Philadelphia: The big "S" is still on his chest, but the new Superman coming to the shelves of book stores next week is not exactly the chipper and bright-eyed optimist of lore.
Instead, the kid from Krypton featured in ‘Superman: Earth One’ that was released to comic book shops Wednesday and due in other book stores on Tuesday, sports a hoodie, a brooding brow and fashion sense that would not put him out of place in hipster lairs from Brooklyn to Seattle.
And that, said Dan DiDio, senior vice president and executive editor at DC Comics is just what the company was aiming for when it asked J. Michael Straczynski, himself a noted comic book writer who currently helms the company`s flagship monthly ‘Superman’ title.
"We always knew that we wanted to do a real, contemporary interpretation of Superman," he told the reporters. "And what we did is we reached out to Joe Straczynski — Joe is probably one of the biggest Superman fans out there."
DiDio said DC augured the retelling as a way to reach out to buyers not just in comic book stores but in other book stores, too — fans of books and series like ‘Twilight’ or Stieg Larsson`s Millennium trilogy of crime novels.
"In this particular case what we did is we looked at the format," he said, adding that DC has been "showing great strides in really strong improvement in sales in the book store market place, and what we wanted to do was to create an original graphic novel featuring our most prominent character that we felt captured a contemporary tone and really was built with the bookstore market in mind."
The graphic novel was illustrated by Shane Davis. And while it features the jet-black hair — sans curly lock atop the forehead — and piercing stare that Clark Kent/Superman has had since his creation in the 1930s, Davis` art reflects a more modern bent with narrow pants and ties and the ubiquitous hoodie.
The work draws upon the Superman mythology but recreates it for a contemporary audience with a 20-year-old Clark Kent who`s unsure how to use his super-strength, super-smarts and just plain super abilities as he makes his way through a grittier, more realistic Metropolis trying to find not just a job but meaning and purpose.
DiDio and DC are pleased with the transformation, noting that demand for the work has been so great that the book has already gone back to the press for a wider run.
"When we were building this book we had a lot of things in mind. We were looking at what fiction was popular at the time ... and since we are in the periodical business, and we want to be in the bookstore business, what better continuing character should be in that market but Superman?" he asked.
"But we needed to make him hip, moody and sexy in order to really appeal to who are really wanting to read novels with our characters," DiDio added.
Given the predicted demand, DC is already planning a similar treatment for Batman, which will be written by Geoff Johns, a writer who was named DC Comics` chief creative officer in February.
"And we`re already looking ... at future volumes of `Superman: Earth One," DiDio said.