Greg Rucka: Action with Nightwing & Flamebird

Greg Rucka on Action Comics

Action Comics #871

As DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio revealed last week, not only will Superman be leaving Action Comics in 2009, his vacancy will be taken by Flamebird and Nightwing, two Kryptonian heroes who recently debuted as part of the “New Krypton” storyline in Action Comics #871. The creative team on the series from that point on? Writer Greg Rucka and artist Eddy Barrows.

So who are Flamebird and Nightwing?

Originally, they were heroes of the bottled city of Kandor – back in the Silver Age, they met (and knew) Superman, Batman and even Robin. In fact, back in the days of the Marv Wolfman and George Perez New Teen Titans, when Robin ditches his Robin identity, he chooses the name “Nightwing” as a tribute to the hero of Superman’s homeworld, because Superman played an important role in his development as a man and a hero. But that’s not important right now.

Neither are the other incarnations of Nightwing and Flamebird that have been seen around. As “New Krypon” has revealed, this is the true Brainaic, and the true Kandor, so this is the true Flamebird and Nightwing. (Flamebird, female, Nightwing, male).

And who are they? No one is telling, but everyone has ideas – thanks in large part to one of them using tactile telekinesis.

Newsarama caught up with Rucka over the weekend to talk about his upcoming run on the series and using the characters, and while the writer jokingly suggested that the interview’s title should be “Rucka Refuses Comment,” we were able to get a few bits of information out of him.

Here’s what he had to say.

Newsarama: We understand that there’s far more about Action Comics and Flamebird and Nightwing that you can’t say than what you can, so let’s start off by talking about how you ended up on the series in the first place. You’ve told us, and Dan DiDio has said that you’ve been quite busy with DC projects that have been behind the scenes. So basically, you were asked if you wanted to write Action Comics, which was followed by a big, “Oh, and by the way…”?

Greg Rucka: [laughs] Yeah – I’ve been working on at least one book for DC for over 18 months now, and we’ve been trying to get the timing right on that, and things smoothed out and figure out where we’re going to launch it after Final Crisis, because Final Crisis is running a little long, shall we say. It’s like the old television, before cable took over – what are the seasons, and when are you going to premiere a new “show” for lack of a better phrase. So there’s a lot of stuff that’s slating up for the summer, and I’ve been talking to Dan about Action for a while, and he approached me about the book two months ago.

NRAMA: And this fits in as part of the larger Superman plan?

GR: The Superman plan is a long-standing plan that James and Geoff came up with, and it’s a lovely masterplan, and they know exactly where they want to go with it. So, with the plan in place, Dan was able to approach me and say, “Okay, this is what we’re looking at…” and also point out the big open areas in the plan – we know the destinations, but a large part of the map leading to the destination is missing – and that’s by design.

I talked to Geoff about it a couple of times, I talked some more with Dan about it, and had a really good conversation with Matt Idelson about it. I know Matt from way back when I was a part of the Batman Group, back when it was still called the Batman Group. And of course, Matt was the editor on Gotham Central for me and Ed and Michael, so Matt and I have a really good working relationship, and he and I had a very good conversation about the book. And in talking to Geoff, he had told me some very specific things about who’s in the Nightwing costume that I had glommed on to and thought was just beautiful and something I could really run with – and it all went from there.

And then Idleson tells me that Eddy Barrows is drawing it, and I was so in. I mean, twist my arm. [laughs] Done deal.

I’m really lucky – I’m working with really, really talented artists on three different projects…only one of which and whom I can name right now [laughs].

NRAMA: Let’s just get a quick confirmation on something Dan said when he talked about you coming on to Action - he said that both Flamebird and Nightwing are characters that we’ve seen before. True?

GR: That’s true. You’ve seen both.

NRAMA: And this is Action Comics without Superman in it, right?

GR: Yeah – it’s the Flamebird and Nightwing story, but it’s still Action Comics. Immediately after Dan’s Q&A went up here, I was getting questions asking if I was really going to write Action without Superman in it. But – with that said, “Superman’s not in it” doesn’t mean Superman’s not “there.” You can’t have the DCU without Superman. Even when he was dead, he had a presence.

