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Inside Look: Superman Confidential #12

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B. Clay Moore gives the inside scoop on this month's Superman Confidential #12, the first part of the "Signal to Noise" arc teaming a young Superman with Jimmy Olsen and featuring a classic Man of Steel villain. The solicitation reads:

B. Clay Moore teams with Phil Hester and Ande Parks to shed light on the origins of the Jimmy Olsen/Superman relationship in the first of a three-part story, in which Superman invents a way for Jimmy to signal him, and Metropolis deals with giant murderous...toys?

In a nutshell, Superman Confidential is designed to tell key stories from various points in Superman’s career. With that in mind, when editor Mike Siglain asked me to pitch for the book (about a year ago now), I knew I’d most want to tell a story from early in his career. I think the concept of a super-powered small town boy in the big city is interesting, and I wanted to explore how a young Superman might deal with some of the problems he’d face during his early days in Metropolis. Like, say, Jimmy Olsen.

So I wanted to address Superman trying to deal with Jimmy while also exploring the best ways to use his powers. And I wanted to throw a "classic" Superman villain into the mix, as well.

Pages 1-4

I wanted to establish the general theme of the story arc by opening with Supes rescuing Jimmy from one of the fixes he’d wandered into. After watching the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, I decided that Jimmy would be investigating smuggling crab fishermen. As they say, inspiration’s where you find it. We open at the end of Jimmy’s plight, with Superman (perhaps unwisely) bursting through the hull of the ship. Perhaps a more mature Supes would use a different entry point and not risk sinking the ship, but as he says on page three, he was going for drama here.

Page 2 demonstrates the futility of pulling guns on Superman. Artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks did a great job in the first two panels, with Superman’s instantaneous disarming of the evil crab fisherman.

Page 3 also contains one of my favorite lines of dialogue, in Superman’s reply to Jimmy’s suggestion that he just casually pick up the ship and haul it into the harbor. Superman notes that he’d probably break the ship in half doing that, so he’ll just patch up the hole and let the authorities deal with the boat. Even as a kid it bugged me when superheroes would do things like pick up buildings without having them crumble. Hell, there’s an old issue of Marvel Team-Up where Hercules literally hauls Manhattan through the ocean using a big ass chain. I’m no physics expert, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t work. I digress…

Page 4 then fully sets up the arc’s theme, as Superman encourages Jimmy to be a little more careful, since he does have other things to do. Jimmy underlines his perspective by noting that it feels like Superman is always there to bail him out of trouble.

   

   

Pages 5-6

The villain I chose to use was Toyman. I’ve always liked the idea that some of these rather silly bad guys could actually challenge Superman, despite appearing to be seriously overmatched. Obviously it takes more creative thinking for a guy like Toyman or the Prankster to threaten Superman. This makes them more interesting to me than a guy who’s powerful enough to just bash it out with the Man of Steel. I introduce Toyman working away in his shop as he reflects on being fired from his job as a toy designer. I’ve never liked the idea of the Toyman being a threat to children. It strikes me that a guy who creates toys would have some affinity for children. The problem is that he’s had it hammered into his head that kids want bigger, louder, more violent toys, and there’s no place in the world for his harmless tin soldiers and teddy bears. Herein lies his motivation.

   

Pages 20-21

Here I bring all of the elements together. Superman has given Jimmy the signal watch, and been taken by surprise at how annoying it is when Jimmy sets it off just a few feet away. We see the classic Clark Kent "duck out" sequence, and see Jimmy’s gleeful reaction to the watch summoning Supes. Phil’s shot of Jimmy’s reflection in the window as Superman shows up is terrific.

On page 21 we see an example of the younger Superman’s inexperience. Three gigantic toys show up in the middle of Metropolis, and he’s more curious than concerned. It’s only when giant flamethrowers and cannons pop out of the toys that it occurs to him he might be in some trouble..

   

From here we’ll follow Superman and Jimmy as they try to discover who’s behind the giant toy attack, while keeping Jimmy alive. This first issue has established that Jimmy’s more than willing to dive recklessly into a story, and he’ll be doing that in the second issue, setting up Superman’s attempted rescue. We’ve also established that the Toyman is a master of gadgetry, and what else is Jimmy’s signal watch but a gadget?

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