In "Rotworld," the upcoming crossover between Animal Man and Swamp Thing, the title characters aren't actually fighting to stop the Rot from taking over the world.
The Rot has already won.
As readers found out in August, much of the "Rotworld" crossover will be set in a type of post-apocalyptic DC Universe, where familiar characters and locations have already succumbed to the monstrous decay of the Rot.
Beginning with October's Swamp Thing #13 and Animal Man #13 (after a "primer" of sorts in the #0 issues of each book in September), the "Rotworld" crossover will bring to culmination the stories that have been building in the two series since they were launched last year. Written by Batman scribe Scott Snyder, Swamp Thing will feature art by Yanick Paquette as it continues the "Rotworld: The Green Kingdom" story through issue #17. Animal Man, written by Jeff Lemire with art by Steve Pugh, will tell the concurrent story "Rotworld: The Red Kingdom" through its issue #17. The story will also see tie-ins within Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. this fall.
In "Rotworld," readers will see what the Rot has done to DC cities like Gotham and Metropolis. The crossover will reveal which DC heroes and villains have been transformed into Rot-type monsters. And which characters are still surviving, including a Green-friendly Poison Ivy.
Concurrently, the comics will tell the story of those characters left behind in the present-day DCU, as they try to stop the future from happening.
Today, we talk to Lemire and Snyder, beginning a series of interviews with the writers and artists who are creating "Rotworld."
Newsarama: As you guys begin the "Rotworld" storyline, is the premise that the war against the rot has already been lost?
Jeff Lemire: Yeah, basically, Buddy and Alec are stuck one year in the future, and the Rot has won. The world is devastated and that's where we pick it up.
Scott Snyder: We wanted it to be something where it isn't an alternate world. It's not some Elseworlds that's like another dimension where the Rot has won. This is the DCU one year from now.
So the idea is that all of the stuff you're seeing in Rotworld is about to begin to happen in the present in Swamp Thing and Animal Man and Frankenstein now. So we wanted it to have that consequence too, because it's just a direct offshoot of everything you're seeing in the actual regular continuity DCU.
Lemire: Each of our books will kind of have two narrative threads. We'll follow Buddy and Alec in each of our books in this one-year-from-now future, where the world's destroyed.But we'll also be following, in my book, Maxine and Ellen, and in Scott's book Abby, in the present, where we actually see this starting to happen.
Nrama: So we'll see the future and the present together in the same book, and how one is leading to another.
Nrama: We've seen some power levels increase and change in both of your books. Will that continue and what were your thoughts behind doing that?
Lemire: You know, it's funny. I don't know if we actually had a conversation about that, but I know Scott wanted to kind of redesign Swamp Thing. And for me, Animal Man, it just seems a part of the story. Buddy needed to be more powerful to overcome the Hunters.
In this world, though, I think the Red and the Green are still both there in the future world. But they're weakening, so I think that will be reflected in Buddy and Alec. Their powers probably won't be as powerful as they have been.
Snyder: Yeah, we wanted the odds to be incredibly daunting for them in this world. This really is a place where the Rot has beaten back the Red and the Green tremendously.So even though they have these sort of elevated power sets from what they used to have from before we came on the books, in this world, not only are they facing their old allies and enemies in ways that I think will be really surprising and fun for people, but they're facing them with the reduced powers the deeper they get into Rotworld.
Nrama: It seems like it's more fun to write the new powers, though. When Buddy had physical elements like wings, it seems like it would be more fun to write -- and to draw for your artists.
Lemire: Yeah. But you know, actually, Scott... do you think Swamp Thing is probably less powerful now than he was when, like, Alan Moore was doing it, isn't he? Scott, you've actually limited his powers somewhat.
Snyder: Yeah. I wanted his destiny and his potential to be greater than the Swamp Thing in the Alan Moore run, even though his power set is reduced. Because in some ways that avatar or that Swamp Thing in that storyline is sort of an "abomination" from the mythology and the way that, in our world, all the avatars of the Red and the Green have to be human, and they have to sort of take on the mantle, both as Animal Man or Swamp Thing in ways where they have a human body beneath that skin, beneath the Green or the Red. What makes them the balance to the life force is the human restraint, yet at the same time, the person under the mantle, their ability to manipulate or to funnel the Red or the Green. It's as great as Alec is, where he's destined to be this legend, or this Warrior King Swamp Thing. The thing is that they can pull off, in the kind of fight that they can make for the Red or the Green, could take it to another whole level.
So it's sort of an interesting in-between for me to play with. And in Rotworld, a lot of that stuff is going to be addressed in a really big way as he faces off with other characters.
One of the things that we came up with, and Jeff... you sort of had more about this at the beginning and really inspired me to think more about it, was which characters in the DCU, if the Rot did invade the world and take it over, which characters might step up and descend the Red and the Green because of their connections to it naturally?
So we wanted to create a world where, in some ways, characters that haven't been big heroes in the DCU, or they've been heroes, but they haven't had the same status because there are "bigger" heroes above them, here get to shine a bit and step out.
Or character for the Rot in way that will be fun and surprising for people.
Lemire: Yeah, just because someone is connected to the Rot doesn't necessarily mean they're evil in Rotworld. Some of them could be allies. That's kind of fun.It was fun building who in the DCU was on each side and who we get to use and having some fun with them.
There are some new characters that we haven't had a chance to play with yet.
Snyder: Yeah, we should have pins or T-shirts at the con in New York for, like, Team Red, Team Green and Team Rot, although Team Rot should be a shirt that's all tattered.
Nrama: That would be great. Can you elaborate on who might show up?
