Of course, what finally made it into the article is in no way the full conversation. So here we go, after the jump, the (mostly) unabridged interview between me and Hub Pacheco. I say "mostly" unabridged because we went off the rails a couple of times, including a tiny rant about Lebron James. (We're not fans.) I took those out.
Please note that this conversation occurred on August 4, 2011, and the article came out on October 7, 2011. In the meantime, of course, DC released their first issues. So please keep that in mind.
Hub: I've read your comments about what you expect from the new Superman.
Duy: Well, to be honest, I have no idea what I'm expecting anymore.
Ah, really? After seeing all the previews and the Comic Con stuff?
Yeah. When the first cover for Action came out — the one with Superman lifting a train (is it a train or a car? I don't remember.) — I thought they were going to do a throwback to the Golden Age. But when they came out with the actual cover they're gonna use — the one with him running away from the cops — all of a sudden I'm not so sure. I'm a big fan of George Perez, so I held out hope that the Superman comic would be well-written, but there's that two-page preview that came out with him just brooding about Lois having a boyfriend. So yeah, I really have no clue what to expect now. But uh, yeah. There. Sorry for stealing your thunder there. Most stuff I wrote on the Cube was written as a reaction, and then things kept changing.
No problem. Of course we won't really know for sure until the actual thing comes out. What I wanna ask you is: you think this DC relaunch is somewhat similar to Marvel's ULTIMATE line? that being essentially a relaunched universe but without affecting the current one?
Not really. The current one is getting affected. Essentially, it's getting mostly wiped out. It's not two separate realities at this point. It's really more in line with what DC did back in the 80s, when they rebooted after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Some stuff stuck, some stuff changed.
|Worlds lived. Worlds died. And the DC Universe was never the same.|
What was the difference with that 80s relaunch with the one now?
Well, you gotta remember, I was a kid during the 80s relaunch, so to me, they were just new comics.
So did they do the same then? Relaunch everything but not totally forget the previous history? Just some of it?
I think this is an important point: no one cares about continuity but the hardcore fans. A casual reader picking up the books for the first time just wants them to be good. It's not until you fall in love with these universes that you all of a sudden care whether what happens in one book now is consistent with what happened with another ten years ago.
Ah yeah, good point. So is that what's happening, or what they want to happen now?
Technically. I mean, back then, it was maybe even more confusing. Superman's entire history was changed, but he was 28 years old, and he'd been a hero for DC's entire history, a history where the previous events before 1986 still happened but in a "different" way. And Wonder Woman was just rebooted from the ground up — in 1988, she was a completely new hero, new to the DC Universe, as if she'd never existed before, et cetera. It's confusing as hell, but back then, no one cared, because it was just good comics.
They did say that they are targeting new readers. Younger readers to be exact.
I think this is what they want to do, but I don't think they're targeting kids. I think they're targeting teenagers, which was always Jim Lee's market. He was really one of the guys who, because of his art style, just clicked with the angsty pangs of adolescence, and if you look at the solicitations for the 52 series and the covers, there are maybe 8 books I'd feel comfortable giving to someone under 12. I'm not saying this is true for everyone — obviously what we give to kids changes depending on the kid — but even the preview for Superman — him walking in on Lois who's clearly having sex with her boyfriend — that's not something aimed for a kid. That's something aimed for a teenager.
|"Shut up and get back in bed!"|
And comics' readership is decreasing. It's been decreasing for a long time, so it WAS time for an overhaul, and it IS time to get new readers into it, new readers who can grow up with it and read them when they're older and then give them to their kids. But whether or not teenagers are the right audience for that, that's a different question altogether. Whew, you may have to edit this, man. I'm getting into it!
Ahaha! No no, this is good. This is gold. You answered some stuff I was about to ask. I interviewed Eric of Planet X. He told me he has 150-plus preorders of the major books. 30% of those preorders were from new customers of his, so I guess we can assume that what DC wants is working for now?
