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Superman: Son of Kal-El’s Tom Taylor Interview

While Superman goes off-world in the pages of Action Comics, he entrusts his superhero mantle to his son Jon in the new comic series Superman: Son of Kal-El. Co-created by Tom Taylor and John Timms, the DC series shows the Teen of Tomorrow facing off against new and familiar enemies, and contemporary issues plaguing the wider DC Universe. He also sets out to honor his father’s legacy while taking a unique approach towards being a superhero.

In a roundtable interview attended by CBR, Taylor revealed his personal connection to Superman, teased the sorts of enemies Jon will face in the series, and explained what makes Jon a different Superman. Also included in this piece are the cover and preview pages from the series’ first issue, drawn by Timms, colored by Gabe Eltaeb, and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

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During the conference, Taylor observed that while he has been a comic book fan all his life, he always held Superman in high regard. Taylor is particularly fond of Superman: The Movie, starring Christopher Reeve and observed that as he was raised by a single mother, he regarded the Man of Steel as something of a father figure. With this in mind, Taylor felt tremendously honored to be helming the new Superman comic book series.

With Clark Kent’s identity as Superman now public, Taylor teased that this fact will be integral to Jon’s journey in understanding both his and his father’s legacy. “Superman is as recognizable as Coca-Cola, it’s a symbol the whole world knows, so it’s not something Jon can hide from,” Taylor explained, teasing a conversation in the first issue between Jon and Damian Wayne that would touch on this level of visibility.

“John [Timms] brings this amazing energy to everything,” Taylor added. “If you’re familiar with his art, there’s this length to all his characters, they look like they’re leaping forward all the time, ready to spring,” Taylor complimented his artistic collaborator in response to a question from CBR. “In a comic like this, Jon always looks like he’s ready to spring, he’s ready to leap all the time. He’s not his dad, he’s not as mature, he’s facing situations where he has to react and we don’t know how he’s going to react. We know how Clark Kent is going to react to all situations, we don’t know how Jon is going to react. Not only are we getting that sense of action from John Timms, we’re also getting that innocence and naïveté in the facial expressions. He does action and fight scenes brilliantly and the epic and inspiring brilliantly but I think his natural art looks lighter and slender that works perfectly for this book.”

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The opening sequence of Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 features Jon’s birth in the Fortress of Solitude. Taylor felt the scene was necessary and helped distinguish it as a new title and not just a continuation of the ongoing Superman series. The sequence contained Taylor’s mission statement and introduced the character and stakes to new readers while firmly weaving him within the DCU. Taylor found working within the main DCU, as opposed to his previous work on Injustice and DCeased, bearing a different set of responsibilities. However, he still sought to swing for the fences and push boundaries where he could.

One example of Jon pushing against expectations is that while Jon honors his father’s legacy, he will also challenge it. Jon wants to improve upon this legacy and ponders why his father hadn’t solved some ongoing issues taking place in the world. Taylor took the helm on Jon’s adventures after his journey was teased during Future State. CBR asked what it was like writing the character with that possible roadmap for Superman’s legacy hinted at previously.

“What was great was seeing John Timms on that book and seeing where he could take him visually but also I was really lucky because I was able to take on an older version of Jon in DCeased, I was able to write an older Jon for a long time and find his voice and base it on the voice from Super Sons,” Taylor reflected. “My own son is big fan of Super Sons and, before I started DCeased, he said I had to put them in there and gave me all the trades. Learning that voice and seeing how they interact and working out what he sounds like as an adult, I had almost already done that work on DCeased; even though it’s a different universe, it’s still very much Jon.”

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In having Jon facing real-world concerns, Taylor turned to the early issues of Action Comics to reflect how Superman faces contemporary issues within a modern lens. While Jon knows he needs to address these issues with caution, he also approaches these concerns with more raw emotion and a wide-eyed passion than his father possessed. Outside of Damian, Jon doesn’t have many friends and allies around his approximate age on the planet during this timeline, with the Legion of Super-Heroes still in the 31st century. This led Taylor to build a new supporting cast; although, he confirmed that he plans to keep Jon’s friendship with Damian prominently along with giving Lois Lane more a presence. CBR asked how it was for Taylor to lean into the more aspirational and inspirational aspects of Superman after tackling darker directions for the character in his previous, alternate universe work.

