At some point in our life, we’ve all read a Superman comic, seen a Superman movie or watched a Superman cartoon or TV show. With a history that now extends over 75 years, we likely know the Man of Steel better than we know some of our friends and family. We know all about his life, his friends and his enemies. We know his powers and we know his history. In fact, there’s very little about Superman that we don’t know.
So to say that “surprising” is far and away the best word we can think of to describe SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN is no small thing. With issue #3 on the stands today, screenwriter Max Landis’ look at Superman as a young man is a startling reminder of how relevant the Man of Steel remains and the importance of new original voices within the realm of super hero comics. Set outside of continuity, Superman: American Alien explores Clark Kent’s development by looking in on seven key moments from his youth. With each issue being brought to life by a different superstar artist (the amazing Joelle Jones illustrates today’s new chapter), it’s a glimpse into a hero’s development in a way we’re unaccustomed to seeing—small pieces of a much larger image that only starts to come together as the series progresses.
With the comic nearing its halfway point, we felt it was long past time to talk to Landis about his most substantial super hero project since Chronicle and one of the best miniseries currently on the stands.
Art by Ryan Sook
Max, take us back a bit. How did Superman: American Alien come about?
I've been obsessed with Superman since I was little, and as I grew up, I slowly started putting out material having to do with the character. The first was my short film The Death And Return of Superman, then I released an opinion piece called Regarding Clark, and at around that time DC started reaching out to me. I feel extremely lucky and proud that my previous work in Adventures of Superman was well received enough to merit me getting my own series; I pitched the idea about three times, and the third time was the charm.
Can you explain Superman: American Alien’s narrative for those who aren’t familiar with it?
Well, it's not a narrative any more than your life is a narrative. This isn't one Superman adventure story; it's seven short stories from Clark's life, all of which represent important junctures in his development as a person, but none of which can really be pointed at with any certainty as "this made him who he is." It's really more meant as a tone poem, so to speak. I write Superman a bit differently than I've seen him presented in the past; nothing revolutionary, but different. This has always guided how I've appreciated the character; my idea of who he should be, and how I would write him, and I think this is the realest ever opportunity I'll ever get to put my money where my mouth is.
Art by Joelle Jones (Colors by Rico Renzi)
What was the thought process behind different artists for each issue?
Because life has different artists, you know? They're seven stories from seven totally different parts of Clark's life; you don't tell a story from when you were eight the same way as you tell a story from when you were eighteen. They couldn't have the same artists—it would be a total waste of time. Jock, Jae Lee, Tommy Lee Edwards, Nick Dragotta, Francis Manapul, Joëlle Jones, Jonathan Case and Ryan Sook are honestly, to me, the most impressive part. We’ve been so lucky to get just the absolute best people for this job. I'm not even exaggerating. My editor and I approached each artist for each issue based on the tone of that issue, and it worked out better than we ever could've imagined. The sweet issues are sweet, the sexy issues are sexy, the violent issue is brutal. It's wonderful.
When readers have finished the seven issues, what do you hope they’ve gotten from it?
I want people who've never read a Superman book to frantically want to read more Superman. I want to present a more round version of the character than is usually portrayed. That's not to say mine is better, but it is different, and cool, and fun in a way that you're not used to from this super hero. We're getting into the nitty gritty here, not the dark and gritty. We're coming at this from a different angle. I want people to see the man, as he grows, as he grew, not the powers or the cape or some "new spin" on the character. I want to do the first Clark Kent comic that isn't about him being Superman. Because honestly, I think Superman has been written by some of the greatest minds in comics, and I don't think he has much left to say.
Is there anything else you want readers to know about SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN?
Yes. Go buy it. Issue one is heartwarming, two is brutal, three is sexy, four will make you think, five's thrilling, six might make you cry and seven...seven has the most violent fight you've ever seen featuring Clark Kent. It's worth your money. This has been my dream since I was ten years old. Come on this journey with me and Clark. C'mon.
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #3 is now available in print and as a digital download.