As Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder finish their run on Action Comics this week, Superman will be one step closer to being himself again.
It's the latest chapter in the "Truth" story that's been running through all the Superman books since June, culminating in this week's Action Comics #50 by Pak and co-writer/artist Kuder. During "Truth," the hero has been stripped of his powers while also having his secret identity as Clark Kent outed to the world.
This portion of the story is titled "Savage Dawn," alluding to both the villain in the story arc — Vandal Savage — and the dawn of a brand new Superman with powers, which is expected at the story's conclusion (if future solicitations are to be believed).
The issue also finishes Pak's time on Superman, a character he helped define for the "New 52" during runs on both Action Comics and Batman/Superman.
Newsarama talked with Pak about what's coming up in Action Comics #50, what brought the character to this point, and how Vandal Savage was the perfect villain for a storyline about Clark Kent losing his powers.
Newsarama: Greg, how has Superman's journey in the "Truth" storyline until now taken him to #50 and this important final set of issues in the Superman books?
Greg Pak: From the beginning of the "Truth" storyline, the goal has been to take everything away from our hero. We wanted to get Clark into as much trouble as we possible could. He lost his secret identity, he lost most of his powers, and he lost most of the things that people associate with him being Superman.
So who's left? Who is Clark Kent?
Nrama: As a result he's faced some new challenges. How have those challenges helped to answer that question?
Pak: During the course of this big storyline, he has battled to try to find out who's done these things, he's battled to protect his friends and to keep protecting his neighborhood and the people he cares about, and to do the right thing against tremendous odds, now that he's become so vulnerable.
He also had to confront the fact that he could not do so many of the things that he used to. He couldn't just snap his fingers and solve every problem. The stakes became much, much higher. He couldn't instantly save everybody that he wanted to save. He had to be more careful about how he entered situations.
And every situation created more risk for himself and for the people around him.
So it was a ton of fun telling stories where he's facing that kind of danger. And also, grappling with the kind of emotional challenges of all of this.
It's easy to be the guy who turns the other cheek when you're the most powerful person on the planet. You know? It's easy to be that good guy. It's harder when you're the underdog, and when you're actually weaker than everybody. It becomes harder to be the good person you imagine yourself being.
So Clark had a lot of stuff to grapple with.
The point of breaking him down is to show he is, and through his choices during this story arc, I think we all know who he is, who Clark Kent is.
Nrama: So no matter what, he's always Clark Kent?
Pak: Yeah. It doesn't matter if Superman has all that power — it doesn't matter if he can fly, it doesn't matter if he can throw people into the sun. He's always going to be Clark Kent, which means he's always going to be Superman.
The story got to the point where he basically figured that out, and he'd been doing that throughout the whole thing. But he kind of comes to a moment of peace, that certain point in the story where he's like, "OK, I may not have all these powers, I may not look like the guy I was before, but I'm not going to change. I'm still going to do what I have to do, I'm going to help the people I can help."
Nrama: At this point, he's turned toward a risky procedure where he has flooded his cells with Kryptonite, and it's given him what appears to be temporary powers. What led him to the point where he'd try something that desperate?
Pak: When Vandal Savage plays his final set of cards, Clark realizes that the world needs him to have the kind of power he used to have. By hook or by crook, he's got to get it. That's what has driven him toward this insane plan of powering himself up through Kryptonite, which is simultaneously killing him.
And that leads to this massive climax in Action Comics #50.
Nrama: Why did it make sense to use Vandal Savage as the villain in this story? Was it because you could play with Vandal's quest for power being juxtaposed with Superman's loss of power?
Pak: Yep. When you come up with your story and your themes, you need to figure out what you're working with and this stuff becomes apparent, and that's exactly what we're playing for.
There's great contrast between these two characters. Vandal has this mission. He thinks the world is run by idiots and he'd rather run it himself. And there's great difference between him and Superman because he's out there actively striving to seize all the power he can. And what he wants to do with that power is also different.
But there are pretty cool parallels between the two of them. And we tried to draw those parallels in, I think it was Superman Annual #3, where we we revisit Vandal's origin story, and we kind of parallel it with Superman's experiences.
While Vandal is hellbent on powering himself up to the max, Superman is trying to come to peace with having been depowered and finding what his role is in the world. So there are some fun parallels between the two of them.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell readers about this week's oversized issue #50?
Pak: Everything comes to a head in Action Comics #50, and there's a massive, massive payoff that a lot of people have been waiting for for awhile. So you don't want to miss it. It's going to be good!