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‘Superman Unchained’: New Series by Scott Snyder, Jim Lee and Dustin Nguyen

It had been known for a while that acclaimed Batman and American Vampire writer Scott Snyder would eventually collaborate with DC Comics co-publisher and mega-popular artist Jim Lee for a new Superman project, but it was only this week that the company confirmed the final details: Superman Unchained is the name of the new ongoing series, which will feature backup stories drawn by the hugely talented Dustin Nguyen and debut the same week as director Zack Snyder’s new Superman film Man of Steel.Lee told USA Today’s Brian Truitt that a creative goal of the series is to move beyond what he described as fan tendencies. “We’ve been pushing the creators to not be beholden to the past conceits and understandings [of Superman],” said Lee, adding, “The energy we’re bringing to the story and that ‘Hey, we can add new stuff to the canon’ kind of attitude will serve us well.”

Snyder’s remarks also supported this kind of iconoclastic approach to the classic superhero. “The way to approach a character as iconic as him is you just come at it from a standpoint of what you love the most about the character, and then write a story that explores that, tear it down and build it back up.” The writer indicated there will be a focus on Superman’s supporting cast, but there has been no mention yet about the meaning of the series’ title. Superman is not typically thought of as a character in any kind of bondage, physical or psychic, so that this book will see the hero “unchained” sounds a bit… ominous? Naturally, the “The ‘S’ is silent” jokes have been abundant on Twitter.

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Superman Unchained will come with backup stories written by Snyder and to be drawn by Dustin Nguyen, a ComicsAlliance favorite whose Li’l DC series of digital short stories have been uniformly excellent, and whose Justice League Unlimited was among our picks for the best comics of 2012. This is great news for Nguyen, who collaborated with Snyder before on Batman: Gates of Gotham, and whose work is certainly deserving of the wider recognition that DC hopes to attract to Superman Unchained not just because of its headliner creators, but because of the timing of its release.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Superman, and Superman Unchained is just one of several high-profile projects meant to capitalize on the occasion. We spoke previously with acclaimed Marvel Comics writer Greg Pak, whose first DC work will be a new Superman/Batman series with the very talented Jae Lee (not to be confused with Jim Lee) of Dark Tower and Before Watchmen fame, and which will depict a new version of the first meeting between the titular heroes. Additionally, DC parent Warner Bros. is releasing what’s heavily rumored to be the first part of a new DC-based cinematic canon in the form of Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and premiering in June. Doubtlessly, the hope is that Man of Steel will impress filmgoers enough to try out some actual Superman comics, and DC hopes to greet them with brand new #1 issues created by some of superhero comics’ top talents.

While 2013 is an auspicious year for Superman with respect to publishing and entertainment, things haven’t been as celebratory for the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the men who created Superman in the 1930s and sold him to DC for just $150. The heirs of Siegel and Shuster, both of whom are no longer with us, have been locked in protracted litigation for years over the the rights to the character, but a recent appeals court decision gave DC a decisive victory in the case. Although the Siegels in particular appear to be entitled to a multi-million dollar payout per the terms of their last agreement with DC, it’s also been reported this week that they and their counsel have rejected it and are instead attempting a new strategy to recapture Siegel’s half of the copyright of Superman. Like most of the legal maneuvering in this long-running case, that new strategy is arcane in the extreme.

Superman Unchained #1 goes on sale in June, but will be previewed in May as part of DC Comics’ offering for Free Comic Book Day.

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