j_michael_straczynski_smJ. Michael Straczynski, the award-winning writer/creator of Babylon 5 (and a whole lot of other television and movie work as well, e.g., Clint Eastwood’s recent film Changeling), author of a critically hailed seven-year run on Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man (and a whole lot of other comics as well, including more recently a revival of Thor that brought the character a resurgence in both sales and popularity), and a darned nice guy to boot… is leaving Thor, effective in September. The news broke this week via the latest solicitations from Diamond Comics Distributors.

He has a couple of creator-owned projects coming up at Image Comics, and he’s already several scripts deep into Brave & Bold and “Red Circle” for DC Comics… but the really exciting possibilities that come with this change in workload concern another character entirely. 

Make no mistake:  I’ve loved JMS’s work on Thor. He found a brilliant way to make a tired set of characters and concepts seem fresh again, bringing a whole new introspective sensibility to them (accompanied by artists who brought a new visual sensibility as well) and restoring a long-absent sense of suspense and unpredictability. But with popularity comes a publisher’s temptation to steer a character into a marketing “event,” and JMS had recently said he had little desire to try to navigate Thor through that kind of editorially-mandated storytelling. He’ll have a chance to tie off some loose ends, then pass the book along to new creative hands for what will apparently be called “Siege of Asgard.”

But it’s far easier to accept that loss in light of the tantalizing hints about what’s coming next. Now, there’s been no official announcement as yet… but in an interview today JMS said,

I’m working on a secret project for DC that I hope we can discuss at San Diego Comic-Con. Suffice to say: anyone who knows me knows that there’s something I’ve wanted to do for my entire creative life, something that I’d give my right arm to write…something I’ve been actively chasing for over ten years. There’s one character, one property, that if George Lucas said “Here’s a million dollars, go write whatever you want and I’ll shoot it, but you’ll have to drop that book,” I would say no and never, ever look back.

It’s no secret that JMS has wanted for years to work on Superman. It sounds like that may finally come to fruition. And I’m absolutely thrilled at the prospect.

The Superman books right now are in the hands of Greg Rucka and James Robinson, talented writers both (as well as Geoff Johns, who’s working on an upcoming “Secret Origin” project). But the current run (across three titles) can’t shake the feeling that it’s just marking time. The main character has largely been sidelined in favor of b-list protagonists and supporting characters… which aren’t bad, but can best be described as “interesting” rather than “exciting.” IMHO they aren’t really moving the whole Superman mythos into any new territory.

I’m a huge fan of JMS from way back. (B5 was and is one of my all-time favorite television shows, an SF epic that absolutely transcended the limitations of its format and set a high-water mark for the genre, full of psychological and philosophical insight, social commentary and intricate worldbuilding, without ever sacrificing suspenseful drama.) Superman, meanwhile, is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters, dating back almost as long as I’ve been able to read. (The man of steel touches a reader’s innate sense of wonder and deep moral idealism in a way that breaks through countless layers of postmodern cynicism.) The prospect of seeing one of my favorite writers on one of my favorite characters is always a thrill, and this writer on this character in particular is something I’ve been imagining for years.

No details yet. But it’s sure fun to fantasize. It could be a breath of fresh air like the character hasn’t seen in ages.

This year’s San Diego Con runs July 23-26. I think I’ll be paying a little closer attention to its news releases than I had previously planned.

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5 Responses to “Bad news for Thor… good news for Superman?”
  1. Andrew says:

    Well they haven’t forgotten Thor completely either, but both the animated toons and movie that hit the market this year were complete failures, so it’s understandable why they’ve chosen super-man over thor.

  2. The man is a genius. I love Changeling, and I’ll be very curious to see what he gets up to next!

  3. It was the way that it was engineered that was Quesada’s idea, or so I’m led to understand. The broader strokes were initially more of a joint project. I grant that I may be misremembering here.

  4. What, are you worried that JMS might undo the Clark/Lois marriage? Remember, what happened in to Peter and MJ in “OMD” wasn’t his idea — that was editorially mandated by Joe Quesada. And do you really think he would voluntarily walk into the kind of firestorm of controversy it would cause if DC wanted him to do the same thing again?

    I think he just wants to tell good, solid, creative Superman stories — and if he can live up to what he describes in the Usenet quote linked above, wanting to capture the sensibility and characterization of Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, we couldn’t possibly ask for anything better.

  5. There are going to be people glad to read this, and people fearful upon reading this. Given “One More Day”…there will also be people with one foot in each camp at once upon reading this as well.

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