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Ambush Bug Talks about the New DCU
With Dan Didio & Jim Lee
Right now, we’re going to focus on THE EDGE, DC’s most recent announcement, which exemplified a grittier, more action oriented corner of the DCU. Before we dive into the interview, here’s the rundown of the titles and creative teams behind DC’s new EDGE line.
STORMWATCH #1: written by Paul Cornell with art by Miguel Sepulveda.
BLACKHAWKS #1: written by Mike Costa with art by Ken Lashey
SGT. ROCK & THE MEN OF WAR #1: written by Ivan Brandon with art by Tom Derenick
ALL-STAR WESTERN #1: written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Moritat
DEATHSTROKE #1: written by Kyle Higgins with art by Joe Bennet & Art Thibert
GRIFTER #1: written by Nathan Edmondson with art by CAFU & BIT
Finally, OMAC #1: written by Dan Didio & Keith Giffen with art by Giffen & Scott Koblish
Now that you know the rosters to these books, let’s find out more about them…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi Dan and Jim, how are you doing today?
DAN DIDIO (DD): Good. Thank you. How is everything with you?
JIM LEE (JL): Good, thanks!
BUG: Going pretty well. I hear you guys have some really big changes here in the near future with DC and I know that you guys have THE EDGE family of books that you are announcing today, so let’s talk about that. I talked with David [Hyde] a little bit ago and he said that maybe we could do a follow up about the rest of the big changes some other time, but we will focus on THE EDGE today.
DD: That’d be great. I would love to be able to talk to you guys about it a little later on. It might put it all in perspective.
BUG: Yeah that will be great. Okay, well let’s start out with THE EDGE. What is this new corner of the DCU all about?
DD: Yeah, do you want this one Jim?
JL: You go on.
DD: Okay, it’s what we consider our fringe book, you know that really is well along the borders of the DC Universe, a little bit, I hate to keep saying it, edgier. It definitely has a lot more sense of action and adventure and a lot more of it seems to be what goes on on the fringes of the DCU.
JL: I think you could interpret the word “edge” in multiple ways, but I think these are the characters where they aren’t as necessarily black and white as other parts of the DC Universe and these are characters that really have to play on a completely different set of rules just because they are not necessarily as powerful as some of the main characters that you see in the pantheon of the DC Universe and yet they are equally as powerful in their own kind of unique ways, so you actually see their influence affect all of these other characters within the DCU, but they don’t necessarily take center stage like with characters from say like The Justice League for example.
BUG: Okay, well actually these are the type of characters that I favor more than the mainstream ones. They seem to be a lot of fun and also it seems like you can do a lot more with these characters.
DD: I’m with you 100% on that. This is the place that I love. It was something I that really gets me excited. I mean don’t get me wrong, the other things are really the bread and butter and the heart of the DC Universe, but this in itself is great.
BUG: Yeah. So let’s get into specifics. Let’s start out with BLACKHAWKS.
DD: With BLACKHAWKS, we really want to go and take the original concept with BLACKHAWKS #1, which is basically an unattached team of fighter pilots out there and getting involved in different styles of adventure and really just expanding on it. It started as a group of pilots, but we are really making it an organization that’s really working in the corners of the DCU attacking a lot of the darker places where the regular superheroes won’t go. So these are normal people and we really want to get that high-octane sense of action adventure in this book, you know, with a lot of crazy planes and different types of weapons and things like that. It’s going to be our high tech book.
BUG: Jim, I know that you are going to lend your designs to the new JLA, but is this going to go like universe-wide? Are you going to be designing all of these new titles as far as the look?
