A plan to revitalize
the Superman franchise
for the new millennium
Grant Morrison Mark Waid
Mark Millar Tom Peyer
Submitted October 6, 1998
Historical record tells us that every fifteen years or so, Superman is re-imagined to address the wants and needs of a new generation. Fifteen years ago, John Byrne recreated Superman from the ground up. Fifteen years prior to that, Julie Schwartz and Denny O'Neil engineered the biggest shakeup since Mort Weisinger began bringing in all his familiar lore fifteen years previous.
That fifteen year cycle is upon us again. With all due deference and heartfelt thanks to the creators of all the fine work done since the Byrne revamp, it seems that many of the social trends and historical currents which made those comics so appropriate and so successful in the Ď80s and early Ď90s have now been replaced by newer, different trends and currents. Sadly, sales would seem to reflect our contention that new times demand fresh approaches.
We believe that the four of us understand the new face of Superman: a forward-looking, intelligent, enthusiastic hero retooled to address the challenges of the next thousand years. The ultimate American icon revitalized for the new millennium as an aspirational figure, a role model for 21st Century global humanity.
The Superman relaunch weíre selling bucks the trend of sweeping aside the work done by those who came immediately before. Unlike the "cosmic reset" revamps all too prevalent in current comics, our New Superman approach is an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras. Our intention is to honor each of Supermanís various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel. The "cosmic reset" notion has been replaced by a policy of "include and transcend" with regard to past continuity.
Our intention is to restore Superman to his pre-eminent place as the greatest super-hero of all and to topple Spawn and every Marvel comic thatís currently in his way.
We donít think this will be much of a problem.
The key to the initial concept lies in a radical but organic reversal of the currently accepted logic of the Superman/Clark dynamic.
In our interpretation, Clark Kent isnít what Superman really IS, Clark is what Superman WAS--until he reached his teenage years and began to realize what all those years of soaking up the Kansas sun had done to his alien cells. Supermanís story here is seen as the tale of a Midwest farmerís son who BECAME AN ALIEN shortly after puberty. Suddenly young Clark doesnít just know his Ma and Pa through sight, touch, sound--he knows the exact timbre of their pulse rates, he can look at their DNA and recognize their distinctive electrical fields and hear the neural crackle and release of chemicals which tell him theyíve changed their minds about something.
And he can do all this, he can scan the entire environment in an INSTANT, with levels of perception we can only imagine.
Thatís gonna turn anyoneís head around a little.
This is someone who by any stretch of the imagination is no longer just human--except for the part of him, the ethical, humanitarian base nurtured by the Kents, which forms the unshakable foundation for everything Superman is BUT WHO IS WHAT SUPERMAN CAN NO LONGER BE. Or, in other words not our own, "...who, DISGUISED as Clark Kent, fights a never-ending battle..."
As originally conceived by Siegel and Shuster, Clark becomes a cherished, poignant masquerade: mild-mannered, thoughtful, humane Clark. When Superman is being human, Clark is his template but this is a being no longer confined by gravity or pain or mortality and his experiences as Superman are experiences on a level of existence we can only hope to imagine.
So, in order to accomplish the transition to this new take on Superman more easily, our rationale is this: itís been established that Supermanís powers are a result of solar energy saturating his cellular batteries. Itís even been suggested that his powers will increase through time as he absorbs more of our sunís radiation.
And thatís just what happens.
As part of his alien maturation process, Superman crosses a second, critical threshold of solar radiation absorption and suddenly wakes up three times more powerful and three times smarter.
This changes everything.
Superman is defined immediately by his increase in capability. This is a more powerful Man of Steel, a Superman with a much keener intellect and curiosity. Suddenly thereís more to learn, more to do, further to travel and a greater responsibility than ever before. At the same time, one of the first effects of his increases in power is to make Superman a little more remote (but only as he takes time to understand the changes which have affected him). After the initial shock, Kal is more Superman than ever before, with a corresponding tight focus on the character and his incredible adventures. Now is the time to make Superman very definitely the star of his own book and to play down the sprawling soap opera subplots.
Supermanís character is one we all feel we know intimately. The scene with Superboy and the grasshopper in Miracle Monday nails it beautifully; this could be the worldís scariest living being, a detached, scientific observer with the ability to experiment upon us all. Instead, this brilliant Kryptonian brain was introduced to the noblest of human values and somehow those great powers were put to use in the service of an ethical code the Kryptonians would have been impressed and startled by.
