Interview: Chris Roberson on Superman

A few weeks back we learned that JMS would be leaving his highly publicized runs on both Superman and Wonder Woman to focus on the Superman: Earth One line of OGN's. That departure left Superman treading rudderless through rural Kentucky in the midst of the not-so popular "Grounded" storyline. But DC was quick to announce that iZombie scribe Chris Roberson would be taking over the reins in 2011. 

I had the opportunity to ask Roberson about his plans for the upcoming issues as well as his thoughts about Superman as a fixture of the larger DCU. 

It was recently announced that you'll be joining Superman in his walk across America, picking up where J. Michael Straczynski left off. What has JMS left in the way of footprints for the rest of the "Grounded" storyline? Is there an existing outline? 

When I signed onboard, the Superman editors Matt Idelson and Wil Moss sent me JMS’s outline for the remaining issues. That the roadmap that I’m working from, if you’ll excuse the pun.


How much room do you have to play with with regard to the plot? Are all of Superman's destinations mapped out or do you have the freedom to take him to one of your own favorite cities? 

Superman’s route across America is pretty well mapped out, and in terms of story there’s a definite endpoint that I have to steer him towards, but along the way there’s a lot of room for side-trips and improvisation. 


Let's talk about your own take on Superman. Do you have a favorite incarnation of the character, whether on the comics page or film or television screen? 

Up until a few years ago, my favorite take on the character was that of Elliot S! Maggin during Julius Schwartz’s Bronze Age tenure. Maggin just managed to capture Superman’s essence in every one of his stories in a way that too many writers haven’t, and his two Superman novels, Last Son of Krypton and Miracle Monday, should be required reading for anyone thinking of writing the character. In recent years, though, Grant Morrison showed that there are still endless new stories that can be told with Superman, and in particular in his All Star Superman and Superman Beyond. And if Morrison hasn’t quite knocked Maggin out of the top spot in my list of favorite Superman writers, it’s a pretty close tie.


Can you tell us about your personal vision of Superman? Who is he and what's important to him at this stage in his life?

Superman is the archetype of the superhero, the ultimate immigrant, the very definition of what it means to be an American and the model of the self-made man. More than anything, though, he represents a simple truth: “There is a right and a wrong in this universe, and the distinction isn’t hard to make.” At the core of “Grounded,” I think, is a Superman who has lost his way. Tragedy has caused him to lose faith in himself and his role in society, and the central theme of the current story arc is him rediscovering the value of the three pillars of Superman: Truth, Justice, and the American Way.


You're perhaps most popular as a writer and publisher of science fiction and fantasy. What is Superman's place in the tradition of science fiction? How much of a role does science, whether hard or weird, play in your leg of the Superman story? 

Superman isn’t a guy who wins by being stronger or faster or tougher than the other guy. He wins because he is SMART. The best Superman stories have always had a bit of science at their core (such as when Superman outsmarts Lex Luthor in All Star Superman by understanding the relativistic effects of high gravity). Science, and science fiction ideas, play a huge role in my part of the “Grounded” story arc, as should become apparent very quickly.


Any plans for Superman's rogues gallery? What's your take on the dynamic between Superman and Luthor?  

Unfortunately, Luthor is off having excellent adventures of his own, under the firm hand of my old friend Paul Cornell, and most of the other usual suspects from the rogues gallery are off the board for the moment. But there may be a surprise or two in “Grounded” before everything is said and done.


Any hints as to where Superman might end up after the conclusion of his cross-country tour? 

If I’ve done my job right, at the end of his trip across America, Superman will be exactly where he’s supposed to be.


  1. Oh Chris, how far we’ve both come. You were my first… interview that is. At least for iFanboy. 

  2. Good Job Paul, glad to see Chris has read those Elliot Maggin novels. They are my defense to those who say the 1970’s superman stories were bad.

  3. I still think that this is so weird. JMS leaving the run and then having someone else tell the story he wanted to tell. That just trips me out. 

  4. @RazorEdge757  if they continue JMS’s story it likely would sell the eventual trades to finish his story and have his name on it. Especially after the success of the Superman Earth One OGN.

    It reminds me of when it was announced that John Cleese was going to write the Superman parody TRUE BRIT with John Byrne, and it instead was released as being written by “Kim Howard Johnson and John Cleese”

  5. @wordballoon  Thanks, John! I actually have Maggin’s Last Son of Krypton sitting on my shelf. I’ll be digging in to that for sure. 

  6. Sounds like 2011 may be a good one for the Man of Steel.  Let’s hope.

  7. Nice to see a local Texan (Austin Texan that is ;)) get a shot at writing Superman.

  8. Who is this Superman, they speak of? :0)