Writer Gene Luen Yang may be throwing plenty of physical challenges at Superman — as well as the threat that Lois Lane will discover and expose his secret identity — but the Eisner-winning creator said the current "Truth" storyline in Superman is actually all about information.
And the writer said readers will learn soon about the "multiple motivations" that prompted Lois Lane to reveal Clark's secret publicly.
"It's about whether or not information can be controlled, [and] what information means in the context of relationship and friendship," the Eisner-winning writer said of the story, which continues in July 29's Superman #42.
Yang joined artist John Romita Jr. on Superman in June, telling a story set before Lois Lane publicly revealed Clark Kent's secret — making the Superman series a prequel to the other Superman books participating in the "Truth" storyline (where the secret is already public).
And as readers are discovering in Superman, Lois' decision to out Superman's secret may be somehow connected to an organization named Hordr, which Yang calls "a cross between a tech company and a gang" with a leader who's "an evil Mark Zuckerberg."
Newsarama talked to Yang to find out more about he and Romita's story in "Truth" and what readers can expect next.
Newsarama: Gene, now that you're a few months into the series, have you gotten feedback from fans? I assume it was a little daunting to be part of exposing Clark Kent's secret identity — it's a pretty big change to the character.
Gene Luen Yang: It's just nerve-wracking in general to write Superman, right? I'm a life-long superhero fan, and he is the character that kicked off the entire genre. So to go back to the root of this thing that I love so much has been kind of crazy.
I feel really grateful — and it's not just me; I'm part of a larger team. Superman is part of four different books, and we try to coordinate everything together. We're not doing a crossover, but we are doing kind of a shared premise and interlocking stories. I feel like I've learned a lot just by talking with the other creators and the editors on the team.
The mandate that we got when we started was that we were supposed to introduce something big in Superman's life, and having his secret identity outed seemed like a good way to go.
Fan reaction… the coolest fan reaction that we got at San Diego was, you know, we introduced the new costume — Superman is now wearing a T-shirt with a Fleischer era "S" on it, and then he lost his cape, his cape got torn up, so he has pieces of his cape wrapped around his knuckles and he's wearing jeans. That's how he looks in the comic.
And this dude came up to us at a panel dressed up as the "Truth" Superman, cosplaying the "Truth" Superman, and he asked us for life advice. He's like, "Dude, what's going on with me? What should I do?"
So at least there's a certain contingent of the fandom that's really embracing what we're doing.
Nrama: At the center of this story is a threat, which seems connected not only to the shadow men we saw in the Sneak Peek. Do we find out more about this threat in issue #42?
Yang: The bad guy in issue #42 is revealed as an organization called HORDR.
I grew up in the Silicon Valley. I still live in the Silicon Valley. I majored in computer science. My first job was as a programmer. So I feel like I'm familiar with the information technology sector, and the information technology culture.
What HORDR is is me taking the darker side of the industry and condensing it into a single criminal organization. In the book, we describe it as a cross between a tech company and a gang.
And the leader, I thought of him as kind of an evil Mark Zuckerberg. I use the word evil because, unlike a lot of people, I don't actually think Mark Zuckerberg is evil. So our character is an evil version of him.
As the storyline goes on, this tech company gang will have a continuing presence.
Nrama: You've really highlighted Clark's friendship with Jimmy Olsen in this story. Do you think it makes sense that Clark revealed his identity to Jimmy first? And what role does Jimmy play in the story going forward?
Yang: I think writing Jimmy and Clark is the part of the book that comes easiest to me. I have friendships like that, where a lot of your conversations with the other person are kind of about dumb things, but then there's something deeper underneath.
Clark revealed to Jimmy before I got on the book — Geoff Johns wrote that issue and I thought it was a brilliant issue. It came right after Clark's solar flare, so he was feeling particularly vulnerable physically. It made sense to me as a reader that he would want to be vulnerable to his best friend at that time as well.
So we are taking that as kind of a seed that will lead to our story.
This story is all about information. It's about whether or not information can be controlled, what information means in the context of relationship and friendship.
Nrama: Among all the other Superman writers, what you're writing is a prequel to Lois' decision, so she's a big part of the story. Can you talk about Lois' role in your comic and what it's been like to develop her relationship with Superman in the New 52 universe?
Yang: I get it now, you know? I've always liked the Lois and Clark dynamic, through multiple incarnations. I was a huge fan of the Bruce Timm animated series, and of course the live action Lois & Clark series. I watched that when I was college. So I've always liked their dynamics through their different incarnations.
But after I signed on to do Superman, I went back and read these early issues of Action Comics and Superman, all the way back to the 1930s and '40s, and I realized that the things that people love about Lois have been there from the very beginning.
It's not like she was a response to the social changes that happened between her creation and now. She was just ahead of her time. She was very much a point to the future, I think, even in the 1930s and '40s.
However, the current incarnation of Lois and Clark are not romantically involved right now. Each of them has somebody else as their significant other. But there is still this tension between them, and it's this tension that has multiple layers. They're competitors at work. They're also colleagues at work. There is an underlying attraction between them, but at the same time,
They see friendship as just as valuable as a romantic relationship. And maybe that's a reflection of where we are as a society as well. I think for a long time, romantic relationships have been seen as a pinnacle of human relationship, and more and more, I see evidence of people saying friendship can actually be just as important.
Nrama: At what point does your story move forward to where the other Superman titles are in "Truth?"
Yang: "Truth" is four issues long. So after four issues, all four of the Superman books will line up.
So we'll be much closer in time than we have been right now. Right now, the other three books are ahead and I'm behind. We'll all line up after this.
Nrama: Now that you're a few issues into the series, and you've seen how John interprets what you're writing, have you tweaked the way that you write at all? Or were you pretty familiar with John Romita Jr. before you started? And how did that influence what you're writing?
Yang: I was a superhero fan in the '90s, so I'm definitely familiar with John Romita Jr. In fact, when I was in high school, I would go to local conventions and line up and get his signature.
So to go from there and now working with them — like, my 14-year-old self would just freak out if I could travel back in time and tell him this happened.
I think he's a legend for a reason. He doesn't like that word because he says it makes him feel old, but he's a legend for a reason.
I found that he's especially good at two things. He's especially good at action, and because of that, I've pulled back my scripts for the action scenes. For my other comics, when I've worked with other artists, I've sometimes given them choreography.
But with John, he just has an intuitive sense of fight choreography. If he were not a cartoonist, I think he would have choreographed fight scenes for action films. So I try to pull back and let him do what he does best there.
The other thing I think he's really good at is conveying emotion through faces. So there are ways in which I feel like I've been able to cut out dialogue in order to let his faces convey the emotion. Or just pare down the dialogue a little bit in order to let the faces convey the emotion.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about the book and about Superman's plight in his self-titled comic?
Yang: Well, his life is about to get a lot worse.
And we will reveal why Lois did what she did. It's an intense thing that she did. Anytime you do something as intense as that, you have multiple motivations. And we'll be exploring some of those as well.