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Phillip Kennedy Johnson – Interview
[00:00:00] Jeff: Hello, listeners of sport or country today on the show we have returning champion, Mr. Phillip candy Johnson. How’s it going, sir? Great,
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: man. How are you?
Jeff: I’m doing very well. It’s a very, it’s a pleasure to speak to. You’ve been on the show a couple of times, but I have not had the luck to be the one who speaks with you.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Well, it was my pleasure. It’s good to talk to you finally.
Jeff: Thank you so much. And you know, as I always do, I go into some background of the author I’m talking to, and I was so impressed with reading your history. You are like a real Renaissance, man. You you’re talented musician, a composer. Writer I think I’ve read that you were also a soldier that correct?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: The army. So
Jeff: do you done just so many different things? How did all these things just, you know, how did they have, it was a one that you pursued first on, like on a, on your path to doing what you do
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: now? I mean, even when I was a kid, I really had a lot of different things I wanted to do. I did, at some point I [00:01:00] focused on, on music actually, I, for a long time, I really wanted to be a comic artist when I was really young.
But I really liked music too. And, you know, detective and everything else, like, you know, like so many kids, like, there’s just, you wanted to kind of do it all. And around, I guess in high school, I really started to focus more on music. I just really became enamored with the idea of becoming a musician.
And it just seemed like the most plausible way for me to get out of the place I was in and just see the world and all that. So I went to school for music, with the intent that we, my career and it, it was, and is like, I went to, I got to undergrad and graduate degree in music. I played trumpet and had my sights set on the military bands in Washington, DC.
And I mean, because I wanted to do too in music. I mean, it wasn’t like my only goal. So I wanted to, I really wanted to do it all in music. I wanted to play and in big bands and jazz combos and funk bands and orchestras and all these different but the intention was always kind of, I was figured that I would end up in [00:02:00] a band in the capital.
That’s what I wanted to do eventually, you know, and that I ended up getting an audition with the us army field band, one of the premier bands in DC. And that’s where I am now. I’ve been doing this job for about 15 years and change. And while I was here you know, other things started, I guess I just kind of started looking for other opportunities.
First within music, like I, you know, not just trumpet Lang, but also I wanted to compose the, one of the right music for the groups I was playing. But then my brother, I have a younger brother who also did a lot of music and art and he went the other way. He went to the comic art. And so I just kind of decided to, I don’t know, he didn’t really know how to get started.
And both of us were just country mice grew up in the middle of nowhere and didn’t know how to, he didn’t know how to get started in the end. So, so I just invited him to come live in hum, move in with me and we would figure it out together. So I started writing again just for, just to give him a script sales straight and just really not getting the bug.
I really just love the, [00:03:00] the creative process of making comics. I love the. The collaboration of it. I like just the community of it. I really liked how, how genuine everyone is like in the, I really like the comment community. I like how everyone can just unapologetically be into what they’re into and just make the things they love.
And I mean, practically, no one gets in the comics for the money. They just get into it because they love it. And I think that’s awesome. I mean, in that regard, music is often the same way. I mean, a lot of people that I knew growing up as musicians were also in it for love of the game. So it felt very familiar to me in that regard.
So yeah, I’m just kind of figured out writing as I went along, as my brother was figuring out the art side and sort of worked out, you know, so now I’m, I’m in this place where I get to do both. I still play music with my band and the military and I’m also writing comics with some really amazing people.
So I’ve been really, really fortunate. I
Jeff: mean, it’s just, it was this amazing thing about all the things you’ve done. I mean, you [00:04:00] traveled all over the world. What the United States, army field band with the federal brass of Washington and the Glenn Miller orchestra, what, what did you like? What did you just learn from all that?
Just being so many different places around the world. I mean, did you, what kind of insights did you just get into like people or culture or I didn’t have a chance to just experience these places that you’ve been in.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. I mean, any kind of travel, man, you just learn so much about people. It’s just, it’s really so rewarding to meet people from so many different walks of life, you know, like just, I’ve been all through every, I’ve been through every, every state in the continental us multiple times.
I know where all the restaurants are all around the world country. I should say I’ve been overseas as well, but. I mean by far, most of my travel has been within the states have also been to other countries, but most of it’s been within the continental us. And I, there’s no place in this country. I’m not comfortable.
And I [00:05:00] have met so many kinds of people and there are so many different perspectives that is just invaluable in any conversation. You know, you just, you feel like you understand people so much better when you’ve known so many. I do want to get overseas more and I’m hoping to start doing more international cons.
Like the nature of my gig is primarily to you communicate with the American people. There’s an ambassadorial type job where we’ll go and play a, play a series of concerts and, you know, also Norway or something, or, you know, we’ll, you know, there’s, there’s these other things that come up, but primarily it’s overseas.
When I was in the Miller band, we played in Japan for a good bit in Canada and I’ve been in Mexico and, you know, a couple places in Europe, but it’s not, you know, I don’t know, there’s just, there’s a lot I still have left to do. And I, as a, now that I’m starting to get more notoriety as a writer, I would love to start traveling to other places and just fill in those, those holes in my game, you know, from other countries.
Jeff: So [00:06:00] with all this traveling, all these people that you’ve known you know, someone who like myself, you know, who’s Mo haven’t traveled probably as much as you have and maybe their knowledge of the world and our country’s kind of from TV news, things of that nature. Would, would you say that people are across the globe inherently the same?
Like, are you basically noticing that my, where you go, they’re basically similar people?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I, yeah, I do think that’s huge. I mean, you, you definitely see the differences. But after, you know, in the heart of everyone, they mostly just kind of looking out for. For their own crew, you know, like people just go to work.
We’re about, we’re about the things that they did. They themselves have to worry about like theirs, their own families and their, their day-to-day. And just trying to try not to let anyone down in their own lives, you know? Mostly it’s, everyone’s just doing [00:07:00] their best. I don’t know. It’s it seems like such a, I don’t know.
It’s, it’s hard to, sorry. I wish I’d had this. I wish I had this question to prep for. I don’t know what to say exactly, except that, I mean, everyone is just worried about their own people, you know, about their own families, about their own communities, about doing the best they can with with what they’ve been given.
