@’s by OMEGA EFFECT Writer Greg Rucka!!!
Russ Sheath here. Last week marked the beginning of the three part event that is called THE OMEGA EFFECT, Marvel’s Punisher - Spider-Man - Daredevil crossover written by Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, penciled by Marco Checchetto. I spoke with award winning writer Greg Rucka about OMEGA EFFECT, working with Mark Waid and his plans for Marvel’s relentless vigilante Frank Castle, aka The Punisher.
RUSS SHEATH (RS): Greg, can you tell us where the three part crossover begins and how we find the characters?
GREG RUCKA (GR): It starts in AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #6, then goes to THE PUNISHER #10 and DAREDEVIL #11. The story has direct repercussions in issues 12 of DAREDEVIL and 11/12 of THE PUNISHER. I'm looking at the lettered proof for THE PUNISHER #10 and its beautiful Hollingsworth colors and beautiful, beautiful Marco (Checchetto) art. It’s awesome! As to where we find them, well, first issue is out now, so I suppose that’s been asked and answered, but in brief, Daredevil’s got himself a problem. He’s come into possession of this information storage device that was reverse engineered from FF tech, the Omegadrive. And on the Omegadrive is, essentially, every dirty secret about every criminal and villain organization in the Marvel 616--which, needless to say, has made Daredevil number one on all those aforementioned organization’s hit lists. Spider-Man knows the tech itself is dangerous, and the Punisher knows that information is a weapon… and he wants that weapon.
RS: Tell us about the origins of the project and working with Daredevil writer Mark Waid.
GR: Waid and I had dinner last year at San Diego, along with Steve Wacker, and we were talking about the long-standing DD/Punisher animosity-slash-adversarial relationship, and Mark had some pretty exciting insights into that. I laid out for him my plans with Frank and with Cole’s story, and Mark immediately saw the crossover possibilities, not so much in terms of plot but rather in terms of the characters. In the overall, grand scheme of what we discussed, this is sort of part one. We’ve got plans to do another Daredevil /Punisher meeting further down the road, and that’s the result of what happens in OMEGA EFFECT. One of the things we both were excited by, I think, is the idea of this Daredevil - Frank - Cole triangle that evolves as a result of the crossover. I think there's some really compelling emotional stuff in it, and it reveals some rather wonderful stuff about Daredevil and about how Daredevil looks at Frank. There aren’t a lot of characters that logically fit – to me at least – into Frank’s orbit, but Daredevil is certainly one of the few. Any opportunity to bring in Matt Murdock, to show his take on Frank, you know…that’s a prime story opportunity. And again, Mark had some really interesting insight, there, specifically in how Matt feels he’s failed Frank.
So, you take that, and then here’s this woman and she’s definitely following Frank’s path, and for obviously similar reasons. Once Daredevil has a read on that situation, he sees a chance to fix that mistake and to do for her what he couldn't do for Frank. One of the things I've wanted to tell all along is how Frank can survive as he does, and the extraordinary lengths he has to go to in order to maintain that survival, the bubble he’s had to create for himself to make it possible to keep doing what he’s doing. As soon as he begins to connect with people, as soon as there’s an emotional connection, no matter how tenuous, everything he’s doing gets thrown into jeopardy. He's got to maintain an extraordinary mission isolation. It’s taken a while to get all the pieces into play, you know? But everything’s on the board now and from here on out, things are going to start getting bloody and they are going to start getting bloody, fast!
RS: How do two writers collaborate on a piece like OMEGA EFFECT?
GR: In the main, my experience with these kinds of collaborations are somewhat universal. There's an extended conversation about what the story going to be, where it’s going, what needs to be accomplished both individually (meaning for the separate books and characters) and collectively, what do we want and so on. As the conversations progress it narrows itself down, and you get a sense of scope and the direction becomes more and more refined. So you look at the space you have – three issues in this case – and what we need to accomplish, and then based upon that, we divvy up our workloads. AVENGING SPIDER-MAN wasn’t either of our book, so we wrote that one collectively, splitting up the scenes between us and deciding who would write what, etc., and then we’d pass it back and forth for revision and notes. And that continued into both PUNISHER and DD – I scripted PUNISHER, Mark did his pass on it and gave me further notes, I incorporated them, etc. Same goes for DD, but the other way around. And then there’s [Editor] Stephen Wacker; he’s maintaining quality control, giving us his own notes, and so on. I say we wrote our own books for OMEGA EFFECT, but that’s frankly misleading. There’s nothing in that script that Mark didn’t put his stamp of approval on, you know? And there’s plenty in there that came as much from his brain as mine, and I’d like to say you can say the same about the DAREDEVIL issue, as well. I’m sure as hell not going to do anything with Daredevil that doesn’t fit with where Mark’s taking him and his story. That’s a big deal for me, and I want to make sure that I’m honoring that. You don’t ever want to break another writer’s story.
