Charting the Superman/Batman Course: Green & Johnson

Green & Johnson on Superman/Batman

As Superman/Batman co-writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson wrapped up their first story arc on the title, readers were thrown a few surprises.

Working with Shane Davis on art, the two writers explored in their first arc the idea that Superman wants to get rid of all the Kryptonite in the world, and who better to help him with that task than his friend Batman?

Searching the globe for all types and colors of Kryptonite, the two heroes encountered everyone from Hiro the Toyman to Amanda Waller to an Aquaman drawn by Davis that got fans salivating. But in the end -- and there are spoilers here -- the last place Superman expected to find Kryptonite was also a surprise to fans, as Lana Lang controlled a Lexcorp reserve of the deadly material that she was not only willing to unleash upon her childhood friend, but did.

Known to comics fans as one of the writers putting together the Green Lantern movie, Green is also busy working on a new NBC television show for the fall season called Kings, a modern re-telling of the story of King David. Johnson, who works for Kurtzman/Orci productions, the people behind the JJ Abrams television show Fringe, is also writing the Wildstorm comic book tie-in to the show."

As Superman/Batman hits a special Issue #50 this month, Newsarama talked to Johnson and Green to find out how long these Hollywood players are hoping to stay on the comic book series, what's coming up next for Superman/Batman readers, and what was up with Lana pushing that button.

Newsarama: Let's talk about that last issue and the shocker with Lana Lang. Michael, when we spoke in New York, you told us that Superman would be surprised by what he considers a betrayal by someone he least expects. When Clark and Bruce discovered the government conspiracy to make Kryptonite weapons to use against Superman, it seemed like the government was the big betrayal. But that wasn't quite it, was it?

Michael Green: No, that wasn't quite it. Although that was pretty much a betrayal also. But the idea to have Lana involved came out of continuity. We had this story of the search for Kryptonite, and I knew at some point, the big bad had to be coming from Lexcorp. We spoke to our editors about it, and they said, you know, Lex isn't around Lexcorp these days. And they said Lana's in charge. And we thought that was even cooler. It's even more interesting if it's her who's involved in it. We saw what's being done with her, and that she's a good person trying to do the best that she can. And here she was doing what she could to help the company because she saw some good in there. But she ended up having to betray a dear friend of hers, although it may well be that she wasn't in control of her own actions at the time.

Mike Johnson: What?? No! Say it ain't so.

NRAMA: It sure was implied by those little disembodied voices that were talking to her.

MG: Little voices. [laughs] Stay tuned!

NRAMA: So this is obviously going to be revisited soon?

MG: Uhhh... unless they fire us.

NRAMA: Let's talk about that for a moment. Loyal comic book readers are understandably wary of Hollywood guys on comics, because they're often short-term. You guys just finished your first story arc. Are you still on the book for the long haul?

MJ: We've said that we want to stay as long as they'll let us. That hasn't changed.

NRAMA: Back to the story: Lana was one level of betrayal, but it was a bit of a shock at the end for Batman to go through all of this yet have his own huge stash of Kryptonite. Was that evidence of Batman not trusting Clark? Or is it just the type of person Batman is?

MJ: I think at the end of the day, he's practical. He can divorce his emotions from what needs to be done. That's the kind of guy he is, and I think Superman wears his heart on his sleeve. He's honest and says what he thinks. Batman, on the other hand, always holds something back. It's how he fights, it's how he survives. It's how he's survived this long. As much as he likes and respects Clark -- and he really does -- he's also prepared for every eventuality. And he's the type of guy who, taking that precaution, doesn't mean he thinks any less of Clark.

MG: It's just a precaution.

MJ: Yes. Batman is all about being prepared for anything that happens.

NRAMA: This issue also featured Hiro, the Toyman created by Jeph Loeb in the early pages of Superman/Batman. We hadn't seen him in awhile. What inspired you to use that character?

MJ: Hiro was great because it gave the issue a bit of a light touch, so it wasn't all depressing, given Lana's betrayal. So we saw a little fun at the same time we had this heavier, emotional story.

MG: And we went back and read all the old issues, and Jeph Loeb really did some fun stuff with that character creating him that way. I really liked it and wanted to honor that.

NRAMA: When you're writing Superman/Batman, from an overall big picture, what's the tone you're going for? It has the dramatic moments, but a lot of humor.

MG: We're going for sucky. And there are many out there who would agree we've achieved that. If the internet is to be believed, and I feel that it is, then we've achieved it already. [laughs]

MJ: We haven't quite made it to hacky. If we get to hacky, we'll be fine.

