The Superman Homepage caught up for a phone conversation with “Superman: Son of Kal-El” write Tom Taylor for an exclusive one-on-one chat about his work writing Jon Kent, his thoughts on the controversy, the ageing of Jon Kent, rumors of DC replacing Clark Kent as Superman, and much more.
Q: As a Superman fan, I know you’ve always wanted to write a Superman comic book, and while you’ve written “Injustice” and “DCeased,” among others, how does it feel to say you’re writing one of the main Superman titles?
Tom Taylor: It’s “dream come true” territory. It’s something I’ve always wanted. From as young as I can remember I’ve been a Superman fan. He’s the reason I do this. Particularly the 1978 Superman movie, that was the thing that put me on this journey. Years and years ago, I had the Superman Homepage as one of my bookmarks that I checked every day.
Q: “Superman: Son of Kal-El” has been the focus of a lot of controversy in recent months, with Jon Kent coming out as bisexual. Were you surprised by the level of focus the story and you yourself received?
Tom Taylor: Look, yes and no. I mean, it was one of those things, we knew it was going to get attention. I think it was really important that we said that out of the gate we weren’t going to do this at issue one. That this was going to be part of him but wasn’t going to be entirely about the character. We wanted this to be something that we established Jon Kent as Superman and then he comes out, not “DC Comics creates bisexual Superman”. We set it up in that way. It wasn’t from the get go. But in terms of the attention it received, yes we knew it would be news, but I’m not sure anyone was prepared for how much news it was.
Q: As Australians, we’re not as politically charged as our American friends seem to be, where their political allegiances almost define who they are. Has it been a challenge for you to navigate the whole “SJW”/”Go Woke, Go Broke” minefield?
Tom Taylor: I think the “Go Woke, Go Broke” sentiment is kind of amusing considering every single issue sold out. The issue sold out twice. Issue #5, which is the issue where the kiss happened, saw unprecedented sales, beating issue #1, so I think “Go Woke, Go Broke” isn’t quite right. I obviously don’t see it that way. This is just the story we are telling. The idea that this is in some way unusual doesn’t quite compute with me or to any of my LGBTQ friends or family.
Q: So, with that in mind, why did you decide that you would have Jon Kent focus on political issues and have him tackle social problems, things that his father has mostly stayed away from in recent years?
Tom Taylor: You go back to “Action Comics #1,” and I did before I started writing, and Superman was a very radical figure. I mean his first issue he’s dealing with domestic violence, he tears the door off a governor’s mansion to get in to overturn a wrongful conviction. He’s fighting corruption. It says in the very first issue that he’s a champion of the oppressed. So it really isn’t a large difference for “Superman: Son of Kal-El” to be tackling issues of today. Just like his father did from the very first comic he appeared in.
Q: Will Jon continue to be called “Superman” moving forward, or do you plan to somehow differentiate between Clark Kent Superman and Jon Kent Superman? It can get pretty confusing when discussing the two.
Tom Taylor: No, look for now he is Superman. His dad is off on Warworld tackling the “Warworld Saga”, so this is the Superman of earth. Much like you have Mile Morales and he’s Spider-man and so is Peter Parker. We’ll do the same thing here.
Q: You recently signed an exclusive contract with DC. Is that something you’ve been striving for or did DC decide they wanted to keep you to themselves?
Tom Taylor: It’s just one of those things that sort of came up. Obviously we’ve been really enjoying the relationship, and I’ve been really enjoying all the stories we’ve been telling, and so have DC obviously. Between “DCeased,” “Superman,” “Nightwing” and now “Dark Knights of Steel”. We’ve had some pretty successful and really exciting and fun stories. So the idea of doing more with DC made a lot of sense.
Q: With the new contract signed, does that mean you’ll be on board as writer for “Superman: Son of Kal-El” for the foreseeable future or do you have other plans?
Tom Taylor: Definitely on “Superman: Son of Kal-El” for as long as I can really. It’s a great book and I’m having a lot of fun. Same with “Nightwing”. There’s no plans but to stay on them and create a big story while we can. Obviously the sales are there, so that’s really exciting.
