Rogues React to CLARK KENT's Reveal in February's SUPERMAN: VILLAINS

Superman: Villains #1
Credit: DC
Credit: DC

As writer Brian Michael Bendis has been teasing for a while now, Superman is going to tell the world who he really is in December. According to the writer, the ramifications of that decision will have far-reaching consequences across the DCU — all part of the grand plan Bendis and fellow writers have put together for 2020 and beyond.

“Everyone’s questioning everything and everybody because of it,” Bendis explained to Newsarama.

But the consequences Clark Kent’s announcement won’t stop with just the heroes of the DCU (as readers will see in January’s Superman: Heroes one-shot), as the news will also cause some significant changes among Superman’s pantheon of villains.

In February, DC will release a one-shot called Superman: Villains #1 by Bendis and friends that will examine the effect on DC’s rogues community when Superman shares his secret identity — an issue for which Newsarama obtained the solicitation:

cover by BRYAN HITCH
The Man of Steel’s greatest villains react to the biggest news to ever rock the DC Universe. Lex Luthor, Mongul, Toyman, The Joker, and more of the world’s greatest villains must come to grips with how the world changes now that the truth has been revealed by Superman. Some of comics’ most unique and creative voices unite to tell a story that changes all the rules.
ON SALE 02.12.20
$5.99 US | 48 PAGES

Superman: Villains will feature a lead story by Bendis and artist Bryan Hitch, with shorter sequences by some of the writer’s closest collaborators and friends, including Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka and Jody Houser with artists like Steve Lieber, Mike Perkins and Eduardo Pansica.

Newsarama talked with Bendis – on the heels of the conclusion of Event Leviathan – to find out more about the outing of Clark Kent’s identity and why the revelation would affect the bad guys in Superman: Villains.

Newsarama: Brian, first let’s just review what you’ve already announced — that you’re telling the DCU what Superman’s secret identity is. I’m sure you’ve heard from people who want to protect the Clark Kent/Superman’s secret identity mythology. Are you just throwing all that out?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, no. What we’re doing is we’re evolving the character. As we have argued already in the pages of the last couple issues of Superman, much has changed in his life. Deep things have changed.

Deep spoilers for people who haven’t read, but in Superman, Jor-El is no longer with us, and in the events of Event Leviathan, Sam Lane is no longer with us.

So both Lois and Clark have lost their parents very quickly. And with that comes a lot of perspective shifts. And also, their relationships with their fathers were strained and complicated — those are good words for both of those relationships.

With that and their son going off to college, there are a lot of things that are different.

Nrama: So it’s a change inside Superman and his life, as much as anything else?

Bendis: His mindset is different. His heart is extremely different.

As he’ll express next issue, with that came a different philosophy and feeling.

Things that you need when you’re a young man are not the same things you need when you’re a grown man. That’s the same for anybody and any situation — things that you needed at one point in your life may not be the same. So this is going to be our argument about that.

Also, secret identities do not mean the same thing in this society as they did when Superman was birthed into the world.

Nrama: It’s more negative now?

Bendis: Well, you talk to kids today — most won’t even go on social media because all it is is people with secret identities who are going to “get” you. It’s an unsafe place.

So for many people, having any kind of secret identity is just, like, why? What are you hiding?

That’s not the space that Superman holds in people’s hearts.

I think you and I have both seen years of people wrestling with, and goofing with, the secret identity of Clark Kent and Superman.

So instead of leaning in to the hubris of the conceit, we wanted to be more truthful and see what happens with the character.

Nrama: And you’re finding plenty there?

Bendis: So far, it is just poured out — and the reason Warner Brothers approved this is … thousands of new Superman stories.

Literally, everyone online goes, “What’s Batman going to say?”

And I’m like, “Isn’t that amazing? You don’t know!” That’s very exciting.

For fans young and old — for people who have “seen it all,” isn’t it exciting you don’t know what’s going to happen next?

Nrama: OK, I totally get that in this day and age, you don’t know what to believe, so it’s kind of a trust issue with Superman. But… you mentioned Batman, and there are other heroes with secret identities — why do you think Superman needs to be on the leading edge of this “Truth” telling?

Bendis: Well, number one, he’s not. That’s part of the complication of the story — there are many, many heroes that do not have secret identities. In even our pop culture world, in the movies, they’re very rare in a lot of companies.

So the conceit of it really has kind of fallen by the wayside.

It’s going to be a bigger deal to older readers than it will be to younger, and I can already see it online, the generational divide of people going “never!” and other people going “OK, let’s see what you’ve got.”

And it’s our job, as storytellers, to kind of create the truth in our story, and being that it’s called “Truth,” we’re very, very, very, very focused on making sure we were truthful.

And by the way, regardless… Ivan Reis has produced the best issue of his career, and I’m dying for people to see it. I am surrounded in this situation with collaborators who are so deeply involved in making this something special for themselves that the audience is being rewarded tremendously.

Everyone is blown away with what Ivan has done.

