After working on a character in four different decades of your life, what would you come up with if you had to write one last story?
Artist/writer Dan Jurgens faces that very dilemma. His last Action Comics story will be the Action Comics Special #1 out May 2 and, fittingly, he's also contributing to the monumental anniversary issue, Action Comics #1000, which is out this Wednesday.
Jurgens is finishing up a two-and-a-half-year run on the DC's Rebirth era of Action Comics before passing the baton to Brian Michael Bendis. It marks a major moment in his career, as Jurgens has been there at Superman's brightest and darkest days, having written and/or drawn over two dozen different Superman-related projects, specials or monthly titles.
His impact on the Man of Steel is indelible: He was part of the creative team behind "The Death of Superman" and created Doomsday, Cyborg Superman, and Booster Gold. Jurgens also contributed to Superman: The Wedding Album, in which Superman wed Lois Lane; he wrote and drew Zero Hour, Metamorpho: Yeah One, Teen Titans, Metal Men, and Justice League of America; and he developed the Tangent Comics imprint.
SYFY WIRE spoke to Jurgens and inker Norm Rapmund about the biggest landmark comic of the year and has previews of the art used for their story.
Did you take a different approach for this big anniversary issue, to create something for all of the new eyes and old fans alike?
Dan Jurgens: I felt like I owed the character something, in part because I have been working on the character for so long. When you get down to it, Superman has done a lot for me.
The story I came up with is how would Metropolis say "thank you"? What does that mean, and how does that fit into something that would be thematically appropriate for Superman? Of course, I wanted to draw it with Norm. We first worked together on Superman: The Doomsday Wars (1998-1999), 20 years ago. He was the perfect guy to come in and ink the story.
Having that history of working together, Norm, what was it like to come back and work on this key issue with Dan?
Norm Raymond: Every time I ink Dan, I know what to do, but knowing it's Action Comics #1000, I don't think I ever thought so much about a project as much as I did about this. Then I was referencing the work we did together on Time Masters: Vanishing Point (2010), because I really loved how Dan's Superman looked in there.
DJ: To be fair, you said you were a little nervous, and that happens on a special project sometimes. You know a lot more attention is going to get paid to it, and it makes you think twice about some things. It makes you sweat the details a little more.
NR: Once he's got the story down, it comes down to how much more can I improve Dan's look? On one page, I decided to change it up to see how far I could go and realized I had to change it back [laughs].
DJ: It's not just another page 9 [laughs].
There are many ways to approach an anniversary issue, Dan, were there other ideas, or was this the way to cap off this run?
DJ: I knew it was coming for a long time. The first meeting I ever had for Action #957, someone said, "And then you'll do Issue #1000," I said, "Let's hold back for a second. There's a lot of story to get there." But I always knew it was in the background.
From time to time different ideas came up, but somehow I thought it should be a stand-alone story, it should make some kind of statement about Superman and those around Superman, especially Lois. It's always worth remembering that Lois also appeared in Action Comics #1, which was way ahead of its time. In the world of 1938, they decided to have a female reporter, who was totally independent, out there doing hard-hitting investigative journalism. So it has to involve Lois a little bit as well, and I think I found a solution that works.
Where do you put Action #1000 with other landmark issues for Superman?
DJ: Obviously for me, Superman #75, "Death of Superman," is always going to be Top 2 or 3, if not number one. When I look back on other important issues of Superman, there was Superman #400, which was this awesome celebration of who Superman was with a fabulous lineup of creators. Or Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, where Superman goes toe to toe with Ali. That was so incredibly done by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams. There have been many others; you hope that 20 years from now someone will say that about Action #1000.
NR: Seeing Superman in Time magazine by John Byrne and Jerry Ordway for Superman's 50th. It wasn't just comic people seeing it, it was the world seeing that. For me, though, Action #1000 is the biggest Superman event I've ever been a part of, so I couldn't be more excited.
You've both seen the public reaction towards Superman change over the years. How do you think Superman fits in today's narrative?
DJ: If Superman stands for moral integrity and a certain sense of hope, optimism, and doing the right thing, then the idea is look at the world around you. Do we need that more than we did yesterday? That's how you start to answer the question if Superman is still relevant. To me, I think he's more relevant than ever; that's what gives him a particularly intriguing future. As these things bubble up around us, and all the questions we have right now, yeah, I think there's always a place for Superman.
NR: Can you imagine a world without him? You really can't.
Has working on Action #1000 inspired more Superman down the road, or is this a good place to walk away?
DJ: There aren't that many times when we have something that can be a little poetic. One of the things that's poetic is yes, I'm ending my run on Action Comics, but at the same time it's serving as a springboard for Brian Michael Bendis to go forward with Action and the whole Superman franchise. There's something very nice about that, and it's nice that it can happen in the same issue. I wish Brian all the best moving forward.
To what I said earlier, "There's a lot of story before we get to Issue #1000." Well, we got there, and it's nice being able to be a part of it, and it not just be the termination of something but be the part of something new.