To that end, weíd like to balance out his battles with Brainiac and Luthor with stories which thoroughly explore those values, stories allowing him to return to his roots as a champion of the weak and oppressed. Even more so than for Batman, Green Lantern, Flash--all his peers and contemporaries--Supermanís job is to fight for and inspire those who cannot fight for themselves. His job is to make this world a better place and to help all men realize their potential as supermen.
Further to this, itís important to keep in mind the Superman/Christ parallels WITHOUT being obvious and heavy-handed about them. Superman has to think differently from us, and when we see into his head, we should be shocked by the clarity and simplicity of his brilliance and compassion. This is a god sent to Earth not to suffer and die but to live and inspire and change the face of the galaxy by his deeds and reputation. This is the man who will take time out from stopping Mongulís plan to crash Alpha Centauri into our sunsystem just to save a drowning dog or dry the tears of a child.
We also see Superman as the ultimate communicator--invulnerable to pain, he needs none of the physical defensive postures we take for granted and so would be incredibly relaxed and open--the big smile, the instant handshake, the conviction that everyone he meets is to be regarded as a friend until he proves otherwise. Superman should be indefatigable and trustworthy. No more "Bad Superman" or "Crazy Superman" stories for a while.
His curiosity and kindness are childlike in their purity but he should also be frighteningly quick and clever. The combination of contradictory qualities adds to his slightly removed air. The eyes go vague when he looks at your electrical field for a second and gets the idea for an oscillating defensive forcefield based on the rhythms of your pulse rate. Sometimes he seems not all here, but itís only because heís much more here than we can sensibly hope to be.
Weíd like to tweak the costume by finally getting rid of the red underpants. This gives us a new look which somehow recovers the more classic, Golden Age, "primal" Superman look and feels like an update. This move also has instant media appeal: Finally, Supermanís smart enough to wear his shorts UNDER his pants.
THE "LOST YEARS"
During the "Lost Years" of Clark Kent after he left high school--if he still has any room left in there--weíd like to establish that he met and was given training by a member (or members) of the Justice Society, possibly Al Pratt, the Atom. Since Superman in our currently-operating timestream wasn't the first super-hero, weíd like to restore his prominence by reaffirming that he is most certainly the greatest. We see Doctor Fate, near the end of his groupís life, telling the JSA that their work is all but over. That the first age of heroes was but the prelude. That soon, the greatest hero of all will arrive from the stars and it will it will be the task of the entire JSA to find him and teach him about the world of the costumed crimefighters. This little addition to the past gives Superman a new grandeur, a fresh religious dimension, and ties him more directly into the development of superheroics in the DCU (although having said that, we want to keep Superman's adventures on the periphery of the Universe, in the sense that we don't really mention the JLA much or refer a great deal to other heroes. The JSA should be seen as some misty Olympian group of supermen from the past, guys who are now dead, gone or replaced by the greatest hero of all. At least in his own book, we want to reclaim that old feeling that Superman is the only super-hero). It also seems mythically right that Superman should, at some point before he dons the cape, meet his predecessors, his John the Baptists, who have awaited his coming and now have a few lessons for the fledgling hero.
ONE LAST LITTLE DETAIL
Itís always bothered us when Jor-El is shown to have knowledge of Earth's existence and even to have pictures of our planet. There's something so much more powerful about the infant Kal-El being hurled into space with only the slim chance that he might find a safe haven out them. The cosmic drama of Supermanís arrival on Earth is diminished, we feel, by Jor-El's aiming the rocket at Earth. Thereís something mythical about the seemingly hopeless plight or the tiny alien child through merciless space. What cosmic destiny allowed the escape ship's computers to finally seek out and home in on a planet with the optimum conditions for survival of the Kryptonian infant--the computer, programmed by Jor-El to locate the best possible environment for the development of the child, finally giving up the ghost as it shuts down everything but survival systems and crash-lands on a primitive, technologically challenged planet. By sheer million-to-one chance, Jor-Elís last, desperate attempt to preserve his world, his bloodline, his people, this quite un-Kryptonian act at hope, is validated by Earth and by Supermanís arrival there. For Jor-El to know of Earth seems to strip away this sense of miraculous fate; he's simply posting his kid off to a world where he knows heíll be great.