“It’s what I love. There are people who are Batman people and there are people are Superman people and I am a Superman person,” Taylor declared. “I love the aspirational, the inspirational and hope and joy over angst and darkness and brooding. These are my favorite stories, I’m sitting there pumping the air as I’m reading them and, if you’re watching Ted Lasso, that is my absolute jam. I want entertainment that not only entertains me but makes me want to be better. That will be a big part for this book and Jon and, as a writer, I like telling positive stories and you can see that with Nightwing. We’re telling a really positive tale about a positive person. And, Jon Kent, raised by Clark Kent and Lois Lane, can’t help but be a positive person. He’s going to have that fire from Lois and that desire to change things but all that compassion from Superman.”

Taylor’s Lois was inspired not only by Margot Kidder, who portrayed Lois Lane in 1978’s Superman and was an activist, but also his mother, and his wife — who was a crime reporter before becoming a doctor. Superman has always been about truth and justice and Taylor hinted that the truth, in particular, will resonate very deeply for Jon through his mother’s example. In addition to the 1978 film, Taylor expressed admiration for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman for All Seasons, and Joe Kelly’s run on the character. Taylor also sees Nightwing and Jon being kindred spirits, in a way, teasing that Dick Grayson may make an appearance in the series. CBR expanded upon this, asking how Jon and Nightwing are similar and different from one another.

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“Superman gave Nightwing his name, there’s a lot that Nightwing looks up to when he sees Clark Kent and I think it’s fair to say there are similarities between the two. Obviously, Nightwing is further along in his journey but there’s a similar idea there in wanting to do good because it’s the right thing to do that both of them share,” Taylor observed. “The difference is Nightwing does what he does on a street-level and Jon can lift mountains which is going to annoy a lot more people and make him a threat to powerful, corrupt people and puts him in the firing line of some really unsavory characters. Obviously Nightwing gets that too but on a smaller level but the difference is Jon is going to go global. When you can fly around the world in a heartbeat, what do borders mean?”

Taylor affirmed that, with his father off-world, Jon will be the Superman of Earth and separated from other Superman titles for a while — including the cloned Superboy Conner Kent, whom Taylor points out is occupied with the Suicide Squad. CBR asked what sort of rogues gallery readers can expect for Jon as he follows in his father’s footsteps.

“We are going to find the first piece of his rogues gallery in Issue #2,” Taylor replied. “There’s going to be somebody that represents a lot of what Jon disagrees with in this world. Someone quite corrupt who is essentially driving people away from a nation and lying about how good their nation is while driving these people away,” Taylor teased. “We’re talking about someone who lies, destroys the planet, somebody who treats people like objects and puts profits before people and puts a spin on their own life that isn’t real. All of that is the antithesis of what Jon believes in and that’s where we’ll get some fireworks… Maybe a farm will explode.”

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Taylor clarified that the teased antagonist isn’t a new villain but in a role that readers haven’t seen him in before. The rest of Jon’s rogues gallery will be a mix of all-new enemies and some of his father’s old foes. Taylor stated that he sees Jon as an inherently empathetic character and that’s something that has always been true for the character and will be evident right from Son of Kal-El‘s opening issue. CBR asked if wider parts of the DCU will be woven into the series, given the reframing of Jon’s birth launching the story and if he will start to push back against conventional authority figures as he establishes his own voice.

“It’s early days but we’re going to see others who are there to support him,” he replied. “This is a young hero and one of the most powerful people in the universe, there are people who are going to be worried about that. Batman might like to have a word but that might be better coming from someone like Nightwing. We’re going to see people who are going to guide and help him and he will be there to help others.”

“There are things that he won’t stand for and there are issues in the world today: We see authoritarianism and people in uniforms who are abusing that,” Taylor continued. “And Jon is a person, due to his age, who is not going to stand by and let innocents get hurt, no matter who is doing the hurting. We’ll see Jon stepping up but also, he’s not going to be perfect at it. He’s a seventeen-year old and a person who has come from a lot of trauma. He’s seen a better world in the future and there’s so much behind him but he is going to make mistakes and do things that are a bit reckless but his dad believes in him and says ‘If you overstep, you’ll do the right thing.’ Clark believes he is the one to do that because he was born on Earth and this is his planet… There are going to be things happening in this book that will hopefully be talked about around the world and we’re going to be challenging some things and I can’t say more but watch this space in a few issues’ time — Issue #5, that’s all I’ll say!”

Written by Tom Taylor and illustrated by John Timms, Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 goes on sale July 27 from DC Comics.

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