Starting on October 30th, with the release of Action Comics Annual #2, the super-books will cross-over in the Krypton Returns storyline, the sequel to H'El on Earth. Now anyone who comes to this blog knows I have major issues with H'El on Earth. Even if you remove the horrible way that Supergirl was treated, there were major holes in the plot, other plot points were simply dropped, and it featured an inscrutable villain with inexplicable powers. Suffice it to say, I was glad when it was over so I could move on.
Then we heard that a sequel was going to happen, again piloted by Scott Lobdell. And that this storyline would tie into the zero issues from last September when we saw each of the Supers on Krypton. I am more than a little worried, especially given that I have enjoyed Michael Alan Nelson's Supergirl so far and hope that this H'El arc doesn't derail his efforts the way the prior H'El stopped Mike Johnson's progress.
Newsarama: Scott, it's been said that H'El was originally meant to be
the New 52 version of Bizarro. What was the original idea behind H'El, and how
did you evolve the idea for the character into what he is now? Scott Lobdell: I have this annoying habit of looking at characters in
a whole different way (to the chagrin of some) — like, H'El for example. When I was first pitching for Superman I looked at his villains who
hadn't yet appeared in the New 52. First among those was Bizarro. In examining
the character I realized that "Here is a character who is the exact
opposite of Superman — the guy should be frightening: just imagine someone with
all of Superman's powers but he's completely crazy." Too often, I felt,
here was a character who was too easily dismissed as a goof with his "Me
ams". Look no farther than Batman for the ultimate Opposite Number, Joker. Why
should Batman's polar opposite be terrifying, and yet Superman's polar opposite
is almost always played for laughs. That's not very respectful to Superman, is
Well, I think this is something of a fundamental misunderstanding of Bizarro. He was never supposed to be the thematic opposite of Superman. He has always been an 'imperfect duplicate'. You can imagine that if Bizarro was truly an opposite he would be a killing machine, maybe even suicidal! (Remember Moore's take on him in Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?)
I have always thought about Bizarro as a bit tragic, a flawed being who can't wrap his head around reality. Sometimes that can head to humor. Sometimes it can be horrific. So I thought "This version of Bizarro is going to be scary. He's going
to come by his reverse 'S' organically — tragically. (We've seen hints, of
course, but in H'El #1 we are going to confirm that the "S" on
H'El's chest was self-inflicted. We'll learn what drove him to such a sense of
self-loathing that he'd scar the El family crest into his own chest!) By the time I was done re-examining his origin, his motivation, his
powers... it became clear to Editorial: This was no longer a new version of
Bizarro — this was a brand new character all together! I fought the idea as
long as I could — until it became clear H'EL ON EARTH was solicited and I had
no choice! And they were right. At the end of the day there is more than enough room
for H'EL and Bizarro — and never shall the twain meet!
After reading H'El on Earth, I am thrilled that H'El is not Bizarro. I also can't wait to see what Sholly Fisch does with Bizarro.
Nrama: H'El's abilities (and his true origin) are still somewhat of a
mystery. How will the September "H'El" issue reveal more about his
story? Lobdell: We learn everything. Every. Thing. His real origin. How his
powers are different from every other Kryptonian... and why. We even explain
his name! We (and he) will understand that pretty much everything he has ever believed
about himself has been a lie — lies that he's told himself, to be honest, in
order to keep a hold of a last tenuous grip on reality. By the end of H'EL #1 we — and he — learn it all.
Part of my problem with H'El on Earth was that I had no idea about H'El. He sort of showed up out of nowhere. I didn't understand his powers. I didn't know why his reverse S showed up and disappeared all the time. And I didn't think his origin could be the truth since it made little sense with other things we knew about Krypton.
Time to pull back the curtain! I am glad Lobdell will explain things.
Nrama: How does he currently feel about each of the Super-characters:
Superman, Supergirl and Superboy? Lobdell: Superman he mostly feels sorry for: the Last Son Of Krypton
having been raised in the Hell that is life on Earth. What chance did Kal
stand? Supergirl's betrayal was devastating to H'El. Yes, he might have started off
by manipulating her — but I think he eventually fell genuinely in love with
her. (Who wouldn't?!) Superboy is a curiosity to H'El. It would be if you or I went to a family
reunion and someone bought a gibbon and insisted he be seated at the main
table. You and I think of Superboy as human — H'El sees him as a creature.
Now I have lots of problems with how Supergirl was treated in H'El on Earth. She was set up as the patsy, as gullible, flighty, and immature. She simply accepted what H'El had to say and then fell in love with him faster than she did in the 70's. Of course, H'El knowingly lied to her. He even physically assaulted her while disguised as Superman to confuse her and make her side with him.
So to hear that he had real feelings for her simply infuriates me as a Supergirl fan.
Hopefully Supergirl isn't mistreated in this arc like she was in the prior.
As for Superboy, H'El sure didn't look at him with curiosity when he ripped his genes apart. He looked at him with hate. Remember that plot point? Superboy dying? That was one of the pieces simply dropped and forgotten.
Nrama: In his first appearances, H'El seemed to be motivated by his
desire to return home, which was somewhat sympathetic, although it was hard to
like his methods. Now that he's returned home, what's his new motivation? Lobdell: That's one of those questions where the only answer reveals
the plot point on which the story revolves. Let me say this, when confronted
with the truth of his origin, H'El is going to have to readjust his entire view
of the universe and his place in it. This will lead to dire consequences for
I will be honest. I have no ideas about H'El's origins. Infatuated scientist obsessed with Jor-El? Angry rival of Jor-El?
Anyone have any guesses?
Nrama: Do you think there's anything sympathetic left in his
character? Lobdell: Oh, for sure. Years ago I was talking to Stan Lee and mentioned
who Spider-man's origin could have just as easily been an origin for a super
villain: the same Death of Ben Parker could have taught Peter that even the
nicest guy in the world can end up dead in a gutter... so why bother trying to
be that nice guy? ("Uncle Ben always looked out for other people. I am not
going to make his mistake!") Just because a character makes bad choices doesn't mean they are
unsympathetic. Who do you know has always made the right decision? So yeah, I certainly feel bad for H'El. So many times I want to shake him and
say "Stop!" or pat his head and say "it's going to be okay...
we'll find a way through this."
I will admit, I liked the Peter Parker bit of that answer. It sort of riffs on the 'one bad day' Joker defense in The Killing Joke.
But I worry that if Lobdell feels that way about H'El. Will he make other characters suffer so he 'protects' his creation?
Nrama: The last time we talked, you told us that Superman #25
and the #25 issues of the other super-books would be, "if it all comes
together, unlike anything anyone has done at either company in the history of comic
books." Did it "all come together?" Is that what we'll see in
"Krypton Returns?" Lobdell: Yes! With the slight adjustment that the story starts in Action
Comics Annual #2 and then leads into Superboy #25, Supergirl #25
and Superman #25. We needed a few more pages to tell the story so we
took advantage of the Annual to start this epic! Nrama: H'El is on the cover, so this obviously involves his return —
and the title says that "Krypton Returns." Can you tell us whether
this is literally the return of Krypton? Or if your prediction of
"unlike anything" is referring to the story, or the structure, or
what? Lobdell: No. All the hints are already there.
Lobdell does seem to be very excited about this whole story. I hope that it all works out.