As fan interest builds toward DC's summer event Rebirth, the story of how the Superman and his associated characters get to their new status quo is already unfolding in Peter Tomasi's two-month epic, "The Final Days of Superman."
As readers found out in last week's Superman #51, the "New 52" version of Superman is apparently dying, and he's enlisting some help from friends (a.k.a. the "Super-League") to put his affairs in order before the end, including a search for the missing Supergirl and a promised meet with post-Crisis Superman from Superman: Lois & Clark
Readers have learned in solicitations for June that "New 52" Superman's powers will be leaving him somehow, apparently going into other characters. It appears those characters will include Lois Lane (who becomes Superwoman), a Chinese man named Kenji Kong (who becomes the star of the New Super-Man title), and possibly even Supergirl herself.
The older, married post-Crisis Superman will be taking over the Superman title, co-written by Tomasi and Pat Gleason, and a super-suit-clad Lex Luthor will be the co-star of Dan Jurgens' Action Comics with that post-Crisis Superman appearing there as well.
And there's no mention of "New 52" Superman in Rebirth.
So does Superman actually die here in "The Final Days of Superman"? Or does he just become depowered, as some people are theorizing (as the result of Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens mentioning a second Clark Kent existing post-Rebirth)?
Most of these elements will be set up in Tomasi's "Final Days of Superman," which he's writing through all the Super-titles over the next two months. With this week's Batman/Superman setting up some chess pieces for the Rebirth titles, including a Chinese connection, evidence of Superman's power going into another person, and the appearance of the long-missing Supergirl, Newsarama talked to Tomasi to find out more.
Newsarama: Peter, it's been announced that you and Pat Gleason are co-writing the Superman book after Rebirth, with Pat trading art duties with Doug Mahnke, but it's become obvious that your "Super-League" story is much more important to the start of Rebirth than anyone realized — in fact, the name of the story is actually "The Final Days of Superman." Before we dig into what it means for Superman to be dying, can you talk about how this storyline sets up the new status quo of not only "New 52" Superman, but these other superheroes, like Superwoman, Supergirl, Super-Man — does it all spin out of your story?
Peter Tomasi: Yeah, yeah, this eight-part story is definitely the prologue to the super-stuff coming out in Rebirth. All these pieces are just being put in place right now for June, for Rebirth. And it's a lot of fun to be table-setting these bits for the Superman world, and then see where we're spinning it out of afterwards, come Rebirth.
It's a lot of fun, and I'm really happy to see that people are enjoying the first issue out of the gate. Hoping we can keep everybody happy and enjoying the next seven chapters as we go into Rebirth and June.
Nrama: OK,we just found out the real name of this story: "The Final Days of Superman." Poor "New 52" Superman. He's already been through so much, and now you're either killing him off, or something really bad is coming, because we've seen Rebirth solicitations and he doesn't even seem to be around. We've seen a death of Superman before, but this is something completely different. Is this "Superman dying" story more like a continuation of all the crappy things that have been happening to New 52 Superman lately?
Tomasi: [Laughs] It is a continuation to a degree, because everything that's happened in the last year and a half or so — I can't remember exactly — it's like the chickens have come home to roost, in that old expression. You know, the ARGUS Kryptonite chamber room, the "Darkseid War" and the trip to Apokolips where he was affected in the fire pits, the battle with Rao that really kicked the hell out of him, the identity stuff — just all the things that have gone down on poor Supes has basically metastasized.
And now he's really in a bad spot.
Nrama: Is he really dying?
Tomasi: At the moment, he's not getting any better, is all I can say.
Obviously, Superman has his ways of dealing with these things. He's strong of heart and he's strong of purpose and mind. So he's going to still try to do what he can do, the best that he can do, with what possibly is his very limited time left.
Nrama: Is the meeting between "New 52" Superman and post-Crisis Superman going to happen in your story? And can you describe anything about it?
Tomasi: I don't want to describe anything about it, but I will say that he does meet him — meets him in a big way — and we meet Lois. We meet the post-Crisis Lois and Clark and Jonathan in a really cool, big scene that I don't want to spoil. But they're there.
They have a very integral part in the story as the chapters come by. So look for that big meeting and look for that moment, because it definitely is coming up.
Nrama: Let's talk about some things that have been revealed in Superman #51 and a little more in this week's Batman/Superman #31. There are clues in your book already about Rebirth, aren't there? I mean, you already have something going on in China, and of course, in June, there's a new Superman in being introduced who's in China. I assume that's all related?
Tomasi: Yeah, yeah. Everything out of Superman #51, from the China stuff to… these are all threads that are all now tying together, right into all the Superman books coming out of Rebirth.