JL: There’s about fifty or so that I have worked on. It’s interesting just seeing some of the reactions and things people respond to; what I designed and what I didn’t design. The truth is, I think most people, aside from the things I’ve worked on with JLA, they might not tell necessarily right off the bat that I had a hand in the design. It’s more subtle and it wasn’t the work of one person. I worked with Cully Hamner and then often the actual artist of each book. One thing we didn’t want to do is really burden the artist of any particular book with a designer they weren’t happy drawing with, so a lot of times they would submit the first idea and then I would riff off of that and we would kind of go back and forth and I probably would chime in and it was a very sort of organic process where a number of different creators and all of that sort of came together and came together to design it all. It was very interesting how it all worked where you would have one person who kind of had a look that worked and everyone kind of thought “That’s awesome. We will roll with that.” You would think that that was a very difficult process with so many people involved, but at the end of the day once people started turning in things that seemed exciting that were very evocative of those characters it sort of all happened so quickly, so it was a pretty exciting project to work on.
BUG: Interesting. So you can’t have BLACKHAWKS without Lady Blackhawk, can you? Or can you?
DD: I think that’s one of the stories I want to reveal along the way, but it will be a wide diversity, a nice wide diversity of characters that will be part of the Blackhawks team.
BUG: Can’t wait to see that one. Let’s move on quickly to ALL STAR WESTERN. Can you tell me a little bit about that one?
DD: Yeah, we thought it would be fun for Jimmy and Justin to do what they’ve been doing with Jonah Hex to some of the rest of the Western heroes. What we decided to do is keep it a Western book, but add in the rest of the DC Universe. It’s like what we are doing with DEMON KNIGHTS, which is the DC Universe set in the Middle Ages. We are actually bringing Jonah Hex into the DCU and it takes place in Gotham City and you are going to be seeing echoes of the present DCU in Jonah Hex’s period of time. So we are going to have some fun with that, plus the best part of SGT. ROCK AND THE MEN OF WAR and also in ALL STAR WESTERN is that we will be doing backup features on those books that are a little bit different and will essentially have other characters in those books that will be different spins on the war motif or the western motif. So this book is not just about Jonah, but will have other characters from the Western universe taking part in these adventures.
BUG: Sounds great, I love Palmiotti & Gray’s Westerns. Let’s move on to some of the Wildstorm stuff. It was a big deal last year when all of the Wildstorm titles were brought to a close. It looks like you are bringing STORMWATCH and GRIFTER into the DC Universe proper. Is that correct?
DD: Yeah, well it was important to us that when we shelved those characters that we knew they would return in some form or fashion. Being able to launch those books as part of the September launch is, I think, critical to their future success. I think it’s not just the Stormwatch characters we all know brought into the DCU. They’ve been reimagined. They have been re-thought through and I think last year ended the characters at a good place. I think what is really interesting is that these characters are new and different, yet somewhat like the ones that readers remember from the Wildstorm days, so I think it’s a great opportunity for us to kind of get Stormwatch and Wildstorm characters in front of new readers and get them established as an important part of the DC Universe.
BUG: I see the Martian Manhunter is going to be a part of STORMWATCH. What went into the decision to bring him into that book?
DD: We really wanted to capture the Martian Manhunter’s side of a manhunter and really make him a force within the DC Universe. These are strong characters he’s dealing with with Midnighter and Apollo and Jack Hawksmoor, so it feels just natural for him to be standing side by side with them. Martian Manhunter will be part of the front line of the STORMWATCH team.
BUG: And GRIFTER. What can you say about that book?
JL: You know what? It’s just badass. We are really happy with how GRIFTER is coming along. This is a chance for us to reinvest some of the standbys of the Wildstorm universe, but to my delight I mean the stuff that was rolling in is spot on Grifter and I really love all of the things they are doing with the characters and Grifter was by far the easiest one to integrate within the DCU.
DD: I also want to bring the focus back to the artist because we wanted to bring a really dynamic style to so much of what was going on and we have an artist on board with ALL STAR WESTERN—Moritat, who did some beautiful work for us on the SPIRIT books. With have CAFU & BIT who have been working on THUNDER A.G.E.N.T.S moving over to GRIFTER, which we think really helps bring that book alive and we have Miguel Sepulvada who has done some beautiful work for us with BATMAN. He really brings that power to STORMWATCH. We are hearing a lot about where these storylines are starting and coming in and there’s a lot of different starting points for our characters in regards to how much power they still have and how they compare to the old DCU, well we are seeing these well known characters now appearing in the DCU in Apollo, Midnighter, Grifter. We are going to be learning about the new DC Universe through their eyes as they start to move through it.
