With Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics wrapping up and his replacement, Andy Diggle, stepping down after just a few issues (one?), Tony Daniel will become the writer and artist on the title. From the outside, the DC offices look like a mess. They may have a master-plan that they’re executing (or just biding time until the Superman movie and the Snyder/Lee Superman: Unchained come out) but right now things look pretty chaotic.
I don’t want to dwell on the current state of DC but instead reflect on the stories I wish were coming out. I’m going to take this moment of upheaval to create an Action Comics fantasy roster and outline the kind of stories that I would like to see. I’d encourage you to do the same because Superman is a character that people can fall in love with for a multitude of reasons.
I’m going to be focusing on writers that aren’t currently working on major superhero works in order to give a fresh spin on Action Comics.
What I want
The essentials: Superman as a hero, a paragon of social justice, and a beacon of hope.
Why I want it
I really enjoyed Morrison’s run on Action Comics. While it was a little bit inconsistent and had its rather absurd moments, I felt that the run had some truly superb moments and explored different aspects of the Superman mythos in an intriguing way. With that said, as the definitive first story of the new-52 Superman, I feel like it left a lot to be desired. In Morrisonian fashion, the writer plunged into the deep history of the character yet only spent minimal amounts of time examining the core of Superman’s character. Morrison played with the thematic notion of Superman as a groundbreaking and inspirational hero but only teased aspects of his character that would allow new readers to fall in love with him.
Jen Van Meter
Jen Van Meter is a tremendous writer who excels at writing character-driven stories infused with humour and wit while adding shades of social justice and societal examination. She is best known for her series at OniPress Hopless Savages but it is her work at DC, namely Black Lightning: Year One and Batman: the Golden Streets of Gotham, that make me believe that she would write a great Superman book.
Van Meter is one of my favourite writers because she delivers characters so earnestly. In Hopeless Savages, Van Meter examines the dynamics of a family and slowly sheds lights on the perspectives of numerous individuals. By giving an earnest and passionate portrayal of each character, Van Meter is able to examine the differences between individuals and the sympathies and frustrations that we encounter while also being able to subtly examine the composition of individuality. She examines drug use, sexuality, bullying, and counterculture without ever drifting away from characters which comprise the core of the story.
In her takes on Black Lightning and Batman, Van Meter examines how a hero serves as an embodiment of the highest ideals of a given community, even when corruption runs rampant and the bleakest outlooks are a reality. Van Meter delicately balances the notions of the superheroic and the symbolic to craft tales that are truly about inspiring justice.
Black Lightning: Year One taps into the humanity of its titular character while acknowledging that the battles between good and evil extend far beyond one man. Evil has a way of permeating culture and embedding itself deep in the psyche of individuals and communities. Black Lightning: Year One shows the story of how the passion, drive, and relentlessness of one hero can serve as a rallying point for an entire community to believe in itself.
Superman should be an embodiment of hope: a character that not only punches evil but dispels it from the minds of the people he inspires. If we learned anything from the Orson Scott Card debacle, it’s that people want Superman to tap into the best parts of humanity while fighting off the worst parts of it and we want a writer who can tap into those ideals. Van Meter has demonstrated before that she can write a strong character-driven story that illustrates how a hero can serve as a figure that people can believe in and rally behind.
Ideal artists: Becky Cloonan, Phil Noto, Marcos Martin
(from Black Lightning: Year One #2)
What I want
High-flying Action and/or Space Adventure
Why I want it
There is a distinct lack of fun across the board at DC. While the new 52 launch contained OMAC and Frankenstein, there are very few comics in the DC line that intentionally distance themselves from the tight-fisted, gritty brand that DC is trying to promote. What better way to introduce a little bit of fun to the line than putting the action back in Action Comics?
I was really excited for Skullkickers scribe Jim Zubkavich to take over Birds of Prey. Sadly, that did not come to fruition but I really believe that Jim Zubkavich is a writer that can adeptly balance action, adventure, humour and deceptively compelling storylines. A high-flying Superman tale with wacky adventures but also a little bit of world building would do wonders for not only promoting some fun in the DC comics line but also providing a jumping-on point for readers of any age or experience.
Zubkavich’s Skullkickers is one of my favourite creator owned books coming out. It’s a swashbuckling adventure story that adds humour and a touch of camp to a rich fantasy world. While the story is infinitely entertaining, beneath the outlandish jokes and over-the-top action lies a surprisingly dark underbelly. A rich world is being built over the course of numerous other adventures and, while the jokes and action may be the most entertaining aspect of Skullkickers, it is the world building that keeps it at the top of my read pile every month. The ability to tell satisfying and entertaining stories while building a rich world would serve Superman well, especially if a little bit of humour and levity was injected into the title.