Yeah, I think that it's bound to create a spike. This is history. People want to be there for history. Now are these returning fans or all-new fans? That's the question. Because returning fans could just be coming in for all the new #1s. You want all-new fans, because those guys are the ones you're looking for to stick around.
Well, he did say some were returning, but some were really walk-in customers who just heard about it somehwere. One guy even ordered ALL 52 titles. He's a returning customer.
That guy's got a LOT of money.
No shit, yeah. So I guess it is working. Creating new readership base.
Personally, I don't get the point of all 52 titles in the same month. When DC rebooted in the 80s, they did BATMAN YEAR ONE soon after DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Then they rebooted Superman. THEN they rebooted Wonder Woman. Before Wonder Woman came out, they marketed it — they used "Look, we rebooted Batman, and then Superman, now it's her turn!"
Well, they want to create a buzz about it, I think?
That's a big difference there. The 80s reboot built up steam. This one feels like they're putting all their eggs in one basket.
AH. Do go on.
There's this interview Todd McFarlane did with CBR a couple of weeks ago. He brings up pretty much the same point. He said something like, why should I pay attention to the 47th book they put out? What makes #47 so special? How many people are going to get the 47th most anticipated book of the month? For my part, BATWOMAN was supposed to come out in January. Batwoman was given her own series on the strength of her appearances in Detective Comics in the last year. So people were looking forward to her debut in January, I was, definitely. I still am, and I mean, her appearances in 'Tec have shown up in a deluxe hardcover edition. You don't get that if you weren't a hit, you get me?
Ah yeah. She was something new. Fresh.
Now, you move BATWOMAN to the September debut with JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, ACTION COMICS #1, DETECTIVE COMICS #1, SUPERMAN #1, BATMAN #1... and who's talking about her now?
Ah, well, yeah. Okay, let's go back to Superman. DC said they were aiming for more realistic stories in this relaunch.
HOOOO boy. Here we go. Shoot.
Well, I dont follow DC now after BLACKEST NIGHT, so is what they're doing now, with FLASHPOINT and everything else, not realistic?
Dude, I'm gonna be honest here, and blunt, so I'm sorry if this comes off snarky.
First of all, I haven't been reading DC lately. I'm very much a "I have to love the artist and like the writer" guy, and nothing DC has put out has fit that for me since DC LEGACIES. Second of all. These people wear skintight spandex and travel through time. THEY ARE NOT REALISTIC.
Yeah, exactly what they said in the Comic Con panels. So they wanna change that, at least. Even a bit, I think.
I think it's important to define what "realistic" means. Because more and more, I think it doesn't mean "believable." People say Christian Bale's Batman suit is "realistic." But if you wore that thing to a fight, you'd DIE. It's hard to talk about this without going in-depth, but the entire history of the superhero is an attempt to get more and more "realistic." If you look at the Golden Age — that's a lot of unrealistic stuff right there. Then the characters get more believable in the Silver Age. Instead of the DC superheroes who "do good because it's the right thing to do," the Marvel silver age heroes are tortured, have some motivation — they basically go from one-dimensional to two-dimensional characters. Then they get more realistic, culminating in WATCHMEN — and this is where it gets tricky. WATCHMEN was SUCH A HIT that every comic that came afterward felt the need to emulate its "realism." But the entire point of Watchmen is that if superheroes were realistic, they'd be screwed up in the head!
|Alan Moore changed the face of comics. To find out more, click here.|
Like what Marvel did for CIVIL WAR. I mean I read the JUSTICE LEAGUE preview. Batman is on the run? From the cops? WHY?
As far as I can tell, that takes place 5 years ago.
Ah. So at the "start" of the new DCU?
From what I've gathered, and I could be wrong, Superman shows up and is the "first" superhero. Batman shows up at around the same time, but stays hiding, then JLA happens. That's five years ago... so I think ACTION will take place prior to that. (pause) I'll tell you something, man.