Priority One is to make Clark Kent different from Superman. For too long, theyíve been exactly the same guy with zero contrast between them. Clark doesnít have to be an overblown drama-queen wimp, but neither can he be so super-successful he has the world in his pocket. We must not forget why he was created in the first place--to be a touchstone. To be the half of Superman which readers can actually relate to because we all (Jesus, especially comics readers) want to believe that even though we may be put upon and bullied by the world from time to time, we know what those who pick on us or look down at us donít--that if they could see behind our glasses, theyíd see a Superman. In short, weíd like to use Christopher Reeveís Clark Kent as a base, but lend him enough dignity so that heís not the total Reeve cartoon.
Clark is the creation of Superman's memory and imagination. His eyes can see through skin and stone and light years; only memory tells him what it was like to simply see and he can only imagine what it would be like to need glasses. Still, Clark is his cherished link back to his human upbringing and the ethical structures forged in the Midwestern dream of Smallville. Without Clark, Superman knows, he might have been inclined towards detachment, aloofness, alienness. As Clark, he can walk among people, meek, quiet, unnoticed, learning all the time. From this perspective, the secret identity becomes something more like the human disguises gods would don or the rags kings would wear when they wanted to walk among the ordinary and the merely human. Without even a hint of condescension, Clark is eternally delighted by humanity. A man whose perceptions so routinely unlock mysteries and secrets genuinely loves to be confronted by the only thing in the universe which can actually surprise him.
And so, Clark is where he goes to sit on seats and drink coffee and watch TV. Sometimes, Clark sits in his apartment listening to alien music and watching sunspot activity with his telescopic vision. Other times, he relaxes simply by observing with reverence the actions of ordinary humans in extraordinary situations. Whatever, he's always busy. Even when he's just sitting still. And Clark allows Superman to do stupid little stuff with his powers, like getting back at Steve Lombard or whatever.
Clarkís also the sob sister of the Daily Planet, if not of all Metropolis. Despite his attempts to keep a low profile, compassion radiates from him, and people pick up on that almost unconsciously. Friends and total strangers alike constantly confess their plights and problems to poor Clark. They donít want advice. They just want someone to listen, and no one listens better than him. This aspect of his character naturally opens up the occasional avenue to the smaller human-interest story which can be investigated by Clark the reporter and by us the writers.
One final little note, which has nothing to do with the fact that Grant wrote "Animal Man" and Millarís a veggie, but is a matter for pure logic. Clark eats bouef bourginon? The man with a code against killing eats murdered animals? Regardless of his farm upbringing, can we justify a Superman this aware and attuned to life in all its forms being a carnivore? Though thereís no need to make a direct, on-stage issue of it, file this thought away; his diet would be beans, pulses and windfall, if anything, and his body would be capable of extracting maximum energy from these simple foods if not solely from the sunís rays.
LOIS LANE, MRS. SUPERMAN
Lois brings us to the second major phase of our approach. Everyoneís in agreement that the marriage and the emphasis on soap opera no longer seems to be working as well in the current market as it once did and that a major part of our imperative should be to restore the Clark/Lois/Superman triangle. This is, to our collective mind, one of the most if not the most important reader-identification elements to the character--and yet, we have to find it again without putting the All-American icon through a divorce, without killing anyone, without sullying this grand romance known the world over.
How we dissolve the marriage and still be true to the fact that it happened is the one instance where weíll have to sail close to the cosmic reboot dock--more on this below--but hopefully this time the change will be organic and satisfying and will have a magical, romantic feel rather than the cold, surgical procedures of the previous eraís retconners.
Our absolute conviction is that weíll have failed in our job if readers cheer when Lois and Superman are split. Everyone will be EXPECTING this to be the first thing we do. We have to make them love Mrs. Superman and THEN take it all away. This has to be universe-shattering romantic overload and when itís over, it has to break every heart in the land. If it doesnít, if we do it and nobody cares, we do a disservice to the Superman/Lois relationship. Now that this has happened, we canít and wonít treat it as just a mistake without making it at least as meaningful a farewell to the Byrne/Jurgens era as Alan Mooreís Krypto deathscene was to the Weisinger legacy. We
honestly feel pretty strongly that Lois Kent and the marriage deserve our best efforts before we get rid of them.
First thing we must do, however, is shake up the relationship and define its quirks and boundaries anew.
Stage one: split Clark and Lois by sending her off around the world as the Planetís foreign correspondent. This gives us a whole new arrangement of relationships to play with (see PLANET STAFF below).
