Jonathan Kent’s time has come. In the upcoming series Superman: Son of Kal-El from writer Tom Taylor and artist John Timms, he’s taking on his father’s iconic role and embracing his destiny as the 21st Century Superman.
And he’s not the only one embracing destiny—if you’ve followed Taylor’s career and read his posts on social media, his affection for the Man of Steel has long been clear. Though he famously wrote a corrupted Superman in Injustice, Taylor has spoken at length about how the iconic hero is a symbol of much-needed hope and optimism, which Jonathan Kent will represent in distinctly contemporary ways in Superman: Son of Kal-El.
DC Nation spoke with Taylor about how it feels to launch a new Superman series for a new era, how both of Jonathan’s parents play an equal role in shaping him as a hero, what it’s like collaborating with Timms, and how—despite age changes and evolving roles within the DC Universe—Jon and Damian Wayne remain the World’s Finest friends.
Tom, it’s clear to anyone who has followed your career over the years how much Superman means to you. What are the emotions involved in not only writing Superman, but launching a wholly new title—one starring Jonathan Kent in the lead role?
It is oddly emotional. Superman has been my hero for as long as I can remember. Being raised by a single mother, he was one of my biggest male role models as a child. I have a very strong memory of being four years old and proudly walking down the street with red underpants over blue jeans, while wearing a faded thrift-shop Superman t-shirt. For this Australian kid to grow up and become the writer of Superman…I mean, statistically, I’d have a better chance of being an astronaut and going to space.
Writing a new Superman, a new hero for a new generation to look up to, is a big responsibility and a great honor.
You’ve written an older Jonathan Kent before, in DCeased: Dead Planet, though that’s a very different type of story. How much does your past experience writing Jon inform your take in this series?
I think writing Jon, both as a child and as an adult, gives me a good idea of his soul, of his drive, and his desire to help people and right wrongs. It’s important to remember he’s not just the son of Clark, he’s the son of Lois Lane, one of the greatest champions of truth on the planet. Her fire and sense of justice is as much a part of Jon as anything he gets from his father. When my wife and I met, she was actually a crime reporter, so I don’t have to look far beyond her, or my own mother’s long history of activism and protecting others, to see Lois Lanes around me.
I was also fortunate enough to spend time with Margot Kidder and she was truly the embodiment of Lois for me. We had lunch one day, and Margot told me stories of her protesting. She was arrested fighting against the powerful for the voiceless.
John Timms is not only an amazing artist, he also already has experience in drawing Jonathan Kent-as-Superman from Future State: Superman of Metropolis. What’s exciting for you in collaborating with John on this series?
John and I have met and talked over Zoom and we’re both ridiculously excited about this book. I’m guessing this is the first time that Australia and Costa Rica have come together to tell the stories of America’s finest hero. He’s a brilliant artist and we speak a similar storytelling language. He makes the big moments and the small just as impressive. There’s a wonderful appeal to his art and he’s especially perfect for a character like Jon.
One thing I found notable about the Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 cover, beyond the homage to the original Superman #1, are these words: “The 21st Century Superman.” In what ways do you see Jonathan as a distinctly contemporary character? How can he represent this current moment better, or at least differently, than his father can?
That’s a really big question. Not just for me, but for Clark and for Jon. When Superman leapt his first tall buildings in 1938, he was a hero needed for his time. He wasn’t fighting aliens and robots, he was fighting domestic violence and corrupt politicians.
It’s the question that will hang over the series. If you’re one of the most powerful people on the planet, how far do you take that? What do you accept before stepping in? I’ve explored one side of this question in Injustice, but that’s a story I never believed in because, for me, Superman is incorruptible. He has to be. I’ve written the story of absolute power corrupting absolutely and a world held together by a fist of steel. Now I get to write something better, someone with the power to change the world with a heart full of hope.
But still, that question of how to be a hero today will be there. It’s easy enough to punch a giant, rampaging gorilla. It’s harder to punch social inequity and the climate crisis.
What can you share about the villains or threats that Jonathan will face in the opening arc?
Without giving too much away, Jon’s heart is going to see him stand up to something the rest of the world is willing to ignore. He is going to make powerful people very angry. And his world will be threatened.
In his relatively short history, Jonathan has had many notable allies and close connections—his Super-family, Damian Wayne, the Legion of Super-Heroes. What supporting cast are you utilizing in this series?
With a lot of his supporting cast in the future, or in his childhood, we will be seeing a new cast in this book. There will be new allies and new villains.
But, of course, we won’t be ignoring his relationship with Robin. Josh Williamson (writer of Robin) and I are in constant contact. I know some fans are upset about Jon and Damian being different ages now, and as someone who has written the Super Sons, and as a fan of that dynamic, I understand. But they actually still have the same three-year age difference—it’s just reversed. Damian is fourteen and Jon is seventeen. They’re still the World’s Finest friends.
Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 by Tom Taylor, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb and Dave Sharpe is on sale July 27 in print and as a digital comic book.