Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
The Daily Planet has a new job opening.
In Superman issue 13, the Man of Steel's alter ego, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, quits the Metropolis newspaper that has been his employer since the DC Comics superhero's earliest days in 1940.
But that's just one of many plot points of note in the new issue, available digitally and in comic shops Wednesday. Superman pushes the limits of his powers, Clark sees a disturbing text message regarding Lois Lane and her new boyfriend, and a new Kryptionian threat is also introduced that will begin a crossover story involving the stars of Superboy and Supergirl.
"I wasn't going to test the waters. I was just going to do a cannonball in the Super-verse," says new Superman writer Scott Lobdell, who began his run on the book alongside his Red Hood and the Outlaws artist Kenneth Rocafort last month with a special zero issue.
DC's "The New 52" relaunch a year ago changed a good bit of Superman's status quo, such as the fact that Clark and Lois weren't married anymore. He's moved on, of course - Superman and Wonder Woman recently shared a kiss in the pages of Justice League.
However, his still-strong feelings for Lois, combined with Daily Planet editor in chief Perry White getting on his case for not enough scoops on the Superman beat and his boss' boss Morgan Edge also giving him a hard time, leads to a Jerry Maguire-type moment where he quits in front of the whole staff and rails on how journalism has given way to entertainment - in a not-so-mild-mannered fashion. (The Daily Planet has also been moving more toward the real world, too, with the newspaper becoming part of the multimedia corporation Galaxy Broadcasting.)
"This is really what happens when a 27-year-old guy is behind a desk and he has to take instruction from a larger conglomerate with concerns that aren't really his own," Lobdell explains.
"Superman is arguably the most powerful person on the planet, but how long can he sit at his desk with someone breathing down his neck and treating him like the least important person in the world?"
Lobdell's favorite part? When Clark calls for his peers to stand up for truth, justice "and yeah - I'm not ashamed to say it - the American way," a nod to the Man of Steel's history.
"While it has its problems, there are a lot of good things to say about America and the American way, and I'm glad Clark is standing up for her," says Lobdell, who also writes Superboy and Teen Titans for DC. "I'm happy to be involved in that and his declarations."
Clark's situation is one most any working stiff can relate to, when they've had enough and don't want to take it anymore. And the superhero, who became a journalist in the first place because he wanted to speak out on things he couldn't as Superman, "has been in this awkward position of everything he's writing is certainly a shading to keep his identity secret," Lobdell says, adding that Clark is in a sense Superman's id.
"Rather than Clark be this clownish suit that Superman puts on, we're going to really see Clark come into his own in the next few years as far as being a guy who takes to the Internet and to the airwaves and starts speaking an unvarnished truth."
Entertainment reporter Cat Grant also quits the Planet with him, and Lobdell says she'll be bringing "a whole other set of skills" to their next venture. It probably won't be at another media outlet in Metropolis, though.
"I don't think he's going to be filling put an application anywhere," the writer says. "He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from."
Meanwhile, a new threat to Clark's Superman persona begins to make itself known in the new issue, which acts as a prelude to the "H'el on Earth" story line.
H'el is another man from Superman's long-dead home planet of Krypton and will be "a pretty horribly tragic character" in the mythology rather than a villain such as Lex Luthor, according to Lobdell.
When H'el first meets Superman, the writer says, his first inclination won't be to destroy the Man of Steel. Instead, the reaction will be more akin to him thinking, "Here is a guy who speaks Kryptonese with a Kansas twang."
"He sees Superman as an embarrassment, a Kryptonian who's been completely watered down and sullied by having spent his entire life on Earth," Lobdell says. "It's only going to be over the course of several issues that H'el starts to realize that, yeah, Superman is somebody who can complicate his plans moving forward."
The animosity is going to grow over several issues, though, and H'el's intentions are so noble that he'll be pulling Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, into his orbit, Lobdell adds. "So Superman is going to have to not only worry about He'l but worry about He'l and how it affects his cousin moving forward."
While many crossovers and events in comic history sometimes causes a series to slam on the breaks to accommodate the bigger story, "H'el on Earth" won't waylay Lobdell's other subplots. For example, in issue 14, the first seven pages include Lois banging on Clark's door and wondering what his reasons were for quitting the Planet.
Clark's new employment status is part of Lobdell as well as DC wanting to explore Superman through a modern-day lens. The writer says Rocafort's vision of Clark and Superman is one where "both have a lot of gravity but are also very light and young and sexy." Plus, they talked about modern journalism jobs that may be more relevant than an old-school beat reporter for a newspaper.
"When we started discussions," Lobdell says, "they were like, 'Yep, let's see where this goes. Let's take the sacred super-cows and start looking at Superman with a new set of eyes.'"
Next year looks to be a major one for Superman, with a new comic book coming from Scott Snyder and Jim Lee as well as director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel movie. Lobdell, however, begs to differ.
"It's a big day for Superman every day," he says. "This notion that we're going to wait till next year to see Superman in all his Super-glory is a misperception. It starts with issue 13."