Warning: SPOILERS for Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman
When DC Comics introduced fans to the concept of the Dark Multiverse, an endless collection of grim realities and hypothetical timelines, it served to explain why The Batman Who Laughs would view the core DC reality as the exception, not the rule. But in the newest Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman, fans have to wonder how the world would have changed. Not if Superman hadn't been killed... but if Lois Lane was given the power to avenge him, destroying anyone or anything that gets in her way.
These dark one-shots have already shown what would have happened if Batman lost to Azrael in the Knightfall story, and will soon see how the legacy of Blue Beetle would have changed if Ted Kord wasn't murdered by Max Lord. But the next story is all about Lois Lane, and how the "Death of Superman" story would change if readers witnessed the loss through her eyes. Eyes that see the world too corrupt and broken to let even Superman's death have an impact. Screen Rant got the chance to discuss Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman with writer and artist Jeff Loveness and Brad Walker, about revisiting a historic story, letting Lois act out every fan's fantasy, and of course... the moment Superman returns to see Lois' work. The full interview can be found below.
Has it hit you yet, being asked about writing a version of 'Death of Superman'?
JL: It is insane, The Death of Superman was such a like religious event for me as a kid.So when I finally got to see that first page and it said, 'Jeff Loveness Script: Death of Superman.' I was like, 'Wow, we've gone on quite a journey, haven't we?' From like the Barnes & Noble floor I read it on.
Can you take me back to the beginning of this, and what the pitch or plan for the Tales from the Dark Multiverse was when you both signed on? Were you instantly sold?
JL: DC came to me and said, 'We want to do some dark, alternate universe takes on some of our biggest events.' And they threw a couple at me, then said, 'there's also Death of Superman, but somebody else is already on it.' And I thought, 'Oh man, I've got to do a take on that!' I was trying for a long time and then suddenly the image of Lois clutching the red cape of Superman came to me, in like a dark suit or something. I thought, 'Oh wow! I haven't seen a vengeful, Lady Stoneheart Lois Lane going after the DC Universe before. That's a really cool idea!' It was a little different from what they were thinking at first and I had to fight for it. But DC were on board and then we got Brad and he and Lee Weeks really came up with such a really killer look for her. Mixing a little bit of the Eradicator visuals... They didn't have to convince me. They said,' Do you want to do a dark take?' Then I saw 'Death of Superman' and I jumped on it.
BW: Alex Antone was our editor, and I got the impression this was sort of a passion project for him he was really excited about revisiting a lot of these classic storylines and creating new characters to spin out of them. He came to me and the story he had told me was that they had a completely different concept for this. They'd gotten all these pitches from other writers that were good. Then Jeff took it upon himself to pitch a different story. And they were like, 'We love it so much, it's so different, we just had to use this one.' He pitched it to me with the grabber that would get anybody into it. 'You'll get to draw all that stuff from the '90s that everybody loved. All that era-specific stuff, some Superman in there but not that much, but it will be a great new character for Lois Lane. The original storyline was, when I started reading Superman, so it's such a seminal part of my comics childhood that it was so easy to get invested. So I was on board really easily.
How do you approach The Death of Superman with any objectivity at all? I mean the challenge of asking, 'What if everything after that played out differently?' is like asking, 'What if in The Shining, Jack didn't go crazy?'
JL: Well first of all the mullet had to stay. The mullet is integral to the mythos. No, I mean I was terrified, I really was. Because The Death of Superman is written in such operatic, Arthurian language. I remember I spent--working on that prologue, which has pretty simple language, there's not a ton of writing in it--but I just labored over that thing. Because I really love epic Superman language. I loved Dan Jurgens, but also 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.' That opening paragraph from Alan Moore is so poetic. I wanted to really try to encapsulate that lofty, almost Shakespearean Superman language that works so well sometimes. So I was really racked over this, but then I guess I just believed in the idea and the team once they got us all together. I thought, ' This could be a really cool take.' Because we've seen dozens of stories where Lois dies in the first act and it's used as like a crux to make Superman evil, or Hitler, or a tyrant, or retire, or something. I just thought, 'It's a simple inversion, and I haven't really seen a real character-heavy piece dealing with that grief, loss of idealism, and then revenge, and ultimately tragedy. I got really jazzed for the idea. I love Lois as a character.
BW: I liked the idea that it wasn't yet another story of Superman being corrupted. I like that it preserved the idea of Superman's goodness. Because I don't think Lois loses who she is by taking this turn in her grief. I give people some leeway in stages of profound grief. Superman never really works as well for me, because I feel like the whole point of the character is that he's better than us. If you see tale after tale of him using that, it loses something as a character for me. But Lois isn't the same, and I feel like you could read this and you understand the turn that she takes, and the tragedy of it. I didn't dislike her o hate her, even if I disagree with her motivations or her actions in this. I like that watching her story, the messages that Superman was right, he had the best course of action for somebody who could do the things that he did. So it was easy for me to identify with that story.
You both got to do such a rare challenge, which is revisiting scenes and moments from this legendary event, but using them to tell a different story. The funeral scene stands out, with what story isn't being told here.
JL: Oh yeah, I mean absolutely. Brad brought so much to this. I try to stay out of your way as much as possible, I hope.