Snyder: Deadman plays a big part in my side of the story, as does Poison Ivy. For him, in particular, part of the idea here is that he almost is sort of a chronicler of what happened for Swamp Thing. He can wander the Earth. But there's almost no one left for him to inhabit.
And Deadman is also in danger if he inhabits someone that's been infected by the Rot. He become trapped in their body, so he becomes really like a specter that can be a guide to Swamp Thing, but, at the same time, is almost forever on the other side of the barrier.
We wanted it to be a haunted feeling world.
Nrama: We've been teased in solicitations that Swamp Thing's going to Gotham City, which opens up a lot of possibilities.
Snyder: Yeah, I'm excited for Gotham. I'm so narrow-minded. But you're going to get to see a really different and fun Gotham.
Nrama: Is Swamp Thing going there because of Poison Ivy?
Snyder: Not so much because of Poison Ivy. She's taking on a role that has more to do with who Swamp Thing should have been.
Because Buddy and Alec were trapped in the Rot, they missed the transformation of the DCU. So part of the drama, I think, is the anger that a lot of people have at them as well, for not being there to protect the Red and the Green and they should have been.
So characters like Poison Ivy have stepped up to protect what's left of the Green in ways that I think people will find interesting.
Gotham itself though, we really wanted to think about the whole landscape of the DCU and the whole country, and to figure out, "Well, what would happen if the Rot's invasion began in this place and it came across the ocean, and it did this, and what cities would it impact, and how would it do that? How would it fall? How would the heroes try to protect those cities?"
We wanted to get a lot of stories that Alec and Buddy can find out as they're traveling, in ways that they'll need to thing about the past and what happened to the DCU, so that in order to try to see if there's anything they can do to restore the world now.
Nrama: And they may encounter characters that are turned toward the Rot?
Snyder: Yes. And there's nobody off limits. We want the guilty pleasures of getting to see your favorite characters turned into Rot monsters and stuff like that in certain moments, and at the same time, to try to make it something where it's also logical as to who would survive, what they would do, how they would take power into their own hands and fight back too.
So we're really excited for the characters that you're going to see stepping up.
The idea of these characters that sometimes maybe don't have a light shined quite as brightly on them taking on surprising roles in this kind of transformed DCU is a lot of fun.
Nrama: And Jeff, you're incorporating some of the characters from Justice League Dark, right?
Lemire: Yeah, and the one character in my story that I'm most excited about, and I think people will be surprised by the reason why she's still there, is Black Orchid. I introduced a new version of her in Justice League Dark, and I purposely kept her powers and her origin sort of a mystery so far. In Animal Man, we'll learn a lot more about her origin because of her role in Rotworld. And that will lead to bigger stories in both books later on. So I'm excited to have her as part of it.And it's always fun to have Constantine around. He's the only one that actually doesn't have a logical reason for still being [laughs] alive and not rotten, because he's not connected to the Red or the Green. But I just see it as, if anybody could survive, it would be him. He's like a cockroach that way.
Nrama: One of the most interesting things to me is that somebody who is tied to the Red or Green could be a villain, like Poison Ivy. But it also goes along with what you've said before about how the Green and the Red are not necessarily "good" forces, because they have to be kept in check. If things aren't in balance, they could be evil as well.
Lemire: Yes, that's very important to understand. The Red, the Green and the Rot themselves are not inherently evil. They're just sort of forces of nature. They're a balance of elements.
In this case, because Arcane has cheated his way back into becoming this really powerful avatar of the Rot, that's why it's growing out of control and it's evil, because it's a reflection of him.
But you know, if someone who's a little unstable was an avatar of the Green, it could be just as easily that the Green would be the bad guy in the story. In and of themselves, they're not evil. They all actually need each other to survive.
Nrama: We also saw Beast Boy mentioned. That makes sense.
Lemire: Yeah, he just seemed like a natural character whose powers were probably connected to the Red in some way. Bob Harras was working on the Ravagers book when we were pitching the Rotworld stuff, and he suggested trying to use him. And it seemed like a good idea.And I was a huge Teen Titans fan, so I enjoy writing that character. So yeah, he's in there, Constantine, and Black Orchid. And then there are a couple others that I don't want to spoil that are Buddy's little traveling army.
Nrama: Jeff, one of the things that showed up a couple issues ago were those yellow aliens who gave Animal Man his powers. On the surface, those don't seem to fit nicely into the world you're building, although you found a way to make them work. Was it tempting to not incorporate those into the story?
Lemire: No, I couldn't wait to use those guys. I thought they were really fun. I love the challenge of an idea like that, and trying to make it somehow mesh with the mythology we were creating. And I think I came up with a fun solution.
That kind of stuff is a blast to me.They show up again in Animal Man #0, and I have some more fun with those guys.
Nrama: And then you've got tie-ins in Frankenstein. What were your thoughts behind including that character? He kind of makes sense with the "Rot," doesn't he?
Lemire: Yeah, Frankenstein made sense for a couple of reasons. Obviously, part of it is that I love writing that character and I really missed writing him after I left the book. So I was always going to use him in Rotworld. He was going to be a big part of what I was doing in Animal Man, even before his title became part of it.
And then, we're both really good friends with Matt Kindt, who's writing that book. So it seemed like a good chance to expand it a little bit. We always wanted to keep it contained to our books, but when you have one of your best friends writing another book and the character tie-in makes sense, why not have fun and tie it in?
Frankenstein is connected to the Rot in a weird way, and that's what Matt will be exploring, is his origins and how they're connected to the Rot and to Arcane. And how maybe Victor Frankenstein is connected to the Rot, and things like that.
And then spinning out of that story, Frank will join up with Buddy in Animal Man, becoming part of the actual feature storyline as well.
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