Jeff: as you said, traveling now that you’re a writer. Are you thinking about incorporating more of these different locations into your writing? Does traveling help you understand maybe the characters that you’re writing about better?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of the traveling is me.
It’s all about the people more so than the regions, more so than the places. It’s all about the people you meet there. And the more, the better you get to know them, the more you hear these amazing, like real stories. Like once you get past all the small talky stuff and you get to really know them and hear [00:08:00] stories that about their lives, about who they are and how they have grown up and things they’re afraid of and the people that they love and the things they’ve been through.
That’s when you start to hear stories that really matter, you know, especially if you’re talking to like a, like a war vet, like where they people talk about when people are telling you one of the. Most impactful things that ever happened to them. That’s a huge deal. You know, those are the kinds of stories you get when you’re talking to a war vet at a concert, like they’ll tell you things that you’ll never forget.
And not necessarily just the, not just the stories you’re imagining right now, either not necessarily the stuff in the foxhole with, you know, like the near-death stuff, but even the other things, just other, just very memorable stories about places they’ve seen or things that they did and while they were overseas yeah, this, those once you get, yeah, once you get back past all the small talk and get to get to know the real memorable stories that define them as people, those are the stories that you feel like you just have to repeat or find ways to work into your stories in some way.
There’s, I mean, my first [00:09:00] shot at Superman was like that. Like, I really wanted to pay tribute to several people. I mean, one of them was a. You know, public figure like a hero of mine, mender Evers, the you know, civil rights icon who died much too young, but also this, this woman that I knew personally, who I met through my anti-human trafficking work in Baltimore, I used to do a lot of anti-human trafficking stuff.
And there was this one that there’s this female veteran who was in the shelter and her, the other people, their name, I just called her, her Sarge. I never actually knew her real name. I mean, she told me her real name once, but I’ve forgotten it because everyone’s called her Sarge. And she’s really exceptional person.
And I really wanted to you know, Patriot to her in some way. So one of the early one of the first two Superman issues that I did and the Superman worlds of war issues, the future state thing the first issue was meant to represent what Superman is to us. And the second issue is what we are to him.
So in that first issue, you kind of see this little Memorial group of people who submit has [00:10:00] saved throughout his lifetime. And this was after Superman has left earth and they’re all telling stories about how he saved them. And then they start to talk about theories about where they think he is now, because this is after he’s left earth and the they talking about where they think he is, where he might be.
Is he alive? As he did? Is he saving other worlds? Is he, is he doing other works of peace? They all have their own theories. And the second issue is actually an op ed that Clark Kent wrote the planet during his life here. And it’s all about this homeless person that he was really impressed with a man who died while Superman was sitting there with him.
And he admired the sky so much that he he felt compelled to share. His story. And it’s about a man who went to war, volunteered to go to war and then came home and participated in the civil rights movement and had a really hard time. We had a lot of suffered, a lot of failures in his [00:11:00] life. This is a person who many people would have regarded as a failure just based on the quote unquote merits of his life.
But Clark Kent had so much admiration for this person and really holds him up as as this Paragon of virtue that somebody that we should all strive to be more like, and it just felt like a very Superman thing to do. And and it was my little tribute to somebody who meant a lot to me as well. No, I
Jeff: think that’s absolutely awesome because Superman as both the character and the idea of the character in real life, Is I think different than a lot of fans and the average person think about, because I think we often think of Superman as a singular serially American character you know, truth justice never can wear that kind of thing, but in both the comic books and in reality is he’s the character of the world.
Right. And he’s the second most recognized pur into a character in the entire world right now after I think Mickey mouse. And he’s also in the comic [00:12:00] books, a character of the world that it exists. And I th and I think that’s interesting to have someone who’s has also traveled the world, right. A character who should have a worldly scope about him.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. I would agree. It’s yeah, he’s a person who just reveres all life. You know, all of us, the least of us. And that story about the homeless guy was kind of my way of communicating that and where he cares about all that. And yeah, I would agree. I mean, I want to see part of my action comics. Ron is communicating that he doesn’t just belong to us, that he, he loves other people.
The world’s just as much, and he really lays it all on the line to say the least of us that’s that really matters. Well, there’s this thing that SAR says to me, that really kind of haunted me where she, I was last time I saw her, I was at this, I was playing in a jazz combo that was playing at the shelter where she lived and she was a former addict as well.
She had a really hard [00:13:00] go. And she talk to me about this story. She found out that I was doing some writing then, but also that I was writing some music and she was like, Hey, I want to do something with you. I want to. I want to, I want you to write my story. And at some point in the same conversation and she talked about, she wanted to write music and towards the very end of the conversation, she admitted, like she just didn’t really, you know, she, she didn’t want to be forgotten, you know, she didn’t want to she wanted to do something to matter.
She wanted to, she wanted to do something to matter. So she said, and she didn’t want to be done. You know, she hadn’t, she had to know she was not in great health. And she had to know that she was coming up on the end of her life, but she and she was not okay with that. She wanted to do more. And it really stuck with me a lot.
And I like knowing what I mean, I don’t really know what that feels like to be in her position and know that she’s going to at the end of her life and, and not being satisfied with what she’s done. So yeah, that really an effort after she died, especially like, I never really never forgot that. And I, I wanted to.
You know, give her something, cause you really did have an [00:14:00] exceptional life and a lot of really cool things and, but also suffered a lot. And you know, I just felt compelled to, you know, help her achieve that thing that she wanted,
Jeff: you know, did, so did you end up either writing the music or whatever or the story at some point,
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: no, people will talk that way.
Like people in those places talk that way all the time and it never really, those kinds of things never really get done. So no, she and I never really worked together or anything. She, she just was afraid of dying without leaving some kind of a mark, you know?
Jeff: Well, I, I can, I mean, that’s gotta be a universal thought I would imagine.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah, I’m sure. But I mean, I know she’s gone now, but you know, and the story was not expressly about her specifically, but it was, it was kind of devoted to her and hopefully, you know, better than nothing, it just seemed, I, I could see. Something like Superman having those same thoughts, like wanting to do more and just wanting to serve people like her, you know?
