Superman will be back as the star of Action Comics, but Lex Luthor has had quite a ride as the central character.
Paul Cornell, the British writer who took over Action Comics after "War of the Supermen," has been weaving a tale of Lex Luthor's obsession with obtaining the power of the black rings from Blackest Night, bringing his friend Robot Lois Lane along for the adventure. The story has gotten a loyal fan following, but in April the focus will change.
Action Comics #900 will feature extra content from a roster of talent including David Goyer and Richard Donner, but Cornell will begin the transition back to Superman's presence in the title, writing a 50-page story that brings the Lex story to a close while kicking off the comic's next arc.
Newsarama talked to Cornell to find out more about what's coming in Action Comics as the story finishes up in the oversized issue #900.
Newsarama: What do you think of the casting of Superman by a British actor? I noticed on Twitter that you jokingly mentioned Helena Bonham Carter as a possibility for Lois Lane, to round out the cast with Brits.
Paul Cornell: I understand how people take it so seriously. I really do. I'm hypocritical about it. I would hate it if Doctor Who was played by an American. So I understand how people want Superman to be played by an American. However, I think they have a good actor. I think it's really interesting that the Doctor and Superman have the same place in the psyche of the different countries. The alien who is very much like that nationality.
Nobody seems to mind Batman being British.
But I just had fun on Twitter suggesting an all-British cast.
Nrama: I'd like to talk about Lois Lane, because you've done such a fun twist on her character by creating this android Lois Lane. We talked about the character a little bit when you first introduced her, but now that we realize there's more to her agenda, what was your thinking behind this character when you were first developing her for Action Comics?
Cornell: The use of an android Lois Lane was the idea of one of my editors. I think it might have been Wil Moss. But she works so well because Lex isn't going to trust anybody he didn't build. And it just happened to be Superman's wife, accidentally, without Lex actually knowing that. I think it says a lot about his unconscious processing, because he certainly doesn't know.
I really like the fact that she's a very sassy Lois. You know, she's a really punchy Margot Kidder Lois. That's an aspect of the real Lois Lane that is maybe turned down too much these days. I think people seeing her like that.
Nrama: Lex and Android Lois certainly make a great couple.
Cornell: Lex and Robot Lois forever in my opinion! And you know, I sometimes like putting little clues and references in, just to see if anybody will get them. And there was a dirty great hint of a musical nature in the Lex vs. the Joker issue, as to who Lois' employer is. I don't know whether anyone caught that, but you might have figured out who was behind her actions.
Nrama: That Joker issue was a perfect example of what you're doing here. How do you get to the essence of each villain, because they're only around for one issue and they share the stage with Lex, yet you seem to portray each in a way that captures who they are.
Cornell: That's what I'm enjoying so much. And the fact that I'm doing a gallery of them, what makes them great. That's one of the real pleasures for me. The Joker was such a tremendous pleasure. I've been waiting to write him for so long. And actually, I've gotten to write him again immediately in issue #5 of Knight and Squire.Lex and the Joker are polar opposites, in a way that Lex and Superman really aren't. It's not like Superman is all about the brawn and Lex is all about the brain (although Lex is all about the brain). The Joker's about irrationality and Lex is about too much rationality. And just putting them in the room together gets the kind of drama I like. It may not be the most action-packed issue, but I think it was one of my best.
Nrama: This week's issue put Lex with Larfleeze, together again for the first time since Blackest Night. What was that like?
Cornell: Larfleeze is great because he gets an itch when someone is after something. He knows Lex is after something, so he wants it. But this issue gave us an opportunity to revisit the cause of what set Lex off on this quest in the first place. That moment he became an Orange Lantern and got to wield the power of a lantern ring. And to check out how much he needs that power still.
Nrama: What can you tell us about next month's Brainiac issue?
Cornell: It's set in space. The end of it has the most dirty great cliffhanger you've ever seen in your life.
It's about plots and counter-plots and reveals and chess moves. And some physical violence of a very precise sort. And some old scores being settled. Basically, now, we're out of the phase where I just pick the villains I want and do fun things with them, and we're into the let's use the villains we need to have in this arc to make it work and put the last few bricks in place.
I'd like to think it's a really good build toward the final chapter of the story, but you know, good or bad isn't for me to say, but it's been thought about. We've all thought about this really hard.
There are some pretty random comics in the world, and some of them are great for being random. But this isn't one of them. This is really a brick-by-brick story that's building. It's like Legos. But it's not a Lego comic. There is no Lego in this comic. I should clarify this.
Nrama: And it's all building toward Action Comics #900?
Cornell: Yeah. Issue #900 is really the climax of this story, but in a Jim Steinman way. It keeps on going up into another level into #901. So we finish one story and kind of start another act in the same issue, in #900.
Nrama: Issue #900 is a huge issue. How much of that is your story?
Cornell: There are 50 pages of main story. All the rest of it is extra stuff. And there's no Lego in #900 either, although wouldn't a Lego Lex Luthor be fabulous? I would love a Lego Lex Luthor. And a Lego Lois! That would fantastic.
Nrama: I think now, someone will build it.
Cornell: I hope so!
Nrama: Superman is returning to the pages of Action Comics now. Is there any hesitation in messing with this great formula you have with Lex as the central star?
Cornell: I can hear millions of fans who've popped up on message boards saying, "No!! We want Superman back!!" Because they have been saying that fairly consistently.
So no, I don't think there was a moment's hesitation in finishing this arc and bringing him back.
Nrama: You talked about issue #901, so you're staying on after this arc for a while?
Cornell: Yes. I will be at the helm in #901 with Superman in the comic.
Nrama: Do you have more to tell in the "Reign of Doomsday?"
Cornell: Yes, I do. It plays through issue #900 into #901.
Nrama: Let's talk about Pete Woods. What does he bring to this comic?
Cornell: He's awesome. He's one of my favorite artists I've worked with. What I really like is that when I write a conversation, he not only get the emotions of the participants, he'll add to it. It's been a positive loop in that the more emotions he plays with Lex Luthor's face, the more I start writing to the ability to do those emotions. And also, he can do the dirty great action stuff as well.
Because he does all this digitally, he has no original art! I'd love a page of his for my wall, but this is never going to happen. I guess he could print one out for me. I must ask.
But he's a delight to work with. He works really hard, especially on designs. He'll send us designs and change them quite a lot until we're all happy with what's going to happen. His Robot Lois designs are amazing. He loves the fact that she can change her outfit on a moment's thought, so suddenly, she bursts into that Secret Six issue dressed like an aviator. [laughs] The sudden arrays of special weaponry she pulls out. I couldn't be happier. And he has a David Tennant fetish. I was quite amazed when I saw some likenesses popping up in that comic, which are all accidental, I'm sure.
Nrama: We've seen so many great interactions with villains and Lex. Will we see some of these villains return for the end of this arc?
Cornell: It depends what you call a villain.
There's certainly a prominent guest star from one of the previous issues who will be back in issue #900. In fact, let me count them.... one, two, three. Certainly three, perhaps four. But only very, very briefly.
Nrama: You've just finished a story in Batman and Robin, and you're finishing up Knight and Squire. Can you tell us anything about what's coming up next for you?
Cornell: No. But I certainly will be writing more for DC.