Superman has always been a force for good in the world, saving the planet from the most lethal and destructive forces imaginable. That’s who he is, and even in the futuristic world of Superman Beyond, it hasn’t changed. But starting with tomorrow’s exciting SUPERMAN BEYOND #11, he’s going about it in an entirely new way.
After decades in the public eye as the world’s most famous super hero, the Man of Steel is taking on a new secret identity and a new career. Introducing Kal Kent, Metropolis’ newest firefighter.
“When DC asked me about doing Superman Beyond, the first arc quickly became a story about Superman finding his place in a world where most of his friends and family have died,” explains J.T. Krul, the writer of the popular digital first comic. “He felt out of place, alone and isolated. What he came to realize is that it wasn't Superman that was without a life – there would always be a need for the world's greatest super hero. Rather, it was Clark Kent who found himself on the outside of the bubble looking in to a world that he was no longer a part of.
“He needed a new identity and a new path. Say hello to Kal Kent.”
With a lifespan longer than that of a human, it’s hardly surprising that Kal-El would have to reinvent himself occasionally to maintain his secret identity. In the world of Superman Beyond, this eventually led to him leaving the Daily Planet and his life as a reporter behind to essentially become a full-time super hero for many years. However, he eventually realized that this left him without the human connection that his secret identity provided. So now, years after leaving his last “day job,” Kal-El's decided that it's time for him to go back to work.
While this new career path and new identity may seem like a dramatic change from that of “mild-mannered Clark Kent,” it makes a lot of sense when you break it down, says Krul.
“We quickly decided that he would leave the world of reporting behind, due in part to the changing dynamic of that career – he wasn't interested in writing stories encapsulated in a 140-character tweet. So the question was asked… What career would our new man of Metropolis choose?
“The answer came quickly – firefighter. Think about it. Firefighters are the ultimate first responders, called in to any and every situation. But unlike, say, police officers, firefighters are not there to lay down the law or pass judgment, figuring out who was right or wrong. They are simply there to help – to save the day. Sound familiar?”
A game-changing storyline like this deserves an amazing cover, and Superman Beyond’s crack team of artists proved more than up to the task with Superman Beyond #11’s fiery first screen.
“When designing the cover for this issue, we wanted to introduce Superman's new career by paying homage to the classic images of the transformation between Clark Kent and Superman,” series penciler Howard Porter elaborates. “We witness our hero ripping open his suit to reveal the Superman symbol on his chest, but we see that Clark ‘Kal’ Kent has traded his blue suit and tie in for a somewhat traditional firefighter suit with a twist. The suit has been infused with various technological updates, most notably the holographic visor which can both protect and relay information. Also, even though the need for glasses in the future might be eliminated, we decided to keep a futuristic version of Kent's iconic eyewear. After all, Mr. Kent is an old fashioned guy with a fortress full of nostalgia and if he could, he would probably craft e-mails using a vintage typewriter.”
Series colorist Carrie Strachan concurs. “I was excited to get started when I was sent this cover; it's so dynamic! I love how it's a slight skewing of the classic ‘Clark rips open his shirt to reveal the Superman insignia on his costume’ pose. (Hey, do you think people were constantly finding discarded suits all over Metropolis or did Superman go back and get them?)
“Anyway, the challenge with this cover was to make sure that Clark didn't get lost in all that fire. So, I had to make the fire and the room a little more red than I normally would and Clark's suit a little more yellow. The light from the camera on Clark's helmet also helps pull the viewer's eye toward the white Superman symbol. (I love the little futuristic touch of the camera in Clark's helmet, by the way.)”
Of course, if you’re worried that Superman Beyond is going to turn into a futuristic spin on Chicago Fire, Krul says you can let those worries…well…go up in smoke. This is a Superman comic, after all.
“Kal Kent’s straight-forward ‘do good’ attitude is put to the test in this new story as actions from Superman's past come back to haunt him,” he teases. “Problems aren't always back-and-white. They are complex and messy, and so can be the solutions (if they even exist). Once many years ago, Superman tried to make a difference on another alien planet, but the fallout from his actions has left scars, and now those he affected – the Trillians – have come looking for a bit of their own justice.”
Some early Trillian designs by Porter
A new secret identity, firefighting action and vengeful aliens to boot. It’s pretty hard to imagine how any Superman fan could pass that up, but if anyone needs further convincing, Krul offers up one last tidbit about the storyline: “Oh yeah, and the Trillians brought Lobo with them for some added muscle.”
Take a gander at these pages from tomorrow’s new chapter, and then be sure to download Superman Beyond #11 tomorrow in the DC Digital Comics Store. It’s an exciting new twist in the life of the Man of Steel that only adds to what’s already been a banner year for our favorite Kryptonian. As Krul puts it, “Superman's in for one hell of a ride, and you won't believe what he encounters along the way.”