Jeff: Yeah. It kind of brings up [00:15:00] some interesting ideas of philosophically Elvis, Superman. Like when you think about Superman, you, you know, he’s out to someone who does these great things. He saves the world. He’s, I guess he’s saved the universe multiple times, but I would imagine, I, I guess there’s a sense for if you’re assuming a character that it never there’s always was more than he could have done, I guess that’d be something that would haunt him forever.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: imagine. Sure. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And we’re going to see that in the upcoming stories too. Like it’s always, he’s, there’s never, this he’s so powerful, you know, like he has this absolute power and he, he tries to use it to do every iota of good. He can do. But, and he, because he’s so powerful, we think he’s, you know, he’s saving everyone, but he’s not always, like, there’s always going to be casually.
People will still die every day. People still die. And he always questions how much you should have done. Like, is there some way he could have done more like the thing at the end of Schindler’s list where we finally see this guy who’s been so proud and arrogant the whole way through and seems to be above it all, finally break down and we see the real him, or he’s really, he [00:16:00] questioned every decision.
He made like little things you might’ve done to save just one more person. And I feel like somebody like Superman would meet, eaten up with that all the time. And then we’d have to, he have to find a way to, you know, I feel like you’d have to, he would need some kind of a self preservation method of not letting himself go crazy.
You know what I mean?
Jeff: The reason I feel like something, that’s not something that writers have to brand authentic to an, to an account enough. And when talked about the idea of creating a human Superman, that feels like something that would be important about his character. I mean, To both be such an amazing hero on one level and the second, but on the other hand, take responsibility for every bad thing that you were not able to fix.
that’d be daunting.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. It’s I really it’s something I want to fit into the story in some way, like with somebody like Superman, you, you don’t want to make it so dark that it’s nice that you lose your readership. You don’t [00:17:00] want to turn readers away. Like, damn dude, this book is dark, you know, there’s, you know, like if you’re writing cap or somebody, that’s, that’s a, an unapologetically political figure.
Like how, how deep down the rabbit hole do you want to go? Before the book is just a drag to read, you know, and Superman, you could totally do that too. I feel like at that, that struggle, I think it’s something that Superman would feel and he would definitely feel a little bit tortured with like, what should I have done?
What else could I have done? So I mean you, why doesn’t he just fly. Literally constantly around the world is constantly zipping from one, one, you know, would be death to the next, to saving all of us all the time. Why even stopped to have a life. Now you can just, you can just break them down all the way.
Like, why don’t you just save everyone all the time. You have this amazing power, you know, you went, how much is enough? You know? Like, I feel like she’s so inherently good. I feel like these are conversations you, he would have with himself, but, but you have to, you have to preserve the F above all. You have to preserve the feeling that [00:18:00] reading Superman gives you, you know, like it’s you should come out of a Superman book feeling like a million bucks and I’m not, not tortured like this.
So there’s a balance you want to, you want to tell the real story and show what kind of person he is, but you also have to give the reader that sense of aspirational. That aspirational feeling of hope and all that, that that it should
Jeff: have. So, so when you’re approaching writing for Superman, because you write Superman and you’re also doing them, Ashton comics, both.
How do you, I mean, do you view Superman as the writing of your stories almost as writing allegories with some lesson, or are you thinking more in terms of just fun adventure? When will you start creating that first nugget of an idea? What are you searching for?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Hmm. It depends on the story actually.
Like it’s a case by case thing in my very first shot that I had was feature state worlds of war. But I knew I was going to get the shot at the, at the ongoing as well. So I wanted the worlds of [00:19:00] war books to be. A statement of kind of a statement of faith. We’re like a comment on what Superman, what, who Superman is kind of just let readers know what, what they can expect in the, the run to come.
So that’s what I did with those issues. And it was also a kind of a tribute to a Superman 400, this anthology that I had as a kid that I really, and I still have it. And it’s a really amazing book. That’s, it’s all about Superman in the future. Like that. What it’s, that, that was the theme that tied all the shorts together and the talent and that book is the best.
No it’s ever been together in one volume. I mean, it’s just an insane of creators. So yeah, I wanted it to be attribute to that. Like I wanted it to feel like that book did and just not the high art kind of take, especially since Miquel honeymoon was doing the art. I mean, it just automatically makes it high art.
I mean, Mikelle is a next level. Well artists, so I Yeah. So that became my statement of what Superman [00:20:00] is, but what do you, what do you means to us? What we mean to him? That’s what that book was. But then after that I had to, I wanted to make this big arc. That’s going to go on for a long time, or we’re telling this really gigantic epic story for Superman and the whole idea behind that was just to make Superman as super as possible.
I wanted it to, I want to tell the most epic version of Superman that has ever been. That’s what we’re trying to do here. It’s not again, in the books most recently, There’s a lot of the supporting cast. There’s a lot of daily planet. It’s all very not street level, but it’s all on earth now. Again, not all either.
There’s not a space stuff too, but there’s a lot of involvement with his supporting cast and the inner workings of the daily planet. And it humanizes Clark Kent a lot, which is great. I mean, we see, we get super clear visions of who all of his cast are how they’re all different and what they mean to Superman and vice versa.
When he came out as Superman, when Clark can’t reveal his identity to the world. And [00:21:00] when they, they blew that up, that was all, you know, and it did a lot to humanize the character and really see who he truly is. But now that we’ve done that. I feel like that really opened me up to, to tell the most epic capital S Superman that we could possibly do.
So, like you said, he belongs to the universe to the multiverse, and I want to see that side of Superman. That’s what we’re doing now. So that was the, that’s the vision in the action comics run in the Superman run, I was only going to be on that book for very short time. And because of that, that kind of opened us up to tell a shorter story with a more concise message.