Since this article is about Superman, I'll say this, because you may find this useful.
Please. Go ahead.
There are essentially two versions of Superman: the Golden Age version and the Silver Age version.
Okay. I'm not really super familiar with that so do go on.
The Silver Age version is the one who moves planets, plays baseball with aliens, has a bottled city, has a Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic, has a flying dog, has a cousin named Supergirl, et cetera.
And the Golden Age is the Siegel and Shuster one?
The Golden Age version is the one who started out being unable to fly (he could jump really high). He was a crusader for social justice. He fought wifebeaters and corrupt politicians. He was a badass.
|Superman fought more grounded criminals in the beginning.|
Then they changed that in the Silver Age?
No, he wasn't like that the ENTIRE Golden Age. The transition from one version to another was VERY gradual.
Ohh. Okay, okay.
But essentially, on the Superman spectrum, these are the two endpoints. Every other version of Superman falls in the middle. Here's the thing: Which version do you think would appeal more to a five-year-old?
The Silver one.
And which one would appeal more to a teenager?
The Golden one. AH.
Yeah, so it's really a balancing act. I was talking to someone who worked on the DC animated series (including Superman back in the 90s, whom I won't name), and he said that it's a tradeoff. The Silver Age version has a lot of charm. I mean, that's poetry, yes? "The man with the city in a bottle." But it has very little drama. The Golden Age version has more drama because he's more vulnerable, but the charm is lost. So Superman is a balance between charm and drama — one gets sacrificed for the other.
So what they're doing (Morrison) is essentially gonna be more appealing to teens?
Yes, I think Morrison's version would be more appealing to teenagers than kids. Now, whether or not teens are the right demographic, that's a whole other question.
Ah, who do you think should be the demographic?
I'm kidding. I have no idea. Here's the thing. In an ideal world, I'll always believe that Superman and Batman and the rest of them should be mainly aimed at kids. Comics were never better than when they were all-ages.
Back in the Comics Code era, you mean?
No, the Comics Code was established in 1955. And comics were booming that entire time. People say "Oh, but WATCHMEN made comics not for kids anymore," but the reason it worked so well is because it was that impactful, because the rest of the comics weren't like that. The 80s comics had a word for it: "layered." So even if there were say, sexual subtexts to a comic, there were other things going on that kids won't dwell on it. As opposed to again, say, in the preview, Lois telling her new (topless) boyfriend to "get back in bed."
Well, DC did also say they wanted to take a "modern approach" to this relaunch
All right, so ideally, I'll always believe that they should appeal to kids. HOWEVER, the comics industry has become more and more insular. I mean, look at our local scene. Komiks used to be sold on the newsstands for everyone. Now where are they sold? At cons. They're not available to people who aren't already fans, and therefore trying to get kids into it en masse is going to be very difficult unless they figure out a new distribution process.
Right. Well, I'd like to believe that WIP is all-ages. Haha! ANYWAYS, sorry. Self-plug there.
Dude, put your plug in the article.
Haha, I can't. I'm nonpartisan. I'm a journalist.
But yeah, there. Who goes into a comics store? Comics fans. But I dunno about you, but I didn't start by going to a comics store. I started going to comics stores when it became my HOBBY. It didn't start out with "Hey, I'm going to go into this big store full of comics and see what I can buy." But for kids, when do you buy something for kids? When they just see it and say, "Hey, I want that!" So there, ideally, mainstream, big-name superhero comics should be accessible to kids. I do understand that that's tough to penetrate though.
Yeah of course. And we're talking about HERE, more specifically.
However, TEENAGERS. Are they tougher? Teens have more disposable income than anyone else. If we're tlaking about here specifically, what're they gonna spend 200 on? A comic book? Or a movie ticket?
Yeah, right. But I guess in our context, Eric did say there are a FEW kids who go buy comics. They're mostly adults.
