As the New 52 title The Flash enters its second year, the comic begins an epic battle featuring the hero and his Rogues in "Gorilla Warfare."
Created by writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, The Flash has been building toward the showdown, which will force Barry Allen to unite with the Flash Rogues to defeat Gorilla Grodd.
In part one of our interview with Buccellato and Manapul, Newsarama asked about the comic's possible hints about Wally West and the unusual style the creative team used for The Flash #0.
But this time we look forward to "Gorilla Warfare" and these new, updated Rogues.
Newsarama: You said we'll see more rogues in the upcoming issues of The Flash than just the five that we saw in the Annual, but will the "Rogues" we've seen so far start coming together more as a team in this arc? Because they're still learning to work together, aren't they?
Brian Buccellato: Yeah, I don't think they've all had much of a chance to sort of get together and hash out their personal differences, because they're recently assembled, and before they even completed their first mission, they were thrust into Gorilla Warfare, so I think a lot of their personal relationships and how they interact with each other and what they want — all those things have yet to play out.
So I think there's definitely uncertainty with the Rogues right now.
Nrama: Can we walk through the Rogue characters we've seen, and maybe talk about where their heads are as we start this arc? I'd like to start with Gorilla Grodd. Obviously, we got a great introduction to him a few issues ago. What threat do he and the other gorillas represent, and what should we notice about the way you've set up Gorilla Grodd's story coming into this arc?
Buccellato: Gorilla Grodd is a tragic king figure. He believes that he is destined for this greatness, and he feels it's been taken away from him, specifically by the existence of The Flash. So he's a figure who needs to come to grips with the reality of who he is and what his place in the world is.
But as you can see by the fact that he's invading Central City to get The Flash, he hasn't accepted what is the reality. For him, he's holding onto something that doesn't belong to him. And we'll see how much damage he's will to do, and who he's willing to kill and hurt to get what he wants.
Francis Manapul: Grodd feels that Barry took away his home and his destiny. And so he wants to take away Central City from Barry. The one guarantee that we can give you for this storyline is that Gorilla Grodd will be the king. He literally will be the king. We're not going to say "of what." But he will be the king of something.
Nrama: Let's talk about Heat Wave. What are your thoughts about his motivations now as we start "Gorilla Warfare," and how will they play into the story arc?
Buccellato: I think Heat Wave is probably the most reluctant member of the Rogues. It took some doing to get him on board. So who knows if he'll stay.
Manapul: The main reason why he's around is that the Weather Wizard convinced him to come around — and Glider.
They all have common ground in that they're not too keen on Captain Cold right now, especially him. He's been physically changed by it. They all have, really. I would say Glider and Heat Wave are the ones that have suffered the most, physically, from this event that happened in the Annual.
But he's a fun character to write, because essentially he's just a really, really angry dude.
Buccellato: He's ornery.
Nrama: What about Glider? Will her place on the team be that of a leader, and what's behind her motivation as we go into "Gorilla Warfare?"
Manapul: What makes Glider one of the more compelling characters among the Rogues is the fact that, all the Rogues have had a tough go in life, but right now, she's having an even more difficult time. Her real self is stuck on a hospital bed, and the only way she's able to get around is when she manifests this sort of projection of herself gliding around. The only physical contact she can make lasts a few seconds. And to top that off, the man she loves is trapped in the Mirror World. They're not even in the same dimension. And all those things happened because of her own brother, the man who had taken care of her since they were kids.
Buccellato: And as far as her place on the team, I think it's still up for grabs. I don't think Captain Cold is giving up his leadership so easily. So there's still going to be a sibling rivalry that plays out through the story arc.
Manapul: And there's a lot of internal conflict going on there. In a sense, her journey is the same as what the other rogues are going through, as they try to figure out their identity. There's a duality to a lot of the rogues, where they skate the line between right and wrong. They're definitely bad guys, although they have a different view of it.
Buccellato: They know they're breaking the law, but they don't see themselves as bad guys as much as they see themselves as hard workers who are trying to live the American dream. They just happen to do that on the wrong side of the law.
Manapul: At the same time, I think our take on it is that they see the gem cities as the Wild West. If they can take it, why not? Right?
Nrama: Makes sense to me. How about Mirror Master? We know he's stuck in Mirror World, but can you tell fans what we can expect from him?
Manapul: Well, right now, the Mirror Master is still a little bit of a mystery, because we didn't get a chance to delve into him in the done-in-one Rogue features. His appearance was supposed to be a surprise, so in that way, we weren't able to focus on him.Essentially, right now, he's trapped in the Mirror World. And it's a very interesting thing because in the Mirror World, he's almost like God — he can create and do anything in there. But he knows that none of it is real.