And that’s, since I knew that it was leading up to the John Kent Superman book. I wanted that to be a statement about Superman and John’s relationship as father and son. So I send them on this, you know, on this mission, this quest into space kind of a world-building joint where I wanted to, [00:22:00] well, I mean, action comics is too, but I wanted to show a new world that we’d never seen before in the comics.
With its own language and culture. And I wanted it to have kind of a horror vibe just because we haven’t seen a whole lot of that. And Superman, I thought that’d be really fun to send you. We haven’t seen a lot of in a place that would give us opportunities to really explore Superman and John’s relationship a little bit more.
So the whole thing, and that is a letter to, to John from Superman after he’s left earth for what he is afraid might be the last time. So it’s a, it’s a journal that Superman has left to John after he thinks he might’ve left for, for good. So yeah, every, every story kind of is its own thing. And a lot of that is based on who the artist is going to be.
Like. I, I knew that somebody like Scott Good Lucy could really sell the shit out of a horror story with those characters. And with Daniel, I had Daniel and McKell, who’s going to be jumping on the book again later for action comics. I wanted to tell a very different kind of thing. So a lot of it’s based on the, the.
Creative team as well.
Jeff: So basically your, [00:23:00] how you’re differentiating Asher comics from Superman is basically scale. Is, am I understanding correctly?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Pretty much. Yeah. Yeah. The action action comics is going to be gone for a long time with me at the helm. And we wanted to make it just this huge epic John Carter, warlord of Mars kind of thing.
You know, Spartacus and space. So that’s, that’s what we’re doing. And then the other one, we didn’t have as many issues to play with. And I knew I wanted it to be an independent story, not just another book that might as well be action comics and one of them to be its own thing that felt super different.
So one way in which we differentiate it, it was the art style. I mean, Scott’s art is way different from, Daniel’s also just that the horror vibe that we’re playing with sets it apart and in a huge way. And the the focus on Superman and John together, which I think sets up Tom’s run pretty well, but also it just makes it different from the action runs.
So all these little things that give each book, its own flavor,
[00:24:00] Jeff: well, I didn’t get to read those comments and they were really well done. I was really impressed with what you did with the Superman comic books. And when you’re saying national comics that you have a long run ahead, you are, do we know you’re already on?
You know, I think so far you’ve written, I think it was it 10 29 and 10 30, right?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. The ones that have come out so far have been aside from the future state stuff is 10 29, 10 30. Those are the issues that are out so far.
Jeff: I mean, are you on til 1100? Are you there? Are you already, do you already know how far along you are already guaranteed to be on the Chromebook for
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: 1100 will be a hell of a long time.
And I would love to do that and that’s not, we haven’t. Hmm. I don’t think I should give us a number, but there, there is a, there’s a certain number of scripts that I’ve already given them, like outlines for, and it’s it’s way up there. But I probably shouldn’t give a number just thinking. Yeah, because plans change all the time and it’s, it’s possible that down the line they’ll move me to something else.
So I, I hate to commit to how many I’m on right [00:25:00] now, but there’s no, there’s no final number in place right now.
Jeff: Are you, are you on for more than one year’s worth of stories?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: I really don’t think I should say. I just, because, just because plans change all the time and the knee, I mean, comics is this train that never stops moving.
And the amount of track is really not that much longer than the train itself. Like we’re, we’re constantly trying to build a track to stay ahead of it. And we’re moving around creative teams, like, like it’s this. This four-dimensional chess game going on in all directions all the time and trying to keep the creative teams working and move, move writers and artists and colors and letters from one book to the next all the time.
So there’s no guarantee of anything, but I will say I expect to be, I expect to be on the book longer than a year for sure. Beyond that, it really just depends on the needs of, of the characters of the series of the company, you know?
Jeff: Yeah. So, I mean, you’re continuing off [00:26:00] from. The a long run from Brian, Brian, Michael Bendis.
Yeah. Are there story plots story elements that are in his run that you either, or either part of your run or you feel like you have to like close up on, or is your run distinct from what came before it?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Well, it’s very distinct. Like, it’s definitely nothing like what Ben is did in this, the focus, like the fact that it’s all well, I mean, right now, action comics is, is currently on earth, but I mean, the arc is called war world rising.
So I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re going to war world soon which is going to set it apart from the Bendis run, you know, a great deal just in that. I mean, the fact that it’s not going to be, you’re not gonna see a lot of Jimmy Olsen and war world. There are the things that were. That we’re developing, that came out of Bendis’s Ronnie, Bendis made a lot of big changes to status quo as everyone knows.
And a lot of those things are getting like directly impacted the, the events of this. But for one [00:27:00] thing I mean the, you know, John, the status quo, John, of course the fact that John is now older is the reason he’s getting his own book now. Like w that’s why one of the two Superman titles is now a John Ken book just goes now he’s Superman in his own.
Right. Another thing that Bennis did that we’re dealing with is the emphasis on Mongolia and Mongo came out every now and again, and we saw Mongo’s son murder him. So now we have a new Mongol. Which is also a big, big deal. So we’ve got this new model. I think it’s potentially a much scarier. Like I want to make him much scarier and more threatening than his dad was.
So, you know, the development of Mongol is a big deal. Obviously the the reveal of Clark Kent as Superman to the world that led straight into my future state stuff and, you know, yeah. All the, all the things that he did are getting dealt with in a, in my run and in Tom’s run as well.
Jeff: It sounds like there’s a definite theme that you’re working [00:28:00] on.
Of father and sons, you have, like I said, you have Mongo Mongo’s kid, Jonathan Kent, Clark Kent. I’m probably gonna butcher the name horribly. You have also a off oh Bacchus and that we’re close to it.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Kara thought Bacchus. Yeah. And his father cares about them.
Jeff: Yeah. So, I mean, is that a theme you’re trying to work out and using these other sons and father relationships to reflect upon Superman and his kid?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Well, sorry. Certainly in the Superman issues. Yes. Like the, the whole, the culture on sacrum, the planet sacrum with the, the father and son thing, there was, is meant to be a vehicle to help us explore a Superman and John, more like we see the contrast between those guys and, and with Kara Bacchus and his background.
