Interview: Greg Pak Talks The Dangerous Atmosphere Of ‘Batman/Superman’

By Matt D. Wilson

Avid DC readers have seen Batman and Superman thrown together in a lot of contexts, but most times, they’re quite familiar with each other.

In writer Greg Pak and artist Jae Lee’s new series “Batman/Superman,” launching June 5, it won’t be like that. Readers will see the first-ever meeting between the two heroes and, at least at first, they won’t be super friendly.

I took a few minutes to chat with Pak about what’s in store for the pair.

MTV Geek: The solicitation for this first issue says that this is going to tell the story of the first meeting between Batman and Superman in The New 52. It seems like we’ve already seen that in the first Justice League issue. How is this going to differ from that story?

Greg Pak: Our story takes place around the time of [Grant] Morrison’s “Action [Comics]” #1. So it takes place when both of these guys are very young and very new to the whole superhero thing. Exactly how the continuity fits together will be revealed in the fullness of time. I don’t want to spill the beans just yet, because that will be a spoiler, but rest assured it will all make sense.

We’re going to have this fantastic opportunity to see how these very young guys view each other. Imagine finding out for the first time about some guy who runs around in a bat costume fighting crime or some guy with these insane powers doing the same thing. Each hero’s reaction to the other is going to surprise folks a little bit, because they’re both so new. Their reactions to each other are going to be a lot more dangerous than you’re used to thinking about when you think about Batman and Superman.

Geek: Jae Lee is an artist I like a lot, but he’s not the first artist I would guess would be doing the art on a title like this. How did he end up being the artist on this book?

Pak: When I was first approached about the book, Eddie Berganza at DC Comics is the editor, and he mentioned Jae Lee, and I said, “Yes, please.” I actually worked with Jae Lee on my second professional comics project of all time. Way back in the day, I did a comic-book tie-in to a video game called Marvel Nemesis. Jae did the covers. Ever since then I’d been dying to work with him again.

First off, Jae Lee drawing Batman, that’s a total no-brainer. He does the gothic, ornate darkness like nobody’s business. He’s just incredible for that. But I was really excited about seeing Jae’s Superman. If you’ve been following what Jae’s been doing recently, look at his [“Before Watchmen”] “Ozymandias” book for example, he’s got depth and range that’s just amazing. His ability to take on a more sunshiney character like Superman, I was just really excited to see what he would do with that. He’s blowing my mind.

There’s a double-page spread that I think is being released with this interview that parallels Superman and Batman, in kind of a glimpse of their origins, side-by-side. The Smallville scenes that Jae has drawn there are just incredibly beautiful. He’s able to bring that movie darkness, but he’s able to bring a real, light touch that’s just tremendous.

Geek: The predecessor to this book, pre-New 52 was “Superman/Batman.” The transversal of their names in the title seems like a minor thing, but I wonder if it has any significance for you.

Pak: These guys are both heroes in the book. It’s about both of them and their relationship. I’m just thrilled to be writing these guys. I’d be happy to write them no matter what the name was. Maybe with “Batman/Superman,” it’s just fair to do it this way now. When they go out there this time, Batman feels a little bit better because after this big, long successful run of “Superman/Batman,” now they’re going to try “Batman/Superman.” Maybe it’s just nice to give Bruce the chance to have the lead.

Geek: It’s literal turnabout being fair play.

Pak: Yeah, there you go.

Geek: You said their relationship in this book may not be what readers suspect. In the previous book, it was really about their long history together, how they knew what each other were going to do before they did it. This is going to be more of them feeling each other out. It sounds like it’ll be antagonistic, too.

Pak: I’ll just say it. When they first meet, each guy sees the other guy as the most dangerous guy on the planet, and for good reason. In the New 52, they’re young, they’re new to what they’re doing, and as we’ve seen depicted in these very early stages, they’re much more unpredictable. They make mistakes. They’re more rash and raw. You put two guys like that together and sparks are going to fly.

Great Superman and Batman stories have always had this element of these guys watching each other. Frank Miller rendered that beautifully, of course, in “Dark Knight Returns,” and many other writers have played with that idea, that these two guys have their eye on each other. They’re friends, but they’re also aware and wary of each other on a certain level. We’re cranking that up to 11 here, because the set-up and the story deserve that. It’s a really fun thing to explore.

Geek: That said, they are both heroes, so I assume they’re not just going to be taking on each other, that they’re going to take on some external threats.

Pak: Absolutely.

Geek: The solicitation for issue two says they’re going to encounter their Earth-2 selves. Is there a big threat that brings them together?

Pak: We are introducing a big villain that has some connections to aspects of the DC Universe that I think will ring some fun bells for people and open up a whole new section of the DC Universe in a way. I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoilers, but yes, there is a worlds-threatening scenario at play here that these four heroes will be dabbling in. Our world’s Superman and Batman, as well as Earth-2 Superman and Batman will all become entangled in this.

Geek: One thing that’s been apparent throughout the New 52 is that a lot of books have jumped around in time, between five years ago, when the superheroes came into being, and the present. Batman is jumping back to explore his origins. Is this book going to similarly jump back and forth?

Pak: I don’t want to spoil too much, but this first story arc definitely does take place in the earlier time frame. There’s just so much great stuff to play with there. We will be getting up into present day as well, but beyond that, keep on reading. This is a book that will have ramifications on both these characters throughout their careers, so I hope you enjoy.

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