Lois and Clark are now physically separated. They still meet often, taking the occasional romantic weekend in the revamped Fortress (see FORTRESS below). He makes her breakfast in bed in a manner of seconds with ingredients from all around the world, waltzes with her through the Aurora Australis, etc. A dream, an idyll, but for their own amusement they play a game whenever they meet as Clark and Lois, sniping and sparring like Tracy and Hepburn. Lois and Clark thus become a little edgier, while the love of Superman and Lois becomes grander and more heartbreakingly poignant.
As we approach mid-year, we unleash our Big Story. The unthinkable has finally happened. Luthor and Brainiac, working together, have finally unearthed the secret of Supermanís dual identity--
--and they tell the world.
Superman is totally and irrevocably exposed for the first time, and the consequences are more disastrous than he ever imagined. In less time than it takes to tell, his personal life has been destroyed as souvenir hunters snatch everything in his office and apartment; his parents have been hospitalized by a vengeful Parasite; the Daily Planet has likewise been leveled by his enemies, with Jimmy and Perry barely able to escape with their lives--maybe. And Lois may as well just paint a target on her head. For sixty years, weíve been telling readers why Supermanís secret identity is important. Now we show them.
And thatís just the opening salvo.
The Luthor/Brainiac team intensifies its efforts to manifest a global threat. Brainiac turns Earthís sun red to drain Supermanís powers. Luthor trips triggers heís had in place for years, all while pitting an ever-weakening Superman against a phalanx of his greatest foes while the Man of Steel wracks his brain trying to figure out not only how to save Earth but how to get his--and, more importantly, Loisís--life back.
Ultimately, Luthorís threat becomes so grand that it threatens all of spacetime--including the Fifth Dimension, forging a tense alliance between Superman and Mxyzptlk. With superhuman effort, Luthor and Brainiac are thwarted--
--but not before Brainiac gets his revenge.
Memories, as science is only now theorizing and as Brainiac has known for years, are not electrical in nature. They are, in fact, actual chemical deposits in the brain. And what is chemical can easily be turned to poison.
Brainiac has adjusted Loisís chemical memory of Clarkís secret identity so that itís killing her.
The poison memory canít be removed. It can conceivably be masked--Superman has more than one magical ally who could erase Loisís conscious memory of his identity, who could facilitate a reality in which Clark and Lois were married without Lois being aware of her husbandís double life--but deep down, Superman knows thatís too risky. He canít live with her, canít be her husband, canít share her life. Sheís too sharp. No matter what he does, no matter how on guard he is, sheíll stumble onto his secret eventually, and when she does, it will be the death of her.
With no other conceivable option, Superman turns to Mxyzptlk. Sure, says Mxy, I can fix this--
--but only by altering history so that she NEVER knew. So that there was never a memory TO poison.
Unacceptable, says Superman. You have the power to fix this more simply. You donít have to go that far.
Untrue, counters Mxyzptlk. Despite what I may or may not WANT to do for you...when Iím in the third dimension, Iím INCAPABLE of doing anything BUT mischief.
So the offerís on the table, the clock is ticking on Lois, and together, she and her husband make their tragic decision. Though Lois would rather spend one day with Clarkís love than a lifetime without it, he swears to her that theyíll be together again when the time is right. For now...they have no choice but to erase their lives together so that Lois might live.
Mxyzptlk weaves his spell. As night falls around the globe, people will begin to fall asleep--and as they do, the world will change and Clarkís secret will be restored. People will awaken without any memory that Clark Kent and Lois Lane were ever married, were ever together. Clark and Lois have until sundown to enjoy one last, perfect day.
And so long as we live, we will never again see two people so much in love as we do that day.
Eventually, however, the violet dust of twilight settles across the city. Itís happening. Their arms wrapped around one another as if theyíll never touch this way again, Lois and Clark begin to fall asleep. With a last kiss, they drift into slumber...
...and when dawn breaks across Metropolis, Clark Kent exits his bachelor apartment at 344 Clinton Avenue and makes it to his Daily Planet desk just in time to catch the latest in a long line of caustic barbs from rival reporter Lois Lane. She has her sights set on Superman, thinks Kent for the millionth time. If only I could get her to love me as Clark...
Ma lives on to play an important role as the connection to Supermanís lost past, his own "golden age."
Pa should die. It seems right somehow that his death should mark Supermanís passage into a grander, more iconic phase of his career. Pa gave Clark his values and Superman will carry them to the stars.
