STERLING GATES Gets the DC VIBE

Vibe #3

Now that readers have gotten their hands on the first couple issues of Justice League of America's Vibe, it's becoming clear that the comic is more involved in the DCU than previously suspected.

This week's July solicitations confirmed the comic's importance, but also pointed out that Sterling Gates is taking over as solo writer of the title as it heads toward the events of "Trinity War."

Gates, who's best known to DC fans for his work on Supergirl, takes over Vibe with next week's issue #3. We talked to the writer about the upcoming appearance of Kid Flash, Vibe's encounter with Batman, and what else we can expect from the title.

Newsarama: Sterling, let's just address up front why Andrew Kreisberg left the comic, and now it looks like Geoff's off the book too. How did you end up taking over?

Sterling Gates: It really was a matter of Andrew not having enough time. On top of being an incredibly busy writer in his own right, Andrew is an executive producer for the CW’s hit show Arrow. I think he’s booked solid through 2015! [laughs]

I actually met up with Andrew a few weeks ago at a Doctor Who convention here in Los Angeles. I was coming out of a panel and this total stranger walked up and introduced himself and it was Andrew. Very, very nice guy, wearing one of the coolest Doctor Who t-shirts I’ve seen in awhile. He thanked me for taking over Vibe and we talked a little about some of the projects he’s developing – and they’re, like, huge projects – and he just ended up not having the time. If you knew what he was developing, I think you'd all go, "Oooooh, cool." Andrew’s an incredibly talented writer with some great stuff on his docket.

And I was happy to take over. Geoff Johns asked me to write this book after he and Andrew left, and I was thrilled to do it. Incredibly humbled and thankful. I said on Twitter that issue one was one of the best first issues I’ve ever read and I stand by that. It’s just a great pilot issue. When Geoff asked me to take over, I was psyched, and I’m thankful DC gave me the opportunity.

Nrama: What's your approach as you take over Vibe? Can you sum it up in a few words?

Gates: At its heart, Vibe is a coming-of-age superhero story in the new DCU. Geoff and Andrew did such a great job introducing a teenager with a lot of heart. I just loved everything those guys cooked up for Cisco Ramon and his family in the first issue, and I want to continue to develop those themes and threads. There’s love, anger, loss, regret, joy, fun, and at the story’s core, hope. It may be tough to see in those first couple issues, but there’s a lot of hope in this book. Vibe is taking his first few steps into the greater world.

We’re going to explore what it’s like to have to grow up quickly, faster than you think you have to grow up. Sometimes growth is thrust upon us when we’re not expecting it. Cisco is very suddenly recruited into a massive government organization and told he’s the only person in the world who can identify and track inter-dimensional breachers. What does that do to you, as a young man? And what happens if you are asked to track down someone who’s innocent?

The story’s got a lot of twists and turns as it goes along, introducing some concepts that will have bigger implications to the DCU.

Nrama: Let's talk about Vibe as a character. How would you describe Cisco as a person? What's his personality like?

Gates: Cisco is a teenage boy trying his best to make good. When he was a younger, he and his brother, Armando, were caught in the event horizon of a Boom Tube during Darkseid’s invasion of Earth. That exposure to Boom Tube energy gave Cisco mysterious powers, but even as he gained powers, he lost his eldest brother. Cisco’s had a rough life since then – losing his oldest son caused their father to shut down emotionally, and Cisco’s other brother, Dante, is a slacker to the nth degree – and Cisco’s done his best to keep the family intact. It’s been hard work. A lot of the responsibility of the family fell on Cisco's shoulders.

As a result, Cisco’s developed a very fine sense of morality and what's right in this world. He's trying to make good on both his brother's legacy and his family.

Vibe #3, pg. 2-3

That sense of responsibility is something I tend to write towards. If you've read any of my Supergirl work, that was the angle we took with her. I'm writing Vibe with that angle and tone in mind, dealing with a superhero who wants to do good, even with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

And we're going to throw some really heavy stuff at Cisco and see how he reacts.

Nrama: You mentioned that this story has "bigger implications," and the first two issues of Vibe made that pretty clear. Even though this character was part of the teaser image for Trinity War way back in May 2012, I think a lot of people are surprised how important Vibe's role is in what's coming up for the Justice League of America.

Gates: I think people will be surprised how important Vibe is, not only to the Justice League of America, but to the greater DCU. Vibe’s going to be a key player in the bigger picture. I’m working very, very closely with Geoff to make sure this book fits in snugly with his Justice League plans while still standing on its own. It’s a lot of fun to go into the DC West offices and break story with him.

Nrama: In the teaser image for Trinity War from last year’s Free Comic Book Day, Vibe appears to be fighting specifically with the Flash. Does that mean there is a confrontation between them coming up?

Gates: Well, if you read Justice League of America #1, Amanda Waller states that she's recruited the members of the team to counteract the Justice League. Vibe – unknowingly -- is chosen to be the anti-Flash.

Nrama: Since we're talking about Flash, can you tell us anything about Kid Flash's visit in issue #3? DC just revealed that he's on the other half of that gatefold cover.

Gates: I can tell you that something very, very interesting happens when Vibe's powers and the Speed Force interact.

