issue has Superman and Wonder Woman pretty much dead, lying in a nuclear crater, after they've triggered the atomic explosion that sealed off the Phantom Zone that Zod and Faora were trying to open.
They weren't sure if they'd be able to survive that explosion, and for all intents and purposes, it looks like they haven't.
The script basically says, pretty explicitly, that's what happened. And I wanted to make it seem very stark and very — they're together in their final moments, basically. Every part of the myth-making that Wonder Woman refers to back in issue #4 has been played out. That's how myths tend to end. They're not always the happy sort.
But at the same time, it is kind of a happy sort, because they're together, and they're doing what they're here for.
So that's the way I'd like that to be interpreted. I think it works really well as issues #1-6.
That said, Superman and Wonder Woman are still running around the DC Universe, so obviously, something happens to get them up and about again. I guess we'll have to see.