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Interview: J. Michael Straczynski Talks SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE Volume Three

It's a new take on Superman and we find out what it's like shaping this new direction.

The Earth One books gives writers a chance to flesh out characters in a new way. This allows both new and old readers to simply dive in and enjoy the stories. With a character like Superman, we've seen over seventy-five years of history. J. Michael Straczynski has now written three volumes with Superman. This isn't exactly the Superman you've known before. While, at its roots, it's the same character but Straczynski is adding a nice touch with his version.

The latest book, Volume 3, is on sale today. We spoke with Straczynski about creating a different version of the Man of Steel.

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COMIC VINE: What goes on in your mind as you sit down to create new characters and a different take on the iconic Superman universe? Pure enjoyment? Pressure?

J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI: For me, it's pure, unabashed pleasure. Writing is supposed to be fun, because if you're having fun, then the reader will have fun. If you're writing with mittens on, or boxing yourself in out of fear of making a mistake, it seeps through in the final product. At the same time, it's a delicate dance to dance; you don't want to regurgitate what you grew up with, because what's the point, and you don't want to go the opposite way from what was done before just to be contrary, because both of those will produce something that's more reactionary than creative. So for me, regardless of how iconic the character is, the question is, who is this character when the lights are off, his eyes are closed, and his thoughts turn inward? What formed his personality? What does he aspire toward, what does he fear, what does he hope for? Start with those questions, and you'll rarely go wrong.

CV: How much fun is it to write Alexandra and Lex Luthor?

JMS: That's just been a hoot. Giving Lex a wife who is as sharp as he is, albeit in somewhat different disciplines, makes for a terrific pairing. There's something very much fun and very much alone about knowing you're the smartest person in the room...until the day you discover there's someone else in the room as smart as you are, and that person is, to you, the most beautiful thing in the world, because you're not alone anymore. We pick up Lex at a crucial moment in his life, he can go either way, toward the dark or the light...and I think there are going to be some surprises here in terms of which way he goes in the end.

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CV: What made you decide to go with creating and using Lisa Lasalle, Clark's neighbor, as a close friend to Clark instead of using an previously existing character?

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JMS: Again, do you want to just recycle characters, or create something new? All the other key characters are there -- Lois, Jim, Perry, Lex, and so on -- so why not bring in someone new? Bear in mind also -- form following function -- that Clark is newly arrived in Metropolis. He doesn't really know anyone there yet, hasn't had the chance to form friendships. He gets to know Lisa because she's in the next apartment down the hall and keeps nudging her way into his world. Remember also that Clark is someone who's had to keep secrets and keep a distance his whole life, so his friend-making skills aren't necessarily the best.

Which goes to the Lois/Clark dynamic. Some folks were bugged by the fact that Lois and Clark didn't become a romantic item in v1. But I think Clark has to earn that relationship, he (as himself or Superman) can't just fall into that immediately. As Clark, Lois would be suspicious of this guy who came out of nowhere to get the interview of the century, and as Superman, she would have to be cautious because he's the story, and you have to maintain a certain journalistic distance to remain objective in your reporting. Clark/Superman needs to earn her trust, and later, her affection. So that's where Lisa comes into the picture, at least for now.

CV: You've written the regular Superman before. Is it easier to write this newer version with a different attitude rather than the typical "boy scout" version we've seen for over seventy-five years?

JMS: When I did the Grounded storyline, before the first E1 book took off and DC suggested I give v2 my full attention and let others proceed with the monthly book, you can kind of feel the seventy-plus years of kid-gloves with which the character has been written. You feel yourself having to constantly elbow your way through the close walls to create room for character stuff, so yeah, having a situation where I can create something that's free of that continuity is cool. That said, however, it's the rules that makes basketball interesting, so you have to embrace that challenge and run with it.

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CV: It seems in many tellings of Superman's story, his parents (Jonathan and Martha) end up dying. (Provided she survives Volume 3), how important is Ma Kent to your version of Superman?

JMS: I think she's very important, and would like to keep her around as long as I can. She gives Clark an emotional foundation that he can get nowhere else...she's the one person (thus far) that knows his secret, and to whom he can talk about all of the things he's going through. She's also what he fights for. There's a massive fight in v3 that's pretty intense...but then when the antagonist gets a possible handle on where Clark's mother might be, that's when he goes right over the edge and goes at this guy full tilt.

CV: How did Superman's big nemesis in this volume get designed? Did you give Ardian Syaf any input or specifications?

JMS: I had some vague notions, but pretty much all the credit has to go to Ardian on this. I think he looked a bit to the last Superman movie for some broad strokes facially, then went off on his own.

CV: Can we assume (and hope) you have even more Superman Earth One stories in mind after this?

JMS: Dan DiDio at DC has said I can continue to write these books for as long as I want, and I'd love to continue to do more of them. Because honestly, how often does a chance like this come along in life?

SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE Volume 3 is on sale now in comic shops and everywhere on February 10.