Superman needs a little bit of tragedy here. The character works best and stands most tall when heís forced to deal with things even his powers cannot help with. Frankly, the post-í86 Superman, death aside, has had a pretty sweet life, and the greatest heroes of myth and legend are always shaped as much by adversity as by triumph.
Moreover, as nice as itís been to have the Kents around as supporting characters, when used poorly, they have a tendency to actually weaken Superman by making him less independent. Weíd like to see him wrestle with moral and emotional struggles on his own without always being able to so easily talk them out with the infinitely wise Jonathan and Martha over a piece of rhubarb pie.
THE DAILY PLANET
It's no longer a newspaper--or, if it does publish papers, it does so as an ancillary gesture to the faithful. The Daily Planet becomes the world's preeminent global internet news service, read worldwide. For the first time, the citizens of Fiji can read Clark Kent's exclusive on how Superman capped their erupting volcano. Not nearly as drastic a move as making Clark a TV reporter, Clark (and Lois and Jimmy and Perry) maintain their exact same jobs; only the venue changes, to something a lot more exciting, accessible, and identifiable to young readers.
PERRY WHITE remains the editor-in-chief.
JIMMY OLSEN keeps doing what Jimmy does with a new emphasis on his role as Supermanís Pal and a new way of looking at what that means now that Superman has changed. Part of the fun of Jimmy was that he was the guy who always got to enjoy the same kinds of wild adventures Superman enjoyed but without any of the incumbent responsibilities; we wonít forget that.
Jimmy has a special and unique respect for Clark as well as Superman, since Clark is less dismissive of him than the other staffers. To borrow from the old radio show, Clark is the only person alive who calls Olsen not "Jimmy" but "Jim," and that small gesture--the notion that thereís at least one Planet staffer who treats him like a peer and not a dweeby kid--is not lost on him.
CAT GRANT moves in on Clark while Lois is away. She doesnít get it. Lois and Clark always seem to be sparring, so why does Clark keep her at armís length? Cat should now be the character in the book who suspects something about Clark. Truth is, she canít figure out why sheís so powerfully attracted to this klutz. Itís like heís got super-pheromones or something...
STEVE LOMBARD returns to the Sports Page as part of a nostalgic effort to bring back old readers. His column is a huge success. He canít help trying to bully Clark, who canít help enjoying thwarting Steveís pranks. We suggest bringing Steve back mainly because his role in the office was a very distinct and useful one which hasnít been taken by anyone else since.
Outside of Lois and Clark, those should be the main Planet characters. Banter and interplay at the Planet offices should be succinct, sharp, and to the point, carrying us from Clarkís short scenes into Supermanís adventures. Complex soap operas about the tertiary characters are sometimes interesting in small doses, but the trials of Lucy Lane and Ron Troupe (for example) can too often run the very dangerous risk of pushing Superman out of his own series. On that note...
While, as with the current run of books, there will always be time for subplots and secondary character development, our take on the SUPERMAN titles is that they arenít "group books" or "ensemble pieces." Even more than now, we want the focus to be on Superman himself as he takes part in grand, world-shattering, star-spanning adventures which tap into the same sense of awe and wonder we strove to invoke with JLA and KINGDOM COME. Superman is the Man of Tomorrow. He mustnít stay mired in the fast-passing trends of yesterdayís post-WATCHMEN comics. Supermanís world isnít the life-sized, realistic world outside our window. Itís a world of limitless wonder, a thrilling circus of amazement in which absolutely anything can happen.
Given the magnitude of the changes weíre prepared to put him through, we canít imagine running short of Superman-centric ideas once the spotlight is once more firmly focused on him. Once weíre up and at it, thereíll be room to check in on the Ron Troupes and Alice Whites as necessary, but for now, if the kids are going to be laying down two bucks every week, letís give them the star of the show--saving the planet, defending the weak, and whenever he gets a breather, exploring the mysteries of...
Superman's super-intelligence and increased speed of perception, etc., has left him with more time and brain cells to fill, so the Fortress becomes a place of baroque activity once more as Superman becomes the hobbyist par excellance, the polymath who's interested in EVERYTHING. The Fortress becomes trophy room, laboratory, gymnasium, observatory--the perfect hangout for the ultimate being. Let's see the Fortress stuffed with incredible artifacts from all space and time. The Titanic hangs from the ceiling (Supes and Lois dine in the great staterooms, overlooking the wonders of the Fortress).
