Comics Reviews

Action Comics Writer Wants to Bring Back a Deep Cut Superman Character

Action Comics scribe Phillip Kennedy Johnson discusses his intention to reintroduce a forgotten Phantom Zone resident from cosmic DC lore.

Phillip Kennedy Johnson would like to bring back a powerful alien force from Superman history in an upcoming issue of his ongoing Action Comics run.

The writer expressed his fascination with the fictional interdimensional supervillain prison known as the Phantom Zone during a panel at New York Comic Con. “The Phantom Zone is kind of this mythical thing that we, that, you know, documents talk about but nobody’s ever seen it for centuries,” Johnson said. He was quick to point out, “Instead of it’s a world, the whole Phantom Zone is like a mental projection of the mind of this god-like, Lovercraftian thing called Aethyr.” Describing the overall concept of this entity as “weird as hell,” he expressed a desire “to find a way to tie that into my run.”

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Debuting in The Phantom Zone #3 in 1982, Aethyr was created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Gene Colan. The abstract cosmic being failed to leave much of an impact on the Superman canon, appearing in less than a handful of issues. Despite this lack of staying power in the source material, a reimagined version of the character cropped up in the Season 5 premiere of Smallville. This version was depicted as a Kryptonian warrior and follower of General Zod.

Johnson’s passion for Aethyr is reflective of his overarching science fantasy approach to the book. Action Comics features Superman taking off into space to confront the alien warlord Mongul, leaving his teenage son Jon to take over as the new Superman of Earth. This outcome was foreshadowed in the Future State miniseries Superman: Worlds of War and Superman of Metropolis. Jon has already established himself as a very different kind of Superman, directly tackling political issues his father shied away from. Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 will take this notion of him being a Superman for the new age to the next level when Jon comes out as bisexual.

Action Comics #1036 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Daniel Sampere arrives in comic book stores and on digital storefronts on Oct. 26.

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