When DC relaunches its Superman title in June, Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason are giving readers a view of the hero that they've probably never seen before — through the eyes of his son.
Writing the father-son dynamic is something Tomasi and Gleason know well, having won acclaim for a similar approach when they were working on the "New 52" Batman and Robin. They'll bring those same sensibilities to this book, but with two very different characters.
Spinning out of the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Superman will star a Superman who is married to Lois Lane and has a super-powered son named Jonathan Kent. He became this world's primary Superman after the Clark Kent from DC's "New 52" universe died in May's Superman #52, also written by Tomasi.
Following up on our interview with Tomasi about "New 52" Superman's death — and how Superman: Rebirth #1 will deal with whether the character is expected to come back anytime soon — Newsarama sat down with Gleason and Tomasi to talk about the new Superman title, how the Eradicator gets a facelift for the title, and what it feels like to return to the father-son dynamic in a whole new way.
Newsarama: Peter and Pat, your first storyline is called "Son of Superman." How much of a role does Superboy play in the new title?
Patrick Gleason: Quite a bit. But it's also a place for new readers to come on board and be re-introduced to Superman. And having his son there is actually a good way for us to go look at Superman, because through his eyes, through Jon's eyes, a new reader can look at Superman from a new angle.
That's how I've been looking at Jon's role in the book.
The first arc is about Superman stepping into this new life and this new role, and his family going along with him, and what that does to them, and how they see him. And Superman is still figuring out how he's supposed to fit into the world while at the same time taking care of his family.
Peter Tomasi: What Pat and I loved doing on Batman and Robin, we want to do it here, with Superman and Jonathan, but explore the father-son dynamic from a whole different angle, because Bruce and Clark are very different people. And Damian and Jonathan are incredibly different characters.
So we've got a story that's right in our wheelhouse now, to explore the father-son relationship for this first arc.
And as Pat said, we're really playing with it from the eyes of a child, looking up at a father, who is someone he loves, but at the same time is a superhero, is an incredibly powerful being. And we'll be showing how Jonathan deals with that.
Working with Pat on the writing side with this now and also seeing the images coming through, it's amazing, the bond that you see with the way he draws these characters — the emotion in the faces and the way they interact with each other, the whole family. And having Lois there as the mother now is a whole new dynamic we didn't have in Batman and Robin, unless you count Alfred. [Laughs.]
But it's just really great, for us, to keep exploring that angle, especially because we both have kids. And they're such different characters than Batman and Robin, it's really a nice way to flip a page and deal with characters so different, as Clark and Jonathan and Lois, and we're going to go down some real cool different avenues with it.
Gleason: We're having a lot of fun getting to know these characters through the story, especially Jon. Putting, like, the small touches in there to kind of help us relate to him. And like I said, it's really key to how we see Superman.
When you think about Superman, and how he's bigger than life and trustworthy — you look up to him like a kid. It's a great way to do a Superman comic.
Nrama: Yeah, reading the first issue, it struck me how natural it felt for Superman to be someone's dad — he already almost feels that way. It's striking, and very different from the way Batman came across as a father. With Superman, it feels much more natural. With Batman, not so much.
Tomasi: Right! And that's where a lot of conflict came from. But with Clark and Jonathan, in the story coming up — the first arc — there are a lot of questions, there's still a lot of conflict about what do you allow a boy to be involved with? What do you allow yourself as a father to be involved with, in regards to safety and concerns and secrecy and privacy, and how it affects not just you, but your family?
It's the big difference, obviously, between somebody who's single and somebody who's married with children. And it's very cool to get to explore that and see how Superman deals with it. And also to see Jonathan dealing with it from another perspective.
Gleason: It's one thing to stand up for the right thing, and it's another thing to teach your kid to stand up for the right thing. It's harder. They see through, they know the truth, they're there all the time. They ask hard questions. And it makes you examine your own self. I know as a father, I think about that all the time, about what our kids will think of us, and how we always have this little person watching.
For Superman, you would think that would come easily or naturally, but part of what we're exploring is that although he's not technically human, he actually is human like us. Being a dad isn't a superpower. He's a dad just like everybody else. He's trying to figure this out, just like anybody else.
Whether you've had a dad or been a father, you can probably understand or relate.
That's another reason I like doing this type of Superman story, because you can look at him from multiple angles. A kid can pick this up and enjoy it, parents could pick it up and enjoy it, and just anyone who enjoys Superman could pick it up and enjoy it.
That's another thing we talk about too — that Superman is for everyone. We want a story that anyone can pick up and give to their friends or the family — to anyone who likes reading a good comic book.
Nrama: OK, but with Batman and Robin there was plenty of action. Still true here?
Tomasi: Oh yeah! It's a Superman story with some really big, crazy, insane action stuff. Its Superman battling like Superman does, but it's really fun to have someone like Jonathan in the mix of that with his father. And watching Pat draw these great action sequences at the same time we're exploring their relationship is a lot of fun.
It's a balance between character and massive set pieces.
Nrama: And one of those set pieces is the Eradicator?
Tomasi: Yes. Our first villain out of the gate is the Eradicator. We've tried to build the Eradicator now into a 21st Century villain. We're taking the template of the Eradicator but twisting it in a way that adds an incredible threat to Jonathan. And with Jonathan in danger, it puts Superman in a whole different mind-space.
I think we really came up with some great stuff playing with Eradicator. And the way Pat's been drawing the character has been great. It's fun to see Clark and Jonathan and Lois too in the midst of a hell of a lot of kinetic, high-octane action stuff while they're fending off someone as powerful as the Eradicator.
Gleason: It's really crazy what they're going to be going through.
Nrama: There are a lot of "Super" titles coming out with Rebirth — Supersons, New Super-Man, Action Comics, Supergirl, Superwoman. What sets this apart from other comic books, but especially from Action Comics? Is it the presence of Jonathan?
Tomasi: No, no. Not at all. The book is called Superman. And Superman is first and foremost a Superman book. Yes, we have Jonathan and Lois in there, and we're having fun with that trinity, so to speak, while a book like Action won't be. And this first arc will be dealing with Jonathan and his father.
But I think the best way to look at this is, when we were on the Bat-books, and we were on Batman and Robin, each of those Bat-books had a different feel and each had an organic storyline that fit into the bigger universe yet really stood alone. Right now, that's how we're looking at the Superman line. Each book has something else to offer readers, so they get this big tapestry — it's all Superman related.
But there will be some nice threads that will be running through all the books here and there, and we're planning some nice continuity moments so people will see that it's all part of the same world. We're really taking great pains to make sure it feels like we're all on the same page. And I've been reading all the scripts, and there are some great things coming up in all the Superman books.