Although Brian Michael Bendis promised readers before his run on Superman and Action Comics that he wouldn’t hurt Lois and Jon Kent during his run, his stories have already caused some changes in their relationship with Clark Kent that will drive the writer’s stories going forward.
In Action Comics, Lois Lane is hiding a secret from her husband, and in the just-released solicitation for the February issue of Superman, Jon Kent appears to be much older than the last time readers saw him.
The changes in both characters were influenced by their trip to space with Jor-El, which occurred early in Bendis’ run and took them out of the Superman books for a while. Now that they’re returning, the changes are causing tension in Clark Kent’s life.
Next week’s Action Comics #1005 is also revealing a few other new developments, including the introduction of The Question to the storyline, a hint about Bendis’ upcoming Wonder Comics line, and the revelation of the mysterious Red Cloud’s identity.
As DC supplied Newsarama with a preview of next week’s Action Comics #1005, we talked to Bendis to find out more about the changes in Jon and Lois, why the Red Cloud reflects the themes Bendis is exploring in the title, and what readers can expect from the Question’s involvement.
Newsarama: Brian, I want to talk to you about the preview we just got for Action Comics #1005. But first …. what in the world are you doing to Jonathan Kent? He’s older when he comes back from space in February’s Superman #8?
Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, I woke up about 20 minutes ago and peeked at Twitter for a second, and they released a cover of Jon as a teenager. It’s purposely mysterious on whether he’s in a good place or bad place, and of course, because it’s Twitter, I’m hearing from everybody. I woke up to quite an earful.
Nrama: You already gave us a hint about that in Action Comics when Lois told Clark that their son hit “puberty” in space. But can you clarify the story here? What is this?
Bendis: What it is is that Jon is going to come back to the Superman books, and we already see he’s aged up a little bit.
Time has gone by.
So first, Superman has to find out, has he time-traveled? Or has he lost years of his son’s life?
If he lost years of his son’s life, that is devastating. That is a tragedy in Clark and Lois’ life. And they don’t have a lot of, like, real shocking tragedy in their life. They have a lot of near misses, you know.
If you can imagine just missing out on his formative years and how haunting that would be, this is one of those issues where Clark … you don’t think he can get hurt? He gets really hurt.
And he may have his father to blame for it, which is pretty devastating.
Nrama: So this is as much about them personally as anything else. That’s been a big part of your run on both Action and Superman.
Bendis: Yeah, I mean, there’s a story where Superman flies around and he kind of just takes it on the chin a little bit, but he always does the right thing. But really, this opportunity with Superman is really, like, hitting him where it hurts and seeing what he does.
That’s how you test the strength of character. That’s how you test all of the lessons that he’s taught himself or that Ma and Pa Kent have taught him.
He’s really being pushed into areas where he has to decide what kind of hero he needs to be at this moment, and that’s going to include some bigger choices coming up. It’s not going to be choices between, like, life and death, but choices about what kind of — because I don’t mean the choice between whether he blows someone’s head off or not — what I mean is that he’s going to have to make some choices about what kind of actions he takes as Superman on behalf of all of us.
Nrama: OK, let’s talk about next week’s Action Comics #1005 and the preview we’re seeing. Is this the issue where we’re going to find out more about this mysterious Red Cloud?
Bendis: Yeah, we’re turning over a lot of cards in this issue which I think will surprise some people. I do like to drag some stuff out sometimes, but in this instance, this mystery just opens up to more mysteries. So finding out who Red Cloud is and what the character’s relationship is to Clark and Lois and the rest of the DC Universe and what that means for the future is all right here in this awesome issue illustrated by Ryan Sook.
Nrama: OK, you just said, “what Red Cloud’s relationship is to Lois,” so I’m totally going down that line…
Bendis: Yeah, you can go down that line, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to answer you.
Nrama: OK, OK, so let’s just talk about Lois in general. She comes back from her trip to space and now she’s not being honest with Clark.
Bendis: Well, it’s not that she’s being dishonest with Clark. It’s just that she has a secret that she has to keep. He’s had secrets he’s had to keep too. It’s more about the overall safety than it is about trust. That’s always been part of their relationship, is that there’s going to be, like, one or two things that are going to have to be a little more deft about how they handle them with each other because they have such complicated relationships with so many things.
So Lois clearly learned something out in space and she is carrying it with her and writing about it, and that will all reveal itself as we go.
What we’re really focused on is that, to us and not just me and the creators of Action Comics but quite a few other creators too, feel that Lois Lane may be the most important person in the DC Universe and has been for a while. There’s a lot of things going on with her in our story and others that are going to reflect that in a really great way.
And I must say, I do feel that some of it is a reflection of what we wish the reporters were like in our real world. We wish we had a Lois Lane today. So we’re kind of all writing what we wish we had.
Nrama: So this secret that she’s hiding — I mean, from their interaction in the last couple issues, they appear to still be in love. But just to clarify, the secret is not some type of precursor to the end of their marriage, or something she’s doing behind Clark’s back to hurt him or anything.
Bendis: Oh, not at all. She couldn’t be more clear unless she almost says to the camera “we’re not breaking up; I’m madly in love with you.” They have a very complicated situation here.
Nrama: Let’s get back to the Red Cloud for a minute here. In the preview you supplied to Newsarama, the Red Cloud is attacking Superman and it doesn’t look so good for him. When you were coming up with this villain, was your desire to come up with something he can’t punch and solve?
Bendis: Yeah, yeah. There’s been, over the years, examples of that. But this one, it seemed much more in line with the story we’re telling in Action Comics. There’s a lot of things going on around him, and punching isn’t the answer.
The Red Cloud is a manifestation of that idea. Clark is going to have to fight this, not Superman. Clark’s going to have to figure this out.
Sometimes, because of the nature of the life he leads, his first instinct is to go to Superman. But the smarter choice sometimes is to sit down and figure it out as Clark.
And also, going back to one of my overall, uber ideas on these books, is that the idea of Superman was thrust upon him. It was given to him, right? He was rocketed to Earth. He chose to be Clark Kent. He chose to be a reporter. That’s what he wants to be. Of all the things he could be, he chose that.
So getting to roll up his sleeves and really do it, and to rise to the occasion and be Lois’ peer, is a lot of fun to write.
Nrama: It’s not in the preview, but you’ve dropped a hint in Action Comics #1005 about your Wonder Comics imprint.
Bendis: Oh yeah, yeah. You’re going to see a lot of that. We’re going to have a lot of fun.
First of all, it’s just fun to do as much shared universe stuff as possible. And it does kind of help to answer the question about whether the Wonder Comics line is in continuity — it 1000 percent actually is in continuity.
So people already want to see Jon and Conner teaming up because we are who we are.
The first crossover the Dial H For Hero dial shows up. We don’t know what it is, which is the greatest idea DC Comics has ever had. It’s a little taste of what’s to come and it also gives us an introduction into our story of the Question, which something a lot of people asked me.
Nrama: This is also the issue where we meet the Question, right?
Bendis: Yes, I’ve already posted that art. The minute Ryan drew the page, I posted it online. It was like two seconds after that I posted it, I loved it so much.
Nrama: Is he bringing something new? Or is he attached to something that’s already going on in the comic book?
Bendis: He’s been working an angle on what’s going on with the invisible mob, on a street level.
It’s kind of a slow burn, what’s been going on with The Question and how it’s going to connect to a bigger story coming next summer.
But now The Question is in the book. And we’re going to slowly unveil what they know that Clark doesn’t.