Get ready to cheer for the bad guy…and his surprising girlfriend.
That's the premise of Action Comics, which will follow the path of Metropolis's greatest mind and most ruthless offender, Lex Luthor. Possessed by the Orange Ring of Avarice during Blackest Night, Lex learned what true power really is -- and will stop at nothing to get it back.
With writer Paul Cornell and artist Pete Woods taking on the villain's exploits starting in July, it's clear that Lex Luthor is in for the fight of his life, as he takes on all comers in his quest for an as-yet-undefined mission. Newsarama caught up with Cornell to talk about Lex Luthor, the universe after Blackest Night, and -- for the biggest surprise of all -- how one long-time Superman supporting character is involved in Lex's climb to power.
Newsarama: Paul, it's looking like your run on Action Comics is going to be pretty crucial towards the story of Lex Luthor. First and foremost, can you tell us how you got involved with the project? Was Lex always going to be the protagonist of this story?
Paul Cornell: Yes, Lex Luthor is what I signed up for. And why I signed up. I got an email out of the blue, initially just saying that DC wanted to talk to me, and I actually said to my wife, anticipating starting at the bottom, ‘well, it won’t be Action Comics’.
Nrama: For those who haven't been keeping up with Metropolis's leading megalomaniac, can you tell us a little bit about where Lex's head has been at following the Blackest Night?
Cornell: He’s been left with a terrible craving for more power, which annoys his control freak sensibilities. It makes him feel weak. He had a taste, and he wants more.
Nrama: So Lex Luthor is on the quest for "power," following his use of an Orange Lantern ring. Is he searching for his old ring back, or is there another goal in mind? Does Lex even have an achievable goal in mind?
Cornell: He has a very specific goal in mind, which is to do with how the universe has altered since the Black Lantern Rings were destroyed.
Nrama: On the other side of that, let's get a run-down of what Lex already is capable of, "power"-wise. What resources does Lex already have in his corner, to help him achieve his goals? Are there any new ones that you've had a hand in creating that you're pleased with?
Cornell: I’m really pleased that he’s going to be taking Lois Lane along with him, as his girlfriend. They’re made for each other. She’ll be a big help. Lex has now got a bit of a supporting cast all round, actually, and I’m very pleased to have done that for him.
Nrama: I think that'll be a bit of a shock to readers… What's interesting about this premise is the fact that, for once, Lex isn't fixated on Superman. So we should ask, will we be seeing any of the Man of Steel as your run progresses? What does Superman think of Lex's quest for power?
Cornell: Lex will always be fixated on Superman long term, and getting more power is always going to be a way to try and get ahead of Kal-El. Superman will be absent from this run, like a hole in the wall is an absence, but also perhaps the most important thing in the room.
Nrama: Given the interconnectedness of the DCU, particularly under the Brightest Day banner, it's perhaps no surprise that Lex will be crossing paths with other DC characters -- like seeing him clash with Deathstroke the Terminator in the August solicitations. Can you tell us a little bit about what brings those two together, and -- just as importantly -- are there any other DC characters Lex might meet up with?
Cornell: A bit like [the story] "Hush" was, amongst many other things, a gallery of Batman villains, this series will see Lex encountering a series of the most interesting and well-known villains of the DC Universe, including some from outside his genre and experience.
Nrama: For you, what opportunities does writing a bad guy like Lex have that writing for a hero would not? For you, what is the appeal of Lex Luthor, and how do you get yourself in the right headspace to write a character like this?
Cornell: There’s something almost admirable about Lex. He’s the modern Prometheus, who wants to steal fire from the all-powerful beings and give it to humanity. He worked hard to be what he is, and Superman was just born that way. He’s the proletariat confronting a really nice aristocrat. The trouble is, Lex has this one glaring flaw, a very human one, and it makes him do the most terrible things. One empathizes with him while always regretting the choices he makes.
Nrama: Now, you're working with Pete Woods on this book -- can you tell us a little bit about working with him? What's the back-and-forth been like between you two, and what strengths do you feel he brings to a title like this?
Cornell: I love his design sense, his acting (the scenes between Lois and Lex are wonderful), his ability with emotion, his page layouts. He’s a bit different, you can see he’s aware of European comic book traditions as well as Stateside ones. And he works tremendously hard. I couldn’t be happier.
Nrama: Finally, for those who are still on the fence about this book, what would you tell them to get them on board? Any fun moments with Lex that you can tease that you're excited to see hit the page?
Cornell: I’d say, for one thing, new readers can start here. There’s nothing that requires a particularly knowledge of continuity. You’ll see Lex fighting and plotting against the cream of DC supervillains, and I think you’ll be able to cheer for someone that also makes you groan, someone whose own dramas can drag anyone in. The ending of the first issue kind of says that Lex is going to be voyaging way outside his Metropolis comfort zone.
Lois Lane, Lex Luthor's Girlfriend? What do you think of this revelation!?