Right now, it feels like Superman comics are heavily paying homage to and building legacies for the 90’s era and I am NOT complaining. First we had the expansion and reintroduction of the Superman Family in the pages of Action Comics which feature Steel, and then we also have a solo Conner Kent Superboy title in ‘Superboy: The Man Of Tomorrow‘.
With Steel also set to get his own solo series titled ‘Steelworks‘ later this year, writer Dorado Quick and artist Yasmin Flores Montañez have a 3-part story which will set the stage for Steelworks. That story is titled ‘Steel: Engineer Of Tomorrow’, which will begin in the next release of Action Comics, issue #1054. Here’s a look at the covers for Action Comics #1054 by Steve Beach, Rafa Sandoval, Ibrahim Moustafa, David Talaski and Yasmin Flores Montañez.
‘Steel: Engineer Of Tomorrow’ will see John Henry Irons follow a new direction to become an international mogul, that will atone to the fact that some of his previous inventions were used for wrong, but also work toward that corporate life, whilst juggling his superhero duties, relationship with Natasha and learn to share the mantle of being Steel.
This story will debut in Action Comics #1054 (out 25th April) and the creative team behind this story (Quick & Flores Montañez) was kind enough to answer a few questions. We talked about their experiences writing and creating this version of Steel, what they hope for the future of the character and what we can expect from this 3-part story. Before we get into the interview itself, take a look at the exclusive preview pages which feature art by Yasmín Flores Montañez and colours by Brad Anderson:
Tasmin: Hi both, a pleasure to be speaking with you today. How’s everything going?
Dorado Quick: Thank you for having us, super grateful and excited to be here and to be interviewed by you. And yes, I did the milestone programme with Yasmín, so I’m excited to work with her.
Yasmín Flores Montañez: I’m excited as well to be talking with you. Nice to see you too Dorado. I feel like, when you’re working in this job you never see anybody. Everything is like through email and chatting on your phone, so it’s nice to see each other.
Tasmin: Well, what has it been like being part of the legendary milestone initiative? And what’s that done for you guys personally and professionally?
Dorado: That’s a great question. Um, I would say it’s opened the door for us as far as like getting our foot in for a lot of us, including myself Trying to find your way into Marvel and DC for years and not getting past the front door, you know, or people tell you to email and they never hear back to you. So to finally have a foot in the door, to have people that want to see us and help us grow, I think it’s opened doors and also given us some confidence that like we can do it, right? Because you think you can do it, you work hard. But if you don’t ever get the opportunity to prove it, you don’t know that you can do it. And I think Yasmín has done some amazing covers and some amazing interiors this year. And then I’ve got like four or five ten page stories this year. So I will say it has definitely opened doors and given us the confidence that we can do this and be a part of this industry.
Yasmín: I was gonna say that, I agree with what Dorado was saying. I definitely feel like it’s reassuring that you’re in a good path to continue on and it boosts your confidence. I’m just lucky to be a part of it, to be honest it feels surreal.
Tasmin: So I had the pleasure of reading the story earlier this week. And it’s got that perfect blend of old and new. So you can recognise the classic 90s vibe with the character, but it’s also got a mix of modern concepts and storytelling. How important was it for you to find that balance with your writing and artwork?
Dorado: You always want to honour the stories that were told before you, you know, and also the people who wrote and created those. So I think that was the key right is getting the core values of John Henry and Natasha, but then also putting a new lens on where can we go. I think when we looked at the opportunity to write this story, there’s still some holes in John’s story and who he is and where he needs to go and who he can be. He’s one of the smartest men in the DC universe, but no one has ever given him that opportunity, or put him in a position to show that off. So I definitely wanted to honour the legacy of the history, but also push the character in a new direction. That new direction is becoming like an international mogul that still works, and is still atoning the fact that some of his previous inventions were used for wrong, and how that weighs on him? And then also, how does he move past that and then he has this niece, who he’s trying to push towards the corporate life but just wants to be a hero. So there’s also a letting go of being steel and sharing that mantle.
Tasmin: How did you get to your version of Steel? Because it looks very different to what what we’ve seen before in terms of artwork.
Yasmín: The first thing I told him (Dorado) is that Steel was for me a challenge to draw, like I was super happy to draw him. But it was like wow, this is a challenge for me. So yeah, I just kind of like looked at all the body work of Steel but also put my own spin on it. So it was a lot of drawing in a sketchbook until I got it right. I was a little bit intimidated. And then when I read the script, I was like, oh my god, Superman Clark Kent, is there anything more intimidating?
Tasmin: Did you find there was a lot pressure on you working on a character like Steel, such a legendary character and with him being part of the Superman family?
Dorado: Honestly, no pressure. I think that’s because we haven’t gotten a lot of Steel stories. Like, I mean, he’s just been such a like auxiliary support character. So I didn’t really feel pressure. But more so wanted to just honour the legacy and honour who this character can be. I feel like more of the concern was, can we really start to set him up to be used more in the DC universe?
Yasmín: There are some really hardcore fans out there. So I don’t know, I always felt that pressure. I was like, Oh, my God, I have to do it well because of the people that really love this character. And I wanted to be to do good by them.
Tasmin: Well, I’m a big fan of Steel. And I can honestly say that you both have done very well. I’m really excited to see where he goes from there. The action sequences that you created, especially at the beginning of the first part of the story, they’re awesome. How did you come to perfect that that technique in your artwork?
