Comic-Con 2013: In ‘Superman Unchained,’ the hero gets ‘owned’

July 21, 2013 | 12:20 p.m.

A correction has been added to his post, as detailed below.

Superman, despite all the threats coming his way in comics in the coming months, has reason to smile. But first, about those threats.

Teasing “Superman Unchained” No. 3, out Aug. 14, writer Scott Snyder told the “Superman: The New 52 Era” panel Sunday crowd at Comic-Con 2013, “This is really the issue where Superman gets owned.”

He said he asked the book’s artist, DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee, to draw the worst punch Superman has ever taken, and the artist came back with the idea of having the Man of Steel seen knocked across a state, in a sort of satellite, Indiana-Jones-map style – and changing that punch to a bicycle kick.

Delivering that wallop? Wraith, an alien who came to Earth in 1938 (the year Superman first appeared in comics), arriving 11 seconds after a call from humans into space to help them be better, and then became a secret part of U.S. military history.

FULL COVERAGE: San Diego Comic-Con 2013

Snyder said that Gen. Lane tells Superman that he’s a coward and a villain because instead of taking down the likes of warlords, he does things for applause, and that Wraith has been the real superhero behind the scenes. “You’re actually a bigger killer and villain than you are a hero because you let people suffer because you need to be the hero publicly,” the writer said the general tells Big Blue.

The approach is to tear him apart “so you can see what makes him so great at the end.”

The Last Son of Krypton has a romantic relationship with Wonder Woman in the New 52, and Superman comics group editor Eddie Berganza said the pair “try to have dates, but little things that are huge and dangerous and kill always get in the way” in the upcoming “Superman/Wonder Woman” series from writer Charles Soule. No. 1 arrives Oct. 9 with a three-part cover by Tony S. Daniel – and a villain readers have yet to see in the continuity reboot.

“Action Comics” and “Superman” writer Scott Lobdell said big changes are coming with those comics’ (and others’) No. 25 issues in November. The “Krypton Returns” story line begins in “Action Comics Annual” No. 2, primarily featuring Lois Lane, and runs through the No. 25’s of “Superboy,” “Supergirl” and “Superman.” It involves H’el, who had been pulled through a time portal and thought gone, wound up in Krypton’s past – “the worst place you could have possibly dropped him,” Lobdell said.

But before then, he’s at work making H.I.V.E. Queen a “Superman-level threat” and “incredibly horrific,” and said that the damage Brainiac did to Metropolis in earlier issues is more extensive than anyone knew.

The team-up book “Batman/Superman’s” No. 2, arriving Wednesday, features a fight between the title’s heroes and their Earth 2 counterparts. Earth 2’s Wonder Woman will play a role.

Over in “Supergirl,” writer Michael Alan Nelson said, Kara is realizing “she’s sometimes her own worst enemy – sometimes quite literally” and that she and others are being manipulated. She’ll encounter Cyborg Superman.

During the panel, Lobdell had shown a homemade comic given to him by a 9-year-old girl using the pen name Amy Elk.

Ms. Elk came to the microphone during the Q&A session to ask why two titles she liked – “Superman Family Adventures” and “Tiny Titans” – had been canceled. After Lee talked about the importance of the kids line and what’s coming up, he asked her to come back next year and tell them how they’re doing.

The young comics fan had a second question: Does Superman ever smile?

Snyder said that he’ll “smile pretty big” after he emerges victorious from his tribulations in “Unchained.”

And DC Entertainment marketing’s John Cunningham, the panel’s moderator, awarded her question with a prize: a Superman hat with the hero on the brim, smiling.

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon

[For the record, July 21, 3:00 p.m.: A previous version of this post misstated the character Gen. Lane's name as Lang.]

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