We recently chatted with Doctor Who scribe and DC Comics writer Paul Cornell about his plans for Lex Luthor, London's premiere crimefighting force Knight and Squire, and what it's like to work with Neil Gaiman.
Cornell's run on Action Comics has been a hoot and a half. With Superman pounding ground across the continental United States, Lex Luthor's been free to search for lost power of the Black Lanterns. This journey is fraught with weirdness, which includes (but is not limited to) Lex's cybernetic Lois Lane sidekick, Gorilla Grodd's "battle spoon" (which he uses to cannibalize foes), and an encounter with Neil Gaiman's Death in next month's issue (the battle with Grodd doesn't go particularly well). Additionally Cornell is penning a miniseries starring Knight and Squire, the UK's own Dynamic Duo. In the course of the series, Cornell's promised to introduce a 100 or new superheroes from across the pond. Here's what Paul told us about these upcoming projects.
First off, in the opening of the first issue of Knight and Squire, the reader is introduced to ~100 new British superheroes. Were these characters you invented for this issue, or have these capes been percolating around in your subconscious for a while?
They're all invented for this issue, the named ones by me, a lot of the background ones by [series artist Jimmy Broxton]. He'll suddenly say 'those two are Hammer and Tongs'. I'm aiming to get to exactly 100 new British characters by the end of the series, with the aim of perplexing and angering the people who make the DC Encyclopedia. Comics fans will need a sturdier shelf for the next volume.
What sort of dynamic do you give Knight and Squire that makes them different from Batman and Robin?
They have a brother and sister thing going. She saved him, as we'll see in issue four, from losing his way, and is still his guide to the subtle stuff. There's a sweet young romance developing for Beryl across the series, and Cyril is very protective of her, yet wants her to be happy.
Are we ever going to see the debut of a big-name all-UK DC superhero team akin to what you did in Captain Britain and MI:13 and Wisdom?
Not in this miniseries, but when The Milkman of Human Kindness gets an ongoing, I hope to spin him off into a team book with Salt of the Earth, Coalface and the Black and White Minstrels. It'd be called JCB, the Justice Club of Britain. Hey, you've got me doing actual work now, making stuff up!
Action Comics is really shaping up to be your definitive Lex Luthor tale. What's your favorite part about writing Lex, and have any particular portrayals of Lex informed how you depict him
I love Lex's conviction that he's for put upon humanity. If that were all he was, the Promethean who wants to take fire from the gods and give it to people, he'd be a great hero. But his human flaws stop him from being. He doesn't know that Superman, really being Clark Kent, who's the real person in that secret identity, is actually a much better human being than he is. The gap between Lex's aspirations and what he actually does is fascinating, and very relatable, in a strange sort of way. We might want to be Superman, but Lex is where we might end up. I identify with that. I love Gene Hackman's charisma, we can see why people follow that Lex, and I love how tawdry Kevin Spacey makes him. That's what always makes him fail.
Everyone's a-buzz about the upcoming appearance of Death in Action. How was it writing Death (an abstruse, metaphysical character) alongside Lex (a big, flashy science character)? What can fans expect from Action 894?
The clash between the two points of view is where the fun lies. Can Lex talk his way out of the ending to the current issue? His science and his power suit can't help him now.
Besides giving the OK to use Death, what sort of role did Neil play in the genesis of this issue?
He looked over the script, and ended up writing a chunk of Death's dialogue. I was well pleased with that, it was like singing with a friend. He does the high notes.
Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
You are all very beautiful. Yes, even you, shy one at the back.
Knight and Squire 1 comes out 10/13, and Action Comics 894 hits shelves 10/27; top image is an alternate cover by P. Craig Russell