How many are teens?
Hmm, he didn't say specifically.
I just think that look, it should be kids or teens. It shouldn't be US. Because WE have been the target for the last 10 to 15 years, and this is what's happened. Comics have just shrunk and shrunk. By "us," I mean adults who grew up with comics.
Let's go back to Superman again. I love talking about big picture stuff.
Man, it's hard to stick to one character, this reboot is all-encompassing!
More interesting. Yeah, well, I think they insist on Superman because because it's Superman. He's an iconic, if not THE MOST iconic superhero of all time. Do you agree? I mean you make him single, take out the marriage, redo the costume, take almost a lot apart...
He is. The only one who can come close to him in iconicity is Batman. And I would still contest that.
Yeah. Iconic meaning almost ANYONE knows who Superman is.
Yeah, you'll get some debate between him and Batman, but I have to side with Superman.
Yeah, so it is a big deal when you take apart some of the big factors in Superman's basic continuity like his being single. I mean, isn't that similar to Spider-man's ONE MORE DAY? They nullified MJ and Pete's marriage.
No, it's not.
Oh? Go on.
It's not similar. And here's why. Spider-Man and Mary Jane's marriage was done as a stunt.
Stan Lee was marrying them in the newspaper strip — where it made sense. So they decided, "All right, they should be married in the comics too."
|Read what I think of the Spider-Marriage in-depth here.|
Ohhh, I didn't know that. Cool. Go on.
But at the time Stan was doing it, MJ and Peter weren't even dating in the comics. Peter was dating the Black Cat. Dude, it was the most rushed thing ever. Essentially, in the same issue, Peter turns to Mary Jane for friendly advice. And then Mary Jane makes a comment about putting Peter's happiness before hers — clearly building up to them getting back together at one point — then Peter decides it's time to grow up and asks MJ to marry him. That's all in ONE issue.
They're not dating. They're friends.
REALLY!? WEIRD. Okay.
Anyway, she says no, then two issues later, she says yes, and then you hit the annual, and it's their wedding.
This clears this up.
There isn't even a period of time in which they're engaged. The writer of the wedding, Tom DeFalco, even said that if he had had his way, he would have written the wedding and have it end with one of them not showing up at the altar. (I forget which one, but the wedding wouldn't have happened.)
As opposed to Superman?
Superman since the 80s reboot was clearly a one-woman man, and that woman was Lois Lane. Lana Lang had been taken out of the picture. After decades of being built up as the Betty to Lois's Veronica (or the other way around, whichever you prefer), Lana was relegated to the role of childhood best friend.
And the Superman/Lois/Clark love triangle was resolved in a few years. Lois falls in love with CLARK. They get engaged. She finds out he's Superman. Then they're supposed to be married. And then Lois and Clark — the TV show — the executives say, "Oh, we're getting them married in the show the next year. Can you postpone the wedding by a year?" And so they couldn't do the wedding in the comic — so they did the DEATH OF SUPERMAN instead. Seriously.
The death of Superman happened because Lois and Clark the TV show asked them to postpone the comic wedding to coincide with the TV wedding. But there. The Superman wedding was ALWAYS gonna happen. But here's where the two are similar: Pretty much from the moment they both happened, writers have been trying to get rid of it.
OOH, really now?
The whole Clone Saga? Done as a way to try to get rid of the Spider-Marriage. If you ever read Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and Tom Peyer's SUPERMAN 2000 proposal, done in, you know, 2000...
No, I'm not familiar with that.
They try to update Superman for the new millennium. It didn't get approved, but in their attempt to update Superman, one of their plots is "Mxyzptlk asks them to trade their marriage for the safety of the world." And that's where it's like ONE MORE DAY. In both cases, writers do not like these characters married. Or most writers anyway. I'm sure some do.
Ah. Well, it does hamper the character a bit. I think.
It hampers Spider-Man. I'm not sure how it hampers Superman.
