Dan Jurgens Talks DC Comics's Tragic Fantastic Four, Hank Henshaw and The Crew of the Excalibur

With the release of The Terrifics #1 today, one could be forgiven for thinking that DC has come as close as it ever would to publishing a Fantastic Four comic -- except that on March 27, 1990, the company published The Adventures of Superman #466 -- a story that even more closely resembled a story featuring the first family of Marvel -- and a comic would shape the history of the DC Universe in surprising and exciting ways for years.

The Adventures of Superman #466 came from writer/artist Dan Jurgens, whose Action Comics #988, featuring Superman, hit the stands today alongside The Terrifics. Jurgens is credited with providing pencil layouts for the issue, with DC legend Dick Giordano providing finished ink art. Letterer Albert de Guzman and colorist Glenn Whitmore, who probably worked on more Superman comics during the '80s and '90s than anyone else, made their contributions here, too.

In spite of being a one-and-done story, The Adventures of Superman #466 has been reprinted numerous times, and remains a sought-after back issue for Superman collectors (even though monetarily it holds little value since it, like most '90s Superman comics, was printed at a time when the Man of Steel's circulation was through the roof).

That is becuase the issue is the first appearance of a man named Hank Henshaw, who would become the Cyborg Superman, a major villain in both the Superman and Green Lantern titles. His origin shares a lot of DNA with the Fantastic Four -- something that would be explored explicitly years later when Jurgens and Norm Rapmund did a Superman/Fantastic Four crossover issue.

The issue is retroactively remembered as the episode that spawned the Cyborg Superman (and usually misremembered as Henshaw's first appearance, even though he had appeared, and been named, in a panel the month before), or as a pastiche of the Fantastic Four's origin story, which saw Reed Richards, his fiancee Sue Storm, her brother Johnny and their friend Ben Grimm bombarded by cosmic rays while riding in an experimental rocket.

So as DC launches its latest Fantastic Four pastiche in the form of The Terrifics, Jurgens joined ComicBook.com for a few words about The Adventures of Superman #466, and its long, unlikely legacy.

You can also read my retro-review of the issue here.

What was the thinking behind making a one-and-done story about a kind of twisted, tragic version of The Fantastic Four #1?

First of all, I was a fan of the FF.

Beyond that, I thought it’d be fun to take a well known story and put a different spin on it. To give it a tragic, rather than heroic, result.

When you wrote Adventures #466, your editor on the title was only a few years removed from working with Superman legend John Byrne on Fantastic Four. Do you remember what, if anything, he had to say about the story?

That was Mike Carlin and he basically agreed that it’d be a fun story to do. Sometimes, if you’re doing a one shot story like that, you can get a lot of mileage out of recognizable elements. If readers appreciated the irony, great. If not, I think they still had fun.

Did you realize at the time that you planed on bringing Henshaw back a few months later for his first go-'round as a villain?

No — not at all. It wasn’t until after the story was done that I thought there might be more to play with — that there was an interesting character we shouldn’t let go of yet.

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(Photo: DC/Marvel)

Years later, after Henshaw became a major player in the DC Universe who seemed to appear in nearly every big event story, you got to literally put him in a rocket with Ben and Sue in the Superman/Fantastic Four one-shot. What was that like?

Oh, that was such a completely natural way to go that we absolutely had to do it. I mean, how could you NOT have Cyborg Superman interact with the FF?

A generation of readers (myself included) actually read Superman #78 BEFORE reading Fantastic Four #1 in many cases. How often have you had people tell you that they didn't realize it was a Fantastic Four pastiche until years later?

Quite a few actually. Again — that goes to my earlier comment. For readers who understood the reference, great. They got an appreciation for the story that others might have missed. For those who weren’t familiar with it, they still got to appreciate it at face value.

Did you ever think about bringing Steven back? he kind of faded into energy-based nonexistence even before Henshaw did!

I think the entire motivation for Henshaw rests on him being the only survivor of the adventure. He really has to be alone.

Why did you decide to abandon the FF parallels when you reinvented Henshaw's origins for the post-Rebirth DCU?

It’s one of those things that had to happen. Something like that works far better if it’s a single event, never referred to again. It’s much more fair to the everyone—including all the characters involved—if the stories are distanced.

And of course, the always-popular question: Could you ever have guessed when you wrote this seemingly one-and-done story that these characters would continue to reverberate through the DC Universe for decades?

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Never. Mostly because we had no plans to try to do so.

It’s one of those things that shows that you can sometimes develop and massage these characters into a far better place if you have the time and freedom to do so. Sometimes, all you have to do is plant the seed and watch it grow, with a little creative help, of course!