Levitz & Pak Talk BATMAN/ SUPERMAN, WORLDS' FINEST Crossover, Part 2

DC February 2014 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics

[Read Part 1 here ]

Credit: DC Comics

Not much surprises Batman, but he's about to get a huge shock when two women from another world make "First Contact."

Two DC titles, Worlds' Finest and Batman/Superman, will cross over in February and March, as Power Girl and Huntress — the Earth 2 heroes who are now secret refugees on the main DCU — will reveal their secret identities to Batman and Superman. The crossover, titled "First Contact," will span Batman/Superman #8-9 and Worlds' Finest #20-21.

That means Batman — who just recently lost his son Damian — will meet a grown woman who calls herself Bruce Wayne's daughter, as he also learns that on another earth, he married Catwoman. And Clark Kent, whose relationship with his teenaged Kryptonian cousin has been strained at best, will meet the grown woman from Earth 2 who calls herself his loving cousin.

The multiverse team-up comes from writers Paul Levitz and Greg Pak, who told Newsarama they're crafting a story that not only has "a lot of stuff that blows up," but also packs some emotional and humorous punches. At the heart of the story is the two women's quest to get home to Earth 2, but it also has ramifications beyond the two titles, as Superman and Batman become aware of the DC multiverse — and explore the possibility of travel between the different earths.

The story gets a prelude in January's Worlds' Finest #19, after Power Girl's out-of-control powers cause her and Huntress to decide they need help from their alternate earth families. January's Worlds' Finest Annual #1 will also have a few flashback story beats, as it reveals an early adventure for Huntress and Power Girl — back when they were Robin and Supergirl on Earth 2.

Then in February, the adventure begins. Will Batman and Superman discover a way to traverse the DC multiverse? Will Huntress and Power Girl return to Earth 2? We continue our talk with Pak and Levitz in part 2 of our interview.

Nrama: Greg, how has it been writing Huntress and Power Girl for the first time, finding their voices and personalities?

Pak: It's been great. I went back and read Paul's stories, and he's developed these really fun voices for these characters. It's been a blast diving in and writing them.

I think it's always fun when you have characters like Batman and Superman, who are not necessarily going to say everything, and maybe have difficulty saying some things, particularly emotional things, and then you have even younger characters who can cut through that in a fun, funny way, and also in a very insightful way, and force them to look at things from another angle.

They were a blast, and a ton of fun to play with. It's always fun when you have a character like Huntress, who is actually capable of surprising Batman. You know what I mean? If you put Batman in the position where suddenly he's a straight man, that's great. So Huntress and Power Girl have been a blast to work with. I love having a variety of voices, and characters who express themselves in different ways.

Nrama: Paul, is this your first time writing the New 52 version of Batman and Superman?

Levitz: Yeah, I think so. I've got a Batman story kicking around in the can somewhere that hasn't been published, and if it ever gets out there, it will be the New 52 version, although I don't think I was particularly consciously doing it as the new version.

Nrama: Is it at all different writing them, now that you've got them in Worlds' Finest?

Levitz: Their core is the same, but the voices are somewhat different. And I'm certainly leaning on Greg to keep an eye on the voices I'm using, because they should match — not just the New 52 version, but very specifically, the way he's writing them in Batman/Superman. So I suspect here and there, he'll give me a note that says, "Uh… this line of dialogue? Maybe a little different take on that."

Pak: No, when we've gotten together to plot this story, it's obvious that Paul has a very clear, a very strong grip on the emotional center of all these characters. And that's what's been great about collaborating with him on this type of story, where we're pushing their emotional buttons, putting them in situations where they're going to challenge each other. It's clear that he knows these characters.

Nrama: Paul, I think a big part of the excitement of this story is just… to think of Superman and Batman becoming aware of multiple earths for the first time. You obviously have quite a history with the concept of different earths — both as a fan and as a publishing executive.

Levitz: Yeah, it's where I came in as a kid. The first comic I remember buying on the stands was Crisis on Earth 1 [which featured a team-up between characters from Earth-1 and Earth-1]. So I know how cool that felt when I was, what… six years old? Five years old?

I hope all of this is creating the same kind of excitement for a new generation.

Nrama: Greg — you're kind of new to this stuff — at least to the DC version of alternate universes. What do you think of the fascination right now with Earth 2 and Earth 3, even though the New 52 is only a couple years old? What's the attraction to you as a writer, and why do you think readers are enjoying it so much?

Credit: DC Comics

Pak: For me as a writer, the real attraction is that it opens up these fun character moments. You can do any kind of crazy thing in a story — in comics, there's all kinds of, like, pyrotechnics or crazy smash-'em-up fun you can have — but for a person to really care about a story, we have to get under the skin of those characters. Your characters have to be challenged and pushed to that next level. That struggle is what makes it compelling.

