The Trinity Sessions: Kurt Busiek on Trinity #3
We’re back again with our weekly look at Trinity. This time, Kurt Busiek holds forth on issue #3, including his take on the JLA. We’ve also got the first of our reader questions. So, why wait?
Newsarama: Although we touched on them briefly last time, the League are here in force in this issue. In your estimation, what's the immediate, big picture take that the reader should have any time that the JLA appears?
Kurt Busiek: "Here come the big guns," mainly.
The JLA is DC's A-list super-team, so when they show up, it's bugles-blowing cavalry-charge time. At least it is here -- I'm not sure there's any one reaction the audience should have every time a hero or team appears, because you're going to react depending on the story and the presentation. I'm now thinking of that Alan Moore Swamp Thing issue where they show up as mythic, vaguely-spooky "over-people," but that's just my natural tendency to look for exceptions to any blanket statement. Usually, at least, the League are presented as the cream of the crop, the big name heroes, the sentinels on the wall keeping you safe in your beds from the dangers all around us. And that's the kind of moment I think we delivered here -- a dramatic arrival in a crisis situation, where they immediately take charge, dealing with the situation as experienced pros. It didn't go as well as they'd hoped, but the arrival, at least, set the proper tone for who they are and what their role is.
NRAMA: As we've stated before, you've had your own run as JLA writer. However, there are several new members on the team this time around. Black Canary is now field leader, and Firestorm II is on the squad. What's your impression of the new roster, both as a writer and a fan?
KB: Aw, do you really want me to review someone else's work? I don't think so.
My job as a writer, in a shared-universe setting, is to work and play well with others, to use the big toys as they exist at the time I'm using them -- so I didn't think much about whether the League is who I'd have chosen, I'm just using them as they' are when I picked them up. If Black Canary's the leader, I'm going to have her act like the leader. If Firestorm's on the squad, well, he's not going to have the same self-assurance that a more experienced Leaguer would have, but that's fine -- that's just one more bit of character and nuance to play with.
That said, this is a substantially-different League than the one I wrote -- there's a lot of overlap, but a lot of differences. I think they're an interesting mix, with experienced heroes and relative newcomers, with longtime Leaguers and newcomers. Red Arrow and Hawkgirl bring a new energy to roles traditionally filled by Green Arrow and Hawkman, and that stirs things up a little, delivering both familiarity and a new spin at the same time. Vixen's got a history with a different era of the League than most...it's fun, as a write, to play with.
As a reader, I'm probably more used to a more classic League, but I'm having no trouble accepting these guys as the modern JLA. The squad I brought in in Trinity #3 is maybe a little underpowered -- and that only by comparison to the classic League, because any team that's got the Flash and Firestorm in it has plenty of power -- but that's because I'd already knocked out Green Lantern and had Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman busy elsewhere. So it's a League with a big hole in its roster, perhaps not ideally suited to taking on someone like Konvikt, but they did reasonably well under the circumstances.
NRAMA: We've seen this in many books over the years, but as soon as "The Trinity" shows up, everyone differs to them. This time, the villains watching from afar take note of it. Even Black Canary says, "Thank God." Is there just something primal and archetypal about the three of them together, both in DCU and real world terms?
KB: Probably. They've been mainstays of the DCU for longer than there's been a League, and mainstays of the League for much of the team's history. A big part of Black Canary's reaction is specific to this situation, though -- they're up against a hugely-powerful monster, and arrows, animal-powers and sonic whammies aren't really going to do the trick. So Dinah's very glad to see them because they're very good at this kind of thing, and she's been fighting, essentially, a holding action, trying to fend off Konvikt while she figures out a solution to the problem. And then they step out of a hole in the sky -- if the League is like the cavalry arriving, the Trinity is the cavalry within the cavalry. They're part of the League, but they're a very welcome part at any time, and in this situation, more so than usual.
NRAMA: Canary is the JLA leader at this point, as we said; her relief at the Big Three's arrival aside, do you think that she struggles with her role when placed against these other characters?
KB: No. The JLA's not as much a coordinated-combat team as, say, the X-Men or even the Avengers, so it's not like the leader needs to stand there and tell Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman what to do. They're an alliance of solo heroes, mostly -- a group of individual champions that come together as needed, so they're used to a lot more individual initiative and independent action than a lot of teams. When they arrive, Dinah barks out a bunch of orders, but they're more about crisis management and allocating her resources at the start of the battle than they are combat commands -- there are people in danger, there are fires burning, they've got to split up to deal with the damage while they try to contain the threat, that sort of thing.
But when the Trinity arrive, most of the League is occupied, downed or exhausted, and the main thing needed is to deal with the big purplish monster. As leader, Black Canary could say "Go get him, Superman," but he doesn't really need to be told that, does he? And she's leader enough to know that. So it's not a failure of leadership that she doesn't boss the Trinity around, it's an awareness that she doesn't have to. League leader is a position that, as far as I'm concerned, is about dealing with decisions that have to be made in the situations they need to be made in, and giving the Leaguers their independence otherwise. Not about acting like a puppeteer and telling everyone what to do at all times.
