"This may not be the same old Doomsday after all…"
The rather ominous voiceover from an unidentified narrator was from writer Greg Pak's Action Comics #30 [to your right], but Pak might as well have been writing advertising copy for the upcoming "Doomed" crossover that's starting this month in several Superman titles.
With last week's Action Comics #30 and this week's Superman/Wonder Woman, the prologue to the "Doomed" crossover is underway. As readers have seen in solicitations and cover images for future issues, this new Doomsday somehow infects Superman, turning him into a monster himself. How that affects the hero — and the rest of his cast — will be the central plot line of "Doomed," which the writers involved have said again and again is not a retelling of the "Death of Superman" story.
Newsarama talked to Pak after the release of last week's issue to find out more about the story of "Doomed," where the story falls within continuity, and what readers can expect in upcoming issues of Action Comics.
Newsarama: Greg, we got a good look at the new incarnation of Doomsday in Action Comics #30. And it was implied that the Tower was responsible for Doomsday escaping the Phantom Zone.
Greg Pak: It certainly seems the Tower's got their fingers in stuff here.
Nrama: Their involvement was confirmed in Superman/Wonder Woman #7 this week. But was the Tower behind Zod getting out as well?
Pak: It's possible. It's possible. I should not spoil, but we're definitely setting some things up here.
Nrama: This week's Superman/Wonder Woman made it seem like Doomsday isn't going to be controlled by anyone. But let's talk about the Doomsday creature himself. In Action Comics #30, he looked as if he was going through some type of evolution in the Mariana Trench. Is that an accurate word? Is he evolving?
Pak: I'm going to say yes. Doomsday has life cycles, apparently, and we're going to find out what it's like when he reaches that next stage.
As this "Doomed" crossover unfolds, you're going to see a Doomsday different from any Doomsday you've ever seen before, who's scarier and more dangerous. There are certain things that he will be able to do that will be an even bigger challenge to anybody who comes up against him.
Nrama: We've seen indications that Superman is going to be affected physically by his encounter with Doomsday. Are there clues in Action Comics #30 — particularly the way he affected the squid at the end — about how Doomsday affects Superman later in the story?
Pak: In [Action Comics #30], there's some sense of that, but big surprises are coming. There's not a massive giveaway about what is exactly going to happen in that regard. But we're definitely laying the groundwork for everything that happens to come.
But yeah, Doomsday is developing in various scary ways, and the way he develops will have an impact on what happens.
Nrama: OK, in your last story arc, Superman came up against challenges that highlighted what makes this character who he is. One of those was him confronting his own anger, and this idea of him holding back because he's so powerful.
Pak: Yeah, during the course of this run, we've talked about the fact that his dad taught him to never punch down. You know, when you're the strongest thing on the planet, if you want to avoid being a monster, you have to watch yourself. And he certainly learned that from his parents.
But at the same time, despite all the power he can draw on, he's a regular person. You know what I mean? He's got the heart and soul of this kid from Kansas. And that means he's not perfect. He's going to get angry like anybody else. And he's going to struggle with these lessons that he learned.
And I think that makes him human and compelling to me as a reader and a writer. So I love those kinds of moments — I love exploring those type of moments.
Nrama: Harrow brought up another challenge for Superman, and it's one that people have been talking about a lot lately — should Superman kill or not? Do you see Superman's reluctance to kill a strength or a weakness, as Harrow was saying?
Pak: In a totally real-world way, it's both. Honestly, you know, President Obama has to deal with that kind of question in real life, every single day. If you want to assume that level of responsibility, in the real world, it's highly probable that you're going to end up killing people, or ordering people to be killed.
So Superman has achieved that level of responsibility just by virtue of the kind of strength he has, and the fact that he's gone out into the world to try to make things better.
But he certainly has not accepted the idea that there are some enemies that have to be killed.
Nrama: He's still young, in this universe. But it's interesting that you would bring up the president of the United States.
Pak: I'm sure every president that the United States has ever had has sent people to be killed. But Superman's not a president.
Nrama: Right. He's still living for an ideal.
Pak: He's striving to be better — he's striving to make the world better than that. And I think that's his glory.