Superman's laboratory contains the Superman Molecule, where Superman engraves his personal diaries using heat vision through special goggles which reduce its bandwidth. The stories on the Superman Molecule are all told by Superman himself and allow us to see the world via his incredible senses: "The alcohol on his breath killed exactly 15 billion bacteria. There was no way I could save them. I did my best to patch up a liver malfunction during a microscopic high-speed scan of his body..."
Elsewhere lies access to The Phantom Zone Vault, with its weird maps of this odd, infinite region of unspace originally used by Kryptonians to house artifacts and weapons. (The Phantom Zone sectors currently mapped by Superman include the site of Prometheus's Crooked House and the region where the White Martian Mothership is docked. The Zone will be colonized by the 30th century and become known as Tesseract Space.) The idea here is to emphasize the outrageousness of Superman's Herculean pastimes--he's seriously making maps of an infinite region of apparent nothingness. In the same Vault, the Phantom Zone Telescope is a machine which allows Superman to observe the eerie world of Phantom Supermen left here after THE KINGDOM.
Superman's Impossible Room opens into a transtemporal flaw. Here, Superman is able to rendezvous with his descendants, members of the Superman Squad from upcoming eras.
The Infant Universe of Qwewq, saved from Wonderworld by the JLA. This microscopic, living universe needs "care and feeding" and Superman spends long hours observing events here. He even descends into the nanoscopic Earth of Qwewq for occasional adventures as "Hyperman," the only superhero in that universe. (Qwewq is OUR universe, though we never mention it, and here, in our real world, Superman has adventures on a planet where he can never, ever reveal himself or tell people who he is or what he is.)
There's a Krypton Museum which has a huge floating globe of the lost planet reconstructed from the holographic memory traces in the resonant atomic structure of Superman's rocketship (whose metal, being part of the atomic structure of lost Krypton, "remembers" the atomic structure of lost Krypton. Superman and his robots are now sophisticated enough to perform archaeological forays into ambient molecular memory and slowly reconstruct the glorious landmarks of the doomed planet). "You can even see Fort Rozz, Krypton's Mobile Arsenal, and there's the Quantum Jungle moving rapidly across the face of the planet..." etc.
Huge solar batteries collect the Antarctic sun during the long summer days. Sometimes, Superman bathes in the rays of the huge solar collector. Suspended between the giant mirrors, Superman could perhaps even super-charge his cells with extra solar power before a serious battle.
The Living Library is Superman's complete DNA record of every species he has ever encountered.
Close by will be Superman's Bizarro Habitat, where Superman keeps poor, deformed creatures mutated by the attack of the Cube Earth--Bizarro dogs and cats and rhinos, whatever. He tries to make their pitiful, illogical lives as comfortable as he can, all the while seeking an antidote to the Bizarro plague.
The Fortress also includes titanic memorial statues of Jor-El and Lara, a Gallery of Foes, new upgraded versions of Kelex and the other Fortress robots, Superman's JLA Boom Tube generator and anything else that occurs as we proceed. Fragments of his rocket. The Electro-Supes suit. His "Hyperman" costume. A "KLTPZYXM" word balloon left by Mr. Mxyzptlk. The emphasis is on cool stuff. A Fortress we can do cutaway diagrams of again. The ultimate treehouse. The greatest den known to man.
In short, we have a new blanket take on Supermanís foes. Weíve recast many of them as cracked-mirror reflections of the Man of Steel himself, aspects of his character taken to a villainous extreme. Brainiac represents Supermanís alien nature without his human compassion. Luthor is the only man on Earth capable of being Supermanís equal but has squandered his unlimited potential on evil. Prankster fights for Truth and Justice in a demented way, and Bizarro...well, read on...
Taking the already existing Bizarro character and spinning off from Peyer's 80-Page Giant story, we can restore the creepy, demented, unnerving quality of the old Bizarro World stories. A little funny still...but somehow, a lot more scary.
Imagine a living planet which hunts through space. The entire world is a sentient system and it preys on other planets like a cancer. This self-aware--but not particularly intelligent by our standards--macro-entity has learned to imitate its prey and does this in order to "sneak up" on a victim in a pleasing, non-threatening shape. Its method is to transform itself into a crude copy of its target, sail in close and then strike by launching self-replicating parts of itself.
Now it's coming our way and it's scanning for life as it prepares to imitate and destroy the juiciest planet in its path.