It's fun to see Peter Parker date around, but Clark Kent? Who's Clark going to date that's not Lois?
He can play the field. I guess that's whay they plan to do now.
I think so, but see, that's one of the differences. Spider-Man is built to do that. He's always had girl problems.But look at every story of Superman that's ever made any impact, from the first issue of Action onward. There's one constant in all of those: Lois Lane.
So he's strictly a one-woman man until now.
He had that triangle going with Lana back in the day But you know how that started?
Basically when they did Superboy in the late 40s — Superman as a teen — they decided that they need a young girl to play the role of Lois — essentially just doing the same thing Lois does, except it can't be Lois, obviously, because they didn't meet until adulthood. So they created Lana. So essentially, Lois' closest competition started out as a clone of her.
Ahh, okay, I get it now. But you know, even after talking about this for this long, we can only speculate at this point. DC did say they hoped that this relaunch would have the same success are the 80s relaunch.
I don't even know what I've said that you can use! Just make me look smart.
Believe me, Imma have trouble taking stuff out of what I write, not the other way around. So anyway, all this is speculation at this point. We wont really know until it actually comes out.
Yeah, as doubtful as I am, I hope it succeeds. I really really do. I always say, I don't care if I don't like it — I just hope people do.
And also, it's kind of disappointing to speculate that they're going in this direction with Superman because of the Siegel/Shuster case.
YES, that is very disappointing. And disheartening.
How much of that you think is really true? Why they're going in that direction with Superman?
Sadly, I think it's all true. In 2013, the rights to ACTION COMICS #1 revert to the Siegels and the Shusters. So by law, the Siegels and Shusters could put out a Superman comic, based on the Superman in Action #1. So why is DC putting out a new Superman that seems to be based on the original Action Superman? It feels like they're trying to beat the Siegels and Shusters to the punch. NOW, I can't judge that for sure until I read it.
|Turns out I didn't actually have to read it.|
Yeah, but it seems that way, even with the movie, right? That's why they rushed that too.
But I have to say, that's definitely what it feels like, especially when you take into account Grant Morrison's stance of "I don't want to comment on it" when he was asked about the case.
HAHAHAHA! Yeah, I read that. Hugas kamay. (Translation: Hugas kamay literally means wash hands, and is used to refer to someone trying to absolve himself of a sticky situation.
YES! Meanwhile he's promoting his book about the history of comics and superheroes, whaaaa?
And we can't forget the value of the relaunch? If possible?
What value? Monetary value?
I mean, number 1s. The appeal of number 1s. Like you said, being a part of history.
Yeah. Which makes you think, how many people buying in September are sticking around in October?
That's another thing. Will all of them stick around? Or are they all just there for #1?
Dude, I'm buying three comics. I know I'm sticking around for one of them. But the other two — I'm just getting the 1st issues, and if I don't like them? Well, that's it. I'm not giving it two months.
Well honestly, i'm just there for the #1s. Not really a DC guy. I'm a Vertigo guy, but DC, no, not really. Okay, I think
last few questions about Superman and we're good.
Yeah, I don't really go by brands myself. I like what I like. That's about as close as it gets.
DC said they hadn't planned this reboot that long, basically it just kind of happened. And yeah, me too. if I like how it is as a whole, I'll take it. Anyways, do you think this will, to use the wrestling term, "get over" with people in the long run — reestablishing Superman's continuity?
That just depends on execution.
It does seem like the pattern is you start from the depowered version of Superman, then you move further into the sillier, more charming version, and then you bring him back down. It just seems to be a cycle. They kind of did it in the 60s too. The audience just looks for different things each time. Everyone complains that Superman's too boring because he's too powerful. But then at the same time, everyone loves ALL-STAR SUPERMAN.
Of course this line of thought will lead back to the bigger picture of the superhero genre.