Q: There was a bit of backlash from Jon’s fanbase when it was decided to rapidly age him in to a young man instead of keeping him as a young boy. I know you weren’t necessarily involved in that decision, but what would you say to these fans?
Tom Taylor: I understand that some fans felt a bit of a loss there. Particularly fans who had been reading “Super Sons” for years. My own son was one of them. He’s a huge “Super Sons” fan. He was the one who convinced me to use both of them in “DCeased”. He gave me all the trades, and said, “Dad read these. Both of them need to be in your book”. I’m like “Okay”. I totally got it. Everything Tomasi and Jorge Jiménez and Pat Gleason did on those books was fantastic. But I think a lot of people who were resistent to that change have come around now that they’ve seen what he’s doing now, and what couldn’t have been done if he was still a 10 year old boy. So I think we’ve won over a lot of those people and I think it just give us this opportunity to tell this story. Who knows what will happen in the future.
Q: What do you say to fans who are worried that DC is planning to have Jon replace his dad as THE Superman moving forward?
Tom Taylor: I see that rumor all the time and I kind of find it amusing. If you look around me right now, there is just Superman/Clark Kent statues, busts, toys all around me, all around my office. Clark has been my hero, and has been the hero, and is the hero for so many people. He will continue to be. Phillip (Kennedy Johnson) is doing such an amazing job on “Action Comics”, that’s not going to change. Clark Kent as far as I’m concerned isn’t going anywhere. And they certainly haven’t told me anything.
Q: Warner Bros. Animation is set to release its first ever CG-animated film titled “Battle of the Super Sons” in 2022. I’m guessing it will feature Jon Kent and Damian Wayne. Are you involved in this project? And if not, what are your thoughts on it?
Tom Taylor: No, I’m not involved. My thoughts are that this is great. I’m a huge Super Sons fan. I’ve obviously written them all through “DCeased,” “DCeased: Hope at World’s End,” I really love the dynamic they have, and it’s a dynamic that we’ve continued on “Superman: Son of Kal-El” now. Obviously we’ve had Damian in issue #1 and you’re going to see him again very soon because I love that friendship they have and that camaraderie, and the way they bicker. It’s really fun. I’m glad more people get to experience it through that movie.
Q: Also, as co-creator of Val-Zod, how do you feel about the news that Michael B. Jordan and HBO Max are looking to produce a live-action project using the character? Are you involved in any way, shape or form?
Tom Taylor: No, not involved in that. It’s one of those things that you read all the rumors, just like everybody else. Obviously, Nicola Scott is the co-creator, who is from Sydney, and we’re both very excited for anything to happen with that. Michael B. Jordan was one of the people we used from day one as a sort of model. I remember Nicola, because she was a huge “Friday Night Lights” fans, was sending me emails about him when we were discussing what Val-Zod should like. She was like, “Look at this man’s smile”. And I’m like, “Yep, I get it!” [Laughs]. So, you know it would be quite a wonderful twist of fate if Michael B. Jordan was to bring that to the screen.
Q: You obviously saw that Val-Zod is being created as a LEGO minifigure in the upcoming “LEGO DC Character Encyclopedia”. I guess you’ve got yours on pre-order?
Tom Taylor: No, I haven’t yet. But I’m sure I’ll get many of them.
Q: Getting back to the comic books, what can you tell us about upcoming issues of “Superman: Son of Kal-El” without giving away any spoilers?
Tom Taylor: We’ve set up some big storylines and we’ve certainly set up a big rivalry with Henry Bendix on the island of Gamorra, and you’re gonna see that coming to a head coming up. Some big stuff happens. You’re gonna learn more about Jay’s history, and hopefully really follow along with him as well. Jay and Jon are gonna team up a little bit more, to work with The Truth, and work against Henry Bendrix. And we’re going to learn more of his plans, particularly in issue #6 you’re gonna find out just how big Bendrix’s plans are for the world. Going forward in issue #6, #7 and #8 and then you’ll realize just how big a story this is.