Nrama: You touched upon Sam Lane being killed in Event Leviathan. That series also featured a villain who talked about there being too many secrets — he wanted to expose everyone’s secrets. Does that also play a part in this?

image from Superman #18
image from Superman #18
Credit: DC

Bendis: Yeah, it’s an argument worth pursuing. It’s not the number one reason, but if someone’s running around yelling about secrets and truth, and you’re sitting there going, “yeah, I’ve got secrets.” You know…

Also, and again, I don’t want to spoil too much, Superman’s frustration with his relationship with his father was how many lies were surrounded by his father’s legacy — some of which were by his father’s own hand; some of them weren’t.

This is all amazing stuff that I inherited from Dan Jurgens. And when I was talking to Dan about it and what he was pursuing with it, the end result really is how, you know, when you grow up there are frustrations you have with how you grew up.

And that’s one of the things Superman’s dealing with that a lot of people can relate to.

And when his father passes, he realizes that Clark Kent is something he’s deeply proud of. And it isn’t at all part of whatever Jor-El was doing. Although most of Jor-El’s lies were not good ones, a good one was Superman. It feels like one of Jor-El’s lies to him. Right? It’s not, but he can’t help it. It feels like it’s the first one in a long line of lies that brought Jor-El where he ended up.

And he can’t help but feel that weight around it.

Nrama: OK, another question…

Bendis: Bring them on. We’ve been talking about this for a year, so I’m ready.

Nrama: Well, you’ve got these two one-shots coming out. These are both group projects?

Bendis: One hundred percent. Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka and I frequently get together here at my house. And Fraction refers to it as the Metropolis City Council, because the overall is what can we do in the three Superman books to make Metropolis more special than we’ve ever seen it before — in the most modern sense — and have connections in the books that are unique and what-not.

And right in the middle of this collaboration, I come in swinging with “Sam Lane is dead and Superman’s outing himself!” It was this huge, giant bomb to drop on your collaborators.

But sitting around the fire in my back yard, Greg and Matt started spinning gold — left and right. It also was one of the reasons I felt very confident about this giant choice we’re making, when you see two brilliant writers just swinging big, giant chunks of new Superman story left and right — it was just so exciting.

So yes, both specials are a mixture of all of us. Jody Houser is in there too with Supergirl.

It reflects how Superman’s choice — what the reaction is all over the world, and from all corners, and how already, it starts about six giant, new Superman stories.

And those Superman stories will all come to a head in the specials — or launch out of the specials.

Nrama: So next year’s big plans for Superman — a lot of that will surround this idea of Superman’s identity reveal? And it will all spin out of these stories you’re telling in the Heroes and Villains one-shots?

Bendis: Yes. People who’ve already heard the announcement online — you can imagine, without me spoiling too much, that one way or another, this changes almost every relationship in the DC Universe.

Everyone’s questioning everything and everybody because of it.

And every writer who is near this was, like, “Oh, can I do the blah blah blah?” And it’s very exciting.

It’s a lot of new story.

Nrama: Reading Event Leviathan this week, and thinking about how crazy it would be to have “all secrets” revealed … does this declaration by Superman lead to more heroes and villains maybe taking off their masks and revealing who they are? Or what kind of changes are we talking about?

Bendis: Literally … some villains become heroes, some just flat-out give it up, others have major changes, others get livid — it’s a range of reaction, some of which was deeply surprising, even to us. And that’s the ones we’re very excited to show you.

There’s one Superman villain who has a massive change of heart.

And from that moment, we came up with something for them that is so interesting that — oh, we’re so excited to show it to you, and I will point it out when it’s time.

Also, some of them are like, wow, shocking changes in their status quo, but then other things are really just human emotional moments between characters.

When someone reveals something about themselves, you kind of look at them differently, you think about them differently, and you know…

We’ve had this in the real world where people own their truth, and you’re like — you want to celebrate them from the top of the tallest building. It’s so exciting.

So there’s going to be a lot of people who are so excited that this hero they love is owning their moment, and there’s other people who are just going to be horrified by it.

Credit: DC

Nrama: And there’s a group of artists working on the Villains one-shot, just like the group you have on the Heroes issue? With Bryan Hitch taking the lead on the Villains issue?

Bendis: Yes, there’s a main artist, and then there will be special sequences by other people. So there will be anchor artists, and there will be other chapters by other creators.

Nrama: And you’ve got Kevin Maguire on the Heroes issue.

Bendis: Yeah, he lives here in town, and we’ve become friends, which is amazing, because I grew up with his stuff and loved it so much. And he’s just killing it lately. And also, he’s the biggest Superman fan in the world.

Nrama: So are you printing this in Portland too? I mean, it’s all being done in Portland.

Bendis: [Laughs.] I think DC looked into the cost.

I will say, that’s been a lovely little addition to my time at DC, is how many of my friends and peers have also kind of found their way over here, and now DC comes up here to Portland quite often. We’ve really made a kind of little base here for them. It’s kind of cool.

And not just me and Greg and Matt — it’s like, Mark Russell and Joelle Jones — there’s so many of us here. Joshua Williamson, Nick Derington, we’re all here.

Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell people about the Superman books going forward?

Bendis: Let me just say — people, sometimes, online… every time we do something that’s surprising, they get very worked up and worried the first day. And then the second day, they start thinking about it more and go, oh, wait a minute — like, they start seeing the story in it, even if it shocks them the first day.

And I just wanted to say thank you, because that’s been the wave of this: The first day was “what?” and the second day was, “OK, actually…”

And I really appreciate that kind of thought process. I just want to say thanks.

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