VILLAINS MONTH: PAUL LEVITZ on EARTH 2 Plans, Kirby Memories
CREDIT: DC Comics
Could DC be headed toward some type of multiverse crossover, involving not only the main DCU earth and Earth 2, but the New Gods as well?
While the publisher is far from confirming that anything of that magnitude is coming, with all the world-hopping going on in series like Batman/Superman, Worlds' Finest and Earth 2, the door has been opened wide for more earth-to-earth crossover. And Paul Levitz is sure hinting around that something's coming down the road, both with Earth 2 and with the New Gods.
In September, Levitz is one of several writers who are playing with characters connected to Earth 2 — as well as the Fourth World/New Gods concepts first introduced by legendary comic creator Jack Kirby. The writer's one-shot issue, titled Earth 2 #15.1: Desaad, will tell the story of how the New Gods character Desaad got stuck on the main DCU Earth after the invasion of Earth 2.
And according to Levitz, readers will see Earth 2 "touch other main DCU books" in the future.
The Desaad issue follows up on the character's introduction in Levitz's Worlds' Finest series, which stars the Earth 2-born characters Huntress and Power Girl. In the current storyline of Worlds' Finest, the two female heroes have their hands full as Desaad has targeted their lives for destruction.
Newsarama talked to Levitz to find out more about Desaad, the revamp of Jack Kirby's New Gods, and the possibility of more interaction between Earth 2 and the main DCU earth.
Newsarama: Paul, we recently talked about Desaad's role in World's Finest, but the September issue is focused on just him, right?
Paul Levitz: Yeah. All the energy is on Desaad and all the focus.
You get a bunch of reveals, if you read it carefully, of things that link back to the story of Power Girl and Huntress, that's been told in World's Finest over the last year and a half, but that's without them being physically present at any point.
Nrama: What's Desaad's situation in the issue? Is it present day?
Levitz: It takes place over a five-year period. It really parallels the time that World's Finest has been reeling its story out.
Desaad is stuck here, and he's very pissed about that. It's not good to be pissed and a god.
Nrama: Not many of the New Gods characters are particularly pleasant, but Desaad is among the very darkest. How would you describe him in the New 52?
Levitz: The vision you see in this is that he's someone that lives on fear and pain.
When Jack created him, back in the '70s, he didn't really fully develop the character very much. But it seemed implicit both in the name and the work he did with him that this was someone who really enjoyed the suffering of others.
You look at a lot of the Apokolips characters — at least in their original conception — and they were very militaristic, they were very strong, they were very tough, but they weren't hurting anyone for the sake of hurting anyone. They were just like, "if you're in my way, you're going to get trampled."
Desaad is, I'd argue, worse than the rest of them because he'll sort of stop and say, "Oh! You're not quite dead yet. Excellent! Can I pull on your intestines a little bit before you go?" He wouldn't be that camp about it, but that's the attitude he would be expressing.
Nrama: Will we understand, in this issue, a little more about why Desaad does what he does?
Levitz: I think so. You'll certainly have a better understanding of the current incarnation of him — the New 52 incarnation — because you'll take him through a longer journey through a longer period of time.
One of the challenges when you're writing villains in comics, in general, is you have very little screen time for them. In most story structures, between the need to have action sequences and to have reveals about the heroes' personalities, you usually have very few pages that you can devote to the villain's motivation or the villain's view of the world.
Here, you've got the perspective flip, so you've got a lot more time to see how he acts and how he's building his goals.
Nrama: When we talked about World's Finest last time, you mentioned your history as a fan of what Jack Kirby did on the New Gods characters. What was your first exposure to the New Gods?
Levitz: Well I came upon the Fourth World at the perfect moment. It launched just as I was doing my fanzines, and I remember standing by Carol Fein's desk when Jack's art would come into the office — Carol was DC's equivalent to Flo Steinberg, although she never got quite the same public profile, but it would be an interesting contest to see which one had the bigger smile and the more outsized personality (Carol was very much a twin for Fran Drescher, and in those years she was Carmine's secretary.
And when Jack finished a book, he would mail it in, and it would stay locked up in Carol's cabinet until it needed to go into production. There was no real system for dealing with out-of-town talent in those years. And I'd come up as a little 14-year-old brat and stand by her desk, and she'd pull the issue out and show me what was going on. And I'd look and "ooo" and "ah" at all the wonderful new stuff that was coming in.
Nrama: The events in World's Finest are very closely tied to Earth 2 — this Desaad issue is specifically labeled as an Earth 2 issue — and we're also seeing crossover between Earth 2 and the main DC earth in other stories, like the best-selling Batman/Superman title. But we're also seeing a lot of New Gods running around the DCU lately. How much does Desaad's story intersect with bigger plans that DC has over the coming months?
Levitz: I think, clearly, the whole Earth 2 storyline has been percolating in a way that creates a lot of story potential. And we'll see that touch other main DCU books.
As you said, in Batman/Superman, Greg is doing some material connecting them. And we'll see a lot more of that.
What the exact timetable is, I'm not either at liberty to reveal, or in some case not aware of, because I just know my little piece of the puzzle.
Nrama: But Desaad does have a role in the bigger things that are coming?
Levitz: I certainly think so. He certainly thinks so.
Nrama: You're working with Yildiray Cinar again on this issue. How's that been?
Levitz: It's actually a lot of fun working with Yildiray, whom I had worked with on Legion for a long stretch.
This is a rare situation — it might be the first time for DC — where he's inking himself. And he's doing a very different set of stylistic things as a result of that. It reminds me very much of what went on in the Silver Age, even with artists like Carmine and Gil Kane, who, when they inked their own work, thought differently about how they were designing it in the first place, because they knew they were going to do their own thing, and certainly inked it in a fashion that was very different than how other people typically interpreted their work.
When you look at Gil's stuff that he penciled for other inkers, the storytelling was always beautiful, but the drawing was kind of brought into the house style — whether it was a DC style or a Marvel style at the time. When he inked it himself, it had a very sharp, linear look unique to him.
And Yildiray really has this very interesting, very different kind of work on this, especially notable given that he's doing it against the background of everything that's been going on in Istanbul, where he lives, and I'm sure it's a major emotional distraction.
Nrama: I know you've worked on the New Gods over the years since you were that 14-year-old boy looking at Jack Kirby's work, but what does it feel like now to get to play with Desaad and kind of fill out the character Jack created, but in your own way for the New 52?
Levitz: I've been so lucky to both work with the creators whose stuff I loved when I was a kid — to get to see what Jack would draw on a plot that I had worked on — and to get to take these characters and carry them forward. There's just no better day than doing something like that.
Maybe the day Jack's grandson mentioned that he used to keep "The Great Darkness Saga" sitting around his studio. Maybe that was a better day. That he didn't rip it up and throw it out in the process.
Nrama: Then to finish up, what's your hope for the Desaad issue and your participation in Villains Month?
Levitz: One of the real challenges of something like Villains Month for most of the guys is differentiating their villain from the rest of them, because so many villains in traditional superhero comics have fairly similar motivations, have fairly similar power levels and power types. "I make blue things, I make red things."
But this, if I've done my job right, should be a very distinctive story within the moth. This is a very distinctive character.