Action Comics is absolutely KILLING it right now, each and every month that come, I find myself eagerly awaiting the next issue. After having the privilege of reading the next upcoming issue (#1054) this week, I have never been so excited for my peers to read a comic issue. There are so many surprises, twists and turns around the corner and this is just a great time to be a Superman fan.
Here’s a look at the covers for Action Comics #1054 by Steve Beach, Rafa Sandoval, Ibrahim Moustafa, David Talaski and Yasmin Flores Montañez.
Action Comics #1054 sees Superman finally go toe-to-toe with Metallo, and what a spectacle it is! Like I said there are many twists, turns and surprises in this issue alone and it has gotten me very excited to be a Superman fan. Phillip Kennedy Johnson has taken the characters we know, love and in some cases hate to love, and have taken them on a dark, disturbing yet exciting path and I cannot wait to see what’s to come!
I was lucky enough to sit down with writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and ask him a few questions about Action Comics #1054 and what we can expect from the rest of the story arc. We talked about his take on Metallo, the complexities of writing the dynamics between this extended Superman Family and more! But before we get into the interview itself, let’s take a look at the exclusive preview pages which feature art by Max Raynor and colours by Matt Herms.
Tasmin: Hi Phillip, nice to talk to you again. How’s everything?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Great. How are you?
Tasmin: I’m good, thank you. It’s been a while! So today is Superman’s 85th anniversary, as you may know, since the first appearance and Action Comics #1, what does it feel like to contribute to such a legacy?
Phillip: Being a part of Superman’s legacy at any time in history, is a huge honour, but I mean, be able to write Action Comics on his 85th is just more than I ever hoped to get to do in comics. He was my first hero and he just the consummate superhero, right? I mean, he’s the first and greatest and is the template that all the others are modelled after continues to be that and even as other heroes gain or fall in popularity. Superman is one who’s just, you know, one of the most recognisable faces in any kind of fiction and even calling him a fictional character almost doesn’t doesn’t sound right. He’s not just real, he’s better than real, you know. And he’s somebody that that my readers will know and recognise long after I’m gone.
Tasmin: I had the pleasure of reading the issue (Action Comics #1054) already and it’s safe to say the readers are in for a treat. I just wanted to touch on the artwork first of all, so previously, we’ve seen art from Rafa Sandoval in Action Comics. What’s it like to now be working with Max Raynor?
Phillip: Max Raynor is such an amazing guest to bring on to the book. Rafa Sandoval as you know has been crushing it on Action Comics. And yeah, I guess comic schedules being what they are, we wanted to bring in a collaborator for Rafa for this one issue and Max was the obvious choice. He’s just got a beautifully dynamic style that suits the storytelling we’ve been doing on this arc really well, he’s a great fit for Rafa. I loved his designs for Metallo, for all the stuff we have coming up in #1054. So we couldn’t be happier to have Max aboard, Matt Herms is continuing on colours and Dave Sharpe is always on letters. They just made a great team.
Tasmin: Speaking of Metallo, I just wanted to touch on him and your take on the character because this is quite a dark version, slightly haunting, but a very unique take on the character which we’ve never seen before. So talk us through where that concept came from.
Phillip: Yeah, I love Metallo. Metallo was always the one since I came on the book, I’ve been eager to get to get a chance to the show my take on him. In fact, when we were introducing the The Unmade on Warworld, that was partially with Metallica in mind, knowing that we would come back to Earth at some point and that they would play a role in his new upgraded design. I knew I wanted to bring Superman back to Earth at his most powerful ever, and we had to give him a rogue’s gallery that could plausibly hang with him. And so instead of just having him be like a robot, like he normally is, we have to find a way to introduce some kind of, you know, cosmic level structure to it that would make him a match for Superman. So The Unmade was our way to do that also, something I learned actually from Scott Snyder was that whenever you introduce a villain, whether it be new character or an established character, they should be either a twisted mirror image of the hero that they’re facing or the complete antithesis to that character.
That’s what we did with Mongul and Warworld too, for that I was envisioning Superman as the champion of the oppressed like that line from Action Comics #1. That was the concept that we were reversing in Mongul. For Metallo I called upon some famous iconography, the fact that we’re always seeing Superman rushing in to deflect bullets to protect innocence, you know, he just he flies in, in the way of in the path of a gun and the gun fires bullets, they bounce off of his chest, or Superman reaches out and grabs the gun from an attacker and crushes it. So it’s always that gun that Superman is opposing. And, to me, Metallo is a good stand in for this, just the concept of the gun. So, whereas normally we see him like this Terminator-esque figure and not so much a character. I want to actually flesh out who he is as a person like who does he become, who is the under there, and I kind of developed this backstory for this really good decent kid who is exposed to a gun and is fascinated by it. Just addicted to it the way that an alcoholic is when they have the first drink. Over the course a year, he just becomes more and more that gun. That’s the version of Metallo I wanted to show everyone.
Tasmin: I’m not a Metallo expert, but I’ve read a fair few comics featuring him and I think your take definitely gives him a bit more personality. For example, I didn’t know he even had a sister and it’s quite interesting to get to know that and see how protective he is of his family.
Phillip: Yeah, thanks, Tracy is new. I gave him some kind of backstory to make it more interesting. Like, why did he need the gun? If that gun hadn’t showed up his sister would be dead. You know, in a way he has no regrets. It saved him sort of, but it also made him turn into this thing ultimately. Action Comics #1054 is the culmination of that. That conflict we saw begin in #1051 is resolved in this issue with a clear winner. And it’s the big rematch you’ve been waiting for since the issue started.