For a guy like me who absolutely cannot draw, comics are always collaborative. I enjoy the collaboration so much, I find it so incredibly rewarding. When you’re working with Mark Waid, there’s so much skill and so much experience there, you kind of just try to get out of the way as best as you can. The give and take is that you are going to get something better out of it and if a story fails, it’s not going to fail for lack of trying. A good collaboration feeds itself.
RS: What’s your take on Frank’s relationship with Daredevil and Spider-Man?
GR: I really think that he looks at Spider-Man and Daredevil with a huge amount of respect, honestly. He may disagree with their reasons and the results they get, but the man who was the good soldier, the family man and the man who believed in God, he recognizes heroism. He knows he’s not a hero, and he knows they are. I think he would never, ever admit it, but I imagine he has great respect and admiration for Spider-Man, especially. I think there’s an element of Frank that finds the irony that the Punisher gets more positive press than Spider-Man does, and that’s problematic to him.
His thinking on Daredevil, though, I imagine is more complex. He goes to Matt’s office in that first issue, in the AVENGING issue, you know, and approaches him as Matt Murdock. That to me speaks volumes about their relationship. Even if he knew Spider-Man is Peter Parker and Peter Parker lives in this place or that place, Frank would never engage Spider-Man like that.
RS: Tell us more about the Frank/Cole relationship?
GR: Cole is now moving so tightly in the same orbit as Frank that they’ve begun to get in one another’s way. It’s a question of operational theater. There are two teams working in the same operational theater, they’re not coordinating, and that’s turned into a problem. So Frank reaches that conclusion at roughly the same time the fight with Poulsen turned into a fight with Black Spectre and the introduction – to Frank – of the Omegadrive. Frank’s after the Exchange, the Exchange has a vested interest in the Omegadrive, Cole is after the Exchange…if there’s a time to work together, it’s now. All Frank needed to know, really, was that there’s this thing the Exchange wants and that Black Spectre was willing to wade into the middle of a fight between the Punisher and Poulsen to get, and that Daredevil has it. Frank interrogates one of the surviving Black Spectre members to find out more about the drive and what he discovers leads to his presence in Murdock's office in AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #6.
RS: Frank’s been through the wringer of late. How do we find him at the beginning of OMEGA EFFECT?
GR: He’s still on mission! Physically he’s almost recovered from the Vulture fight with the exception of the eye injury. One of the things you run into when you do any periodical comic is the timeline and it’s been seven days since the ‘100 days’ issue. Seven days is not long enough for the eye injury that’s been plaguing him for the previous 100 days to be done with. When you are playing in the ‘616’ there are so many characters who can shrug off incredible damage. One of the things that makes Frank so cool is that he doesn't have that ability, yet still he survives. Wolverine can afford to be stupid in a fight because what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Depending on whose take you run with he’ll grow back from a single cell of his blood. But Frank can’t take that risk. Injuries will put him down, so one would think his doctrine would demand that he engage the enemy on his terms and at range whenever and wherever possible. He just can’t afford to go in guns blazing. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s another element at work when you look at it like that. In the real world, around us, we’re involved in what has turned into a very long war. Soldiers are wounded, soldiers are dying. We have wounded soldiers returning to our countries, and these are injuries they have to live with in many cases for the rest of their lives. Frank is in many ways born of a soldier ethic. I don’t want to dishonor that. I want to be respectful to the injuries, even in the context of the fantasy.
RS: We’ve talked about Rachel Cole-Alves and her role in THE PUNISHER. You’ve been adamant in interviews that Frank and Rachel aren’t partners. What is that relationship? What kind of attachment is there between Cole and Frank?
GR: Is there an attachment? Yes, whether they like it or not, I think. There’s a part of Frank Castle who says ‘I absolutely understand this person, but if I have empathy for this person then I’ll have sympathy for this person and that will form a human bond and I cannot afford it’. There’s a moment at the end of issue nine where he says: “Five head shots in under ten seconds, that’s good shooting.” It’s one of the longest lines he’s had up until then, they’re sitting opposite each other in this diner where they are cleaning up from their wounds and her response is to say, “I’m a Marine.” That’s it. They’re speaking the same language in that scene, and he ends it by telling her to form on him, and that’s when there’s an acknowledgement that they’ll work together. She calls him “sir” in that sequence, and even though it’s snide, it’s also Cole recognizing his rank. He’s an officer and she’s an NCO. To Frank, that’s her acknowledging that she’ll follow his orders, and to her, that’s pretty much what she’s confirming.
RS: So the common bond between them, both having been Marines provides some connective tissue for the future?
GR: It’s certainly one of the two foundations, sure. I don’t think Cole’s tragedy alone would’ve been enough, honestly. But Frank looking at her, seeing her on mission, so to speak, and then the further parallel with them both being soldiers, being Marines…that’s the basis for, at least as of now, a temporary alliance. But the thing is…Frank is unique. The Punisher is unique. There can’t be two of him. She cannot be The Punisher. That’s a lesson he can’t teach, it’s one Cole’s going to have to learn. And she’s going to learn it the hard way, unfortunately.
RS: AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #6 is in stores now. PUNISHER #10, the second part of THE OMEGA EFFECT is in stores this week!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G