Superman wants pie.
That might not sound like an in-depth, character-driven story, but writer/artist Francis Manapul begs to differ. In this week's Justice League: Darkseid War — Superman, which Manapul wrote, the pie is a metaphor (like any good slice of pie should be), and although there's plenty of action in the issue, the pie's meaning lies at the heart of the one-shot story.
Tying into the Justice League story by writer and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, the Superman issue is one of six one-shots featuring covers by Manapul, who also drew the interiors of October and November's Justice League issues. And along with the Superman issue, Manapul is also writing the one-shot looking at Lex Luthor.
The weekly tie-in books, which started in October, are exploring the ramifications of some of DC's most beloved heroes getting god-like powers, including Batman, Lex Luthor, The Flash, Superman, Green Lantern and Shazam.
Newsarama talked to Manapul to find out more about this week's issue, what the pie really means, and how the Lex Luthor issue explores something completely different.
Newsarama: Francis, we talked a little bit last week about your involvement with "Darkseid War." What was it about writing the Justice League: Darkseid War — Superman issue that interested you?
Francis Manapul: Superman! He's a character that I grew up with, and any chance to explore Superman in a different way [is going to interest me]. It was definitely really challenging as a writer, but also pretty rewarding.
Nrama: This is a little different version of Superman. I was trying to come up with descriptors for this Superman — dismissive, egotistical, disinterested — but how would you describe him? It's not a dark Superman, because he's still fighting against the bad guys. What descriptor do you use for this Superman?
Manapul: I think the story revolves around apathy.
Nrama: That's the word!
Manapul: That's more or less where we find Superman when we get to this story. There's this longing for something worthy, something that will make him feel accomplished as the most powerful being in the universe. That's where the conflict arises when he arrives on Earth as our issue opens. He fights an alien, and he doesn't even want to finish the job. Of course, it comes back to bite him.
The inaction of Superman, and his apathy, is what makes him different in this issue, from who we know Superman to be — a guy that will always do the right thing. In this issue, when the alien isn't enough of a challenge, Superman is more interested in eating apple pie.
Nrama: Yeah, you mentioned the pie last week when we talked. There's something about just sitting and eating pie that sounds apathetic.
Manapul: Yeah. And not to get too meta, but there's a lot that the pie represents. To me, Superman is as American as apple pie. And here he is completely different — emotionally different, physically different — and there's something from his past that was a real touchstone to him as a character, and it was this pie.
Of course, Jimmy has to play the hero and point out that Superman isn't really wanting pie. It's what it symbolizes.
Nrama: I know from talking to you in the past that you really try to think through what you can relate to about what's going on with the characters you write. Was there anything you could relate to with this apathetic Superman?
Manapul: Yeah, definitely. With Superman, a lot of people says they have a tough time relating to him because he's so powerful.
It's also one of the things I had to think about with Lex Luthor [for the upcoming Justice League: Darkseid War — Superman issue]. He doesn't understand Superman at all.
So one of the things I had to hone in on for this issue with Superman was, what would you feel as this omnipotent being that will probably live forever? And one of the things I realized was, gods probably get lonely too. I think that's where this story really opened up for me. Here is Superman, the most powerful being around, and yet he can be lonely. His desire to go back to Earth and get pie was never about the pie.
Nrama: The pie is a metaphor for him wanting to not be lonely? Francis, that's deep.
Manapul: [Laughs.] Yeah. But that's what makes him extremely relatable. All of us can feel lonely. And he gets emotional strength from the support he has from people who care about him.
Nrama: Without spoiling the issue too much, there is a scene in this story where Superman is completely alone except for a bird. Is that more of this idea of him being alone?
Manapul: Yep. It really opens his eyes, at that moment.
Nrama: Do you have similar thoughts about Lex Luthor? I assume your issue about him isn't going to focus on gods getting lonely. It's different with him, isn't it?
Manapul: Yeah, with Lex, it's completely different. It's more of a wish fulfillment story. Here's a guy that has longed for everything Superman had — the admiration and the power. On Apokolips, he has it.
But Superman has a reason for being a hero. He has people he cares about. With Lex, we see succumb to this power.
So now that Lex has these powers, what is he going to do with it? He has to do something that's meaningful, right?
Nrama: As we finish up, can you tease at all anything you're getting to draw in the next issue of Justice League?
Manapul: Another character from the Fourth World. Somebody I think people will enjoy seeing.