JL: But from a script point of view, I went back and read all that 'Funeral for a Friend' stuff, and I just related so much to Lois. Then I wanted to really do a remix of that funeral. From a certain point of view it could be the gawdiest thing in the world. It could be the emptiest in the world. It's like our love of celebrity. I just had that image of Lex Luthor giving that speech, and how sick that would make Lois Lane feel. We've seen that in a few animated shows. JLU had the best Superman funeral out of all of them. But I just wanted to have a very intimate look at what was usually a massive superhero funeral. I really wanted to dial in and look at Lois and stay on her perspective for that. Then Brad did just an incredible job.
BW: That was such an important... that's really where our story starts. Because the imagery that comes before that is all directly from the original story. So our story really starts at the funeral. I thought it was really important to show it from one specific person's perspective. The original story jumps around and gives everybody their moment to feel about it. But this was specifically about Lois. But even things like watching the procession of the heroes, these are all characters that we all love and care about. But I wanted to show it in a way that they almost feel gross, you know? That they're making it about them marching down the street in front of the little people.
BW: Then still draw attention, even if she's in the background, we try to draw attention right back to Lois and what she feels about everything. [Colorist] John Kalisz did all these beautiful sickly cloudy skies that I didn't give him in any notes about that. But just the grayness of that scene, I feel gives it so much power. Then it carries over into the next couple pages where Lois is sort of wading through her life, that sets the stage for the direction that she goes in. I wanted it to feel like she's removed from the world around her, and these things are happening, but it's all sort of white noise to her at that point.
I have to applaud you for both capturing grief perfectly, and making Hal Jordan seem like the biggest a****** I've ever seen in my life.
JL: [That was Brad ! That was all Brad!]
BW: It just seemed so appropriate. That of all characters, he would just give this pitiful little wave to the crowd.
From both writing and art, it feels like a release when Lois starts to act. You know, asking, 'Why didn't Superman fix these things regular people can't?' She gets to do all the things we would want to. Was that a case of asking, 'What would I do?' How personal does that get?
JL: Oh yeah thanks, I'm so glad you picked up on that as well. It was real personal to me, and I wanted to make Lois correct, you know? I didn't want to make this a simple, evil villain breaking bad kind of thing. I really did want her to have a good point, because she's the best journalist in the world, and she finally has all the resources. What if the best journalist in the world lost her idealism, and lost her faith? Like, 'Yeah! I bet some of these Exxon CEOs don't deserve to be CEOs anymore.' In a world where Clark Kent is dead, why does Lex Luthor still get to walk around? If you take your idealism out of that, and you have the power to make change... I like playing with that precipitous slope a little bit. And giving Lois a bit of justified anger.
But ultimately, she is desecrating the honesty and the optimism that Superman stands for. Also I would argue she's confronting the naivete of Superman, too. I added that line, 'He loved us so much, and we never even tried to be better.' I wanted her to take a cold, hard look at the world and say, 'No this is not enough. he's dead, there has to be some real changes around here.' I am so glad you liked it, that was a really fun part of the book to write.
BW: I approached it from the other angle. Where I feel like you can watch her throughout the story, and the further she goes, you see how wrong she is. Then when Superman finally does come back, you see that she knows she was wrong. She knows she was making all these decisions in a state of profound grief and giving herself a pass because he's gone. Then the second he's back it's like inside herself she's saying, 'Oh God what have I done? I killed you as much as they did. I killed you after the fact.' I think a lot of times in a collaborative effort like that you can get a lot of nuance into s story. The collaborators are almost approaching from different sides. it;s interesting hearing Jeff talk about his approach, and thinking of how I approached it. Because there's a lot of subtle things happening in this story because I wanted to play it very specifically that... I don't think Superman is naive. I think she' illustrating why Superman is right.
BW: That Alex Ross and Paul Dini book called 'Peace on Earth,' it touched on this a lot. When he tries to do these broader, heroic acts, and right the world. I think this book tackled a lot of the same idea, where you really see how unrealistic that is. How you can quickly start subjugating your will rather than helping people. I think Lois saw that really quickly. She's not really saving humanity, she's making decisions for humanity. And that's not right, either.
JL: I think what you just said, those two points of view really crash in the final two or three pages. I thought Brad sold the shame of Lois so well. When she finally realizes now he's back, and that's a horrible thing. She's come face to face with the mistakes and the choices that she's made. I really love what you did in those last couple pages, man.
Do you allow yourself pride for nailing this stuff, whether it's coming from each other or the readers?
JL: I'm far too neurotic and self-loathing for that. But I am going to give myself one moment of just... I always wanted to write a big Superman epic. I always wanted to write a 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow' or 'For The Man Who Has Everything'--and this is by no means in that echelon of course. But it's the closest approximation to something I could do. I always wanted to write a big Superman epic that had a big moral to it about why Superman is so special. And if this is the closest I get to it, I'm so happy. I really love where we ended up with it. I loved exploring Lois and using Lois has a way to explore Superman's optimism and hope. Yeah, I feel really happy about it, and it was so great collaborating with Brad and everybody else on it.
BW: Yeah I had never done a 40-page one-shot before. It felt--it's essentially two and a half issues of a comic--it felt huge. It felt so much longer than that. But at the same time, when you go back and read it having just freshly re-read the entire original Death and Funeral and Reign and Return, part of me felt like, I want to stretch this over four years or however long the original took! Because there is so much there. And so many cool things to draw. It's just not realistic in this era or this industry to get that much elbow room in 48 pages was probably more than we could've hoped for. There so much more to do there. So much more we could've told. It would be so cool to do it as an ongoing, even though that concept doesn't really exist anymore.
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman is available now from your local comic book shop.