Q: You’ve Jon’s got an upcoming crossover with Nightwing, what can fans of both characters expect there?
Tom Taylor: We established in a “Nightwing” issue that Nightwing has always seen Superman as a bit of a guide and a mentor, and he goes to him for help when he’s trying to work out what to do in Blüdhaven. Superman tells him he’s got this basically, but tells him that he’s going away for a while, and if he could look after his son while he’s gone, he couldn’t think of a better guy, and a better mentor, and obviously Nightwing is pretty touched by this because Superman is his hero. So you’re going to see this fulfilled. You’re going to see Nightwing go to Metropolis, and he and Jon teaming up, and just when Jon needs him the most.
Q: Looking outside of the comic book world, there’s lots going on with Superman, with “Superman & Lois” on TV. Are you a fan of the TV series?
Tom Taylor: Yes, absolutely. I’m a lit bit behind because my kids and I were watching it and we just got into it hard and we were loving it, but we stopped so my wife could catch up and she hasn’t yet, so during the holidays we’ll make sure she does. I think Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch are just so great. I was really fortunate actually that I was with Tyler when he got the job, when it was announced that he was going to be Superman on “Supergirl”. We just happened to be together at the same convention, and we got to sit down in the Green Room and talk about Superman. It was a real honor to be able to take him through what he meant to me. And I gave him “Injustice” and said, “Don’t read any of this except Chapter 30 with the nice one.” So I just think he’s done such a fantastic job.
Q: How have you coped during COVID with lockdowns and the like? Did it impact your work much at all?
Tom Taylor: In a lot of ways I just knuckled down and wrote more. Particularly last year, DC came to me and asked me to do a weekly digital series, I was doing “Injustice Year Zero,” “DCeased” and everything else I had going for them. So if anything I’ve just written more. If anything it’s a bit more difficult to get the creative juices flowing when you’re sitting in the exact same space, and there’s not a lot of things happening around you. At the end of the day you just dig in and do the work. Just like anything else, you try to get as close to a deadline as you can. I can’t complain too much because I’m telling stories about the greatest superheroes in the world. I’m playing with the greatest toys in the world. I just feel very fortunate.
Q: You mentioned Nicola Scott before. I caught up with her at the recent Oz ComicCon convention here in Sydney, and she was talking about Australians breaking in to the comic book industry and working with DC, and she was one of the first. How have you found it as an Australian working in what has been a very American dominated field?
Tom Taylor: Once again, I feel very lucky. I feel so glad that whatever it is about my writing that people responded so positively to continues. That people actually want to read what you work on. That’s about the most you can ask for. It’s not just about sales, it’s about making people happy. And as somebody who was a professional Juggler for a long time, I used to eat fire and juggle knives for a living, and that was kind of how I view all of this. I just want to entertain people, and if at the end of the day people are entertained then I’ve done my job. But I feel very lucky that DC have trusted me with such iconic characters. I’ve said before, writing Superman as a huge Superman fan, it would be far more likely statistically for me to grow up to be an astronaut then for me to grow up and be the writer of Superman. So it’s insane that this has happened.
Q: You mentioned before you used to visit our website. Do you still visit the Superman Homepage?
Tom Taylor: I do sometimes. Yeah. I’ve been checking out some of your reviews lately. It’s always great to see the bar fill up in the “S” symbol. It’s like “Yes! Five stars! They like it!” [Laughs] I used to take all the icons off of there. The wallpaper I currently have on my computer here was taken from the Superman Homepage. I love your site. Thank you!
Q: Is there anything you want to pass on to the fans to finish off?
Tom Taylor: Just stick with us. I hope you’re enjoying “Superman: Son of Kal-El” and “Dark Knights of Steel” as well. There’s some very big Superman and Supergirl moments coming up in that. And thank you for reading.
Many thanks to DC Comics for arranging the interview and to Tom Taylor for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with the Superman Homepage.