"We've made Superman such an iconic figure over the years that we've lost some of the character and the ability to tell stories with that character," said Dan DiDio, co-publisher at DC. "There's so much continuity that's been built on this character. We really wanted to get a Superman that is more accessible to the audience."
DiDio said Action Comics by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales will take place five years in the past at the "dawn of the age of superheroes," with Superman introduced as more of a young, isolated alien who's trying to find his place in the world, without his parents to help him. The comic will show him developing his costume, starting out in a pair of jeans, and discovering his powers, since he cannot fly but only leaps over tall buildings.
"We wanted to get back to some of the grass roots of the character," DiDio said.
"And the best way to do that is to really go back to the early days of the character, where you see him in his formative years, learning his powers, and learning how people react to him, as we'll be examining in Action Comics. But also, we want to re-examine his relationships, because we think there's a lot of fertile ground about him and the people he deals with."
The "relationships" part of Superman's story will be examined in Superman by George Pérez, which will take place in the present day of the DC Universe. Clark Kent will have a new status quo at the Daily Planet and will be a bachelor.
Lois Lane will have a new boyfriend, which is quite a change from the current situation, where Clark and Lois are married in the DC Universe.
"Marriage brings about a certain degree of comfort and security in one's life," Lee said. "If you have a life partner, you always have someone to rely on. So from a story conflict point of view, it makes for a less dramatic story. I think a lot of writers can agree that one of the most dynamic periods of Superman's history was that period where there was a love triangle between Clark Kent, Superman and Lois Lane. There's a lot of tension and interest you create in the characters by having that kind of dynamic."
But Lee said the new Superman will not be just revisiting the same old love triangle. "We're introducing other elements into it," he said. "Through that, we're really updating who the character is and making Superman a character that you think you know, but maybe not. We have some surprises up our sleeves. And I think Grant has some incredible ideas about not only what he wants to do with Superman but Clark Kent, and really updating the whole mythology so that people can relate to it on a more personal level."
The marriage choice — along with the decision to have Jonathan and Martha Kent be deceased in the Action Comics — was also related to Superman being isolated in these stories.
"We wanted to have that sense of isolation that might come with being an alien among men," DiDio said. "The two choices that were made, with both his parents being dead and not being married, isolated Clark a little bit more, so that he really had to do more exploration about mankind. There wasn't that one strong human tether that he was bonding with and learning through.
"He's had so much learning and understanding from the days with his parents, but the rest of the discovery is on his own," DiDio said, confirming the Clark will have been guided as a youth by the Kents, before their death. "If we had him married to Lois right now, he would always have a strong base to work from. We wanted to explore much bigger and wider stories with him. It's really the learning and growing of this character that is going to be the basis for so much of what Grant and George are going to be doing with their series and with Superman."Superman #2 The theme of isolation will be further emphasized as Clark Kent has a sense of being an "alien." That sense of alien separation is not only being heightened in Superman and Action Comics, but also in Supergirl, where Clark's cousin will arrive on Earth for the first time.
"That's one of the things we're trying to explore much more," DiDio said. "We've told so many great stories over the years where Superman has embraced his human side and built stories around that side of the characterization. Now we're flipping it around a little bit and really embracing his alien side, so we can understand what it's like to be a man from another world, living amongst men, but not feeling like you're a part of it, but belonging to them all."
"I think the issue of self-identity and knowing who you are is something that's universal, and obviously, it's a very powerful theme," Lee said. "I think characters, not just Superman but other superhero characters, have a very public face and also a private, personal identity. I think it's that exploration between the two that's going to make part of the September relaunch very interesting on a story level."
DiDio said there was very little dissent among ranks at DC about changing the status of Clark Kent from married to unmarried.
"We actually had, last year, a very large writers meeting about the general direction and tone of the DC Universe, and one of the conversations that was the biggest conversation in the room was about the marriage of Lois and Clark, and it was a much discussed topic," DiDio said. "Most people saw the benefits of making this change, because they saw what the story potential was and how much they could open up their ability to examine the character in a bigger way, once we decided to move in this direction."
And when the Superman writing team got together, DiDio said everyone agreed that the marriage should go. "It gave us more potential for the stories at the starting point. We needed a really strong starting point here, and we felt this was a great way to do it," he said.
Part of Superman's introduction to the DCU will also be told in Justice League, the new comic that Lee is drawing for writer Geoff Johns. In the comic, which also takes place five years in the past (like Action Comics), the Justice League team members will come together for the first time. This new Superman will be among those heroes that discover each other in Justice League during the "dawning of the age of superheroes."
"It's really about re-introducing the concept of superheroes in the DC Universe, and doing it in a more contemporary, timely way," Lee said. "We wanted a situation in Action and in Justice League where we show the first public emergence of these so-called super-beings and how they impact society, politics, the world.
"In many ways, it starts out in a way that one would imagine in today's day and age with fear and caution, and people literally freaking out about this," he said. "It's through the introduction of a character like Superman and the Justice League that the public starts understanding and accepting these characters for who they are and sees them as heroes for the very first time, coining the word 'superhero.'"
DiDio admitted that one of the motivations for rebooting Superman was the fact that the last time it was done — by John Byrne in the mid-1980's after Crisis on Infinite Earths — the Superman comic was a huge success.
"It was done once before, and very successfully," he said. "We're hoping for the same luck here."
"[John Byrne] took the origin that we knew and updated it and added new subtleties and nuances," Lee said. "For me, that was my heyday of collecting Superman comic books. It really felt like this was my version of Superman. I know it really created a lot of excitement for that character, not just among die-hard DC fans, but across all comic book readers in general."
When asked if the upcoming Man of Steel movie, which is filming now, had any influence on the decision to reboot Superman in the comics universe, DiDio said: "Not at all."
"That said," he added, "I doubt they would ever start a series or anything where Superman was married at the beginning."Action Comics #2 But Lee said the goal of creating DC Entertainment to work more cohesively with Warner Bros. was not to make all the stories in the different media line up perfectly. "This is really about making sure that the source material, which is the comics, remains as contemporary and fresh and exciting as possible," Lee said. "Comics are the drivers and the creative content. Comics is where we can take the creative risks and creative chances with the characters. It's our responsibility to keep them exciting and fresh. The overall mission of DC Entertainment is to allow filmmakers or people who work in games or animation the opportunity to go through and find things that interest them and that they think has potential in other media. That's part of the ecosystem we're trying to build.
"It's not about one lining up with the other," he said. "It's about keeping what we're doing on the publishing side as relevant and exciting as possible."Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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