Oh, I just meant in the late 60s, they depowered Superman some more. Again, I think that just depends on the writer. Some can write a ridiculously powerful Superman. Some have a hard time doing it. I don't blame them.
I did enjoy IT'S A BIRD by Steven Seagle. That was cool.
I don't remember that one at all. I read it once back when it came out, but that was it.
It's about a writer trying to write Superman, contrasting Supes with his own life.
I should try to find it one of these days.
One last thing. I think we covered a lot of it. As a sidebar, I want to do a timeline of Superman's fashion.
Hahahaha, no problem, man. I love talking about this stuff. Just make me look smart.
So how many versions of Superman's costume do we have?
Oh God, too many to count. Let's see.
There's the original one.
That's the first. Siegel/Shuster?
Yeah, check out the S on that one. It's a different shape, and the S is just an S.
Then the one we all know now? Or was there something in between?
There was stuff in between, and I'm HONESTLY tempted to call these a coloring error. Because check this out. Look at the S. http://Superman.nu/Costumes/colors/same.jpg All of a sudden, there are blue spaces. Actually, looking back, most of the changes came with the S. There was the one in the 40s Fleischer cartoons. The red S, yellow border, and black space inside. And that bears mentioning, 'cause that's probably what people were most familiar with for a long time. Towards the end of the Golden Age, the S turned into that version we know. The one that relies on negative space. The space coloring inside the emblem kept changing. When I was a kid, I honestly could not see that S. I thought it was two yellow things going at each other. I even remember it being described as fish.
|I cannot possible be the only one who didn't see the S in this symbol back in the day.|
By 1953, the S had become the familiar one. Could have been even before then. And then when they rebooted him in the 80s, there was one big change — the size of the S just got bigger. It was as wide as his chest. It used to be small.
Ah. Then we had the REIGN OF SUPERMEN ?
Then there was that black costume he wore during his return from the dead, then Electric Superman, then Electric Superman Red, then for a while in the early 2000s, the yellow in his S turned into black, then it got changed back to yellow... And now we have the armor. Which makes no sense to me. He's invulnerable. Why is he wearing armor?
Hey, the new still from the new Superman movie. He's wearing something rubbery. Also, I guess the dropping of the red trunks signals something "fresh" and "modern."
Oh, the red trunks. Big dilemma there Without it, he just looks kinda naked. With it, it's a joke. But you know, Batman's got 'em. Captain America's got 'em. Heck, Wolverine's got 'em.
|Seriously, does anyone ever complain about Batman's trunks?|
Well, they're dropping it for him, which is something new.
It's a new look, definitely. It's such an iconic costume, though, so I don't see it sticking, unless DC's looking to change every single bit of merchandising they have. This goes for ALL the costumes, by the way. You've got lunchboxes and tumblers with the classic costumes. So what happens if, say, 6-year-old Jane with a Wonder Woman lunchbox says, "Mommy, buy me a Wonder Woman comic?" and then her mom shows her Wonder Woman and it looks nothing like her lunchbox?
|If these new designs don't take off, you have |
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez to thank.
Yeah, that's another thing. It's retention, I think, for the character(s). How much that imagery of that character stuck to people.
Yeah... I mean, these characters themselves went through changes in the beginning. but the moment that DC turned into a gigantic merchandising company, we seem to tend back to the classic costumes. Except for Batman. Because Batman's worked as blue and gray AND as black in the TV shows and movies. He could work both ways. But the others?
Anyhoo, I hope I haven't taken up much of your night.
Hey, thanks for picking me, man. It's an honor. It was my pleasure. I love Superman, man. He's the epitome of the superhero to me. I tend to lean toward superheroes I wanna be like and not to superheroes I can relate to. So I don't really care for the whole "Let's make Superman relatable" approach. I don't want Superman to be like me. I want to be like Superman.
The interview can be seen in this issue of GARAGE MAGAZINE, featuring Gerald Anderson on the cover: