Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lobdell On H'El And Krypton Returns

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.

Over on Newasarama, Scott Lobdell was interviewed and talked about the upcoming crossover and I don't know if it changes the trepidation I am feeling. Here is the link:  As always it is worth heading there and reading the thing in its entirety. My usual select pieces and comments below.

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 it?

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 everyone.

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.

But I am worried.


Anonymous said...

If you want to follow Lobdell's logic thru to it's ultimate conclusion, then Superman's "exact opposite" is Lex Luthor, amoral, vain, power worshipping, homicidal but lacking the omnipotence he craves for all the wrong reasons. Superman's "opposite" in every way.
Frankly I think we need to prepare ourselves, Supergirl is gonna get Jobbed Out Again. There are certain writers out there, who cannot treat characters They Don't Like with respect. It is a consequence of fanboys becoming professionals within the industry they haven't the professionalism to out aside their personal prejudices in a creative context.
Just sayin'


PRgirl1294 said...

As I have said before, I have my theory about H'el's origins. I think that he's the fifth Worldkiller that is still running around unidentified. That would explain a lot of things, like the differences in his power set and appearance to normal Kryptonians, his slight resemblance to Reign, the falsities in his self-believed origins, and the way that the Oracle is afraid of him destroying the universe.

Anj said...

John - I agree with the Lex assessment completly.

PRGirl - that would make great sense and I hope that is true. It also mught further explain his Kara obsession, since he would have ties to the Zor-El family.

PRgirl1294 said...

Also, I wouldn't worry about how Kara is portrayed in this story arc. The reason why she was like that in "H'el on Earth" was likely because they were trying to show her desperation to return home to Krypton however poorly that was executed. By now, she'll have learned from her mistakes and as she learns about Krypton's history, with all of its flaws, she'll learn to let go of it and start maturing. And please do not assume that anybody's gonna portray her badly because they want to. That's not how writers work.

LJ-90 said...

H'el is a clone. Simple as that, that makes him go (even more) crazy.

PRgirl1294 said...

Sorry, but it was stated by Scott Lobdell during the "H'el on Earth" arc that H'el is not a clone.

Count Drunkula said...

You're right, Anj, Lobdell is missing the point if he considers Bizarro Superman's polar opposite. As the previous commenter said, Lex Luthor is the Joker to Superman's Batman.

I also think he's missing the point--or at least skimming the side of the point--regarding Spider-Man's origin. The difference between Peter Parker and his whole rogues gallery is that he had Uncle Ben to infuse that message of power and responsibility with his death. Doc Ock, Sandman, Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, Green Goblin… all power without responsibility.

Martin Gray said...

It's funny, I've been enjoying Lobdell's Superman hugely of late, but the mere notion of H'el returning gives me the shivers. I've no worries that he'll treat Kara badly because he dislikes her, but I think she'll come off badly once more because he just doesn't get who Supergirl should be

I still reckon he's Lar Gand, and that was him in the background of the World of Krypton back-ups.

Anonymous said...

H'el is Superboy Prime, who got taken in when the old DCU got erased and the new 52 created. He does not remember and, to be able to keep a sense of his life, created this reality where he was Jor-El's helper… that also explains the S symbol on his chest.