Chris Roberson Dishes On Superman, JMS, Moslem Sharif and more
The following is taken from the War Rocket Ajax Podcast interview with Chris Roberson.
It is suggested you listen for yourself (.mp3 - around the 35:00 mark), as this is a general - ie not exact - transcription.
However, it does give a basis for the last year's worth of Superman issues that saw J. Michael Straczynksi come on board with "Grounded," only to leave and have Chris Roberson finish, and also see the controversial Muslim, Sharif, super hero story get pulled.
On DC Relaunch:
Roberson new really early on that he wouldn't be writing anymore Superman issues after #714.
He knew DC had something planned, so he structured #714 to be his big farewell to the character.
He put in everything that he personally wanted to see put into a story.
He hoped he could get a spinoff title, that wouldn't be the flagship title, but would be like a sub Super-family book.
He found out about the reboot when everybody else did.
"It's a 'relaunch' not a reboot. That thing where they are totally changing the characters origins and characteristics," Roberson remarked.
He had already turned in #713, and had done a few pages for #714 when he found out what it was they were going to be doing.
On the last page of "Superman #714":
#714 is basically identical to what he originally planned, but he did put in one or two little grace notes of dialogue knowing that this would be the farewell to this version of the character.
The last page with Superman and Lois was always going to be Superman winking at the reader referencing the super people from the future, but actually a nod to Superman of the past and passing the "fourth wall."
He added a few bits of business about what the future held for Lois and Clark, and their relationship, knowing that Clark and Lois would no longer be married in a month.
In the script there is a part where the Supergirl of the future references Lois' death. The Future Super Woman says their love is greater than death etc. and that they would be forced apart from time to time, but would always find their way back together again.
DC Editorial had an issue with that, as they thought the reader would think of this as a commentary on the Relaunch, "which candidly it might be," notes Roberson.
Roberson told them "no" it refers to DC One Million where Lois dies in the future and gets reborn as a super being and goes on to live with Superman.
DC ED said, "ok that's fine," but wanted a scene referencing that in the book, which was included.
"So when I signed on in October of last year they gave me a one page...you know...you can charitably call it an outline...written by Straczynksi where he saw the remaining issues going. I think it was drafted at a point where he assumed he would be writing them. So this is what he is giving DC Editorial to draft solicitation copy."
"Apparently at some point soon after that, before Superman: Earth One has come out, Straczynksi decides that the monthy books don't matter anymore because he knows there is a relaunch coming so he can comfortably quit and let somebody else finish the story for him."
Roberson is then asked, "So he [JMS] knew that early?"
With Roberson responding, "I was offered the job before Superman: Earth One came out."
Roberson continues, "But then the story was, you know, that Superman: Earth One has done so well that I [JMS] was asked by DC to step back and just do Earth One: Book Two or whatever."
"But no, he was already off the books by then."
On Taking Over From JMS:
Roberson then explains that basically everything in his issues was his. He just had to follow the Superman walking from various city to city, and keep the Wonder Woman and Flash appearances.
Roberson is then asked about the contents of JMS' outline and how different it is. Roberson says it was very different than what he did.
Roberson couldn't make sense of some of the issues. There was one with a guest appearance by Deadman, but was told he couldn't use that story because of Deadman's role in Brightest Day, which was fine because Roberson couldn't figure out how to make that story work.
There is another story where he couldn't get his head around where Superman goes to LA and gets embroiled in a gang war between the Blacks and the Skinheads. The resolution is that two bullets are fired, and that Superman is only fast enough to stop one of them.
"Because as we all know from Superman's credo that he is exactly as fast as one speeding bullet," remarks Roberson.
So Superman has to choose who to save.
The outline was dreary, it was filled with all the things Superman can't do, here's all the things that Superman is limited by, and the real world problems that are beyond his ability to effect.
The end of the outline had some business about this woman who ends up being crucial to the story, but only appears in chapter 4, this teacher from Ohio -- and Roberson couldn't make sense of that either.
So what he did was take it from the perspective that he wouldn't be able to tell another Superman story, and tell one that would be awesome. In addition to trying to fix the errors presented in the first four chapters.
On Sharif, the Moslem super hero from "Superman #712":
Roberson was never giving any explanation as to why.
Roberson then explains the character of Sharif, how it would be similar to Superman, an alien adapting to a new society etc. However, some people when they realized who saved them, didn't like it. Character designs were made up, logos, the cover was done etc. Sharif (meaning protector) would have a similar Shield as Superman's, but with the Arabic letter "S."
Roberson first knew there was going to problems when the solicitation was released with a different cover. It was cropted and parts were missing. However, you could see the full cover in #711 - but DC took out the Superman Shield from around Sharif's Arabic "S," as they didn't want it associated with an Arabic letter.
The script went through almost a half dozen revisions before it was approved by Editorial -- it was toned down; the fear and hysteria in the book about a super powered Muslim was toned down.
The end of the issue sees Superman confront Sharif and tell him maybe he should wear a mask or not use the symbol to better help people. Sharif then confronts Superman about being an alien from another planet, about wearing the Kryptonian symbol and about his people trying to destroy the earth a year earlier. Sharif says Superman doesn't hide who he is, and Superman is accepted as an American, why should he be any different?
And this leads directly into #713, about Superman making the decision he makes that maybe he should stop being Superman, and go unnoticed saving people.
And then DC decides not to publish it.
Roberson then goes through annotations of Superman #714 and his own thoughts on the Man Of Steel - including that the DCU revolves around Big Blue! He also takes questions from Twitter followers, and talks Starborn and Stan Lee!
Head on over to War Rocket Ajax for more.