I haven't seen (or been told) anything that suggests Dinah is an insecure leader, so I didn't write her as one. In that situation, any leader should have felt relief to have some big guns turn up.
NRAMA: We see Superman essentially dare Konvikt to bring it on, and he lays him out with one punch. That was a bit of a reckless move for Kal, wasn't it?
KB: I don't think so. Not every hero needs to take the same approach, and Superman's one of the last guys in the game who should be timid and cautious in his approach. Batman's sneaky and calculating, and that suits him fine. Superman's forthright and direct -- and that suits him just fine, too.
For Superman, taking the direct approach -- going head to head with the guy and seeing what they've got -- is going to be the right one the vast majority of the time. The percentage of clashes in which he's flattened by one punch is so small as to be negligible, and even in those situation, what it usually means is that he's learned something about the enemy's capability's that he can react to with the next gambit, dealing with the bad guys from a position of knowledge, rather than being overcautious and not finding out enough about the foe's capabilities.
As for what'll happen here, I'm conscious of the fact that Newsarama has already published a preview of the first few page of next issue, but I don't want to assume that everyone's read it. Suffice it to say that Superman and his teammates did learn something, and they take it into account as they proceed.
But to my mind, Superman's one of the most confident heroes in comics. He's not going to be scared of taking a punch. He's Superman.
NRAMA: In our second story, Jose is Jose Delgado, aka Gangbuster, is he not? Anything you'd like to say about the man?
KB: That's him, all right.
I always liked Gangbuster -- back when he was introduced, I thought he had the potential to be DC's Daredevil, a role that, since those days, Nightwing seems to have stepped into. But I think Jose could be a strong lead character for DC, and I'm glad to be part of bringing him back into the spotlight. And hey, how cool is it to have Jerry Ordway, his co-creator, on board for his return?
NRAMA: The story turns on the previously glimpsed Rita. She, like Wonder Woman, represents a gateway to the world of myth and magic. Similarly, Jose works against crime in a capacity that's occasionally similar to Batman. Do they have a third point of their triangle as well?
KB: That's an interesting question, and hardly one I'd answer ahead of time. I will say that there's a powerful alien in her story in the next chapter, and Gangbuster ultimately teams up with a bold flying hero of longstanding stature, but neither of them really fit that "third point" to a sub-trinity. But you never know what might come; there's a good long way to go from here...
NRAMA: Gangbuster has actually been kind of dormant in the DCU for a while. Are there any other wayward characters that you'd like to get in there, or is that something that you want to play close to the vest?
KB: We've got a few more less-seen character who'll be cropping up over the course of the series, but who they are and what size roles they'll play is something I'd prefer to surprise the readership with...
NRAMA: I'm yielding time to two reader questions this week . . .
Both 52 and Countdown sort of changed horses mid-stream and altered their plotlines; one to reflect some better/different ideas they came up with halfway through, and the other (so the fans believe) to address issues the readers were having with the narrative. Also, in both cases, there were a series of "end points" the story had to reach to tie in to other stories and books that would be coming out of them.
How flexible is the Trinity plot should similar mid-course corrections be necessary for it? And since it's already been said that the events of Trinity would affect (tho perhaps not directly lead in to) future adventures of the three lead characters, how tied to a particular ending are you? Might this be another case of realizing the "proper" ending is not what you had planned as the narrative plays out?
KB: We're pretty flexible, V-Bart, but just because the last two weeklies did course-corrections, that doesn't mean we're planning to, or will need to. We do recognize that 52 issues is a big, wide canvas, and we want to stay loose enough to be able to make changes and to take advantage of discoveries and new ideas along the way -- for instance, I just had a new idea about where John Stewart's story might be going that I talked over with Fabian this morning, and talking about it led to new discoveries about Enigma and about the way the ending might play -- but we don't anticipate needing to throw out our basic outline and doing something else. We're happy with how it's going.
We do have the advantage of not being tied in to other projects, like the previous two weeklies were. 52 came out of Infinite Crisis and had to fit cleanly into the space before One Year Later, and Countdown, of course, tied in to Final Crisis and more. But we're not fitting into a prescribed gap, or leading into another big event -- I like to say that the big event we're leading up to is our own finale.
Sure, this story will affect the characters, but that doesn't mean that things are set in stone for what'll be happening a year from now -- it means that Trinity’s part of continuity and will affect things organically. We're not locked in to a straitjacket, plot-wise, but we're not in any trouble, either, so the ending we're headed toward is the ending we started out heading toward.
Whether that'll be true six months from now, I couldn't tell you, but we'll deal with things as they come.
NRAMA: Rob Anybody wrote:
You're know for digging deep into the history of the characters you write and pulling in the threads of their past into the current storyline. How do you decide what to pull from the history of characters so steeped in history like the Trinity?
KB: It all depends on the story, Rob (and say hello to Daft Wullie when you're back with the Clan). I don't have a formula for it -- whatever's interesting and useful is fair game. It can be a lot of fun to mess around in these guys' backgrounds, and see what might be worth bringing up into the light again.
NRAMA: As always, thanks, Kurt!
KB: My pleasure! Next up -- the Trinity versus Konvikt -- and what's Batman going to do?