So yeah, we’re definitely dealing with father and son stuff and the Superman book in action. That’s not to say it doesn’t matter. It does, but it’s not as central to the story as it is in the, as it wasn’t a future state issues. [00:29:00] And as it in a, as it is in the Superman issues and action comics, it’s more about Superman and his what he learns about war world and Mongol and what he feels like he has to do.
And the reasons for that, it’s not so much about John as a, as some other things that will we’ll see develop.
Jeff: So when you’re for, for issue 30, it wasn’t able to do with ’em once again, but the name I’m going to, I can’t pronounce really well. You say court, how do you pronounce chorus? Kara, Kara,
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Kara
Jeff: carousel buckets.
Consumer makes a comment about the parental relationship and how different it is from human relationships. Is he right on that? What would you say when you’re reading it? Or is, is there, is there something he’s missing in or. Viewing, maybe naively about relationship these
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: relationships, right?
It’s a, it’s a very different it’s, it’s meant to kind of illustrate how, how different things are in different worlds. Like we, we have these things, like we see everything through the lens of human beings, [00:30:00] even when we go to another country and everything seems so nuts. Like the culture, the food, the clothing, the buildings, everything is different.
It’s also humanity. And I wanted to explore how completely different things it would be on another planet. And in another, literally in another galaxy, I don’t, I didn’t want to go there and see, you know, two arm to leg people with, with, you know, hair in the same places that we have. And people live in the same kind of billings that we have.
And, you know, speaking English, I didn’t want any of that. I want people to get their minds blown to some degree and And yeah, these, the people that live on planet FAQ room have different experience, different emotions, like emotions are basically chemicals, chemical reactions, and it’s, these people are built completely different than us.
So it makes sense to me that they would experience emotions differently, differently. Also, also one thing that’s actually not expressly in the book because there wasn’t really a space to explore it. Is that the the sacraments there are genderless, they [00:31:00] reproduce asexually. So every, every factor might comes from the body of one parent.
So, which also kind of, you know, impacts their relationships. So it’s not. You don’t have the influence of two people making one person, you have one person that theoretically should be exactly like their parent, but that’s not usually the case. So they it’s kind of between that and their emphasis on strength above all things kind of makes them more aggressive and it makes their parental relationships much more confrontational, much more like adversarial kind of, if that makes sense.
Jeff: Oh yeah. Are, is the threat of mice can be revisited frequently in the current, in your upcoming runs?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Not necessarily. It’s I mean, I’d love to see him again down the line. Sure. If it makes sense to do so, but they don’t really, I mean, it would be actually, huh. It might be kind of cool to see some of them in world, but they don’t have any current plans to bring them out again [00:32:00] as it was the parents, the parent child thing and and the.
The shadow breed, the one who fell and all that, those are meant to be vehicles for specific storytelling purposes. So yeah,
Jeff: like I said, I found them to be very interesting as it character, cause you did create an interesting mirror, I think, to a human society, which was again, is the idea of a very tight parental bond.
And also what you’re doing with Jonathan and Clark being wasn’t get very tight. I think that’s arguments really created interesting mirror to those relationships. I was definitely curious to learn more about
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: them. Well, thanks. I appreciate that. Yeah. I’m very proud of the story and definitely proud of the work that Scott’s doing.
I think you’re going to dig it.
Jeff: So, so, obviously as you said, micro Brian, Brian, Michael Bendis, he aged up, Jonathan can quite quickly. Is there any intention of aging him back down to where he was in the super sons?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: There it is. There is the question
Jeff: I know that was going to come up, but I had to ask it too.
[00:33:00] Phillip Kennedy Johnson: I am, no, I had, there’s all kinds of reasons why that wouldn’t really work. One big reason is that none of, none of the series at DC happened in a vacuum. They all kind of impact each other. And there’s a lot of plans for John and have been for a long time. So if I had, if I had walked in to the gig, like, Hey, what should write Superman?
And I’m like, great. I’m going to put John 10 years old. Like today they would have been like, you know, you’re not, and here’s all the reasons why, because there’s all these books that are gonna use John and various ways. They have all these plans in place long before I came along. So. Plus the thing about that is that he was not magically aged up.
Like he didn’t, he didn’t go through a machine and just come out older. But with the mind of a 10 year old, he went through years of experiences. I kind of breezed over some of those in the Indy issue where he describes what happened. Like we see him, he went on all these adventures with them as his grandpa.
[00:34:00] And he did spend some time, you know, with ultra man, which sucked. But, but all those, those, those years yeah. Were spent like he went through some experiences and now he is older because yeah. As he had years of experiences to take those away again would be really weird, especially now that he’s going through puberty.
And now he’s an older kid and yeah. Did you just like, pretend like none of that happened just. Would just be crazy. Plus it’s not even my gig anymore. Cause now Tom, I was only kind of keeping the seat warm for Tom anyway, for calendar reasons. Like I action comics was the one that I was always going to be doing.
There was never, it was never the intention that I would be doing both books for years and years, years, and years. I hope to do one of them for very long time, but the other one was always going to be the, it was always going to become the Jonathan Kent book. So it was, it wasn’t really my place to, to bring John back down to 10 years old.
And it also would not have worked for a ton of storytelling reasons.
Jeff: Are you going to further explore those those years that were discussed, but not really experienced by [00:35:00] the readers and kind of dug deeper into what he did or during that period? And as he aged?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: No, it’s, I mean, Tom Taylor, who was a friend and a super capable writer he is now writing the Jonathan can’t Superman, but like, as you know, I ha at Marvel, you’ve got somebody writing the Peter Parker Spider-Man and you’ve got somebody else writing miles Morales.
That’s where we’re at now. Like I’m, I’m writing Clark Kent and Tom is writing John. So, Tom is the one you’d have to speak to about his plans for John. I do. I do know what he’s, what he has planned, but it’s not really up to me in that regard. Like he’s, John’s Jonathan, Ken’s going to be the Superman of earth for awhile.
And and Tom has very specific plans for, for John.