Whether or not that's sustainable forever, whether or not that's realistic, whether or not there's tragedy and circumstances to it — that's all good fodder for stories.
But given who Clark is, and who Superman is, that's where he's at. And I think we kind of love him for that.
Nrama: Will that part of him be specifically confronted during the Doomsday story?
Pak: Yeah. I wouldn't necessarily say that's specifically the biggest theme. But I think, like with most superheroes, that's one of the underlying things in most battles. But I wouldn't say that's the biggest theme of "Doomed."
I think, the overall story of "Doomed" — and I may be speaking a little prematurely — but I think in the long-term, it's about what kind of responsibility you have when you do take on that much power.
And whether anybody should have that much power. I think that's another big question. You know, whether any individual should be invested with so much — whether anybody, no matter how good they are, should ever be trusted with that.
Nrama: Because something could go wrong.
Pak: Yeah, exactly.
Nrama: After Harrow disappeared, we saw a full page with Superman on this mass of bones in Action Comics #30. Was that foreshadowing?
Pak: [Laughs.] Read every book that comes out and soon you will discover. Pre-order them all and soon you will find out the answer.
Nrama: Some issues of Action have had a little more of Aaron Kuder's art than others. This last issue just had a few pages. Is he working ahead on the "Doomed" story?
Pak: Yeah. Aaron will come back in full force with issue #31. We've been very lucky in that the other guys came in and helped out when we needed it.
In modern comics, when you're drawing these incredibly detailed and gorgeous pages, it often takes a little more time than we would like it to, and you have no idea how much love Aaron is lavishing on everything.
The one nice thing is that Aaron has put such a great stamp on the book and established a great feel and vibe that has allowed other artists to come in and help complement that — the tone of the book is beautifully established in a way that makes it possible for folks to come in and do their own thing, but still keep the same kind of feel going.
People seem to be pretty enthusiastic about Action #30 — and we thank you very much for that — and there's a huge thanks due to Aaron, and also Jed [Dougherty] and Karl [Kerschl], who have been helping out.
Nrama: We have some readers on Newsarama who are big on continuity. And there was a mention in Action Comics of Superman killing Dr. Light, which would mean it's after Forever Evil. And your story also takes place after the resolution of what happened to Wonder Woman and Superman last month. So does "Doomed" take place after Forever Evil, when you were expecting it to happen? I'm sure you have to dance around all these different events and when they're expected to come out, right?
Pak: Yeah. And dancing around is a good term. I think Joss Whedon, back when he was writing Astonishing X-Men, talked about that. He talked about dancing between the raindrops.
Some fans were asking me about this, and I was replying that back when Joss was writing Astonishing X-Men, that was a story that took place in a sort of fictional time. It took place in a small number of months. But the actual telling of the story in our-world time took several years.
So there was no way that that book was going to be able to contain and reference all the huge number of things that were going on in the Marvel Universe and the X-Men Universe at the same time. At the same time, that book was totally in continuity.
So the reality of how these books are made means that you're going to find things that don't quite line up exactly perfectly.
And we're sorry about that. We definitely tried to make them line up as much as possible. But at the same time, I think, in the end, forcing a story to fit precisely into a timeline may undermine everything that's happening in that story otherwise. Each story has to work on its own terms.
I think that, as a comic reader myself for several decades, I'm willing to let certain things go to enjoy the stories. And I trust that they will all sync eventually.
And that's exactly what's happening right now. With all the Superman stories, as we go into this crossover, we have this task of taking these different stories that have been running in the different books and shifting them into line so that, as the crossover starts, each issue will follow the next — really beautifully, actually. You know what I mean?
The cliffhanger at the one leads to what happens in the next book.
But in this prologue stage, we're still shifting the stories we've been telling into the same timeline with everything else. So in issue #30, we were teasing a moment from Charles' book that hadn't come out yet. So there's a panel in Action that teases what happens in Charles' book this week. And that's not ideal.
So yes, there are certain things you'll see at this stage in the game where we're bringing these things up to the point where the crossover can work.
And as soon as this crossover kicks in, it will all pay off in really nice ways. You'll see the books really resonate with each other and crank along from book to book in pretty fancy ways.