Interview: Paul Cornell On Action Comics

You've undoubtedly heard the big news by now; Paul Cornell, best known in comics circles as the Hugo award-nominated writer of Marvel's Captain Britain and MI-13, has signed an exclusive contract with their crosstown competitors, DC Comics. Paul's work in and out of comics (he's also acclaimed for his work on the British television series Doctor Who) has attracted a vocal fan following, and this news is sure to create quite a stir. His first assignment is on the DC title that started it all, Action Comics, but this time around, the spotlight is on Superman's archenemy, Lex Luthor. I spoke with Paul to learn more about the plans, which get underway in Action Comics #890, and get his thoughts on the exclusive.


Matt Adler: Ok, let's get the biggest news out of the way first; what led to you signing an exclusive with DC Comics?

Paul Cornell: I was excited by the titles I was offered, the characters and the direction. And being contracted to provide regular pages does focus the mind! I love the demands of a serial.

MA: How did it feel to get called on to write for Action Comics, of all titles? Do you see it as an acknowledgement of your work across town at Marvel (for which you've been nominated for a Hugo award)?

PC: I'm very flattered. I guess it is an acknowledgement. I'm very proud of a lot of what I did at Marvel.

MA: What's your relationship been like with DC so far?

PC: Great.  I'm loving the teams I'm now part of. The same kind of supportive folk I knew at Marvel. There really don't seem to be many villains in the comics business.

MA: From what's been announced, Action Comics will focus solely on Lex Luthor, while Superman's adventures will be chronicled in the pages of Joe Straczynski's Superman. What are the advantages to that set-up, as you see it?

PC: Well, I get to tell a unique story, Supervillain Punch Up if you will. Lex vs. A gallery of the DCU's greatest. Most of them from outside his genre and comfort zone. And we both get free play with our leads.

MA: Given that you stepped in when Marc Guggenheim, who was originally slated for the book, moved on to other assignments, were some pieces of this storyline already in place, or did you start from scratch?

PC: No, I started from scratch, having been assigned Lex, and then asked what I'd like to do with him.

MA: What's the current status of Luthor as we head into your run? He's in the clear legally and back in control of his company, right? Is the public aware of his crimes?

PC: Yes, I'm sure they are. So Lex is keeping his head down in terms of public profile. But he's also got his eye on a prize which will make such concerns irrelevant.

MA: You've mentioned Luthor is on a quest of sorts, having tasted the power of the Orange Lantern ring during Blackest Night and wanting more. Is he going to settle for just getting the Orange Ring back?

PC: No, the Orange Ring put a need in him, a much less considered need for power, right now. He's always been a long-term plan kind of guy, but now he finds himself having to fight the immediacy of his desires. The only way he can sort that itch is by scratching it.

MA: Will he be dealing with fallout from his role in the destruction of New Krypton?

PC: No, that's not our story. Though obviously, everything that happened happened.

MA: What drives Lex Luthor? What is his greatest weakness?

PC: He could be the modern Prometheus and steal fire from the gods and give it to ordinary human people, and be such a great hero… Apart from his glaring human flaw, his egotistic need to destroy Superman before helping humanity, to be the biggest man before all else. I think that's because, somewhere deep inside, he realises that Superman is better at being a *human being* than he is.  I think Lex knows his own mind and his own weaknesses really well, but what he says out loud is a different matter.

MA: Your collaborator here is artist Pete Woods. Are you and he in fairly regular communication, and what has it been like working with him so far?

PC: Yeah, we're back and forth all the time. I'm loving his style, all those clean lines, great acting, little smirks and eyebrow raises. Quite a European style in some ways.

MA: There was a bit of a tempest some weeks back when you teased that Lois Lane would become Lex Luthor's girlfriend, and I think I recall you mentioning that you even heard about this from some people in your daily life. What is it about these characters where even a hint that a writer might do something that isn't "true" to them inspires such fury?

PC: Yeah, an old college friend of my wife was so worried she got in touch! I think it's great that these guys are so big and iconic and mainstream that they accumulate associated emotion, like pop music does.

MA: Any teases on what we have to look forward to in upcoming issues? Any special guest-stars?

PC: OH Yes! One in particular, maybe a couple more, that will make people sit up and take notice.

MA: To switch gears for a moment, what do you have still in the hopper at Marvel?

PC: A Spitfire one-shot is out this summer, her and Blade going hunting in New York.

MA: What else are you working on these days?

PC: I'm waiting to hear if my BBC pilot, Pulse, goes to series, and I have a novel coming out from Tor next year.


Matt Adler wants the Orange Power Ring too. Preciousss…


  1. Fun interview. With so many books coming out I had decided to trade wait on Action Comics, but since some of the new books didn’t exactly tickle my fancy I just might give this book a chance in singles.

    Great interview, Matt! And good luck to Paul at DC. Can’t wait to see what he does there. 

  2. Lex Luthor-centric comic should be interesting. I’m guessing something big and nasty will happen with Lex and Supes in #900. That’s what she said.

  3. I read this and the only thing I can concentrate on is : "A Spitfire one-shot is out this summer, her and Blade going hunting in New York."

    Fucking Awesome.

  4. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Paul Cornel on a DC exclusive? God Damn you bastards for not buying his Marvel work. Everyone who didn’t buy Captain Britain and MI-13 can die in a fire! Cornell trapped for years on *choke* Kal-El and crew? Damnit! Crap! Heck!

    In short, I’m not happy. 

  5. Cant wait to see what else he gets his hands on in the DCU. As for Action Comics, wake me up when Supes is the main character again and then I’ll start reading.

  6. I’m intrugued and will be picking this up. But is it really such a great idea to embark on a SECOND year of no Superman in his "home" book? And in the other book we’re getting a year of Superman…walking around like Kane in Kung Fu.

    We’ve just finished a huge multi-year arc in the Super-books. Would it have killed them to give us some shorter, classic-style Superman for a while?