Join Date: Nov 2005
Smallville Season 11: Superman Returns
By Joey Esposito
Bryan Q. Miller gives up info on the comic continuation of Smallville.
A few weeks back, DC Comics pleased a clamoring fanbase of Smallville fans when they announced that they'd be offering a new comic book series called Smallville Season 11, written by show veteran Bryan Q. Miller and drawn by his Batgirl cohort Pere Perez.
Smallville Season 11 will debut in weekly digital installments on April 13, available from Comixology for only .99 cents each. For fans that still prefer their comics in print, these digital chapters will be collected into a monthly print issue, the first of which goes on sale in May. It's worth mentioning that while new comics typically come out on Wednesday, the digital chapters of Smallville Season 11 will be releasing on Fridays, keeping the show's time slot alive.
This past weekend at WonderCon I had a chance to catch up with Miller and get some dirt on his plans for the returning Smallville cast, including potential guest stars, new villains, and the continuing threads of the series.
IGN Comics: So let's start pretty basic. Where does Smallville Season 11 pick up in relation to the last season?
Bryan Q. Miller:So in the finale, there was this seven year time jump that went to everyone seven years in the future. We are not that far in. We're six months after Clark became Superman for the first time and pushed Apokolips out of orbit, because we had a proto-Darkseid causing some chaos and Apokolips was going to crash into Earth and people were not happy! Superman saved Air Force One with Lois on it and then he pushed the planet out of orbit. So it's kind of Superman: Year One with a Smallville cast of characters.
IGN: Going off that, as of late there's been a lot of exploration of Superman's early years, whether it's the New 52 in Action Comics, Superman: Secret Origin, or Superman: Earth One. So how is it different in the Smallville universe using those characters with that same kind of idea?
Miller: It has the benefit of not being a fresh start, because we've actually already told the origin of Clark Kent becoming Superman, so it's very much taking that cast of characters to that next phase of their lives; to their mid-twenties. For Clark, it's "We've saved the world, I'm an adult now, I have my 'job' as Superman, so what does that mean for my life now?" Does he ever get to sleep? Does he ever get to see Lois? Lois is busy; she's a reporter on the rise. So it's a lot of everyone figuring out in this post-TV series world what their place is.
Chloe and Oliver, who are married, want to move to Star City and get on with their lives. Because of all the chaos in season 10, they didn't have a chance to be married. It's a lot of them figuring out what to do next. As it happens, things get in the way. For Chloe and Oliver, something happens in the first twelve weeks that very much gives them pause and they have to stay to figure it all out before they can leave.
IGN: You mentioned "the first twelve weeks." Are you approaching this like you would TV episodes, since it's released weekly?
Miller: Yes and no. At first it wasn't going to be a weekly. It was just going to be a digital comic that we put out. So I was going to parse it more as one or two issues equal an episode. But with the weekly format, the needs writing-wise from traction to pacing and everything, what I wanted to do was do it as twelve weeks equals one TV movie length story of the show. So it's a story that'd be bigger than one episode could handle; technically it's probably as long, script-wise, as three episodes of the show would be. So it's like a mega-story.
Each one, hopefully, is big enough to warrant that kind of broader format of coming back every week. But from a writing standpoint, it's being written just like the show. It's a challenge, having done both the TV stuff and the comic stuff, because I'm doing the show as a comic. So there're no captions or narration boxes. It's a challenge to try and convey everything without having that convention in it, because that's not how the show was told. I'm trying to stay as true to how the show was written.
IGN: In the show we've obviously gotten many guest stars from the DCU, but now that it's in the comic, is there any chance of seeing Batman, Wonder Woman, and those kind of characters that never made it on screen?
Miller: People keep asking that, it's the weirdest thing! [laughs] There's certainly a chance for lots of DC guest stars to show up, and lots of DC guest stars will show up. But the focus is primarily on Clark as Superman. So if they do come in, just like they did on the show, it would somehow have to inform what Clark is going through. I mean there's a cast of at least five characters, possibly more, who are regulars in the comics. It's definitely an ensemble piece, so people will come in and out but there's already a very large pool of characters to play with.
GN: From a writing standpoint, how does doing the show as a comic open things up when you don't have to deal with things like actor availability or budget for special effects?