Another Zub-penned book, Makeshift Miracle, tells the story of the young Colby Reynolds whose life is dramatically changed when a girl comes crashing into his life… literally. In Stardust-esque fashion, the young boy finds out that a girl has plunged from the sky and into his world. In Makeshift Miracle we see a boy juggling his own anxieties and fears with these same feelings mirrored by this new stranger. If we consider Superman, we can ask: what is more heroic that attempting to manage your own anxieties while trying to fulfil the expectations of others? Zubkavich’s ability to balance the desires of others with the duty imposed on heroes would provide an added layer that would deeply enrich a Superman story.
In addition to being an immensely gifted writer, Jim is also incredibly passionate about writing comics. He is a vocal supporter of other creators and genuinely loves the work he does. This kind of enthusiasm is infectious and I truly believe that if he channelled this passion into the Man of Steel he could thoroughly bewitch the audience.
Ideal artists: Ramon Perez, Edwin Huang
What I want
A focus on the extended cast (specifically Lois and Jimmy)
Why I want it
I’ve heard a few people complain that they don’t know whether Superman or Action Comics is providing the definitive new-52 Superman story. Again, Morrison’s run has been a cool piece of storytelling but has failed as the cornerstone book of the new 52 Superman. In order to clear this confusion up, I would love to see Action Comics focus more heavily on the extended cast of the Superman family namely Lois, Jimmy, and Lex.
This one is tricky, especially since I’m trying to avoid writers who already have projects at Marvel or DC. Paul Cornell wrote a great Lex story, Gail Simone would write a great Lois and Jimmy, and I’d like to see what Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray could come up with. Since I can’t really choose, I’ll cheat a little bit and go with…
(Yes, I know he’s contributing to Justice League of America right now but I’m choosing him anyways.)
Matt Kindt has been a favorite creator of mine every since first reading his graphic novel Super Spy. Kindt is exceptional at telling jam-packed smaller stories that intertwine to make an exquisite whole. Super Spy demonstrates that he can examine numerous facets of characters and delve deep into the psyche of the people that inhabit his worlds. His attention to detail and ability to craft unique spins on stories makes me think he could do a great job penning Lois or Lex.
Kindt’s work on another graphic novel, Revolver and the (sadly) cancelled Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. also proves that he is comfortable delving into the weird side of stories, exploring new worlds and topsy-turvy settings to deliver compelling adventures to the reader. This would fit a Jimmy Olsen story exceptionally, and I believe Kindt’s unique skillset could make for a balanced, thorough, and incredibly entertaining take the rest of the Superman family.
What I want
A truly all-ages Superman story that is light on continuity
Why I want it
The sole reason that I want this book is because I because I want Superman to be available to readers of any age.
Art and Franco.
I’ve written before about how much I love these guys. They would be able to write a great Superman… wait… they already did this? Oh, it’s called Superman Family Adventures! Neato! Oh… what do you mean it’s cancelled?
In all seriousness, I really love(d) Superman Family Adventures but it was still skewed toward a very young audience, despite the treats that older readers could latch on to. I would love to see Action Comics appeal to older teens while also being able to satisfy older readers. For that, I’m going to choose…
Faith Erin Hicks
I was pretty late getting into the works of Faith Erin Hicks. I read Friends With Boys just a few months ago and immediately fell in love with Hick’s ability to tell entertaining stories while tapping deep into the emotions of each of her creations. Hicks is able to contrast the mundane with the fantastic in a way that feels completely organic and would lend itself well to telling accessible and entertaining Superman stories.
Her webcomic The Adventures of Superhero Girl was recently released in hardcover by Darkhorse and I devoured it. Hicks once again demonstrates the ability to make the mundane entertaining and the superheroic accessible to any reader. The tales of Superhero Girl show that Hicks is well-versed in superhero comics and, when chanelled into Superman, Hicks would be able to showcase how Superman is the prototypical hero while infusing him with a strong emotional core and examining his character from numerous angles.
Well anyways, that wraps up my Action Comics dream-list. I know it was a little unorthodox, but it was a fun exercise in thinking about what I want to see from not only Superman but from DC writ large. Once again, I encourage you to come up with your own list because Superman is a character that can be showcased in so many different ways.