BUG: I also see that Joe Bennet is going to be part of DEATH STROKE coming up and we haven’t talked about that yet. I just reviewed DEATH STROKE’s FLASHPOINT issue today on Ain’t It Cool and I admired the artwork that Joe Bennet was providing for that miniseries, so I’m really looking forward to the DEATHSTROKE series, which surprises me because I’ve never really followed the character.
DD: I think Joe Bennet is one of the most underrated artists that are our there right now. I think he’s a real talent. He’s done some great work for us over the years, from 52 on up and I think this is a book where he’s really going to get a chance to show he can shine and really break out in a big way.
BUG: Okay. Alright, so I have to ask with my pen name on AICN and all of that. Will Ambush Bug have a place in the new DC Universe?
DD: You know, I’m sorry. We have a lot of fun working with Ambush Bug, but we think he might be left in one of the other 52 different universes right now. We don’t expect to see him any time soon I the new DCU.
BUG: Okay… Alright I guess… I guess, I’ll have to learn to be ok with that, for now. Is there anything else you want to tell me about THE EDGE?
DD: Yeah, I think…
JL: Oh wait, we need to talk about OMAC.
BUG: Oh yeah, OMAC. That’s your title, Dan, right?
DD: To me, the thing to keep an eye on with that book is that Giffen has gotten some really incredibly exciting work on OUTSIDERS and really brought in such a dynamic flair and style of storytelling to that particular book. But he just unleashes completely with OMAC and I’ll tell you, some of those pages are just exploding off the page. It’s fun to see Keith just letting loose with a lot of the ideas and the concepts that were first introduced in DC by Jack Kirby, so I think it’s not just about OMAC, but he’s touching so many of the other bits and pieces of ambiance that Kirby had created for the DCU and it’s probably the most fun I’ve had in quite a while and it’s the most fun he’s had in quite a while.
JL: Let me add something to this, because obviously it’s Dan’s book and you know [Laughs] he can’t speak of it with the same kind of perspective, but let me just say that the pages that have been coming in for OMAC have been spectacular. There’s an energy on these pages that you don’t often see in comics and Dan and Keith are fully channeling that kind of Kirby energy…there’s just an enormous energy to those pages. I think one of the things we often miss about comic books today is that real depth of fun and excitement and the fact that anything could happen on the next page and I think that Dan and Keith are really nailing that flavor. They are putting that flavor out with this book on a monthly basis and you know it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll be pulling and reading every month just because there’s something new and exciting and different.
BUG: Now, I’m excited about it. Dan, what is it like pulling double duty here with being both writer and publisher? Is it getting easier after your stint on OUTSIDERS?
DD: Actually I thought that was a little rough ride for me on OUTSIDERS. The whole thing really went well along the way. One of the biggest problems is the fact that we have gone through a lot of artists and I always like to work with the artist as a real collaborator on these books and that’s why Keith is so committed to this project and we are in it together top to bottom. So I feel extremely comfortable, because when you work with somebody who is as legendary as Keith Giffen, you know you can’t fail. He’s a great guy to work with and he changes you to do better and that’s one of the things that I enjoy the most. It really is the fun part of the job, it really is.
BUG: Great, thank you so much. I appreciate you guys taking the time to chat today. I hope we can talk again soon about the rest of the changes at DC.
DD: Sounds great. Thank you so much.
JL: Thanks, Mark.
BUG: This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks, but I have to admit, a lot of the titles on THE EDGE seem pretty interesting. What do you guys think?
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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Special thanks to Muldoon for transcription.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G