Superman down: Mark Waid aims to "take big swings" in DC's Absolute Power event, which will have major consequences "in 2024, 2025," and beyond

Absolute Power #1 interior art by Dan Mora and Alejandro Sanchez
(Image credit: DC)

DC's next big event, Absolute Power, is right around the corner. And though the superheroes of the DC Universe don't yet know what's about to hit them, readers are all too aware of the triple threat of Amanda Waller, Failsafe, and the Brainiac Queen barreling down the tracks.

In Absolute Power, longtime DC writer Mark Waid and his ongoing creative partner Dan Mora, with whom Waid also creates the popular title Batman/Superman: World's Finest, are taking away the one thing that may be the most valuable to all the heroes of the DC Universe: their powers and their weapons.

With heroes like Green Arrow taking up surprising alliances, Superman suffering shocking consequences, and many others taken off the board, July 3's Absolute Power #1 has its share of twists and turns, and many more in store for later issues. 

To dig into it all, including what the events of Absolute Power could mean for the DC Universe going forward, Newsarama spoke with Waid, who opens up about his thought process in writing villains, how losing their powers could affect DC's biggest heroes, and much more. We've also got some unlettered pages from Absolute Power #1 by Dan Mora and colorist Alejandro Sanchez to show off.

(Image credit: DC)

Newsarama: Mark, right off the bat, Absolute Power is a very different DC event than a lot of the stories we've seen in recent years. There's no Multiverse, no time travel, all of those things are specifically cut off. How important is it to you to keep this story grounded? What's it like doing an event like this after so many other events that have been told on a grand cosmic scale?

Mark Waid: Those have all been great events, those big cosmic events. But that's just not what my wheelhouse is. So coming into this, I didn't have the energy or the ability to make this another giant cosmos-ending threat, and instead wanted to focus on a very personal threat to the superheroes - which is, not only are their powers being taken away, not only are they being stalked and hunted, they're having to confront a sense of loss that they have not had to feel as a group before.

That leads right into my next question. I don't want to get too spoiler-y, but Absolute Power is all about Amanda Waller's plan to deal with superheroes once and for all. It feels like she maybe has a little bit of a point about super powers going unchecked, even though her own actions are also an extreme and blatant abuse of power. As a creator and comic reader, what do you see as the line? How are you addressing that balance between the power superheroes have versus the responsibility they have to use it wisely?

Look, as a writer and as a reader, and as a lover of superheroes, I don't acknowledge that line. I just think it's a world of fantasy. And if you can accept that a man can fly, you can accept that people do good things for good reasons, and they're not a threat.

But Amanda doesn't see that. And she's not wrong - certainly not from her point of view. Where she's crossing lines is, she's had such little success in curbing and controlling these superheroes and these forces that she believes are out of control, that she's now begun stepping over that line. She's begun orchestrating situations to make them look bad.

(Image credit: DC)

She's been doing things too deliberately. She's not reacting to them anymore, now she's acting on them. Beast World was a great example, right? She set that up a few months ago just to make the Titans look like world menaces. And this is only part of what she's doing. She's exhausted.

You know, I like writing villains that have to come to the natural end of the way they've been doing things for all these years, who finally have a new way of attacking the problem. And that's exactly what's happening with Amanda. She's been doing this for a long time, and from her point of view, she's not made a dent, so it's time to break the glass and pull the emergency lever, and take superheroes off the board completely.

This story starts with Amanda Waller manipulating the media, which carries some themes that are very prescient to real life right now, in the comic industry and at large. How do you balance talking about themes in a way that fits in with a superhero story while also addressing some of how these ideas impact the real world?

Right? I mean, I'm no genius and no fortune teller to be able to say, when we started planning this out about a year ago, that I could see as were were headed, especially toward the 2024 election, that no matter what side of the political spectrum you're on, that this was going to be an increasing problem, that it would be an accelerant to fake news, to deep fakes, to AI in general.

I knew we were going to be out about the same time, and so that was important for me to get that in. Basically, I just wanted to take advantage of the fact that Brainiac Queen has the ability to invade every server on Earth, every source of news and information that there is, she can now control. 

So if Amanda wants to take out the superheroes, take them away from their resources, then taking them to a place where the humans of the world fear them and are hunting them is a natural evolution of that thought.

(Image credit: DC)

So on that note, there's a big change for most if not all of the superheroes in the DC Universe in Absolute Power #1. With that in mind, who do you see as the characters that will become the big heroes here? Who's stepping up in light of these changes?

I was really surprised because going into this, I figured it was going to be Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. And that's why I asked the writers of those books to tie-in to this story, and all of them were completely on board and all super gracious. Superman has a specific role, for example, but it's not shown entirely in the main Absolute Power series. The main series has 120 pages and 300 superheroes, so I have my limits.

But what that meant is, by taking Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman off the board for most of issue three, that really gives me a chance to elevate some of these other characters. To my surprise, Jon Kent became a key player. To my surprise, Dreamer turned out to be a key player. To my surprise, Nightwing became an even more important part of the book and of the resistance than I had anticipated.

