Haly's Circus, Eclipso Diamond Go WEST in 'ALL-STAR'
Yet the comic's new direction has won over those fans and added a slew of new readers, as it took the "Hex" concept and added characters from the history of the rebooted DCU.
The New 52 comic stars Jonah Hex, Amadeus Arkham and a revolving cast of characters as it explores the history of 19th Century DCU. Created by Gray, Palmiotti and ongoing series artist Moritat, All-Star Western has surprised readers with the story seeds its planting among the ancestors of today's DC heroes, even tying into May's "Night of the Owls" event with a story from the "Owls" past.
pg. 1Now All-Star is heading toward a tie-in with other DC Comics as the Black Diamond of Eclipso makes its way through the history of the DCU. And next week, the series dives into a storyline that involves Dr. Jekyll, Haly's Circus and the Black Diamond.
Palmiotti and Gray, who often collaborate as co-writers on their comic book work, are also introducing new characters to the present-day DCU through a series of mini-series linked to characters from the Freedom Fighters franchise they made so popular in recent DC stories. Currently, they're partway into Phantom Lady, then will follow that up with a Human Bomb mini-series later this year.
pg. 2With next week's All-Star Western #13 starting the Black Diamond storyline, Newsarama talked to Palmiotti and Gray about what's coming up in the series — including their character-focused back-up stories — and what they hope to accomplish with their Freedom Fighters character minis.
Newsarama: During the first year of All-Star Western, you guys laid the foundation in your "history"- based story for a lot of the concepts being explored in present-day Gotham City. Will that continue going forward?
Justin Gray: We look at it on situational basis. The connection to modern Gotham isn’t the driving force behind All-Star so much as Gotham presents a broader storytelling landscape. With the "Court of Owls," it just made sense within the mythology that Scott set up. We’re looking to reach a bigger audience and convince people that if given a chance, they can like Westerns.
pg. 3Palmiotti: Gotham is thought of as a character in the book as well, and we have been having a blast incorporating its history into the book. We'll continue to do so as long as we can keep it interesting and keep world-building in the process. We're in constant contact with the other offices and always bouncing ideas back and forth.
Nrama: When we talked a couple years ago about your Jonah Hex series, you indicated you guys were given a lot of freedom because you were so separated from continuity. Now that you're knee-deep in continuity — albeit in the past — how much more coordination is there with editorial and other writers about what you're establishing for the DCU's past?
pg. 4Gray: Essentially, we come up with ideas and run them past editorial to see what we can get away with. The focus is to tell compelling stories regardless. The broader DCU elements are there to enhance that story, add some fun Easter eggs, or to give readers a perspective that this is the same universe they know and love, just seen through the eyes of a different century.
Jimmy Palmiotti: The good thing is the "powers that be" trust us with the character, and with this trust comes the power to throw some pretty wild ideas out there and see how they are received.
pg. 5 inks
pg. 5 colorsThe back-up stories in the book take full advantage of this fact and jump all over the DCU timeframe. In the end, as Justin says, we run these ideas past editorial to see how they are received. No different than our original [Jonah Hex] run.
Nrama: In issue #0, you set-up the upcoming storyline, with Dr. Jekyll's serum being stolen, then Haly's Circus coming to town with negative intentions. What kind of scenes and style can we expect as you continue this thread toward certain aggression problems in town?
Gray: We’re having fun with every issue and winking at the history of Gotham and fan expectations. We’ve got a homicidal circus clown, man-eating tigers and Shaw Bros. kung fu coming up in the main story that also incorporates Dr. Jekyll, a black diamond and Arkham losing his marbles.
Palmiotti: Expect the unexpected.
Nrama: As you mentioned, the Black Diamond is playing a role in your story, but it's also in several of the history-based series at DC in a couple months. Is this a crossover of sorts?
Gray: I think all we can say now is that the stories are connected by the Eclipso diamond each in their own ways.
pg. 17Palmiotti: We are working with the other offices to make sure this all goes smoothly and all of our stories make sense for the character and the bigger story at play here.
Nrama: How does the Black Diamond story get incorporated into All-Star Western?
Gray: You have to wonder what Dr. Jekyll would be doing with a black diamond that causes personality disorders.
Nrama: Good point. At the end of issue #0, a woman showed up in the main feature story — that was The Barbary Ghost, right? Can you tell us anything about her role in the upcoming story?
Gray: That was in fact the Barbary Ghost, who you can read about in the upcoming trade paperback, and she’s trying to find her mother.
Palmiotti: Her story continues from the three-part story we told about her trying to find her mother and traveling to the ends of the earth to do so. It was a natural thing to bring her into Gotham and interact with the rest of the cast — and just wait until you see what Moritat did in these issues. His work keeps getting better and better. There is a double-page splash of her fighting in the streets of Gotham that would make a beautiful poster.
Nrama: That brings us to the upcoming back-up stories. Who will we read about in the next few months of co-features?
Gray: Ahh, now here’s some extra and unexpected elements. After Tomahawk, which is a completely new take on the character as told from the Native American perspective, we explore the 19th century version of Stormwatch. I don’t want to spoil the summer stuff, but you will see The Shade recruiting a motley group of characters to hunt down a lost Apache city of gold.
Palmiotti: Our goal is to one-day make the reader jump to the back of the book first to see what we have up our sleeve. I think this second year of All Star Western, we make this happen.
Nrama: You're dealing with the DCU past, but from time to time, your characters bump up against real-life history. When you use historical figures from the real world, like Tecumseh, do you research the character and try to base the stories around fact? Or is it more about fitting the real world into the fictional world of the DCU?
Gray: It is a little of both. Because we’re operating in a fictional universe, we can bend reality and yet keep a lot of the facts. Hours of research went into the events around the story and involving some of the historical figures.
pg. 14Palmiotti: We try not to ever do things halfway. We also happen to pick artists that understand this and do a ton of research as well. One look at Phil Winslade’s work on Tomahawk makes you understand that right away. His draftsman ship in ever panel makes this story shine in so many ways. It really is stunning work and a good example of how great comics can be if the artist cares.
Nrama: Before I let you guys go, I'd like to just point out that you're currently writing Phantom Lady. Can you just sum up for readers what your hopes are for this character as we move further into the series?
pg. 2Palmiotti: Our main goal is to re-introduce the character to people and at the same time, take what more familiar fans enjoy about the character and give it to them in one nice four-issue package. We hope the readers care enough about them that they demand to see them featured in other titles in the future. Our job was simply to introduce the basic concept and origins of the character to a new generation.
Nrama: You've got the Human Bomb story coming up as well. As you've introduced these characters, is the hope to pick them all up in a new Freedom Fighters team book?
Palmiotti: That comes together based on feedback from the fans. Honest, if there is a demand, we would get the call, but it’s too early to tell. We would love a shot of putting them all in one room to see what happens. This group has very different personalities than the original Freedom Fighters. It would be really interesting for sure.
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