It really is like all these little table settings, and I'm already seeing how they're going to pay off. So yeah, these are all big ripples — all these stones are being thrown into the water now, and they're just going to spread out and go into Rebirth and beyond.
Nrama: We're seeing this concept of Superman's powers being transferred into this man somehow — all tied into activities in China. This sounds very familiar to anyone who's read about the new Super-titles in June, where some characters get Superman's powers. Can you talk about what's happening now in your book with this power transfer of sorts — obviously, this man not only gets powers, but his entire personality is changed into basically Clark Kent. This is related to Clark Kent, right?
Tomasi: Yeah, yeah. It's all got some real clear ties. The guy that we see who gets blasted with the energy and believes he's Superman — the guy who got hit is not a nice person. He's actually been evading parole. He hasn't reported to his parole officer. He's been in prison. So he's almost this dual personality at this stage, where you are in the story.
His one side, his bad side, is fighting with the good side now that has hit him — the Superman side — so he's sort of being a "good Kirk" and a "bad Kirk." [Laughs.] Like, referencing something out of Star Trek.
So he's dealing with a real, sort of polarized personality aspect that's yanking him in two distinct ways. And that starts to build, as we'll see in coming chapters, as it gets a little bit deadlier. I can't get into what happens much after that.
But it definitely starts to get into some serious consequences that Superman of course is going to have to deal with.
Nrama: Let's talk about Supergirl. She's obviously important to this story, and in Batman/Superman #31, Clark makes it clear he needs to find her — and we discover why she hasn't been around. Why did you make this a central part of your story, to have Clark so motivated to look for Supergirl that he even enlists Batman's help?
Tomasi: Once Superman realizes he's not going to be around, Superman really wants to make sure he can reach out and establish a relationship with Kara. He hasn't been able to find her, and he's obviously starting to become incredibly weak. But he also just hasn't been able to locate her. He goes to Batman in Batman/Superman #31 and hits up the greatest detective to help him locate her.
And of course, without giving away too much about this week's issue, he does locate her.
And we'll find out where she's been, and what's been going on with her.
We'll see some things with the DEO.
And from that point on, Superman is going to try to build a bridge with her and try to pass a baton that he feels is important as things move forward.
Her wearing the "S" on her chest is really important to his legacy, and of course, then, for the rest of the world to see that there's still somebody wearing an S that's going to be out there looking for their best interest and keeping them safe.
Nrama: Then to conclude the interview, can you just talk a little about your hopes for this story? It's been surprisingly action-packed so far, yet there are these tender moments as Clark realizes he may actually die. The conversation with Batman this week was touching. Can you speak to your goals for the story and your approach to Superman facing death?
Tomasi: It really boils down to keeping it character focused and really making sure that we stay plugged in to Superman as he goes through this arduous journey. As people read the chapters of this arc, as it continues onward, I think they ought to just sit back and really enjoy what the "New 52" Superman is and who he is, and at the same time, watch how he brings everything to pass.
Nrama: You guys have already established that he's willing to sacrifice, and I have a feeling there are going to be some sacrifices coming up for this character.
Tomasi: Yeah, when it comes to Superman, obviously sacrifice is a key factor in everything he does.
But yeah, that's definitely not pushing it too far to say that sacrifice will be a key element in the closing chapters.
I think people should just really sit back and enjoy a storyline that I've tried to, obviously, have a lot of action in, but really keep as much of the character stuff on top of the action. I wanted to make sure people really enjoyed being with this "New 52" Superman as he goes through this adventure, this sort of life crossroads.
When Dan told me he wanted me to write all eight issues of this story, I was really taken aback, like, "Wow." I wanted to know if I could pull it off. I was really honored to have that opportunity to tell this big story, to have it be completely in my lap. I didn't know it would be at first.
I wanted to make this, for the readers, something a little different from what they've seen before — all the great stuff, like obviously the Dan Jurgens and all those guys' "Death of Superman" story, which is great and immortalized forever. And All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison's amazing book.
So it was key for me to make sure that, now that I have the opportunity to do a storyline like that, that I can kind of put my own stamp on it. And usually that means just wearing my heart on my sleeve and not being afraid to embrace the emotional aspect of the story. And how the characters would react to each other and with each other about something incredibly sad that's going on and going down.
That was really my goal, to make sure that people really had a real, emotional, cathartic feeling as the story moved on, and moves on into Rebirth and beyond. And see that this was, really, as we mentioned earlier, a prologue that sets everything in motion for Rebirth and beyond. So I'm pretty happy to have been a part of it.