And there are other B-level characters and C-level characters that will get a chance to step up and shine, and that thrills me, because I like writing all of them.

Speaking of the story's big characters, Green Arrow plays a very important and specific role in this story that's been building in his solo title as well. There's something about Oliver Queen that makes it feel like not so much a stretch to see him picking the side he chooses…

I'd say the same thing. I think Ollie has a long, long history of calling the Justice League on their stuff. He's quit the Justice League more than once, saying to them "You don't pay attention to the common man, you're not as responsible for your actions as you maybe ought to be. You're not as grounded as you think you are, you can't just be gods up in the sky."

This is not new, so it's not an enormous stretch to me that this left wing, liberal guy would swing all the way around and embrace the vaguely fascistic agenda of Amanda Waller. And if it surprises you that this happened as a reader, and you feel like this is coming very much out of left field, I would encourage you to keep reading and come back to me a few months later, and let's have that conversation.

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That definitely touches on what I was going to ask. You hinted at what I was thinking, which is, I don't see this going the way we might expect for Green Arrow, in either direction.

Nope. Nope. That's the beauty of an event like this, where DC said "Look, take big swings and do some big things with these characters." So yeah, not everybody gets a shot like that very often, so let's take advantage of that.

You called Oliver Queen a kind of counterbalance to the Justice League - but there is no Justice League right now. Is Absolute Power offering up the proof that the DC Universe needs a Justice League? Are we looking at the catalyst for the League's big return?

The question about the need for the Justice League really is part of the conversation that they're having for sure. And certainly the idea that - I think we hit on this in the first issue - is that if the Justice League had been around, if the lines of communication had been more open as they were when the Justice League was active, then maybe the blitzkrieg that hit the superheroes might not have been as surprising and might not have been so indefensible.

You've got Dan Mora on the book with you, and I feel like he's the perfect choice for a story this big right now - you mentioned the hundreds of characters that will appear, and even Absolute Power #1 is jam-packed with characters. What has he surprised you with on this story so far? And what does having the longstanding creative partnership you have with him allow you to do in an event story like this rather than a monthly comic?

Well first of all, there's a level of trust there. You know, I would feel really bad about giving these scripts to somebody who's been drawing comics for only two years or something. Their head would explode, cause there's a George Pérez level number of superheroes in the story, and that cannot be helped. You can't do a story about the figurative death of superheroes in the DC Universe without showing a bunch of superheroes. So luckily, he trusts me not to overburden him.

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At the same time, you're right, he's perfect, because what he's able to bring to it is an enthusiasm for drawing these characters. He puts in characters that I'd forgotten need to be there, because he just loves drawing these characters. 

It's also a slightly different look from our Batman/Superman: World's Finest book, because there is more of a brutality to this story. There is more of a grave threat, a potentially permanent threat to the DC Universe that comes out of this. And so it is a little darker, and he's embraced that.

This is a very different kind of event than you've usually done as it's very villain-focused, with Amanda Waller, Brainiac Queen, and Failsafe as the sort of inverse of the "Trinity" of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. What's your approach when you sit down to write about villains as almost the protagonists of a story, versus having heroes in the lead?

It doesn't come naturally to me, that's for sure. Everybody who ever says villains are more fun to write, I understand why they say that, but this is an alien language to me. I've never felt that way. But that said, that means having to get in the heads of these villains the same way I get into the heads of superheroes - understanding what they want, understanding what their goals are.

And at the end of every script, reading it back through the villain's point of view, to make sure that it's consistent, to make sure that's coming across is important. Because again, it's a cliche, but they're the heroes in their own minds.

You mentioned Jon Kent as a key player in this story. What does Jon Kent bring to the role of Superman that makes him different from Kal-El?

It's not just about Jon's role, it's very much about the Superman/Jon relationship, and things that happen to break it in this series that we've not seen before. They've always been very tight.  They've always been on the same page in terms of how to handle things, you know? This puts that to the test.

(Image credit: DC)

Absolute Power #1 puts big changes on so many heroes. It feels naive to assume all these changes are going to stick, but to what extent are we looking at a pivotal moment of real change for these superheroes and how they move in the world?

Yes, some more than others. But yes, you know it. You know, something can be undone, but not everything can be undone. And the consequences leading out of this are epic. There are at least three things I can think of just off the top of my head that lead out of Absolute Power that are going to be very important to DC in 2024, 2025, and on.

What do you want to say about Absolute Power to readers that you haven't been able to get out there yet?

I would say that my favorite cliffhangers are where the villain has won, and there is absolutely 100% no hope of winning against them. Those are my favorite cliffhangers, and that's what I've tried to bring to the table with every issue of Absolute Power. And if you dig that, then this is the story for you.

While you wait for Absolute Power to kick off, learn all about the most important and impactful DC events of all time.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)