And the first thing it scans, the first living creature whose mental activity is as sluggish as the killer planet's own...is Bizarro. Bizarro, whose diary, transmitted into the galaxy, attracted the killer world across the void.
And from its rough scans of Earth, combined with the flawed synthetic substance of Bizarro (who has crash-landed on its surface and found himself immune to its assaults), the planet recreates its entire form. It becomes a grotesque, rough-hewn cube with vast distorted continents and oceans in the form of our major continental landmasses.
Dull-witted synthetic creatures, using Bizarro as their model, form in the millions, billions. Odd, unfinished, cities rise. Things break easily and run down and go wrong...everything is topsy-turvy.
Bizarro has at last found his dream world and can't wait to show Superman.
The Bizarro Planet, the Cube Earth, attacks by firing parts of itself at its target world. These parts then infect any life form on the host world and reduce it to the same state of imbecilic hunger as the killer world itself. Plagues of Bizarros shuffle through city streets, making everything like themselves, reducing scientists to drooling halfwits, tearing down streetsigns and replacing them with dangerous gibberish. Suddenly the Bizarros are nightmarish, unstoppable plague carriers...who also happen to be a form of life which is only trying to exist on its own terms and which Superman knows he cannot simply destroy.
The Cube Earth shouldn't attack often, but we know it's out there and we can visit again with or without Superman. Bizarro #1 himself is the only one of the Bizarro creatures who is not himself a contaminant to humans. He is the Cube Earth's crazy ambassador.
The Bizarros should have a Cronenberg/Lynch quality of blackest humor and gut-wrenching dread, mingled with the sad, sinister charm that Tom's story worked to evoke.
We see Luthor playing chess with twenty grandmasters simultaneously while reading untranslated Il Principe and teaching himself Urdu via a Walkman he made for himself in five minutes back in 1962. Luthor is so smart we don't even have a WORD for what he is yet; calling him a genius is as insulting as calling him an imbecile.
Hereís a secret about Luthor no one yet knows. Despite his born ruthlessness, he was once salvageable, once redeemable--until Superman arrived. Though even he doesnít consciously realize it, every iota of Luthorís self-esteem was pinned to achieving that most lofty goal: to be considered the greatest man who ever lived. And he was on his way--until Superman appeared and outclassed him, triggering the scattershot sociopathic tantrum that is his criminal career.
Hereís another secret. Luthor's Lexcorp empire? All the corporate-baron stuff we see him doing routinely? Six minutes of his day, maybe less. Heís not the Kingpin. He only pretends to be. Luthor the businessman is the tip of the iceberg, a smokescreen generated to give the public and his enemies a false, easily digested persona which masks his true depths. In other words, Luthor conquered the financial world largely in order to project a "secret identity" designed to make people underestimate him. Lexcorp is but one of a thousand projects Luthor attends to every day.
In time, once Superman learns of Luthorís depth, he will come to understand Lex as a tragedy of wasted potential. Though he realizes he could not have handled his earlier, formative encounters with Luthor any differently, Superman carries a new weight around in his heart. He knows now that Luthor, but for the path he chose, could have been his equal, his only true peer on this earth. And though Supermanís greatest priority will always be to stop Luthorís schemes, his greatest frustration will be his continuing inability to rehabilitate Lex for the good of all mankind.
Lex Luthor builds a green-flesh computer brain and body to house the dying Brainiac. The space-villain becomes Luthor's Frankenstein Monster, a heartless machine whose intellect and cosmic reach dwarfs even his creator's genius. Unlike Luthor, Brainiac hasnít a shred of compassion and is the only enemy whom Superman genuinely fears.
The Man with the Red Kryptonite Heart. STAR Labsís experiments on a fragment of Green K result in it emitting radiation at a lower, cooler frequency. It turns red, and its new wavelengths temporarily cause weird, resonant changes in Kryptonian molecular structure. No gorilla heads, no silly transformations into a 1956 Buick. Instead, painful mutations. Frightening intangibility. An eerie expansion or dampening of the senses. Disturbing chemical changes in the brainís communication centers. When Luthor learns of this new Red K and realizes its potential, he steals it to revamp the largely ineffective, one-note Metallo, exploiting his terrifying potential as a dangerous John-Carpenter's-Halloween-type Super-stalker.
The Tyrant Sun from DC One Million is back, fulfilling his destiny as one of Superman's most deadly and persistent foes. This will be his first appearance after One Million, returned from deep space, with a bad grudge, for his first-ever encounter with the Man of Steel.
