In DC's Legends of Tomorrow, the new anthology series that kicks off in March, Keith Giffen will introduce a new, grown up version of DC's Sugar and Spike that plays with the more embarrassing side of old DC continuity.
The original characters, created by cartoonist Sheldon Mayer, were toddlers who got into crazy adventures in their own title during a run that extended from 1956 to 1971.
Now they're older and wiser, but still the best of friends, teaming up as detectives to help superheroes who are being blackmailed about some of their more embarrassing moments from the past.
Giffen, who's working with artist Bilquis Evely on the series, talked with Newsarama about which past is being represented (and from which continuity), and what it's been like to age the classic duo.
Newsarama: Keith, how did you come up with the approach to your Sugar and Spike story for the Legends of Tomorrow anthology? What were your thoughts as you decided to tweak the characters like this?
Keith Giffen: Actually, I'm a little hazy on how the whole Sugar and Spike thing came about. I know DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio had the idea and he called me on it. But I don't know — I wanted to do a Sugar and Spike series awhile ago, but I didn't want to do just the kids. I wanted them to be adults. What happened to these two kids? How did they turn out in adult life?
I'm not sure how the private detective angle came about. I think it was Dan's idea that they would investigate paranormal things that need to be kept on the down-low.
In other words, if Green Lantern has a problem that he really doesn't want to hit the press, like, you know, "I used to fly around with a little thing called Itty on my shoulder, and I'd really rather people don't find out about this — avoiding blackmail." Or somebody stole all of Batman's rainbow suits he used to wear, and it's kind of embarrassing if it becomes public knowledge.
So they go around and fix the more embarrassing things.
I think what happened with this was, a little bit of all the different ideas I had, plus some ideas from Dan, sort of all mixed together and became the Sugar and Spike we have now.
Nrama: Fans are aware that you and Dan have collaborated several times before. It sounds like you still talk about projects quite a bit?
Giffen: Well, I talk to Dan regularly. You know, contrary to fan belief, when you're talking to Dan about projects, he's a pretty creative guy. He comes up with some pretty good ideas. It's not like he just calls up and goes "do it." No, he gets involved in it. I've never had a problem with that at all. I worked with him on O.M.A.C. and a lot of other projects, and I find the guy to be really generous with his ideas and pretty damn creative.
Sugar and Spike — my ego says, it's the majority me, but there's a good bit of Dan in it too.
Nrama: Can you describe what these two are like now?
Giffen: The way I describe it is, they were kind of dysfunctional kids who grew up into dysfunctional adults. Sugar and Spike have been friends since they were children. They will always been friends. As long as I'm going to be involved with the characters, they will never be romantically involved. But they're friends for life.
But their friendship is kind of rooted in co-dependence, of sorts. Sugar has grown up to be a very sharp-edged adult. So in a way they kind of complete each other. Whereas Sugar will yell at the person, Spike will afterward come in and comfort them and get the information they need. They play off of one another really well.
Between the two of them — if you combine the two of them — they're a pretty well-rounded human being. But separately, there are problems. And I like exploring two characters who are flawed.
Nrama: So you said there were some things out of superheroes' pasts that they deal with. Does that mean you're kind of playing with things that haven't been in this continuity? Putting a new spin on older continuity?
Giffen: When I went into this, I talked to Dan about it, and I said, what if they go after the things that the DC heroes would rather not become public, like Wonder Woman was going to marry an alien once, and the only reason she didn't was because the alien didn't show up at the altar. And you know, she's really rather that not become public knowledge.
Or Batman's rainbow suits.
Or the fact that Superman built an island to have a vault in — I'm not making this up, by the way — he built an island so he could hide a vault where he would store Kryptonite, but for some odd reason, he built the island so from above it looks just like him, like a sculpture of him.
There are just these odd and eccentric little ideas that have come out of DC's past, and they're just sitting there, and I thought, well, let's pattern their cases around that.
So I'm being given a certain amount of leeway from DC, because if you were to go to DC and say, "Really? Did Batman used to wear, like, all different colored Batsuits to fight crime?" Odds are the answer would be no, because Batman's progressed and he's got his own mythos now.
But for the sake of Sugar and Spike, we're going to go, yeah, he kind of did, so let's tell a fun story about it. And that's pretty much what the Sugar and Spike strip is about, just so we can have a bit of fun with DC continuity.
Nrama: Illustrating this is Bilquis Evely. How's she doing, from your estimation?
Giffen: She's amazing. The editor found her. I hadn't been familiar with her work, but she's perfect for the series. She's got a really straight-forward approach. She knows her storytelling. It's just really, good, solid, no-nonsense, straight-forward comic book art and comic book storytelling. I was astonished when I first saw it. I thought, "Wow, where has she been hiding?"
With this Sugar and Spike thing, it's nice that I can hand in the script and know I'm going to get back a good job, know that the story's going to be told, know that she's thinking through it and actually adding things of her own to it. So I couldn't be more thrilled to have this artist on board.