This week, DC Comics has embarked on a brand=new voyage to Superman’s home world with World of Krypton. The six-issue miniseries is written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming (with colors by Nick Filardi).
The especially well-studied DC fan may recognize the name from a very brief, three-issue story from 1979, in which Superman’s father, Jor-El, recounts his own life and adventures before the planet’s destruction. This latest series is very much in the same vein, with Jor-El looking to try and save the planet while the story also examines the duality of Krypton as both a dying world and a haven for robust enlightenment.
With issue #1 out this week, I spoke to both Oeming and Venditti. We talked about the year-long development process, how the story is very much like Star Wars: Rogue One, the layout and look of this book, nd so much more.
AIPT: There are a few series with the same title by creators like John Byrne and Mike Mignola, is this tied into that or any of the other iterations of this series?
Michael Oeming: This will be completely self-contained within itself. Even visually, trying to make it as unique as possible. There are a few homages that I’ve thrown in there especially for me that Byrne, Mignola Krypton was, influential. And Mignola is a huge influence on me. In the first issue, you’ll see I use the headset piece that’s really famous from the covers of the John Byrne pieces. So you’ll see little bits of design in there from there. But yeah, it’s intended to be completely on its own.
AIPT: New reader-friendly, old reader-friendly.
MO: Yeah, it’s definitely meant to be reader-friendly, and to be as just as unique as you can. At every turn, I’m trying to make whatever is relatable, not relatable visually. One of the first things I was thinking of is what did like the ships look like and like their technology? I took design cues from Superman’s outfit. The diamond shapes so you’re gonna see a lot of like 45-degree angles and that diamond shape of his chest will dictate a lot of what I’m doing design-wise. And I also wanted to make sure that some of it just didn’t look like things.
So like, when we’re talking about like the ship, there’s a scene where it where Zod is riding around, and basically his space cop ship and I didn’t want it to look like it had a front or back or windows or your basic visual trappings because there’s plenty of stuff for people to grab onto in the series to relate to–mostly the characters through Roberts writing. So I just wanted to make alien, as alien as I can, even though there are still some visual cues and certain homages I didn’t want to do. And I ended up doing them anyway. Like I promised myself no headbands because it’s such a Silver Age kind of thing, and then the second issue there are headbands.
I wanted to make it as original as possible. The take-off point was Cave Carson. That was the level of weirdness that we wanted to hit, which is why we got Nick Filardi. Back in.
AIPT: I was gonna ask about that, is this the first time you’ve worked with Nick since Cave Carson?
MAO: Just on Powers. That last Powers streak that we did was so big. It lasted years. It was years in the making, but it’s been a while since I’ve really been able to work with Nick and he’s my other partner. You know, it’s my wife Taki. And Nick, the two of them are my coloring partners.
AIPT: Was there any particular creatures you wanted to get in the series?
Robert Venditti: The main creature I want to get in there was the Thought-Beast. Every time I do something in the Super universe, I try to get Thought-Beasts in there somewhere. Even when I did the Hawkman series, and I think it was issue eight you find out that there was a Kryptonian Hawkman I even had Thought-Beasts in that issue, too. I just love the concept of them. It’s such a great Silver Age idea.
I went back for research I read sort of all the previous World of Krypton stories that had been done over the decades, and there were certain things that could Jewel Mountains are mentioned in one of the World of Krypton stories and, and that they are formed from the bones of these giant bird-like creatures from way back in prehistoric Krypton. And so in the opening scene of the first issue, the naturalist who’s studying the Thought-Beast mentions a residual memory in the bones of these old mountains. I tried to populate it with things like that.
AIPT: Well, you were talking about aliens there for a bit. I love the Thought-Beasts. The look and feel of them are a little different from some of the other iterations we’ve seen. Might we see other beasts from Krypton?
MAO: I have like my map in my reference file, there was a whole episode of Superman or something and they did like a zoo of Krypton. I’ve made sure that like there’s an issue two there’s a museum scene where they’re walking through a museum of the history of Krypton. So I threw in a couple of creatures that I pulled from there. As I said, I’m trying to make some things completely unrecognizable and other things more of a touchstone for it for fans and stuff. The Thought-Beast actually plays a pretty real part in the story. I’ll let Robert talk more about why he’s using them.
RV: There is an important ecological event that we open the story with. Everyone knows exactly how the story is going to end. And by everybody, like you can’t go anywhere on planet Earth and find people who don’t know that Krypton exploded. It’s interesting to build a story in that regard. But it’s a double challenge because whereas you take something like Rogue One, which I absolutely love, it built out an entire story, based on one line from a previous film, you didn’t know who those characters were, you never saw them on screen, you’ve never interacted with them in any previous stories. So when they show up in Rogue One for the first time, they’re able to build an entire story and all these characters out of that one sentence.
Krypton is different because we know these characters. These Thought-Beasts are key in the sense that they are a bellwether event of something that we all know is going to come, but we’ve never really seen it come in the way that we’re going to show it in the story. And, you know, really, it’s a story about the friendship between Jor-El and Zod. And as their friendship deteriorates, so is Krypton deteriorating around them.
AIPT: Why do you suppose Krypton continues to come back and play a part in the zeitgeist?
MAO: Well, I have a fairly jaded view of things, and I’m trying to work on that. But I think it makes sense, the world feels like it’s falling apart. So I think that’s why these stories keep coming back. You know, it’s a warning whether it’s an environmental catastrophe, whether it’s our own hubris and technology that’s going to destroy us. That’s why the story keeps coming back.