Jeff: So. As you’re writing Superman as, because in many ways, Superman as a father is a relatively new element to the Superman. Mythos considered has been around for about 83, 84 years. How do you, how does being a [00:36:00] father change? How you approach the character of Superman?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Oh man, I being a dad and the fact that Superman himself as a dad right now almost makes it too easy to write. It just makes him so relatable. And I don’t even really want Superman to be a relatable character to people. I want him to be better than us. I want him to, I want us to aspire to be him all the time.
I don’t ever want to like the one, the one problem I’ve got with the Superman and Lois show is, and granted, I’m not entirely caught up in that show. I am a few episodes behind, I need to get caught up again, but I do like it and I liked I liked Tyler Jacqueline’s portrayal. And I liked it. I liked the boys.
It was like a lot of things about it. I really dig. I don’t like some of the dumb ass mistakes that Clark makes as a dad. Like my, the thing that comes to mind the quickest is when please forgive me, anyone who’s listening for, but here’s some spoilers. So please tone out if you don’t want to let that show spoil for you, but like early in the first [00:37:00] couple episodes you learn that one of the two sons has power and the other one doesn’t for now.
And when that happens, Superman’s like, great. Well, we gotta, I gotta teach you how to deal with this. So I’m going to take you to the fortress of solitude so you can learn more about your heritage. But he doesn’t take the other kid, which is super fucking lame, I think. And the other, one’s your son too, man.
Like what are you doing? I, it’s just a, such a lame, terrible call as a father. I’m literally yelling at the TV and like every day he comes home and he’s stressed and lowers the stress because she’s got her own issues with, you know, trying to clean up the town from the journalism aspect. And then they come home and get wine drunk together, all this stuff.
That’s just weird for me to see is this as a Superman fan and as Superman writer, it’s just so crazy to see this kind of stuff. I don’t want Superman make these kinds of mistakes. I want Superman to be above reproach. [00:38:00] Not to say he can’t have struggles in his life. He should be tested and he’s going to be tested all the hell on my run.
And he’s definitely going to have bad days, but but I don’t want to see them doing stupid things that. Any B plus father would do better. You know, like I, I want to see Superman show us the way always.
Jeff: That’s really kind of funny thinking, cause I don’t actually, I haven’t watched the lowest Clark current Superman show.
I used to watch a lot of CW, but I haven’t done that in a while, but it’s kind of funny thing that he’s kind of the way he’s dissing his other son. It would be a, there’s gonna be a therapist out there somewhere. Who’s gonna have his kid in the office chatting about how his father ditched him for his other brother.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Super lame. It’s I mean, he’s not your son because he has powers, bro. Like they’re, they’re both your sons and he’s plus the whole, I mean, one thing that I really, really liked about the Bendis run, honestly, it was the re the revelation of Clark’s identity. I feel like it works. I mean, there’s, there’s been this very slow progression over the [00:39:00] years to Superman’s.
Status quo. Like, you know, in the beginning he was, he was a reporter and he pretended to be this weak sniffling coward all the time, like constantly was always like, oh my gosh, there’s danger. I better run away. And then he’d show up a Superman and kick everyone’s ass and everything’s good. Lois was always like Clark.
You’re so lame and sick man. You’re so amazing. And that’s just how it was forever until finally Superman revealed his identity to Lois. And then it became a thing after that to get married. And now they’ve got a son together and now that son is older. Like there’s been a very slow progression to very slow gradual change to Superman status quo.
And there, I mean, and most of those have been for the better, I mean, I really, I don’t think the whole, the old status quo reflected rape positively on either one of them, the fact that Clark who’s supposed to be about truth and justice. Is lying his ass off [00:40:00] every day, his whole life to everyone. And the fact that Lois is so down on the nice guy and into the big jock, like there is, I mean, you know, when I was reading comics as a, of those kinds of comics as a kid, I was, they were mostly older than they were already old.
When I got them, they were like old ripped up books from garage sales and stuff. And sometimes I saw the ones where it’s Clark was just totally pathetic. But then there also later issues, you know, closer to, to knew where he was just a nice guy and more capable, not, not just, not as nibbling weakling, but you know, a good guy who was definitely not a jock, but a good dude.
And Lois was really rude to him all the time and was really taken with Superman. I thought that was super lame. Lois was never impressive to me, but now. She’s incredible now that they have, we don’t have to worry about all that other stuff. Now this just, now they have this real relationship where they’re both super impressive in their own way.
Clark [00:41:00] doesn’t have to be such a weakling and he can just be, you know, more like himself, more like his true self. It just makes everything better. And I think that Superman telling the whole world who he really is, is much more in line with the truth justice American way, you know, mission statement that his whole self is based on.
So yeah, I, I liked that. I liked that. I like the fact that everyone knows who he is now and the fact that it’s not now that it’s that way. Going back to the show where he’s, he’s lying to everyone in the show, including his own sons, like his wife knows, but his kids don’t know. With, because he wanted to protect them.
And, you know, he, he couldn’t risk them slipping up at school or whatever, and I get that, but it doesn’t change the fact that they lied to their kids every single day. And now they’ve kind of got no reason to trust him ever again, to me, that was a huge mistake. So it’s just weird seeing somebody like Superman, who was supposed to be this Paragon of virtue, make these, make these big dumb mistakes.
That’s my only like real gripe with the, with the [00:42:00] show us. The, the only thing is, is that just seeing Superman make these mistakes as a parent is just a little, little tough to get past. So,
Jeff: well, one of the interesting thing I think that you did in your comic book, which kind of goes to the similar idea of Superman as a parent, is how you wrote John looking at his father as vulnerable for the very first time and the impact of having John realized his father, Ken dyno, and has the knowledge of the future that he will.
I thought that was a very smart move on your part. I think that was, and I was kind of wondering, like, how did you envision the impact on Jonathan knowing that his father is, and I guess he’s maybe the only individual that truly views his father as mortal.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: And what was the, sorry? What was the, I lost you for just a second.
What was the question part of that?
Jeff: Kind of how that, not only your thought process, but how did you think that [00:43:00] impacts Jonathan to kind of be in many ways, the only one who does view his father as a mortal being, because he knows what’s going to happen and has seen him have moments of weakness because everyone else in the world, probably the view and basically as an immortal God on
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: some level, yeah.
