INTERVIEW: Dan Jurgens on Unmasking Mr. Oz’s True Identity

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #987, on sale now.

In 1992, Dan Jurgens did the unthinkable. He killed Superman — and readers loved it, making it one of the best-selling storylines in the history of comics.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the “Death of Superman” arc, but instead of leaving it all well enough alone, Jurgens is back, giving it to the Man of Steel once again.

RELATED: Mr. Oz’s Identity, Revealed: How It’s Both Expected and Surprising

Now that Jurgens and art by Viktor Bogdanovic’s highly anticipated “Oz Effect” arc has begun, CBR spoke candidly with Jurgens about Mr. Oz’s Krypton-shattering true identity and what implications the character’s arrival in present-day DCU continuity are to Superman and Clark Kent, as well as Lois Lane and their son, Jon too.

CBR: Was Mr. Oz ever going to be the hotly-rumored Ozymandias of Watchmen fame or was he always Jor-El?

Dan Jurgens: Oz was never Ozymandias. We were focusing on Jor-El from the start. Mr. Oz is Jor-El. The Jor-El.

When Geoff Johns first shared the true identity of Mr. Oz, what was your reaction?

Like anything, it becomes a question of, “How do we make this work?”

We explored the idea of it being someone else and came up with some different ideas, but whenever we did so it became less of a Superman story. Jor-El as Mr. Oz turns it into a Superman story – a very different type of Superman story than we’ve seen before – and that’s what excited us.

Readers were most likely craving a Watchmen connection here – and maybe there still will be – but the fact that Mr. Oz is Superman’s father is the ultimate mind-blow. You have done some terrible things to the Man of Steel over the years – most famously killing him off in 1992 – did you have to think long and hard about unleashing this kind of pain on Kal-El or is Jor-El’s return actually a blessing in disguise? Pardon the pun.

That’s a great question. That’s exactly the kind of question a writer must ask when tackling something like this. How will it affect Superman, never mind Lois and Jon? What would the lasting effect be? Where do we take Superman that we haven’t taken him before? We’ll explore all of that as all of this plays out.

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Jor-El looks amazing when he is finally revealed on the last page of Action Comics #987. While Jorge Jimenez designed the Jor-El look for this event, you are collaborating with Viktor Bogdanovic on this issue. I loved his work on New Super-Man. As a fellow artist, what most impresses you about the way he handles Jor-El and his son, Kal-El?

Viktor brings a graphic sensibility to his work that gives it a very modern feel. The clean look of his line embodies an approach that is spot on for Superman and Metropolis.

RELATED: The Batman Who Laughs’ Origin Story is Absolutely Bonkers

Jor-El tells Superman that he sent him to the ‘wrong place’ when Krypton was exploding? Where is the right place?

You’ll see more on that in Action Comics #990. It’s a very tantalizing place – one that Jon, in particular, finds attractive.

What can you share about what we can expect in just two weeks in Action Comics #988? The final page of this issue teases that we will learn the secret origin of Mr. Oz. Are we really going to learn his true ‘secret’ origin?

Action #988 tells the story of what happened to Jor-El, from the moment of Krypton’s destruction, through his arrival on Earth. It’s a very different journey than the one Kal experienced, and one that will explain a lot of his motivation. The art is incredible. We were blessed to have Ryan Sook lend his talents and it might well be the best thing he’s ever done, especially when I consider how difficult the story was to draw.

I’ve been fascinated by Jor-El ever since Marlon Brando’s iconic performance in Superman: The Movie. Your new storyline not withstanding, which Jor-El stories do you feel are compulsory reading, or viewing, for fully understanding Superman’s father? And did you go back and read any of these storylines in preparation for “The Oz Effect?”

I actually approached this a bit differently.

There’ve been a lot of good Jor-El stories over the years, but they were often rather inconsistent in their approach to him. The characterization is highly variable.

The most consistent element of Jor-El is his constant, perpetual struggle in trying to save a doomed populace. He was the perpetual harbinger of doom, yet those in power ignored him. I used that as the platform for everything else.

On a different note, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the passing of Len Wein, who amongst numerous other accolades was the editor of Watchmen, the landmark series that introduced the character of Ozymandias. You worked with Len many times over the years, most recently on DC Universe: Legacies. On Twitter, you called him “a cornerstone to the industry.” What do you believe was his greatest impact on comics?

I think it’s very easy to key on Len’s creations, most notably Wolverine and Swamp Thing.

But what I note more about Len is the incredible breadth of his work. Len’s ability to write so many different things so incredibly well is remarkable. He had an ability to zero in on the key aspect of a book and characters that amazes me to this day. As I look back on the stuff that I most enjoyed reading, be it Spider-Man, Thor, Batman, Justice League of America or Green Lantern, the common denominator was Len Wein.

As an editor, Len was great fun to work with because he’d get so enthused about the books he was working on that it spread to his freelancers. He was one of those guys that were highly encouraging as he was teaching his people. I always appreciated that.

Action Comics #987 by Dan Jurgens and Viktor Bogdanovic is available now.

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