So no, he’s not in Action, but everything that happens in Action is influenced by him, and a lot happens because of him. I know that’s going to be small consolation for people who pick up Action to see Superman, because you’re not going to see him in Action, but it’s still Action Comics, it’s still a Superman book, and his fingerprints are all over it. His morality, his ethic, who he is and what makes him Superman influences that book, and certainly influences Flamebird and Nightwing, even though Flamebird and Nightwing believe a very different mandate. They’re very mission oriented, for lack of a better phrase. There’s a specific arc that they’re following over these 12 issues. On the face of it, people may think that this is being set up to really fly in the face of Superman, and it really doesn’t. So much of what Superman is is about methodology – about how he does what he does, why he does what he does, what he’s willing to do, and what he isn’t willing to do. Those are huge influences that will remain in the book.

NRAMA: Will the character’s identities be known to the readers before your first issue?

GR: Hopefully not before the first issue. But by the end of the first issue, yeah, you’ll know. By the second issue, you’ll know why, and by the third, you’ll see that it’s not at all easy for them. The fact of the matter is, if you put on costumes of mythical heroes from Krypton, you are setting a very high bar for yourself. So often, Nightwing and Flamebird get equated to Batman and Robin, but they’re not. Their heroism is somewhat broader than that, if that makes sense. It gets dodgy when you start calling Batman a vigilante, but with this, there’s less vigilantism and more heroism. And that goes back to what I said about Superman’s influence – he’s the ultimate hero, the ultimate role model. So – yeah, no Superman, Flamebird and Nightwing, Krypton reference, yeah, bar insanely high.

NRAMA: But at the same time, you’re coming in to write characters that are relatively fresh, and aren’t hooked to a ton of continuity that you have to adhere to and match its tone…for lack of a better way of saying it, you can be “you” on this book, rather than stepping into someone else’s shoes…

GR: Yeah – for me, plot always comes out of character, so I had to be sure of my characters. Like I said, there was a conversation with Geoff and in that way that Geoff will have an idea – this real simple thing where it was like he said, “I did this thing, because of this thing.” And when he said that, it all opened up for me. I picked that up and used it – and it’s not a plot point, let’s say. It’s not something the readers will pick it up and say, “This is the idea that came from Geoff.” It’s not that at all. It was something he said about one of the characters, and the second he said it, I realized there was a whole story in there. It’s a beautiful, very moving, emotional story. It’s something that I think the readers will be able to get incredibly invested in.

And then, as for the…er, “other” character…[laughs] This is probably the most unsatisfying interview for readers ever…it’s all “Rucka refuses to comment.” But it’s good.

NRAMA: Let’s try for something that you can answer again – where will Action Comics be set?

GR: One of the things that we’ll be doing with this story is that they’ll get to travel throughout the DCU. I know that you’re going to see them coming up pretty soon, and I suspect – and I have to double-check with James – that I’m starting with them in Metropolis. But one of the fun things is that they get to move around, and meet up with guest stars. I’m looking forward to hitting the DCU Midwest in particular. So yeah, there will be traveling, but there will be a link back to Metropolis that will be fairly consistent.

NRAMA: Going back to your earlier mention of there being large blank spaces in the overall Superman plan – does that mean you have a plot to work from, or are you wholly on your own, just knowing that you have to wind up at a certain point?

GR: It’s not simply that I’m coming in and filling in the missing bricks. That said, I think the DCU works best when there’s a clear goal in mind. 52 showed that. The build-up to Infinite Crisis showed that. When there’s a clear vision, and you’ve got the creative teams working toward that goal, each on their own, it can then come together quite elegantly at the endpoint. So we know the goal, but I wouldn’t have taken the job if I was only going to be taking dictation. I wouldn’t have done the gig if they said, “This is the character, and this has to happen, and then this and this and this.” If that’s the case, you don’t need me.

So like I said, there’s a place we’re all heading, and it’s a place that Geoff and James have marked on the map very clearly, and had then basically said, “These are the ways we can get there…” When I was talking to Dan, Matt and Geoff – all three of them were very clear on that – they knew where they were going, but how they got their in Action was up to me. I appreciate that. Otherwise, it would be an exercise in frustration.

The other thing is that these types of things are always dynamic, and they have to be, because writing is a chaotic process. You’re creating stuff, and you have to have liberty to look at what you’ve done, and be able to move and react to what has been created. By the same token, the endpoint we’re heading towards, it’s also a start point – something begins when we get there. How that then plays out is going to be heavily influenced by what happens in Action and all the other books. So it has to be dynamic, and will probably change as we go, but it’s going to be a fun run that I think readers are really going to enjoy.

Twitter activity