With the start of DC's "Rebirth" event in May, there have been quite a few mysteries surrounding the Superman characters - many of them in writer Dan Jurgens' twice-monthly Action Comics, including a brand new Clark Kent and the recurring (but still unexplained) character Mr. Oz.
And of course DC readers are also looking for clues to the mysteries still unexplained after the revelations of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, which insinuated that Superman isn't what he believes himself to be and that some Watchmen characters are meddling with the DCU.
Jurgens is a veteran Superman writer, having handled both the post-Crisis Superman (and most famously, his death and resurrection in The Death of Superman) and the "New 52" Superman (who also just died). Taking over Action Comics in June as the title returned to its original numbering, he launched a new story starring the older, married-with-a-son, post-Crisis Superman and his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, who has also donned a costume emblazoned with a Super-symbol, intending to become the hero for Metropolis.
Newsarama talked to Jurgens about the latest developments in Action Comics, what the appearances of Mr. Oz might mean, and what's coming up next in September.
Newsarama: How has it been to write this Superman in the reformed "New 52" / "Rebirth" world? What are the challenges of that combination?
Dan Jurgens: This particular version of Superman and I are old friends, I’ve had a great time getting back to the character. There are certain classic elements and sensibilities that are crucial to Superman and it’s been fun bringing those back.
Nrama: It has to feel familiar to you not only because you're writing a familiar Superman, but also because you're utilizing elements that you've used before. Is it just us, or are you and other Superman writers purposely dipping your toes back into the "Death of Superman" waters? A Superman dying followed by Eradicator, Doomsday, other people being Superman…
Jurgens: There is certainly some truth to that, I suppose.
But I think it’s justified because those are some very well remembered and embraced characters and stories. People enjoy seeing them again, provided we’re bringing something new to the stories.
Nrama: Are the themes you're exploring the same this time around? Or different?
Jurgens: I think we have enough changes in the cast and world around Superman that the themes become somewhat different. Readers are kind of rediscovering Superman just as he’s discovering the new world around him.
That new world, along with the addition of Jon, have certainly changed things up and adjusted his priorities a bit.
Nrama: DC has been hyping this idea of getting back to the roots or "core" of the characters, and we've talked to several writers about what that means for their characters. But is the DCU also changed? Or at least the approach to it? I know you probably can't speak to the entire line of books, but how would you - presumably knowing what the five-year plan is post-DCU "Rebirth" - describe the Rebirth universe right now? And how is it a little different from other iterations of the DCU that readers know?
Jurgens: I think the biggest change, as it pertains to Superman, is the level of acceptance he now enjoys with the public.
When we launched the "New 52," we saw that the DCU public was extremely suspicious and skeptical of the world’s heroes and that was most notable with Superman. I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re changing that.
Nrama: In this series, you're getting to work with Mr. Oz. Not sure how much you can say about him, but this character who previously insinuated that he taught "New 52" Superman is now "trying to determine what this Superman is truly capable of." What is this dude's obsession with Supes?
Jurgens: Is it obsession or is something else driving the story?
There is a lot of story left to be told about Mr. Oz. We’re only in the very earliest stages of it at this point.
Nrama: He seems to also be obsessed with learning. "Much will be learned this day," he says in one of your issue. Can you give us any indication of his nature? Or point out something that's already been revealed that we should notice?
Jurgens: See the above note. Lots more to be told here and it will take a bit of time for it to unfold properly.
Nrama: OK, but can you clarify - the robbery at the Geneticron building, the people stealing Doomsday from the "massive vault on the top floor" - they were working for Mr. Oz, right? Should we be concerned with Geneticron and the fact that Superman was convinced this was "his Doomsday," or is the more important mystery why these Oz minions stole the monster? Or both?
Jurgens: Yes, those people were working for Mr. Oz. The question would be… why?
Again, lots of story to unfold here.
Nrama: So they were working for Oz, and we've seen more characters working for him. Oz has a whole lot more people following him than I imagined. Are there lots of Mr. Oz minions?
Jurgens: Certainly more than a few, yes.
Nrama: I noticed several DC characters noticing technology they'd never seen before in recent issues. Is that a coincidence?
Jurgens: I can really only answer for what I’m writing. But it’s fair to say that Superman hadn’t seen anything quite like this.
Nrama: Oz told Superman in DCU "Rebirth" that he could "call" him Mr. Oz. I assume that means Mr. Oz isn't his name. I'm sure you're aware of who most readers think Mr. Oz really is ... [Coughs] Ozymandias [Coughs]. Can you reveal whether we're close?
Jurgens: I’d be more than happy to tell you all everything there is to know about Mr. Oz.
If not for the fact that Dan DiDio is standing behind me with a bag of needles and a voodoo doll that happens to look a lot like me.
Nrama: OK, OK, I'll lay off the Mr. Oz questions. There are a few other mysteries in your book. It looks like the next issue will attack the mystery of the "other" Clark Kent. Is he a secret from the "New 52" Superman's past?
Jurgens: The next two issues will really feature Superman trying to come to an understanding of who, exactly, this mysterious new version of Clark Kent is.
As for whether or not it’s someone from his past, well, it certainly could be.
Or then again, maybe not!
Nrama: And Lois Lane appears to be heading back to The Daily Planet? We've seen her there before, of course, but how is this different?
Jurgens: It’s going to be different for Lois, of course, because she is not the Lois that had been working there. That gives her a new and immediate hurdle to cope with.
At the same time, how weird is it going to be for her if she’s working with a Clark Kent that she knows can’t possibly be Clark Kent?
Nrama: We've also just found out about Godslayer, coming up in November. We've seen that name before. Any relation to the last time you wrote a Godslayer, in Marvel's Thor? Anything you can tell us about that story?
Jurgens: This is an entirely new character with a very different approach to Superman.
Nrama: How's it been writing a twice-a-month title? How is it different? And how does it work, communicating with different artists about different parts of the story?
Jurgens: The biggest difference is the speed at which the story unfolds. It can be tough to keep the pace up, but I think it’s really good for readers in that they get the story faster. It also allows us to spend a little more time on character and take some detours we might not normally take.
More room to explore, if you will.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell readers about the current story in Action Comics or what's coming up?
Jurgens: I really think the next issue, in which Superman tries to solve the question of who Clark Kent is, is a lot of fun. We really ask the question, “What would you do if another you showed up, claiming to be you?” How do you find out what that means? How do you find out who they really are?
Especially if, by all accounts, their claims are true?