RV: That’s kind of what intrigued me about doing World of Krypton, to begin with. Aside from me being obviously just having a huge love for the Superman mythology and wanting to spend time in that world whenever I can. There’s the element of the challenge of writing a story like this, and being able to work within this kind of framework. I’m always trying to challenge myself with stories that I take on. And this is a challenge that I’ve never really attempted before. So I loved to be given an opportunity like that.
AIPT: How did the project come about? Were you approached by DC to do this title? Or did you and Robert come together and bring up the idea together?
MAO: Way back when I think it was leading into the Midnighter stuff, the short stories that were in Action Comics, Jamie Rich at the time, approached me about it and was like, “Hey, here’s an idea. We’re thinking let’s go weird. So we thought you and Cave Carson and all those layouts and stuff.” Comics are weird. You don’t always know you have a job until a script shows up and that was kind of what happened here was I just went on about my business months later and then one day a script and deadlines show up and then just get right into it.
RV: It’s a project that I’ve been talking to Jaime Rich outside for almost two years. Yeah. And you just never know if it’s going to get off the ground because everything was changing in so many different ways with the way printing plants are working, and distribution was working, and all those kinds of things.
Then when I find out that Mike was actually going to be the one drawing the book, I was just so excited about that, because some of the earliest comic books that I read, coming into comics very late, where the Powers series, which was new when I started reading comics. I’ve been a fan of Mike’s work ever since. And I think what he’s doing on this series, is just so inventive, and so creative in the way that, you know, he’s just kind of able to envision and make it his version of Krypton.
AIPT: Is it an industry where just always say yes, kind of thing?
MAO: Yeah, I mean, in my case it is. I work fast. And I work on multiple projects, typically. Some of that’s for financial reasons, you know because I do a lot of creator-owned stuff. And a lot of that is a roll of the dice, and you don’t know how you’re gonna do so. I’ve definitely built a figure it out later kind of theory, which usually comes down to just really tight scheduling on your deadlines. And that can change from like, day to day, week to week. And I’m very serious about my deadlines. Like I’m missing one right now. And it’s driving me nuts.
AIPT: Has there been a character that’s emerged as a surprise favorite, as you’ve written the series
RV: I’ve never really had a chance to write Jor-El and this way, you know, and I know that sounds maybe a little strange, because I’m running Superman ’78 right now, and they’re both happening at the same time. But really, the Donner-verse version of Jor-El is, I consider them to be two completely different characters. I have them completely separate in my mind. I’ve enjoyed writing this version of Jor-El very much. I don’t believe I’ve ever written the comic book continuity version of Jor-El.
AIPT: Is DC allowing you guys to do whatever you want as far as introducing new technology, or new animals or new locations, stuff like that?
MAO: They want us to be as inventive as possible and creating new characters and settings is always good. Because that’s, not to sound crass, but the company owns it?
AIPT: More IP for them.
MAO: Sure. The sort of mission statement from the beginning was always “go for it.” Give us something different, you know, if we’re going to retell this story, obviously, it’s not about what happens at the end, right? It’s like watching Titanic, it’s not about the ending. This is really about the characters, which is one of the things that I love is, is the character relationships, and that Robert has set up here and what their motivations are, why they think doing something to save the planet is more important than, say, the humanity around the planet and stuff or vice versa. Our editor, Christy Quinn’s just trusting us.
RV: It’s a little bit of both, right? Like, you don’t want to make it so foreign that it becomes alienating, because there are certain expectations of things? Even with the headbands, Michael did some things there that are really cool to look at, too. There’s plenty of trying to make this our version of Krypton visually. There really isn’t just giant volumes of information that’s been conveyed about it. So there is a lot of open areas there for you to run around. And we certainly take advantage of that as well.
AIPT: Something I really like about the visuals is the border you’re putting on a lot of the panels as if we’re looking at a screen.
MAO: What was interesting was I had a breakthrough with panel breakdowns or panel shapes when I was working on Cave Carson. And I was really playing around with how wild can I get on the page with layouts? How much can I can I change the storytelling flow, and I found some really interesting stuff.
A corner panel and a rounded panel say very different things, they can either set a tone very differently, like this is a softer feeling. It’s a more welcoming feeling. So it’s rounded. If it’s harsh, then it’s sharp squared corners and such. The first thing I had in mind was actually, that panel design. Breaking down, Superman’s emblem. So if you look at the panel, it’s all horizontal, up and down at 45-degree angles. It’s just a deconstruction of Superman’s.
AIPT: I also noticed, the border will even fold over into another panel, which is so neat, I don’t know, it’s just like adding this movement.
MAO: That’s the part that I figured out you can do things to the sides, just placing them in places, but there could be a language within the panel, thicker, is that panel outline thicker on this side, or thinner on that side. The more you can find ways to tell a story, every single beat, the stronger it’ll be.
AIPT: It’s early yet, and I know this is a mini-series but is there any desire to return with a sequel series?
RV: Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s always more story you can tell with any of these kinds of things. That’s up to DC. I mean, we’re telling a complete six-issue story. In the same way that Wilfredo and I are telling a complete six-issue story with Superman ’78. But in either instance, if somebody comes back and says, we want to do more stories set either in the ’78 universe or pre-death of Krypton, there are plenty more stories in there. You know, I would love to work with Mike again on another Krypton story if the opportunity arises.
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