Buccellato: And more tragically, the one person who he can't really interact with is the person he loves, because in the Mirror World, she's not tangible. So for all his ability to create his own world, his own reality, he can't have the one person he wants as part of it.
Nrama: What about Weather Wizard?
Manapul: Weather Wizard is this guy whose personality is somewhat tied to the weather he's creating. If he's making it rain, he's kind of bummed out, but if he's making lightning come down, he's a little more furious. What's more interesting about him is he's probably the most "nice guy" out of the Rogues, because he had that sense of responsibility thrust upon him with his family business and having to take care of his brother. So in a way, if there was somebody in the Rogues that Barry Allen could relate to, it would be Weather Wizard.
But he's one of those guys that's not so much a victim of circumstance, but it's more that he sees the role he has to play and he just deals with it. He hasn't really made any serious moves to change himself, and that's why he's still a criminal.
Nrama: We touched upon Captain Cold's relationship with his sister. He's got a bit of a new spin from the past.
Buccellato: He's really the same guy that Captain Cold has always been. It's just that a different set of circumstances led to a choice in the New 52 that changed the game.
Manapul: We carried over his emotional state from who he was previously, and then we allowed him to grow. The decisions that he made that led to the Annual were linked to things that existed in the past. So we're giving a little nod there that, yes, some stuff in the past happened, and it led to that decision to drastically change who they are. In the old continuity, I don't think we would have been able to do that. It would have drastically changed the characters.
They say that one of the tricks in comic books is you give the illusion of change, but you never actually change the characters: You change everything else around them.
So I think that's why these characters feel different, but there's actually that essence of who they were before, because they're who they were before, but an evolved version.
Nrama: It's interesting that you mention that you probably wouldn't have been able to make these changes to the old continuity. What do you think of readers' response so far to these changes to the world of The Flash? And what do you think is behind the success you've had putting a new spin on these characters when it's often difficult to make changes like these without a negative fan reaction?
Buccellato: I don't want to speak for how other people have chosen to reinvent characters, but I know that in our case, we really tried to respect what came before. It's the best situation, because there's all this rich history to work from, and we really get to cherry pick the most impactful and interesting things to explore. That's what we're doing.
We're just showing different sides of characters who have existed for 75 years or so. So for us, I don't think we're surprised that people are responding to it, if only because we feel like we're writing the Barry Allen that we should be writing. We're just giving it our sensibility, our own take, where we're taking him into the 21st Century. I feel like we have a sophisticated type of storytelling that maybe not everyone gets, but most people seem to like it. A lot of times, we're compared to Lost in the way we tell our stories, because we use flashbacks and fractured narratives, but those are conventions of TV and movies and comics that everyone knows. So I feel like people embrace it because it's modern, but yet it's still Barry Allen.
Manapul: Also, as much as we want to believe the positive reviews, that means we have to believe the negative ones as well. So we just try to have as much fun as we can and write stories we think are respectful of the characters yet evolve the characters. I've been a Flash fan for a long time. I think one of the key factors to the success we have on the book is that we're trying to be very mindful of the past. I think the model we're kind of following is the Star Trek movie. There were enough nods there to the past that it made the changes feel OK. And I think that's one of the things that Brian and I tried really hard to do. We always came back to, "what would be the best story to tell?"
Buccellato: Change for the sake of change is a problem you see a lot of times when things are reimagined. If you're changing it just to change it, it won't ring true. It will seem hollow and people probably won't respond to it.
Manapul: Any changes that Brian and I have made have been because of the story. There's a reason for it.
Buccellato: Any changes that we make, I can guarantee you that we've talked a lot about it and we've given it a lot of thought. We really want to have a goal, a plan and a vision.
Nrama: You hinted in the first part of the interview that Captain Frye has a role to play going forward. Do you have other characters coming into the story or leaving that you can hint about for 2013, maybe coming out of "Gorilla Warfare?"Manapul: One of the things I'm really excited about is that, once this storyline is finished, we're going to try to reset some pieces. The second half of year two is going to be really different.
And to your question about new characters, a major villain is going to be born from the "Gorilla Warfare" storyline.
Nrama: Beyond the Rogues we've seen?
Buccellato: Yes, but we can't say any more about that.
Manapul: Just know that something major is going to happen in the "Gorilla Warfare" story arc.
Buccellato: "Gorilla Warfare" ends with issue #17. And then issues #18 and #19 will be a two-issue story arc. When we get to issue #20, we'll start the following story arc, and that's the one we really can't talk about. But we've got some really exciting things coming up in 2013.
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