The late Winslow Schott's spirit possesses a GI-Joe size figure which lies in a toybox all day and comes to life when the sun goes down. By day, heís just another action figure in a kid's bedroom. By night, when the moon comes out and the kid is sleeping, Toyman wakes up and sneaks out of the house to run his criminal empire. Creepy, utterly ruthless, and in charge of an army of killer toys, Toyman's Achilles Heel is sunlight, which renders him motionless.
A Loki-ish prankster who uses people's lives as his game pieces. Mxy employs his awesome, five-dimensional reality-warping powers to trap Superman in dangerous, unreal scenarios... a high-stakes upgrade of the Elseworlds concept. No longer content to make buildings sprout wings, Mxy warps the facts of Superman's life in a sustained effort to test and break the Man of Steel's spirit (because the imp's fifth-dimensional intellect rightly understands that Superman's pure soul is his true power). Sometimes aware that he's been thrust into warped histories and sometimes not, Superman can only win these games by rising above the Mxyworlds' temptations to be less virtuous, less positive, less dedicated, less effective than we know he can be. Superman's own inner strength is the key to making Mxy disappear.
He fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way in a manner diametrically opposed to Superman's. He's an anti-corporate prankster, like Michael Moore in TV NATION. He wants to show people the strings and wake them up from their blind acceptance of a S.T.A.R. Labs playing with DNA in the middle of a densely populated area, or a Watchtower on the moon monitoring our every movement, or a Lexcorp secretly taking tax breaks to build Bizarros. The Prankster stages elaborate, humiliating, destructive public hoaxes that mess with people's heads. As astute and perceptive as he is out of control, Prankster is the one earthman who actually worries Luthor.
THE KRYPTONITE MAN (and KRYPTONITE IN GENERAL)
An evil, cagey rock-like monster with a body reminiscent of The Thing's, a primal green-glowing personification of Superman's death, the Kryptonite Man is, in reality and unknown to Superman or even to himself, a supporting cast member (Ron Troupe?) who turns into Kryptonite Man against his will in a Wolfmanlike transformation. Itís a rare event; kryptonite will never be used as a writerís crutch. What wonít be a rarity is the writing teamís continual watchdogging to make certain the familiar touchstones of the Superman Legend are used as opportunities for creativity, not ways around it.
As the selfless Superman is the Ultimate Giver, Parasite is the Ultimate Taker. He was almost perfectly formed from the beginning and we probably wouldn't do much to him...but we do admire Paul Dini's idea of letting him absorb other traits besides raw power, like personality traits and voices. We would like to use 21st century printing technology to update his visual, however, and give him a look similar to the one he sported in KINGDOM COME. A radiation-scarred body isnít purple; a radiation-scarred body is a mass of exposed muscle and gristle and tumors, sinew without flesh to contain it. It should hurt just to LOOK at Parasite.
Project: Superman 2000 includes a new and different approach to the very way the comics are created.
The four of us would like to pool our talents in a unique way. Weíre less interested in seeing each Super-book assigned to one writer as we are in putting everyoneís individual talents to their best use every week. Morrison and Millar are headmen, full of new and refreshing ideas; Peyer and Waid write from the heart with an emphasis on dialogue and characterization. No more round-robin scripting where some guyís always stuck writing Chapter Three; instead, scenes and scripts fly back and forth across the Great Pond, and instead of duplicating past dynamics where good writers are introduced into the Superman Collective and then sometimes forced to subsume their individual styles and visions, the adventures of Superman are chronicled by a group of like-minded scribes who were friends before they were partners, who know they share a common vision, who are willing and eager to work as a unit for the good of their own hero.
It's a whole new way of writing comics, but it's not without precedent. In broad strokes, itís similar to the way in which soap operas are crafted. Different writers are responsible for certain characters, plots and subplots, all according to their particular passions and specialties. We're still ironing out the details of the actual process, and we're all aware that any editor's heart would freeze solid at the sound of the names Morrison, Millar and Peyer in connection with anything that requires, oh, a weekly deadline...but since Waid meets his deadlines with an almost Catholic-guilt ferocity, heís volunteering to be the Rob Petrie of this little Alan Brady Show--the writer who'll filter all the work and make dead certain it's on the editorís desk when it's supposed to be. As much as he values his professional reputation, heís willing to stake it on this thrilling and potentially revolutionary process. In the end, we know we can come through with stories the readers will be as excited to see as we will.