I wanted to explore that. It’s something that I have thought about as soon as Jonathan started doing stuff in the future with Legion, then, I mean, that was a question I asked myself very early on. I was like, well, that means he knows when his dad’s going to die. Right. I mean, that would suck. And not just his dad, but his parents and all these other in a way as a crime fighter, as like a superhero, it would be super helpful to know what’s coming.
But then potentially that changes everything when you start to mess with it. And they’ve, that’s something that they police very closely, I guess, in the future. So it makes it more complicated, but it’s not like you can just go back home and just forget all those things. Like, do you really expect you to not tell your dad when he’s about to get his head kicked [00:44:00] in?
Like, you know, it It’s kind of not how it works. I don’t see. I actually would not be able to do that myself. We’ll go back and join my dad in this fight where he’s ostensibly going to get killed. So, yeah, something I wanted to explore, I wanted to see Jonathan is having this knowledge that no one else has, but also having a power set as basically on his dad’s side.
Cause I mean, it’s, it’s coming for all of us, man. Like any, anyone who has a kid, there’s going to come a point where it, cause right now my son looks at me like, I’m just awesome. And I’m just not, you know, I, I do my very best by him. I try to, I try to make him proud every day. I do. I’m the best dad that I know how to be, but but I’m certainly not perfect and I make mistakes and I do my best, but at some point he’s gonna.
He’s going to, he’s a notice, you know, he’s gonna see like, oh, this is something that I wish he hadn’t done, or it’s something I would do differently if I was him or, and even [00:45:00] if even just a little physical things, like the thing in the comic where Clark saw his dad fall off a ladder. You know, I remember those moments.
I remember seeing, you know, my own dad or my mom, like say something really lame to me or, or make a, make a mistake or, or just trip and fall. You know, those things like these people that we thought were immortal are, you know, exquisitely, mortal in there’s all kinds of mistakes. And we do too. They’re just like us.
And that’s that’s the thing I’ve actually explored a lot in the last God, as well as the nature, this, the, the lies we tell our kids, you know, like the fact that we want our kids to see us as perfect. And we’re just so far from that. And just this, the fact that, and every parent is doomed to fail their kid in some way.
And then our, our, our kids will grow up to be like, I’m going to be better. I’m going to be better than they were. And they will be, but then they’ll fail in their own way. You know, like this, this, this cycle in which we try to be more than we were given. And then we find new creative ways to fail. And then our necks and their kids [00:46:00] will try to do better as well.
And that’s what I wanted to explore and Superman as well. And especially now that we’ve been setting up John to become Superman in his own, right. I felt like it was really important for John to see his dad as a peer. And not that it’s not that he still doesn’t look up to his dad, you know, hugely cause he obviously does.
I mean, he’s literally Superman But I wanted to express that John, to communicate to the reader that John is now at that level where he is over ease you know, overshadowing his dad in some ways, even while he still has a lot to learn in other ways, like he’s kind of at that level. Now I want him to communicate that to the reader.
You have a
Jeff: very interesting quote in one of the issues you have Jonathan state that he hates it when people call him Superman, can you kinda elaborate what he meant by that?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. So when he’s in the future, he’s being held to this insane standard. So he in for re for listeners who don’t know, so he was in lesion and superheroes, which takes place in the 31st century and they protect the United [00:47:00] planets and leading the superheroes is this group of like teenage superheroes or like, you know, it’s right at the cusp of adulthood that kind of based their whole organization on the.
The standard that was set by people like Superman and Batman back in the golden age of heroes, which is what they call now. Superman is there, Jesus Christ practically, as far as his contributions to what they’re trying to do now. And Jonathan is his literal son and he, and they kind of treat him, some people can see him as like the son of Superman.
They kind of treat him as such. I mean, imagine that pressure, you know, like if any, you know, you’re the son of Superman and nephew, you make some little mistake and you think somebody’s car or whatever. Like suddenly, suddenly it’s like, doesn’t make sense. Like, oh, you’re not so super after all, you’re just a guy like everyone else.
Who would want that pressure? You know? So yeah, he didn’t. And so he is annoyed. Whenever people talk about, whenever people will compare him to his [00:48:00] dad, Like, when are you going to be Superman? Or like, you’re, you know, soon as like the history books say that you’ll be super fancy and that’s gonna be cool.
And he, part of him is accurate because of the, the unfair comparison to being compared to the greatest person ever live. Right. But also he also defensive about his own dad. Cause he doesn’t want that. He doesn’t like the idea that his dad will die someday or will ever give up the Cape. Because he doesn’t see Superman as a job title.
Superman is his father. That’s what people call Clark Kent. And so the idea of replacing some of putting someone else’s and that name of replacing Clark and with somebody else calling themselves, your ran to him is hugely offensive. Cause that’s his dad’s name, you know? So it’d be like, if you’re, you know, my dad’s name is Arthur it’s like it was when he, you know, When are you going to be the new Arthur, when you, when are you going to be Arthur?
It’s just w you know, what happens to the old one? You know, it’s [00:49:00] just this he’s hugely offended by the whole idea, basically.
Jeff: Well, I really find it fascinating the, how you’re handling this, the race relationship. And also once again, the fact that he does see the future does add so many interesting elements, but I, once again, I imagine because already history is being changed a bit, it means, I assume it means the future is totally mutable.
So from this point forward, does he still know what’s going to happen? Or because sort of like that one little pebble jumping, you know, was dropped into the ocean as it were the ripples have now changed things. So he isn’t aware, or will his memories change of the future based on how they’re changing the present
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: as memories, won’t you, at least from my perspective, his memories will not change.
He knows what he knows, but there’s also because there’s just so much media. In the world right now and all these different versions of things happening. If you go into the future a thousand years, a lot of that has become a little less clear. So everything’s been documented and recorded. [00:50:00] I mean, you know, we have all these recordings of the internet and everything, but it’s because there’s so much noise.
