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Joshua Williamson Knows What Music is on Superman's Playlist

We chat with Williamson and artist Jamal Campbell about 'Superman' #1 and why they created a jam for Kal-El.

Welcome to a Creator Corner Preview, a sneak peak of our podcast conversation with writer Joshua Williamson and artist Jamal Campbell, talking about Superman #1. Keep your eye on Our Podcast Feed for when the full audio will drop.


Whenever a new creative team jumps on a Superman title, we follow. The Man of Steel is the OG spandex crusader, and his morality is something we strive to accomplish in our everyday lives. For us, his internal struggle makes him the most important comic book character in the field. So, don't you want to know what jams are on his iPhone?

In Superman #1, written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Jamal Campbell, the reader catches a glimpse of a mixtape Clark Kent is rocking out to while slaving away at the Daily Planet. We don't know what's on it. We do know that it was made for him by his Smallville BFF Pete Ross. We also learn, that when Clark was a kid, Martha Kent did not approve of Pete Ross' musical influence. His sounds caused too much of a ruckus around the household.

That's as far as we're going to go with the spoilers. Superman #1 arrives in shops on February 21st. We're planning a big Superman celebration episode to pair with the release date, including an entertaining conversation with Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell. Now's your chance to start pre-gaming by diving into your favorite Superman stories and figuring out what you specifically love about the character. We're not quite ready to launch our Lois and Clark couples session series, but with this conversation, we inch a little closer.

Considering the FOC for Superman #1 is this upcoming Sunday (January 29th), we thought we would offer you a little preview of our Kal-El podcast party. What you'll read below is us putting Clark Kent's mixtape under the microscope. Does Joshua Williamson know what's on it? Yer damn right he does. Also, Jamal Campbell discusses his philosophy regarding Superman's cape and how it does and does not relate to Spawn, the Image Comics vigilante.

Get ready friends, this is a fun preview.


Brad: The comic opens up with this memory or flashback of young Clark in his bedroom, his parents down below, getting a little upset about the loud music that he's playing. Pete Ross being a bad influence. And then later on in the comic, we see and adult Clark listening to a Pete Ross mixtape. So, our first question is, what's on that mixtape?

Joshua: You'll find out in probably about a month. Brad: Oh, really? Joshua: I have a playlist. Brad: Is it a legit playlist? Joshua: Yeah, it's legit. There's a list. I don't know how much you want to get into this.

Lisa: We want to get into it!

Joshua: I spent a lot of time thinking about that, because it was like, you have to think about them as teenagers. And if the idea is this is something that Pete made for Clark, what does that mean? So, it's not something Clark would make. It's what would Pete make? And if it's something that Martha is like, "That's too loud." What is that? I thought about a lot of Clark as a country boy and living on a farm, but if he grew up on the farm and he is a country boy when he rebelled, that means it's not necessarily going to be country music. That's ma and pa's music and their influence. So that means, it has to be some bridge.

And so, I definitely spent whole days listening to different music, different genres, and then looking at the lyrics, listening to lyrics, thinking. It was hard at times, because sometimes I would think about myself and be like, "Well, I love this song." That doesn't mean that Pete is going to love it. It doesn't mean that Clark's going to love it. And then it was also about, on a meta level, what do these songs actually mean? What do they mean? And is there a way of teasing things about the story with this playlist? So, I was playing on multiple levels, and I actually had a list of about 30 songs, and then I boiled it down to 12. And so, I don't want to spoil it yet, but you'll see what's on the list.

Part of the fun thing was actually trying to find the bridge between the country boy, and obviously rock and roll, and what was the bridge between those for a young Pete and Clark? I talked to Mark Waid about this sometime over the summer, because I just imagined Clark Kent being this kid. He was living with Ma and Pa Kent. And all of a sudden, here comes Pete Ross. Pete Ross is like, "You need to listen to this." That was in my head a lot. But yeah, I definitely have a full on list of what's on that playlist. Brad: Well, we were debating it, and you don't have to answer what's on it - Joshua: No, please. Although I 100% know, yeah. Brad: We were trying to figure out, okay, well first off, really what is Clark's age? It's a tricky thing to navigate in comics, how old a character is. Joshua: Yeah, I have a cutoff. That was like, no songs past a certain year. But yeah, go ahead. Brad: If Pete was rebelling against all the country music around him. And if Clark's a little younger than me, maybe I'm like, he's listening to Rage Against a Machine- Lisa: Limp Bizkit! Brad: No! But maybe Nirvana? Joshua: I didn't go as far back as Nirvana actually. I almost said Nirvana. But part of why I ended up not doing Nirvana was two reasons. I actually felt like Nirvana was right on the edge of maybe too far in terms of his age, maybe right on the edge. But then also, Nirvana was in The Batman movie. I didn't want to repeat that. I promise you, I put a lot of thought into this playlist. Lisa: Yeah, yeah, we're into it. Brad: This is a dream. Joshua: I was just like, here's 12 songs. I really thought about it a lot. I'm glad you picked up on that. I've been really curious if anybody else is going to ask that question, if anybody else was going to pick up on the fact that he was listening to that. But no Nirvana though.

Brad: Back to the opening of the book, we go from the memory into this gorgeous two-page splash where you can see the entirety of Clark's life inside Superman's cape. Jamal, can you talk a little bit about setting up, the difference between what we see on that first page - the memory - versus what we get in that that cape? Jamal: I was thinking about it almost in cinematic terms, where the opening is the opening shot of a movie. This is Clark growing up, this is his home life. And then, you cut to a speeding montage of him becoming Superman, and going through his life. And I imagine that being very quick shots, very active. And his cape is all red. You're not lingering on anything. It's very, this happened, this happened, this happened, this happened. And then, it's Superman. Big lightning behind him, saving people. This is what Superman means, and that's why it's interwoven into his cape. It's what made him him. This is all you need to know about Superman, now enjoy the book, basically. Joshua: When I'm writing the script, I try to pose challenges to Jamal, or here's my thoughts, what do you think? And I think with this one, I remember in the script I was like, "Oh, it's Superman saving them," but I want to have a montage of who he is right in the background. And then, when the page came in, and Jamal added the cape, I was so excited. I was like, "Oh, yes." And then obviously, you and I have talked about this before, there's a little bit of a Spawn cape going on in the book, but I love it. I love it. It makes me so happy to see it, that it's this much more fluid version of him flying. Where instead of just a blur, you see the cape. Jamal: It's funny, when you said that, I didn't put it together at first, but I totally see it now. I think subconsciously I want to do this thing where Superman is this big Titan, almost statuesque figure. He's solid and central on the page. And then the motion and action, is his cape just flowing behind him, and giving that idea of him being solid, but also this motion going around him and how the world breathes around him. So, I think that was going on subconsciously. But yeah, I totally see it, the Spawn cape. Joshua: Yeah, I remember I called you that time, and I was like, "Oh, I love the Spawn cape." And you were like, "Wait, what?"


Superman #1 hits comic shelves on February 21st. FOC (Final Order Cutoff) is January 29th.


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