Miller: It's great. I mean, Clark's in space in the first ten pages of the first episode! Which, at most, we could have afforded to do for five seconds on the show. It really opens up a lot, especially for action. The challenge with that is having it still make sense in the context of the reality that the show exists in. It can certainly go big – like the second episode, which I can't talk about until some more solicits start coming out -- but there's a DC guest star that brings into the story some of the elements that lend themselves to bigger action, a little more outside-of-the-box stuff that you wouldn't see on the show tonally. It's a lot of fun, but it's definitely a challenge.
IGN: That's kind of my next question. The original mantra of the show way back when was "no tights, no flights." Obviously, we've evolved past that point and the series finale really kicked it to where we're going now. But how do you manage writing Superman while still remaining true to what the show was about?
Miller: Once we get out of the first episode, it's mostly tights and flights. Which people have wanted for ten years anyway. So it's giving Clark his due as Superman, but that's not to say that we lose sight of Clark Kent. If you're going to have Superman in the book, you want to see as much Superman as possible. And I think honestly Lois is a big link; she's very important in keeping Clark grounded – not in a bad way – but in a "I represent the world you're trying to save. I represent the world that's worth fighting for, and I represent the world that will fight for itself." Because that's what's wonderful about Lois Lane, is she's a fighter. She very much has that quasi-objective voice.
On the show, she was one of the only – if not the only – person who just wouldn't suffer Clark's crap and would call him on it. That's what's beautiful about Lois. In a way, I think she's the voice of the audience in the book. Aside from having the ensemble – Lex, Chloe and Oliver – that help keep it in the Smallville everbody knows, Lois is the most important for that.
IGN: You mentioned Lex is making his return to the story, but are there any other Superman villains you'd like to incorporate into Smallville?
Miller: In the first arc, we meet a former astronaut named Hank Henshaw…
IGN: Nice! I like what you're doing there.
Miller: So Hank will be in the mix. He shows up in issue #2 print-wise.
IGN: That's awesome, man. Some other questions I got over Twitter from fans: will Conner Kent be making an appearance and if Season 11 does well, would you want to do a Season 12?
Miller: I'm not a big counting chickens before they hatch kind of person. Since it's a weekly, my plate is very full with Season 11. Not in a bad way; I just can't wrap my brain around what Season 12 is right now. I definitely know how 11 ends, so there's a road map I've got planned out for the season, but it's hard for me because I don't know how long it's going to go for. It depends on sales and all of that stuff. So that's that part of the question.
As for Superboy, at least not at first. Because he's tied to Martha, since she's kind of custodian for him now. I think there is an opportunity for the younger tier of heroes that we've set up, if not the Titans, then… well, we've had Blue Beetle on the show, our version of the Wonder Twins on the show, Mia never quite reached Speedy but that's not saying she can't become Speedy officially. There's definitely something to be explored in that area.
IGN: In terms of continuing the threads of Season 10, will we see any consequences of the death of Tess?
Miller: I would say that the situation you have is a Lex Luthor who has lost his memory after he killed his half-sister Tess. Whether or not he remembers that moment could be up for debate. He definitely came back into the world with Apokolips in the sky and a dead Tess on the floor in his office. Our cast knows that the last person to see Tess alive was Lex, so whether or not he remembers it, I think that is kind of a dark stain on Lex's "new man" status. They all know that even though he may say it was just a suicide, they don't really believe that after everything Tess went through she would do that. Whether or not there are consequences to it, even if she's not there I think Tess is still very present.
IGN: Finally, what do you think the benefits of doing this in a digital format first are to the storytelling?
Miller: I think there are a lot of folks who watch the show – actually I know there are folks that watch the show – and don't touch comic books. Who wouldn't even know the first place to look to find a comic book shop. So I think what digital gives them, like through Comixology you don't necessarily need an iPad or an iPhone you can read it on the website, so it's a great way to get it to people that otherwise wouldn't go out and find it and it allows for a very cheap buy-in to the show. It's just a dollar a week, which is less than a coffee. It's certainly a very low risk investment to get in and see more Smallville.
IGN: Awesome. Is there anything else you'd like to add about Smallville Season 11?
Miller: It's a lot of fun; Pere Perez on art has done a fantastic job, and Cat Staggs on covers – she did the digital variant and Gary Frankdid our first print cover, and then it's just Cat on covers for the rest of it. She's fantastic. Everybody art team wise is bringing there A game. It's been a blast to write, I hope people like reading it.
I can't wait to read this comic!
"Although Lex Luthor is your ultimate opponent, you will triumph over him, and when you show yourself to the world....it will be a different age than ours, Clark. A silver age of heroism...that will start when they look up into the sky at you...with hope for tomorrow. You will help everyone to embrace it."-Dr Fate