RED HOOD/ARSENAL: 'A Romcom With Some Action Elements'

DC Comics August 2015 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Scott Lobdell gave one piece of advice for Red Hood/Arsenal readers: "Tighten that seat belt."

The writer, who ushered in the New 52 versions of both characters in the previous Red Hood and the Outlaws, promised that the new Red Hood/Arsenal book will be a fast-paced action series with many new villains and new situations for the titular stars.

Lobdell, who also writes Doomed for DC's June launch, described Red Hood/Arsenal as "a romcom with some action elements, like Speed." As readers saw in the series' eight-page sneak peek, the duo certainly has a bromance of sorts going on, plus a new look from artist Denis Medri and a fast-paced knack for finding trouble.

With Red Hood/Arsenal debuting next week, Newsarama talked to Lobdell to find out more about his approach to the title.

Newsarama: Scott, the eight-page sneak peek of this book felt like a buddy movie to me. Do you think that's an accurate description of the book? How would you describe its overall style?

Credit: DC Comics

Lobdell: Drat! I was hoping it came off as more of a romcom with some action elements, like Speed!

In a way, Jason and Roy are the best thing that ever happened to one another — even if they can't always admit it to each other.

Before they met, Jason was a violent, angry vigilante with only revenge on his mind. Roy was a directionless action junkie who took ridiculous self-destructive risks. When they finally wound up in each others orbit something pretty spectacular happened to both guys.

After a long time being judged by everyone wearing a bat or an "R" on their chest, Jason finally had someone who believed in him unconditionally. Roy started hanging out with someone who didn't expect anything from him — who didn't want a sidekick or a partner or a weapon — just a friend.

So... if the two of them joke a lot and rag on each other and goad one another into being the best version of themselves? If they're having a great time doing it? If they are enjoying their lives together in ways they hadn't before this? I guess I can see that a "buddy movie," sure!

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: What does the new #1 offer you as you craft the story of these two characters?

Lobdell: When I got up around #4 or #5 of Red Hood and the Outlaws, I wanted to shift gears away from the Untitled and the All-Caste stories I'd been telling. As a writer, I come from a place where issue-to-issue it is okay to tell one story after the next after the next — to throw characters from one adventure, one "world" from issue to issue.

Credit: DC Comics

But when I was in away in Hollywood, something strange happened in mainstream comics. Suddenly "the arc" became the Holy Grail. The only way, it seems to me, for a book to be taken seriously today is if they take place over six or eight or 12 issues — formats that lend themselves to easily marketed trade paperbacks or animated movies.

That's great for the writers and readers that enjoy that... but for people that enjoy the roller-coaster — seat-of-your-pants, who-the-hell-knows-what-is-going-to happen-next-issue fans like me — we're left out in the cold.

I was told I couldn't "just jettison!" the story I was telling — that it "wasn't right to just drop the story and race onto another one!" which, I admit I found kind of odd. I was raised in comics at a time when, aside from the random two- or three-parter, you didn't know what was going to happen in the next issue! How exciting was that?!

So, over the length of Red Hood and the Outlaws — even during my sabbatical — there was this constant push to "go back and finish the story about the Untitled and the All-Caste! Go back an finish the Tamaran storyline!" While it was always my intention to use these story elements from time to time over the course of the series, I never had an interest in wrapping up the story, mostly because I don't think that is how life works. For example, I used to write for Marvel. I don't any longer but I still get royalties, characters I created still wind up in the movies, my name winds up in the credits: The story of my life at Marvel doesn't end because I'm not writing for them anymore.

So now, with Red Hood/Arsenal #1, I get to tell a new set of stories that aren't beholden to the Untitled, the All-Caste, Suzie Su, ye Little Town of Assassins, etcetera. Readers can pick up the first issue of Red Hood/Arsenal and enjoy it and the series without feeling like they missed out on 40 issues' worth of "unresolved" stories. It is a fresh start for these two great characters!