Tasmin: I particularly love what you’re doing with the Super twins at the moment as well, especially in this issue and also the last one. So I suppose it goes back to what you’re saying with the opposite of Superman. She has the goodness of him, but her methods are very misunderstood and different. Talk us through that part of the story and the implications for her going forward.
Phillip: The subplot between Jon and the Super Twins was a really important one in this arc. I also wanted to show difference between Otho and Osul like, how are they different because we call them Super Twins. But Otho is actually older. Yeah, they look like twins but she is very protective and as they’ve grown up she has been the one to shield him from the worst sides of Warworld. So she’s a little tougher, a little harder and also a little more like Jon was at that age, whereas Osul is just this fun sweet kid. But she’s also just little more quicker to anger and that is when we start to see that contrast more starkly in that previous issue and also in this one. In this one we see how protective she is of the other Warworld refugees that she’s there to protect. That’s made more complicated by the fact that Osul is now a new god, essentially, because of the events of the previous arc, so it kind of makes it makes the relationship a little more complicated.
Tasmin: In the previous issue the Super Twins asked Jon if he hates them, which for them is Ann understandable question. But it’s quite heartbreaking for Jon to hear that. How difficult is it to pull together so many different members of one family and get all the dynamics right?
Phillip: It’s a lot. There’s a lot of characters and we want to do right by all of them. They’re all going to kind of have their time in the spotlight. With this arc, I felt like it was most important to show a lot of Jon and the Super Twins together and show how they’re going to get along and how they all feel about each other. That, to me, was probably the most crucial subplot aside from Metallo himself. So that’s the one that we focused on in these last couple of issues. But in future arcs, we’ll see other characters come to the forefront a little bit more. We’re gonna see more from Kenan, Conner and Kara. There’s just only so many subplots you can really flesh out effectively at a time.
Tasmin: Is there a particular member of that family that is your favourite to write at the moment or most excited about?
Phillip: That’s a hard question, I really can’t say, they’re so different. I mean, I love Kara because she’s the custodian of Kryptonian culture, right? She’s the most Kryptonian of all of them. So I love seeing that aspect. I love writing the young girl who’s seen as the matriarch of the family because she’s a woman that really came from Krypton and remembers it. Conner is super fun and cool to write. I love seeing him and his “bro talk” with Kenan and especially in the upcoming issues it’s really fun to see him and Kenan give each other crap and quote movies to each other. Conner has been teaching him English through action movies and video games and hearing them nerd out on that stuff is really fun.
Tasmin: You know there’s a member of this family that I love and hasn’t been seen for some time… Thao Lar. Can we expect to see her anytime soon?
Phillip: Yes and thats all I can say.
Tasmin: To go back to Metallo. He’s definitely the subject of manipulation. First from Lex Luthor and now from a certain someone who is revealed in this very issue. What can you tell us about this mysterious being and their plans for Superman?
Phillip: So when we first saw Metallo in his new body, it seemed like he was talking to Luthor through his operating system. But in that fight between Superman and Metallo, Metallo got his bell rung pretty good. Superman beats him up and knocks him out of orbit and after that beating the operating system gets a little glitchy, and kind of takes on a life of its own. It seems pretty clear from here that it is not Luthor he’s been talking to. And in Action Comics #1054 (this month’s issue) we finally reveal who the one behind the curtain is and who’s really been speaking to Metallo here. He is the one responsible for the necro-hive. I won’t spoil just yet what his what his plans are, but we add a new twist on a classic villain that I’m pretty excited to reveal.
Tasmin: There seems to be a whole blast from the past vibe going on with comics at the moment with some of the characters that are involved. What’s it like getting to explore those characters and concepts from that era (90’s) and put your own stamp on them?
Phillip: Oh, man, I mean, getting to share an issue credit with Dan Jurgens is the best! He’s writing one of the backups with Lee Weeks and writing his characters in this book is so fun. It’s a huge honour. I mean, putting a new spin on classic characters is one of the things I like to best in comics, I love taking characters that that are already beloved, but still have holes in their history that we have not filled yet and still are new enough that there’s still more to kind of flesh out within those characters histories. It’s really, really rewarding. Introducing new characters is always great, but taking characters that already exist and making them feel more real is better. The one that’s coming up here in this issue ties into the Knight Terrors event this summer, I’ll say that. Knowing what was coming helped me decide where to take the storyline and this character just made a lot of sense to be there.
Tasmin: What aspect of this story arc are you most excited for readers to see?
Phillip: Well, at the end of this issue, and going into the next issue, we see a new expression of Superman’s power, which I’m really excited about. Since Superman’s exposure to the new white sun of Warworld. He’s been more powerful than than he’s ever been. We’ve seen him express that in a few different ways already, he can release his stored energy in these big, powerful bursts like explosions. Much like The Flash he’s phasing through solid objects much more easily and freely than he normally does. In Action Comics #1050, we saw him express his super speed in a way that was essentially teleportation. And in that issue, we also saw him extend his bio electric aura in a way that the power that gives him strength and flight we’ve seen him extend that now outside of his body. Similar to the way that was done in All Star Superman, using it to disassemble Luthor’s armour with just a touch. And now in this month’s issue, we see a new expression of his newfound power levels that I don’t think we’ve ever seen in comics before. Again loosely inspired by a moment from All Star Superman, but taken further, much further. And it definitely poses some questions about what Superman could really be capable of now, and I’m super excited about it.
Tasmin: Awesome! I can’t wait to see where the story goes and thank you so much for your time again Phillip!
Action Comics #1054 is out on Tuesday 25th April and is available from your local comic store.