Yasmín: I just looked at a lot of action films. You can take a lot from just looking at films and looking at action, there are some really good scenes for me to picture them perfectly in my mind. Some people say, “Oh, I don’t look at reference”, I’m like “what? How do you do that?” I try to always have the rule of thirds in mind and trying to keep things a little bit more engaging as well. Sometimes I get stuck in a scene, so I also look at comics. I also really love the Baroque style, because it’s so dramatic, with the shadows and it’s very theatrical. It helps when you have a good writer too.
Tasmin: I really love the relationship between John and Natasha. It’s been brought to life on the small screen in Superman and Lois, and now they’re kind of back in comics sort of. Where do you tap in to get that relationship and dynamics between the two right?
Dorado: I think you brought up a good point. Like I’m really impressed with how they treated John Henry irons in the Superman & Lois show, I’d been watching that prior to this assignment, but then I also pulled from my personal relationship with my cousin. She’s like my little sister, she’s very competitive, she was a college athlete and always right behind me always wanting to outdo it respectfully, you know, but she works her butt off. So I kind of modelled it after her, like we’re so close. I’m a little bit older, but not significantly. But I get it, you’re younger, you’re quicker, faster, you want to get out into the world. So I kind of tried to bring some of that in there to where it’s like, not a parent, but definitely love and concern. And I want to show that John is thinking about her, he wants to encourage her, wants to empower her but he wants her to do it in a safe way so that she can succeed and not get seriously hurt or anything like that.
Tasmin: You touched upon this earlier, but in a lot of the Steel comics, it does always feel like he has to be connected to Superman or connected to something else in order for the story to take place. But I feel like this one is starting to push him out of that shell, which is amazing. At the very end, there is a bit of a reveal of a villain. He’s clearly pulling the strings to this overarching plan. But is this a villain exclusive to Steel? What can you tell me about them?
Dorado: To be honest, it might not be a villain, we wanted to establish how intellectual John Henry Irons really is. And what we want to do is bring in a another intellectual figure in the DC Universe, who is going to challenge and push John as a hero, but also as a corporate business leader. So he might be a villain, he might be a friend… All will be revealed in the future issues. But what I can say is, it’s another intellectual figure in the DC Universe, who by the end of our arc is really going to challenge John, as a man, as a hero, as a corporate leader, and his relationship with Natasha, that’s going to be a challenge that he’s gonna get pushed on as well. And we’re really hoping that THIS character, gives John the push he needs.
Tasmin: Yasmín, how have you brought this person to life in terms of your artwork? Because in this part of the story, we just see the shadows and he’s hidden in the background, but what can we expect going forwards?
Yasmín: I just don’t know how much I can say.
Dorado: I will say, the character is beloved and also could use some more shine. So it’s going to be interesting how people take this one.
Tasmin: Without going into too much detail… There’s a huge amount announcement towards the end of this story. We’ve seen something very similar for other characters. I’m not going to mention who because that would be a big giveaway. But how will this announcement differ for John Henry irons and how severe are the implications for him and Natasha?
Dorado: Oh, you’re talking about the big announcement the podium? So that goes back to John at his core, right? Like when we look at the history of who he is and the legacy of the of who John is and what he wants to do. How can you really expect a whole city to trust you and your new company, if there’s something you’re hiding, so we’re really trying to do is push John towards being as transparent as one possibly can. That’s going to have its pros and cons on his family life, the company he’s actually trying to run and the city. He’s really trying to push Metropolis to a place of security. And what I mean by that is, we know other people who are corporate figures have not had metropolis in their best wishes or haven’t really done what’s best for the people. And with John trying to do what’s best for the people, it’s smart, but it’s going to create additional challenges in all aspects of his life.
Tasmin: It’s quite noticeable that the characters that we see so far in this story in particular are quite diverse, what does it mean to you both to be able to bring these characters of colour into the limelight?
Dorado: Dream come true. You know, I remember watching the Dwayne McDuffie episodes of Justice League and just always, always wanting more. I’m not gonna lie, went back and watched the movie with Shaq, from the mid 90s to prepare. It’s an honour to help push these characters to the forefront. And I think it’s also one of those things where we’ve seen other publishers take from these characters and be inspired by them, these are some of the OGs. So we’re really trying to assert that this character gets the respect they deserve.
Yasmín: Yes, over the moon. It’s been a dream, I think, for me, it has been a good challenge. Just because I was so intimidated by both him and Superman, and Action Comics. To me everything so surreal and working on this character has been like a fun challenge. I love the challenge and just continuing on an it has been an amazing dream. They keep challenging me to keep getting better and just working hard. And then also finding out that I was working with a peer of mine in the milestone industry programme was like YES! It was comforting.
Tasmin: So what can we expect for the next two parts of the of the story?
Dorado: In issue #1055, we really highlight Nat, and she’s just a badass, and we really get to see her take the reins at steel. While John is kind of working more so on like the corporate life. But next issue, we really kind of have Nat take the lead as far as combat goes. We also got to bring in people from the Superman family that you’re going to see in that issue. And then that mysterious figure gets revealed at the end of our next issue. Then the third issue is when everything comes to a close, John has to deal with the announcement. He has to deal with what Steelworks, he has to deal with that anti-hero villain that’s pushing him and he has to deal coming to terms with the fact that Natasha is very much like him, but also her own woman.
Tasmin: Well, it sounds like it’s going to be exciting! Thank you both so much for your time, I had a blast reading the first part of the story and I can’t wait to read the rest of it!
Action Comics #1054 is out on Tuesday 25th April and is available from your local comic store.