One of DC’s highlight panels at SDCC 2021 was the “Truth, Justice, & A Better DC Universe: A New Future For The Man of Steel” Panel. This panel focused on the core Superman books, Action Comics, Superman: Son of Kal-El, and Superman & The Authority. It was moderated by DC Editor-In-Chief Marie Javins, and featured writers Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Action Comics), Tom Taylor (Superman: Son of Kal-El), Grant Morrison (Superman and the Authority), and artist Mikel Janin (Superman and The Authority).
Johnson On Superman going into Warworld Rising
Javins began the panel by asking Phillip Kennedy Johnson to describe the state of the Superman titles going into the Warworld Rising storyline. He said that he loves how Superman and his cast are humanized very effectively. We’ve seen Superman interact with his supporting cast, and what Superman means to Metropolis and Earth in general. However, Kennedy wants to put Superman on a bigger stage – a major player in the DC Universe and the wider Multiverse.
He also talked of picking up threads left by earlier writers, especially with respect to Mongul. Johnson used the idea that Mongul is a hereditary title. Consequently, the Mongul Superman will be facing is the newest successor – not a foe that he’s encountered and bested before.
Javins then questioned him about why Superman would step away from his family and the Justice League. Kennedy’s response was that Superman simply feels that he has no other option. He is faced with an injustice too large to ignore.
He also talked about how Jon’s presence makes the decision easier. With the focus Johnson has been putting on establishing the relationship between father and son, Clark fully trusts Jon to watch over Earth in his absence.
Johnson also indicated that Warworld Rising will mark a radical change for the status quo on Earth, and that this is where Grant Morrison’s and Tom Taylor’s titles enter the story.
Taylor on Jon Kent going into Superman: Son of Kal-El
On that note, Javins turned to Tom Taylor to give us the scoop on where Jon is going in his new title. Taylor starts off by describing that Jon’s life has been going through a lot of upheaval lately. In a short period, he has gone from being a small boy, to being imprisoned by Ultraman on Earth-3, to being a teenager living in the distant future, to being a near adult back with his parents. So Jon is searching to re-establish his relationship with his parents, while also searching for his own identity.
He also spoke a bit about the return of the Super Sons. Damian will continue to be a presence in Jon’s life. Much of the same dynamic is still evident. However, it is flipped somewhat, as the age gap between them is the same, but in the other direction. Jon is now three years older than Damian, instead of being his junior.
Javins also asked about the differences between Clark and Jon. While Taylor acknowledges that Jon has inherited some of the best qualities of his father, Jon is his own person. Despite Jon’s book having “Son of Kal-El” in the title, Jon is equally the son of journalist Lois Lane. Thus, Jon has inherited his mother’s drive to be a champion against corruption and for social justice. And the qualities he’s received from both parents will lead him to question whether he will be a hero that upholds the status quo or one that creates change in the world. And this gives us a new credo for a new Superman: “Truth, Justice, and a Better World”
Grant Morrison on Superman & the Authority
Morrison described his vision for Superman & the Authority as Superman in midlife. With Jon as heir apparent, Superman no longer has to be the Superman the world wants him to be. This allows him to look back on his life and ponder whether he has achieved what he wanted in life. Morrison also spoke about how his vision of Superman will embrace more of Superman’s intellect and his Kryptonian heritage.
Morrison then went on to talk about his new version of the Authority. The team will be headed up Manchester Black, much to the surprise of Black himself, given the mutual antipathy between him and Superman. Morrison has put together a team that consists of characters from the original iteration of the team (i.e. Apollo and Midnighter) as well as analogues for those characters drawn from existing DCU characters (such as Natasha Irons to stand in for the Engineer). This allows Morrison to bring in characters that we haven’t seen in a while, or haven’t seen in this way before.
Mikel Janin on Character Design
Mikel Janin was asked to about his new character designs for both Superman and the new Authority team. Janin described how he wanted the existing characters to retain elements of their previous stories, but also had fun designing the new characters. He designed the characters to look good on their own, as well as making sure that their costumes work well together.
As for his new look for Superman, Janin borrowed elements from both the New 52 version of the hero and the Kingdom Come Superman. Tom Taylor stated that Jon also is receiving a new look designed by John Timms, the artist on Superman: Son of Kal-El.
Johnson on Lois’ Role in the Superman Titles
Javins then asked Phillip Kennedy Johnson where Lois Lane would be while Clark is off in space during Warworld Rising. Johnson replied that Lois wouldn’t be physically present in upcoming issues of Action Comics, as she would be remaining on Earth during that storyline. Consequently, she will be in more of Jon’s story. But that’s not to say she won’t have a presence or impact on Clark’s. He also added that Lois would play a very significant role in Action Comics further down the line.
Javins also asked Johnson about what comes after Warworld Rising. While he indicated that the story was feeding into an event called Warworld, Johnson was keeping mum about any details.
How Difficult is it to Write/Draw Superman?
Javins asked Mikel Janin, who is well known for drawing Batman, which of the two icons is easier to draw – Superman or Batman. Janin responded that Batman was much easier to draw. When drawing Batman, the important thing is to make him look cool. Batman’s cape and clever use of shadows makes it easy to make Batman look good.
However, with Superman, Janin has to focus on his facial expressions and body language. These always have to convey the paragon of compassion, hope, and idealism that Superman represents. They must always convey that he is Superman.
This lead to the writers being asked how easy Superman is to write as a character. Grant Morrison stated that it’s not difficult. Superman represents a better vision of how to be a better human being. Superman’s a utopian ideal, and he finds that writing the character elevates him to think like the Man of Steel.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson agreed wholeheartedly, saying Superman is someone to aspire to be like, a paragon of compassion and humility. Morrison also added that he loves how Superman is not a passive character. He’s a brawler. He’s a champion. He knows what is right and is not afraid to fight for it. And Tom Taylor summed it up eloquently, “Being able to write a character that you look to and love, and who’s there for you, and who’s fighting for you, and believes in you – that’s…that’s absolutely worth it. And that’s Superman”.
Be sure to check out the rest of our SDCC 2021 coverage as it drops.