Nrama: You're also working with a new editor from the offices out in Burbank?

Lobdell: Yes! For all my gonzo storytelling from issue to issue, the series is in great hands with DC's newest editorial hire Paul Kaminski. I have been in the industry for a while and only a few times have I met a person who is as creative, conscientious and concise as Paul — he's the type of editor that a writer and artist dream of. There has been a lot of press in recent years about creatives and editors butting heads over the direction of a book, but Paul's a guy whose only concern is how to make each issue — each page of each issue — the best it can be. Honestly, I feel bad he has to be listed as an "editor" in the credits when it should say "collaborator"! And I'm not just saying that because he's also my editor on Doomed!

Nrama: OK, so you were talking about writing for the trade earlier. To play devil's advocate a little here, did you learn anything from your first run on the series? Have you relented to writing more trade-type arcs?

Lobdell: Nope! Not a thing! The first six issues sees the boys going up against all new-challenges every issue!

Credit: DC Comics

Palette, Les Mime, Underbelly, Sera Fina and even the new Batman — the only thing they have in common with each other is that they are mixing it up with Red Hood and Arsenal!

Each new threat opens up a whole new "world" to the series that can be explored.

Now, are the first six issues about Roy trying to convince Jason it is time to go "legit?" To print up some business cards and start using their special set of skills to help people instead of necessarily killing the bad guys unfortunate enough to cross their paths? Does every new story work as a building block to the next? Absolutely. Guilty!

But month-to-month, for the readers that like to be surprised by the adventure and the tone and the focus from issue to issue... Red Hood/Arsenal is our book!

Nrama: So you mentioned a few villains and other characters that they are going to challenge them or guest star. Can you describe the threats they come up against?

Lobdell: Palette is an international terrorist who is only interested in whatever cause will pay him the most money.

Battleworth is a Washington power broker who sees a lot of potential in Arsenal and Red Hood and makes the mistake of hiring them more than once — she's not a "threat," but she is a catalyst who gets Roy and Jason thinking there is a future in this.

Les Mimes is a heartbroken sod who winds up using his awe-inspiring self-duplicating powers for something as mundane as stalking his ex.

Credit: DC Comics

Underbelly is a thought (yes, a thought) who is also a crime lord that exists in every major city in America and parts of Europe.

Sera Fina is a superheroine in her own eyes and a super villain as far as the rest of the world is concerned — who wants to take Roy's new business model and take it global.

And finally, the all-new Batman is a city-sanctioned crime fighter who looks at Red Hood and Arsenal and only sees a rap sheet and not their best intentions.

And that is only the first five issues. So tighten that seat belt!

Nrama: OK, one-sentence answers on each of the main characters: How would you describe Jason's mindset now?

Lobdell: He's cracking skulls, helping people, and hanging out with his bestie.

Nrama: And Roy?

Lobdell: He's the "big thinker" of the two — always trying to figure out a way to maximize their potential as crime-fighting outlaws with business cards. And Jason makes him laugh.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: Both characters have different costumes — with some elements shared by both. Were you part of the decisions made about the way their costumes look, and is there anything you can share about the thinking behind the new looks?

Lobdell: I can't provide any insight at all to the decision-making process that went into that. Anyone who knows Denis Medri through his "Rockabilly Batman" and "High School Star Wars" work knows that he is maybe the coolest and most dynamic character designer working in comics today. I would no sooner tell him how to design a new look for a character than I'd stand behind Leonardi DaVinci and ask, "You don't think she should be smiling a little wider? It kind of looks like a smirk!"

Nrama: Readers got a chance to see his work on the eight-page preview. What do you think his art brings to the comic?

Lobdell: Every time Denis turns in a page, it is never what I expect but always what I need. That makes him the perfect artist for a series that is going to keep people on their toes from issue to issue. Seriously, google "Denis Medri" and prepare to get lost in the Internets for a few hours. I love this guy!

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