And Kid Flash fans will definitely want to pick up this issue.

Nrama: Then in issue #4, Batman is on the cover of Vibe. Why is Vibe fighting Batman?

Gates: I can't tell you why, but I can say that, if Batman fights Vibe...well, when Vibe can tear a hole in time and space, I think Batman's going to have a hell of a fight in front of him.

Nrama: Is Vibe really that powerful?

Gates: He's an incredibly powerful superhero, and he's just this teenaged kid. He has no idea how powerful he truly is, and that’s something we’re going to develop and explore. He can do a lot more than he knows. As a result, some of the things that happen to Cisco will be just as much a surprise to him as to the readers.

Nrama: Will most of the things you’re throwing at Vibe come through that "rip" that exists in Detroit?

Gates: Some of them will. Darkseid’s attack on Earth left the dimensional walls in Detroit weak, made it easier for things to push through into our dimension. Those weakened dimensional walls are sort of our plot engine in Vibe. Either breachers are coming through the walls to Earth, or they’re trying to get home and Vibe has to stop them. It's honestly a great concept for a writer to work with, because it's constantly bringing new villains and concepts into the book. Offers a lot of story momentum.

If you read issue one, you saw that A.R.G.U.S., the government agency that recruited Vibe, secretly has a massive underground prison full of dimensional breachers. Vibe doesn’t know it, but he’s helping to incarcerate potentially innocent beings, creatures that might’ve just wandered into our dimension by mistake. What happens if Cisco finds out what they’ve been doing to the breachers he’s been helping to catch?

Nrama: Justice League of America seems pretty intense and potentially dark, particularly with Amanda Waller involved. But is Vibe a little lighter?

Gates: Vibe’s got a lighter tone overall, but that doesn't mean the stakes are any smaller or any less dangerous.

Nrama: Is Waller part of Vibe? What other characters will be in the ongoing cast?

Gates: Amanda Waller is definitely part of the book, because she's such a heavy player in the Justice League of America universe.

Cisco has a handler within A.R.G.U.S. named Dale Gunn. Cisco thinks Agent Gunn is mentoring him, but really, Gunn has his own plans for the kid. Sometimes they’ll run counter to Waller’s plans, which – if you know anything about Amanda Waller – she won’t like very much.

Vibe #3. pg. 9

Geoff and Andrew brought back Gypsy in issue one, and she’s a familiar face for older Justice League of America fans. We’ll pick up her thread and run with it as early as issue three.

Cisco’s irresponsible brother, Dante, plays a big role in the book. Talking with Geoff, it seemed important to develop Cisco’s family to help ground him in light of the massive events he’s going to encounter, so I’m trying to make sure that Dante has a significant role in every issue. Cisco and Dante’s relationship reminds me a lot of the relationship I have with my brother…uh, which isn’t to say my brother is a slacker or irresponsible! [laughs]

Nrama: What's it been like working with Pete Woods?

Gates: Pete's incredible. We worked together on Superman: The Last Stand of New Krypton a few years back. He always turns in such amazing work. He elevates every story he draws. I’ve been a Pete Woods fan for forever, all the way back to his Robin days, and it’s a thrill to work with him again. He’s turning in these incredibly tight pencils that consistently blow me away.

He's really easy to collaborate with, too. He's got a lot of ideas for the book’s visuals, and he’s designed all these cool A.R.G.U.S. gadgets and stuff. He’s just a top-notch penciler. Geez, can I say more nice things about him? Pete Woods smells good. He has a very manly goatee. Um, he dresses well? Well, he doesn’t always! [laughs]

In all seriousness, if I could work with Pete every day for the rest of my life, I totally would.

Nrama: You and Geoff Johns worked together on some Green Lantern projects, and on a couple crossovers when he was doing Action Comics and you were on Supergirl. I assume you're still coordinating how Vibe fits with Justice League of America. How has that collaboration been?

Gates: I'm thrilled to be working with Geoff again. We did a lot of coordinating on Superman stuff for "New Krypton." This is a very similar work. Geoff and I meet every couple weeks to break story and talk about Vibe’s role in Geoff’s Justice League plans, and it's always one of the best couple hours of my week. I'm thankful he thought of me when they were looking for somebody to take over this book. I’m having a blast.

Nrama: Wait, are you meeting once a week with Geoff for Vibe?

Gates: Well, I'm working with him on another project that I can't talk about, because it hasn’t been announced yet. But I've been meeting with him all year and it's been a lot of fun.

Plus, I want to be sure that Vibe fits in his plans while standing on its own. It’s sort of a supplemental book to Justice League of America, yes, but we’re telling our own story about our own set of characters. It’s connected and intertwined in some ways, but Vibe is the story of Cisco Ramon.

Nrama: Any final words to the folks who are reading Vibe, or even those who don't yet?

Gates: I hope people give it a chance.

Trust me, every skeptical thing fans have thought, I thought of the second I learned they were doing a Vibe book. But the first issue really sold me, and seeing how Vibe works within the Justice League of America book and within that universe got me really, really excited.

This is a bigger book than people realize, and at its heart, it’s the story of a young man finding the strength within and finding his place in the New 52 DCU.

I think if people give it a shot, they’ll dig it. 

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