Villains Month is fast approaching and somewhere, deep in
Before the leaves could fall and the footballs kicked, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively sat down with Michael Alan Nelson who is writing Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman to discuss this character and his return.
[SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains major spoilers for Supergirl #23 which hits shelves today!]
Cosmic Book News: Mike, tell us how you got involved with Villains Month and this particular villain for Action?
Michael Alan Nelson: I had been writing Supergirl for a few months already, so I think DC approached me about writing the Cyborg Superman villain issue because they wanted CSM to be a villain specific to Supergirl. The pre-52 version of the villain was definitely a part of Superman’s rogues gallery, and that was something they wanted to change. Since I was writing Supergirl, it just made sense to bring me on board.
Michael Alan Nelson: Cyborg Superman is, in a word, unstable. Though he is what some consider the perfect Kryptonian, he has conflated perfection and strength, seeing the latter as the pinnacle of the former. And I don’t mean just physical strength. He’s fond of asking people what they’re willing to do to survive. In fact, I think that’s the first question he asked Supergirl when they first met. Do you have the strength necessary to survive? And in his twisted mind, only those who have the strength to forsake all others to save themselves are “perfect.” It’s his subconscious trying to justify the mistakes he made before he became Cyborg Superman, even though he has no recollection of the man he was.
And the biggest difference in the New-52 character, and one that I hope is common knowledge by the time this comes out, is that Cyborg Superman is no longer Hank Henshaw. He’s actually Zor-El, Kara’s father. Readers will have to wait until they read the Villains Month issue to learn just how he became Cyborg Superman, but that is the single biggest difference between the new and pre-52 character.
Michael Alan Nelson: Absolutely. At first it may seem that Supergirl is just borrowing another Superman baddie, but because Cyborg Superman is Kara’s father, the two are inextricably linked.
Michael Alan Nelson: Kara felt as if she didn’t belong on Earth. Every moment there was filled with violence and heartache, so she decided to leave and search for a place where she felt welcome, needed, wanted. However, Cyborg Superman became aware of Supergirl traveling through space so he faked a distress call and led Supergirl to “rescue” a small planetoid called I’noxia. There he tried to offer her everything she wanted. The I’noxians have the ability to use memories to craft realistic facsimiles of places, even people. They could recreate Kara’s own little corner of Krypton where she could live with her family and friends. A place to belong, to feel loved. Of course, there was a price. Cyborg Superman needed Kryptonian genetic material to undo his cybernetic transformation, thus returning his own memories of the man he was before becoming Cyborg Superman. In other words, he wanted Kara’s body.
Michael Alan Nelson: Actually, no. Since I knew he was no longer going to be Hank Henshaw, I didn’t want to be unduly influenced by what came before. He may still be called Cyborg Superman and have many of the same abilities and aspects of personality, but he’s a different character. I wanted to make sure that I approached him in that way. I really wanted to focus on what drove Zor-El. His own personal conflicts, self-doubt, and insecurities that ultimately led to his unfortunate transformation.
Michael Alan Nelson: First and foremost, I would like readers just to enjoy the story and revel in the tragedy of this character. I hope that by seeing his genesis, watching him struggle with pride and ego and how those struggles keep digging him deeper and deeper, readers will have a small level of sympathy for him. When it comes down to it, Zor-El tries to do the right thing but is punished for, well, not being very good at it. And was it his inadequacies or is unwillingness to recognize those inadequacies that led to his downfall? I don’t have an answer for that, but I hope readers have fun thinking about the question.
Michael Alan Nelson: Oh man, his art on this issue is just SICK! Not only is he able to capture the menace of the characters, but he’s able to really bring out the anguish and confusion, fear and surprise so many of the characters go through. He even captures that raw emotion with the non-human characters. It really is something to see.
Michael Alan Nelson: That I don’t know. The new design has been around since just before the Cyborg Superman arc in Supergirl, so it’s been sitting in the pipeline for a while now.
Michael Alan Nelson: Cyborg Superman is the ultimate affront to Supergirl’s sense of all things Kryptonian. He’s a corruption masquerading as “perfect.” And I have a few ideas about where to take the two characters, I do know that the greatest tragedy of their unbridled hate for one another is that they have no idea about the truth of their relationship. Kara has no idea he is her father and Cyborg Superman has no memory of himself before his transformation. They’re mortal enemies who would move heaven and earth to help one another if they only knew the truth.
Michael Alan Nelson: I’m having an incredible time with Supergirl so I highly recommend that title. I also have a couple titles for
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Michael Alan Nelson for taking time out of his schedule to answer our questions. We would also like to thank DC’s Alex Nagorski, who helped make this interview possible.
“Action Comics” #23.1: Cyborg Superman hits shelves September 4th and “Supergirl” #23 is in stores now!