NRAMA: But when the comic first started, it had that "summer blockbuster" kind of feel to it. Are you still going for that tone?

MG: Yes. Whenever you have a story that involves both Superman and Batman, it has to be big enough that both of them are giving it their attention. It tends to be big, global, epic, summer-blockbuster sized problems, or things that are specific to them.

MJ: We definitely want to do the summer blockbuster thing and have fun with that, but at the same time, it's been great working with Michael, because he's always about writing for character and writing for emotion, and I think that comes through. In the Kryptonite arc, no matter how far out we go or how big the threat is, it's always grounded in what these two guys are feeling, what their point of view is, and the contrast between them.

NRAMA: Another thing you had in this story arc was the Superman/Batman movie. Was there something more that you guys were trying to say about superhero movies in general?

MG: [laughs] No. The opening salvo of the book was as if they were spying in on the making of a Superman/Batman movie, and how wrong someone might get it, and it was really just an introduction where we wanted to say, "Hey, I know we're Hollywood dudes, but we promise not to screw this up. And then when we were writing it, I said to Mike, you know at the end of this arc, they have to be going to the premiere of that movie.

MJ: I thought it was a great idea to start with the movie because it just pre-empts all that knee-jerk criticism about people who work in other parts of the entertainment industry coming to comics. We love stories and characters so much that that's our day job. It's not like we're accountants or brain surgeons who are dabbling in comics. It's what we love. Michael did a great job of pre-empting that criticism.

NRAMA: And you're getting to dabble with some pretty big characters in Superman and Batman.

MJ: Yeah! It's like we snuck in and we got our hands on the toys. And they're great toyboxes. There are so many characters. With each character, I think we have a great luxury in the book because we get to play with Lois and Jimmy and Perry and everybody in Superman's world. And we get to play with Alfred and Tim and Dick and everybody on Batman's side of the fence too. Not to mention their rogues gallery. So we're in continuity to the extent that we need to be, but we're also free to play with whoever we want.

NRAMA: It does seem like you guys function separately from some of the stuff going on in the other books. You have a separate editor too, right?

MG: We try to function in tandem with it. But we also try not to let it ruin what would be an otherwise good story. We work with Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman, who are really, really helpful as editors. They really just take everything we're excited about and say, "Oh, that's awesome. Here's what would make it more awesome." And so they'll often put up warning flags and say, hey, you might not know it, but in such-and-such book, the character you mentioned is busy doing X, so we'll either make adjustments, or we'll find ways of making it fit in that world. Like in the case of Lana, it can actually end up making the story even cooler.

NRAMA: Let's talk about what's coming up. The next issue is a special one-issue story, right?

MJ: Yes, it's a one-and-done story. That was a lot of fun to do after writing the multiple issues of the "K" arc. Issue #50 is a special issue, and we really wanted to do something that got to the core of the characters, and we came up with the idea of going back and looking at their fathers and really exploring their fathers' characters in a way we haven't seen before.

MG: And adding to the mythology that way. There's an event between the two fathers.

NRAMA: So does the whole issue take place in the past?

MG: The past and the present simultaneously.

MJ: Superman and Batman are very much in it, with some very cool guest stars.

MG: They make a discovery about an event they never knew about.

NRAMA: Shane Davis was your artist, but now you're working with someone new?

MG: Yeah. Shane did this arc and now he's doing a couple other really amazing things. He's the greatest and we'd love to work with him again, but I think -- who stole him? Geoff Johns? Then you know what? He's going on to do awesome stuff. I can't wait to see it.

MJ: We have Ed Benes though. We're thrilled to have him on Issue #50.

NRAMA: What comes after this special Issue #50?

MG: After that, we're definitely going to be focusing on bigger arcs. The next one happens to be a two-issue arc where we take something that was just unexpectedly fun in the K arc and explore it, and that's the idea of the "Little Leaguers." In the K arc, we had this wonderful moment drawn by Shane Davis where Clark viewed all of his fellow Leaguers as little, tiny, cute versions of themselves. Little tiny puppies mixed with bunny. So we decided to bring those guys back to life and have them visit. And mayhem ensues.

NRAMA: And the artist on that?

MG: The art is by Rafael Albequerque, who is just amazing. We just got the last two pages of the first part, and they were poop-yourself awesome.

NRAMA: What comes after the two-issue arc?

MG: You'll have to wait and see.

NRAMA: But will Lana show up again so we can find out what was behind that button pushing?

MG: Oh yes. She will most likely appear in that next arc, which will be another big, fun sort of summer blockbuster event that is really just an exploration of the characters of Superman and Batman.

Superman/Batman #50 is due in stores on July 30th.

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