And these alternate world things are attractive partly just because they're a crazy, sci-fi mind-bender, but really, the real pay-off is just that they can provide really great, emotional hooks, for all the reasons we've talked about. When you have these multiple versions of characters, it's like the same person but with slightly different experiences. And that can lead to really great, emotional stories, where characters see what could have been, or what could be for them.

So I've embraced it as a writer.

But from a reader standpoint? I will be 100 percent honest — when the DC editors first threw this idea at me, with Batman/Superman, to take them to Earth 2, I was like, really? I wondered if it was too much to, you know, plunge into multiple worlds. We always run the risk in fantastical storytelling of adding one element too many. I've definitely done that in my career before. It's always tempting to cram in all the ideas you have.

But after that hesitation, I realized that, you don't have to know anything coming into these stories. If you have a general sense of these characters, you can immediately pick up on those interesting differences and just enjoy it. The Earth 2 stuff that we did in the first Batman/Superman story, we didn't spend time explaining their entire history.

Nrama: Right. You don't have to know why Pa Kent died on one earth and not the other — you just experience that in the story as Superman is experiencing it.

Pak: Right, and he's standing there looking at his father. That's all you need to know.

Of course, as writers, we have to know all the background in order to get it right, but we don't have to spell it all out in the book. We just have to make sure we're telling the story from that emotional point of view. And if that works, then it all works.

And the funny thing is that you go into the stories thinking, "the characters from our earth are the ones I care about." But then you get to know these alternate characters, and the characters all become vital. "Our" world's characters are no more "real" than the Earth 2 characters. They all become real and significant when you take them seriously, which is exactly what we're doing.

But to get back to your original question, the reason alternate earth stories are so compelling in the DCU is because the original characters are so compelling. There's so much to explore with these characters, and these alternate universes give us another venue to tell stories using these characters in totally different ways.

I tip my hat to the first comics editor who decided to do an alternate universe story.

Nrama: Paul, how's it been working with Greg? Did you know him before?

Levitz: I hadn't actually met Greg before this project. It's been a lot of fun getting to know him, and he's been a lot of fun to work with.

Nrama: How was it for you, Greg?

Pak: Well, let's be honest — Paul's a legend. I remember when I first got in a room with him, it was like, "wow." It's kind of nuts to have the opportunity to work with folks who have such a storied history in comics. I mean, he's amazing.

But when we get in a room together and talk with our editors, who are also fantastic, it's just been a lot of fun. We're just, you know, working on comics together. A couple of times during our conversations, one of us would come up with a bit and then realize, you know, that really works better in your book. And then the other will say, "yeah, yeah, yeah." We're coming up with bits and sharing them, you know what I mean? So there's stuff he's given me for my book, and vice versa. So it's been a real collaboration.

But I can also tell Paul really understands how a story is made, you know? Like, when a suggestion comes up, he can see how it fits into the whole big story. I see the wheels clicking in his mind, because he can see the bigger picture. He can see how it fits or doesn't fit, in a very practical sense. He's got such a handle on the storytelling craft and the actual putting-together of these issues, beat-by-beat and scene-by-scene. It's a really good feeling working with him because he's got those extra eyes.

Nrama: I just interviewed Geoff Johns earlier this month, and he said April would begin a new stage of the New 52. This crossover between Worlds' Finest and Batman/Superman finishes up in March. How important is this story to where both series are going to be in April?

Pak: I don't want to say too much, but there are things that will happen in this book that will have ramifications.

Levitz: And it sets in motion what will drive Worlds' Finest for the next few months.

Nrama: Well, that makes sense because the driving force behind the crossover is "are they going to make it home?" Paul, isn't that right? Isn't that the key to what happens with your title in April?

Levitz: That's the ultimate question. Do they make it home? And what's happened on home while they've been gone? From their perspective. Is there a home to get back to?

Nrama: Right, because there's a new Batman on Earth 2, and their Superman is serving Darkseid. Are you being kept aware of what's going on with Earth 2?

Levitz: Yes. I'm more aware of where it's going than I am of where it is on any given day at this point. But there is a master plan being cooked up for all of this, which should not surprise you.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: Ah, the master plan. That's true of Batman/Superman too?

Pak: Yes, all these stories I'm working on for DC are building in interesting ways to some pretty big payoffs, and this is no exception.

Levitz: But I think the thing that really matters in the crossover are these story moments we talked about. We've got the opportunity really play out a lot of things emotionally between the characters that really just creates some great fun.

There's a lot of stuff that blows up. And this is a serious plotline, and there is serious danger at different points. But the coolest moments are really the one-on-one moments.

Pak: Yep. And you don't have to know anything coming into it. If you think it sounds fun, jump in! The water's fine! It's going to be awesome. But also, if you're a long-time reader and you're looking for things that may affect other things in the future, that's also a good reason to check it out.

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