When Action Comics returns in June, artist Aaron Kuder is co-writing the story with Greg Pak as the two portray a Clark Kent without his powers, without his costume, with his secret identity made public — and as a "man of the people."
As readers saw in the Action Comics eight-page preview, Clark Kent is almost powerless now — so altered that even the Fortress of Solitude doesn't recognize him. As a result, his costume is taken away by the Fortress, which believed it to be a stolen artifact.
Fans also learned in DC's Free Comic Book Day issue, Divergence, that Clark Kent's secret identity is public now, as Lois Lane figured out that he's Superman, then published it in The Daily Planet.
According to Kuder and Pak, the new circumstances mean Clark will have to live within Metropolis as a "man of the people," proving that he has what it takes to be a superhero even without his superpowers. They'll explore this part of Clark's life while other Superman books will focus on his relationship with Lois Lane (in Superman), with Batman (in Batman/Superman) and with Wonder Woman (in Superman/Wonder Woman) — all part of an arc that's running through all the Superman books titled "The Truth."
Newsarama talked to the pair about their story in Action Comics, whether the Fortress' costume-grab leads directly to the new t-shirt look for Superman, and what readers can expect from their upcoming story.
Newsarama: In the eight-page preview of Action Comics, things are not going well for Superman. What was the motivation for a storyline that focused on Clark losing his powers?
Greg Pak: It came together organically over many months of talking over the phone and getting together in person with the different Superman editors and writers.
In serial entertainment, you want to always create big, high-stakes stories that strike at the heart of the character, and put your character in as much trouble as you can. I guess this was about as much trouble as we could think of for Clark. We got the green light to throw all this trouble at him, so here it comes.
Aaron Kuder: I think it was also a natural step from Geoff Johns' story setting up this new power. It takes away his powers for 24 hours. I think that just got us all thinking, "Wow, what can we do with a humanized Superman? What can we do with somebody without powers?" And through those conversations, we just naturally went to, let's take away his powers for a bit.
Nrama: As you guys open up in June, what would you say is different about Action Comics?
Kuder: I think a big part of it is — and I say this in all modesty — is that I'm in the room. It's one thing to have a bunch of writers in the room spit-balling ideas, but when I was sitting in New York while these ideas were being thrown around, I could give them a visual to feed off of that, or to play off of. And so we can get an overall conceptual idea of where we're going.
A lot of comics is very much like a phone game, where here's an idea, and that idea is going to be pitched to an editor, and then that editor is going to take it and express it through an artist, and then it's going to be expressed through a colorist. And if you eliminate more of those points of communication and the possible misinterpretations, it leads to much bolder storytelling, in my opinion.
Pak: Aaron is actually co-writing Action Comics with me. We started off with me as a writer and Aaron as the artist, and we worked really collaboratively in those roles, but at a certain point, we said, hey, it's time to take the next step. And I couldn't be happier. It's exciting working this intensely and collaboratively with an artist.
And just as Aaron says, when Aaron's actually in the room, we're talking about all these ideas, and he's literally drawing stuff based on those ideas. And so it comes to life in front of us. And then the art influences the ideas. It's not just like he's transcribing what we're saying into art form. We see it and it starts to breathe and then we play off it.
It's just the best way to work. It's fantastic for developing the story.
Kuder: It was really, really fun.
Nrama: With "The Truth" storyline, the main plot point is that Clark Kent's secret identity has been outed. What kind of story potential does that give you?
Pak: It opens everything up, right? That's the kind of world-changing event that will have an effect on everybody in Superman's life, which is exactly the kind of story you want to tell. You want to tell high stakes stories that shake things up in all kinds of ways.
So you're going to see big status quo changes for all kinds of folks, from Perry to Jimmy to Lois — all of the traditional characters. And it also gives us the opportunity to create brand new supporting characters, because new circumstances will put Clark in contact with brand new people.
So keep your eyes out in Action Comics #41 for a new character named Lee Lambert, who's awesome.
Nrama: Is Lee a female character?
Pak: Yes, it is.
Nrama: Is this a new love interest?
Pak: We will say no more. You have to read the book. But she will appear in Action Comics #41 for the first time.
Nrama: And will we see his relationship with Lois, since she's the one who outed him?
Pak: Of course. The Lois story will be in Gene Luen Yang's Superman book.
Nrama: Are the different Superman books focusing on a different thing, and if so, what's the focus of Action Comics?
Pak: Yeah, they're all focusing on a slightly different point in the story, so you can read each book separately. It isn't a big, traditional crossover. You don't have to read the books one after another. You can read each separate book separately.
You can get a full story from each separate book. Of course, when you put them all together, it adds up to something bigger altogether. But it's not a traditional crossover.
Each book will deal with a different section of Clark's life, which is the way the books have always been.
In Action Comics, we're going to start off almost as far from Metropolis as you can get and still be in the U.S. — a small town in Alaska. And we're going to see what's going on with Clark, what his mindset it.
Then when he returns to Metropolis, he'll end up in, basically, the worst circumstances. He's going to end up right in the middle of his enemies. And with his changed circumstances — the loss of his powers and his secret identity public — it becomes a whole new challenge for him.
Kuder: It's public knowledge who he is, his identity, by the time Action Comics #41 starts.
Nrama: So you jump right in. And he's changing costumes. Is that what we just saw in the preview? Is this why he no longer wears the Superman costume, but changes into the t-Shirt look?
Kuder: Yeah, we saw in the preview what happens to Clark's duds.
And we find out how he gets his jeans and t-shirt look in Action Comics #41.
Pak: The origins of the t-shirt will be revealed!
The only other tease I'll offer is that he's definitely a Superman of the people. We're definitely working on those themes in this storyline. You'll see everyday people around him play a role, and you'll see him as a man of the people.
Kuder: One of the things this storyline is letting us do is play around with the concept of what it takes to be a superhero. In some respects, it's a lot easier for a super powered Clark to face the odds, or to face dire circumstances. He gets hurt now. Clark isn't always going to land on top.
Nrama: It's very unusual to see Superman's blood as much as we saw in the preview.
Kuder: It makes you feel something though.
Nrama: Even though Clark has been almost stripped of his powers, will we continue to see a lot of action in Action Comics?
Pak: The book remains true to its namesake. It will remain an action-packed book.
If you liked the big, crazy, fun stories Aaron and I have been doing, I think you're going to dig this one too. It's consistent with the themes we've been playing with from the beginning, and our sense of the character hasn't changed at all, it's just a completely different circumstance. It's going to be fun to see how he responds.