SDCC ’16 Interview: Dan Jurgens and Tyler Kirkham on Superman’s ‘Rebirth’

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by Jerome Maida

If sales are any indication, DC Rebirth seems to be truth in advertising, as the line wide relaunch has seen the company dominate sales in a way not seen for a long time. Perhaps no character has led the way more than DC’s revitalized Superman.

The Man of Steel’s resurgence on the printed page has been spearheaded by writer Dan Jurgens and artists Tyler Kirkham, Patrick Zircher and Stephen Segovia on DC’s longtime flagship title, Action Comics, and Jurgens and Kirkham recently shared their thoughts with me about the Man of Steel, their future plans for the series, and a milestone they plan on being a part of at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The Super pair have a direction for the Man of Tomorrow coming out of SDCC and are excited to share it with fans.

“Well, obviously, with the whole ‘Rebirth’ thing, we want to deliver and bring people back to really loving Superman for the fantastic character that he is”, said Kirkham. “You know? Kind of getting that mojo back – and I think that Comic-Con is the perfect time to jump onboard. It’s really emphasizing the fact that Superman is such a classic character.”

“Yeah”, Jurgens agreed. ” I think the idea is that what we’re doing with Action is concentrating on some of the core aspects that are really intrinsic to Superman, especially on the legacy aspects of the character – but at the same time, adding some new things around him.”

“Obviously, Jon Kent is a very different and new addition to the Superman tapestry – as well as his relationship with Lex Luthor. The Lex he is dealing with now is very different from the one he is used to”, Jurgens added.

Now, Jurgens has written some of the bestselling Superman comics of the past 25 years, most of them during a seminal run in the 1990s, highlighted by the Death of Superman tale that introduced Doomsday and the aftermath, during which he co-created the hero Steel and the villain, Cyborg Superman. With that track record, returning to the character may strike some as a no-win situation?

“I don’t believe in the no-win scenario”, he said. ” I think that, this time, in knowing what this character is and knowing what “Rebirth” was designed to do, that there was a natural fit there. I think really, again, this gets back to finding that there are core elements that make Superman work – that make him function. And I think that is where we can find something new.”

Jurgens and Kirkham both addressed one of the challenges in telling new stories with the character: that is, if they introduce new characters in the supporting cast or as villains, people will say they want the classics. Then if they give fans the classic supporting cast (like Lois Lane) and rogues gallery (like Doomsday) people will say they’ve seen those characters a ton if times and have seen it all.

Tyler Kirkham

Tyler Kirkham

“Well, first of all… Yes, Superman has fought Doomsday before, but as the story unfolds you will see there are differences this time around”, said Jurgens. “Most notably, again, because of Jon. The idea is that what you really start getting at is the fear of a mother and son watching his father, perhaps, die on TV. These elements add to the way their characters react and what they do – and that allows us to bring new stories with new directions, even though you’re dealing with a classic character like Superman.”

“Yeah, I think ‘Rebirth’ is about using characters that a fan recognizes”, Kirkham agreed. Fans want to see these characters, and there’s always a new way to tell a type of story. You tell a story with these characters that people recognize and then, later on, people will be like, ‘We’ve seen this. We want new characters’. But I don’t think from the jump you need new characters. Classics are a good way to go.”

Superman is a character who – like Captain America – can be dismissed by a segment of the population as being too patriotic, too goody-goody, too honest and too reliant on nostalgia. This doesn’t faze Jurgens at all.

“I have not found that to be a fault with Superman”, he said to me emphatically. “My standpoint on that is – has always been – that if you’re going to tell me that sort of having a sense of doing the right thing and being somewhat a noble character is out of step with today, that’s more a commentary on us, than it is the character. I think, with Superman, the idea is he does lead by example and he is really, at his best what we aspire to be and I’ve always kind of joked that Batman us who we are”.

“We all have that dark side of us, where we want to get revenge on that fourth-grade bully that kind of roughed us up a little bit, but Superman is about much more than that”, Jurgens added. “So I don’t mind if he’s considered by some to be out of step. I think the idea is, you take that head on. You confront it. Then let us see how it relates to the world.”

Now, there is a lot of talent on a lot of comics during DC ‘s “Rebirth”. But it seems more than a coincidence that DC having it’s best months in ages now that Superman is at the top of his game again. It seems a more vibrant Superman means a more vibrant DC line as a whole and a more vibrant comic book industry in general.

“I think that is right”, said Jurgens. “I think that there is something about it. When Superman isn’t working, an awful lot of DC isn’t working at the same time. Batman really is his own thing in a way. Gotham is it’s own thing… and there are so many characters, in a way they are a sub-line. But, I think for the DC Universe to feel right, Superman has to be firing on all cylinders.”

Jurgens is already looking forward to a milestone no title has ever reached – the 1,000th issue of Action Comics.

“When I first started talking about this, there was going to be a different name for the title and when we finally came around to making it Action Comics and picking up the old numbering system, I was absolutely delighted. It is a legacy book and it sounds corny in a way, but it’s kind of an honor to be able to make that legacy book work again. I think it is awesome that DC is doing that with both Action Comics and Detective Comics and it allows us to take it towards that magical #1000″.

“When I was a kid, I always thought if a comic had a higher number… it meant it’d been around a long time and must be good. So if a higher number must be good, I want #1000 to be a real statement about Superman and Action Comics!”

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