People don’t really know exactly what happens next like that. The thing with the breach was the last, very clearly documented fight that Superman had on earth before he disappears. And what happens next is kind of unclear. There are some in the future, there’s historians that talk about the invasion of Atlantis by this, you know, intergalactic Armada, which we see at the end of issue, 10 30, like how we could see how that, how his reins might take that away from what just happened.
They also talk about like, one guy had a theory that CRC sent Superman away. We don’t know what that means yet that was referred to in house avail, the future state. Somebody else said that Superman was terribly wounded in a fight, whether it was a burn or a poisoning or something, but he was, he was dying.
And when Superman laid dying, these Kryptonians came [00:51:00] from another, another world to take him home. And that’s kind of all, he knows about the end of the Superman about the end of Superman’s time on earth. And he doesn’t know what to believe. He doesn’t know which one is true, but he is kind of, for some reason, the one about the Kryptonians kind of hangs in his head and we’re going to see a lot of these different theories kind of play out.
And we’ll start to see these little seeds planted of, of how historians thousand years from now could have taken those stories, like how, how they could come to those conclusions, the way that, you know, A ripper apologists have these different theories about who Jack the ripper was based on bits and pieces like scraps of evidence and, and things from a hundred years ago.
Yeah. Anyway, so he, his, he knows what he knows and his memories won’t change, but what, the, the stuff that is still documented in feature, it gets a little bit shady from this point on.
Jeff: So what can readers look forward to in the upcoming issues of ashen comics?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: The most epic bad-ass version of Superman they’ve ever seen in a comic book.
I hope, I mean, that’s, [00:52:00] that’s the, that’s the serious mission statement. What we’re trying to accomplish. We want it to be just this. Well, I want people to turn a page and be like, hell yeah. Superman, like every turn, every page turn, just like, yeah, this is so awesome. And we’ve seen so much great stuff recently of his, of his humanization and who he is as a character.
Things, he cares about things. He’s afraid of the people he loves and all that, and we’re still gonna have all that. And I want to see that express now through the lens of the Superman, who is at his most bad-ass and epic and every interaction. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to give him the setting in which to be the most epic version of himself and see what he means, not just to earth and just to metropolis and just to his family, but to the multi-verse.
Jeff: So what you, you didn’t mention that Mongo or Mongo son will be coming, are there other classic Superman villains that we can expect to see coming up?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah, I hate to spoil it. Well, all right. I’ll say this. This is not a spoiler because it was right on [00:53:00] the cover. There’s an, an, an annual coming out in June that ties the house of bell from future state into present day events. Okay. And the character was a character in the back of that cover, like on the, in the background that covered that I think people assume is Superman.
It’s an aging character that looks kind of like Superman looked in the house in the future state house rebel. But if you look closely, you’ll see, it’s not Clark at all. It’s actually the cyborg Superman and thousand years in the future. Very cool. I’m really stoked about that. I like them very proud of how that turned out.
Jeff: A big fan of cyborg.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Superman. Yeah, me too. So yeah, you’ll see him. You’ll see. See Mongol of course. And there is other stuff coming as soon as boy, I think else,
Jeff: like I said, I really enjoyed what I read from Astra comics. I really enjoyed Superman. I look forward to what you’re doing with alien as well.
I think that’s going to be, I think that’s, it’s just gonna end up being incredible. I, I did, I did have one question on alien. Is it going to connect at all to the old darker continuity or [00:54:00] this is a brand new continuity.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: It is brand new continuity. Well, it’s brand new in the comics. It ties tightly to the films.
But it will not tie in directly to the dark horse books. There are some dark horse books I really, really like, but yeah, there’s, there’s none of them that are, that are currently established as like, Capital C cannon like definitely cannon, but there are some runs that I really, really liked and I would love to at least pay homage to at some point.
So you’ll see a little, some little love letters, but there’s no, there’s no relying on, on dark horse books for Canada. That’s what you mean.
Jeff: Well, I’m sure one of the long time readers, if you’ve been around long enough, everyone knows the Superman alien crossover. It feels like you were able to do both.
Is that ever a thought?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: I would love to man. That’s, that’s a hard one to do because I mean, you get this guy you can’t kill and that’s all they do. So that’s, that’s a hard gig. I don’t know.
Jeff: I, I, I’m trying to remember. It’s your man killed [00:55:00] the aliens back in the alien comics. I think he did. Didn’t he
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: actually, I can’t remember.
It’s been so long since I’ve read that book. I have to go back and look again. Cause
Jeff: I think, I can’t remember if the idea was that the aliens, because they’re like bugs. There two Miranda’s and worry about it or not. Cause I don’t, I don’t know his philosophy on non guaranteed sentience things.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Whether it, whether or not he did it back then he wouldn’t, he would not be doing that in my book.
I don’t, I don’t see him being okay with it. I mean, cause it’s kind of not their fault. Right. They’re just doing what they do. Like you can’t be pissed as sharp for being a shark. Right, right, right. So I don’t see Superman killing Xena morals just because they’re scary. Well,
Jeff: I would imagine Superman if he had his power and he doesn’t even have to, because then they, wouldn’t not that strong compared to the real Superman.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah. I mean, he’s yeah. He’s not in trouble. I mean, it’s only a problem. Like if it busts out well, if they bust out of something really bad-ass then that makes them also very bad-ass and that changes
Jeff: things. [00:56:00] That’s true. I guess the Anand Papano doomsday would be pretty interesting though. Yeah,
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: that would be unfortunate.
Kryptonian Zina more for crypto morph. That’d be tough.
Jeff: Yeah. Well damn. So everyone’s listening right now. Create a Kryptonian alien.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Yeah, I guess I’m the one to talk to you. I’ll I’ll make a phone call.
Jeff: You definitely should. But yeah, I look forward to what you’re doing with Elliot as well. It was a great pleasure to talk to you.
Mr. Johnson, it was you’re a great writer and I’ve definitely have enjoyed hearing your prior interviews and enjoyed having you on today.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Thanks so much, Jeff. I appreciate the time. I’m a fantastic night. My brother, you too.