Doom Patrol #4 coverThe Doom Patrol is already one of the most dysfunctional teams in comics, but that doesn't stop the Black Lanterns from stopping by to mess with their heads even more.
Beginning with Doom Patrol #4 in November, the new series by writer Keith Giffen will tie into the Blackest Night event that is touching several DCU books. The new comic, just launched last month with a new #1 issue by Giffen and artist Matthew Clark, will dedicate a two-part storyline to what happens when the team is visited by several Black Lanterns.
Newsarama talked to Giffen about Doom Patrol's Blackest Night storyline, what's coming for the comic beyond the tie-ins, and why he is avoiding decompression in both the Doom Patrol and Metal Men stories.
Newsarama: Keith, now that we've gotten information about Doom Patrol crossing over with Blackest Night, can you tell us how the tie-in came about?
Keith Giffen: I was invited in. They basically said, we'd like Doom Patrol to be part of this event. And it can't hurt to tie in to a big, company-wide event that's selling like hotcakes, early on in the run of a new book. There will be a lot of people who wouldn't pick up Doom Patrol who probably will pick it up because it is a Blackest Night tie-in and is part of the overall Blackest Night storyline.
My job will be to make what's going on in those two issues interesting enough to keep those casual Blackest Night drop-ins around for more.
But Geoff's cobbled together something that's a fun playground to play in.
Nrama: You commented online that there would be four Black Lanterns showing up. This cover that you've shared with us makes it obvious one of them is going to be Celsius.
Giffen: Yeah, and that's not imaginary and that's not symbolic. That really happens to the Chief. It certainly is going to change his attitude toward a few things. But yeah, we have Celsius and three others that I hope will be a surprise. I'm pretty sure the fans will guess a total of three of the four. I'm sure that we'll have a lot of people who zero in on who the three Black Lanterns will be, or amid their guesses, they'll include those three. I think the fourth will come as a complete surprise.
Nrama: I think we've seen some hints that it may be Negative Woman and Tempest, but the fourth is anybody's guess.
Giffen: Well, I'm trying to keep it a surprise. I think it's tough to surprise fans anymore. Everyone keeps track of the characters and the continuity, and sometimes it seems like they're reading our minds. But I have high hopes that at least some people will be surprised when they see who the fourth Black Lantern is.
Nrama: What is the history between the Chief and Celsius? They were once married, correct?
Giffen: According to the history of the characters, Arani Desai was supposed to have been married at one point to the Chief. She created her own Doom Patrol, and it was motivated by equal parts of the work with the Chief should go on, and oh, I'll show you I can do this better than you. Other than that, she has temperature powers and is a pretty straightforward superheroine.
Doom Patrol #5 coverOf course, when Celsius shows up and goes after the Chief, there's an emotional level to it. I guess the Chief's about to find out the hard way that the whole "woman scorned" saying can be accurate.
Nrama: Especially when she's the walking dead, right?
Giffen: Exactly. When [Blackest Night writer] Geoff [Johns] explained to me exactly how the Black Lanterns work and how they target different people, Celsius seemed natural. There's nothing more fun than putting an ex-husband and ex-wife in the room who probably had a fractious divorce, and see what plays out.
Now, of course, like you said, we just add the fact that she's one of the living dead, and I'm sure something interesting is going to happen.
Nrama: Is it difficult to write a character like Celsius or the other Black Lanterns who aren't known well by modern audiences?
Giffen: Not really, because a lot of it has to do with how the characters react to the risen Doom Patrol members that they're fighting. One of the elements about the Black Lanterns is that they zero in on the part of you that will generate the strongest emotional response. If you're afraid of spiders, they'll probably start throwing spiders at you. If you have a fear of water, they will play off that. If they know that you're insecure, they'll play off that. If they know that you've got self-image problems.... put it this way: If they know that you're ashamed of being overweight, they'll spend the whole issue calling you tubby. They go after what will bring about the strongest emotional response. So you may not be familiar with these Black Lanterns' past, but it's as simple as, these are villains who have come to Oolong Island, and accept them as villains. Each one of the Black Lanterns, you do get a little synopsis of their past with the Doom Patrol, but you don't have to know every little thing about who they are. It's not about Celsius' personality. It's about how Celsius relates to the Chief and what kind of mind games she's playing to generate the strongest emotional response.
Nrama: And it's a two-issue story?
Giffen: It's two issues, #4 and #5. Then I believe that the Doom Patrol are actually going to become a substantial part of Blackest Night. In other words, they'll have appearances in the Blackest Night series, after my two issues.
Nrama: Is there a chance the team will be different after Blackest Night?
Giffen: Well, the great thing about the Doom Patrol is that there are so many interesting characters, so many people who have been Doom Patrol members, and while I'm focusing on Larry and Cliff and Rita and the Chief, there is Bumblebee and Mal Duncan and the Grant Morrison characters. It's not as if Doom Patrol only exists with these few characters and if something happens to one of them, the book falls apart.
Nrama: And you had said, when this book was announced, that there would be a lot of those other Doom Patrol members participating in the comic. Is that still true?
Giffen: Absolutely. Within the first year, you're going to see more characters than you thought showing up in the Doom Patrol, from all of the different Doom Patrol incarnations. And what I try to do is I try to make sure that I'm keeping my promise of a new character or new concept or a new situation in every issue while at the same time, respecting the Doom Patrol's history and realizing that there are Doom Patrol characters out there that the fans would like to see again. You don't just trot them in and make them completely unrecognizable; you respect the creators' work who have come before you.
And I know people are going to say, "But you killed Nudge in the first issue!" There was a reason for that.
Nrama: Is she really dead? Or is she coming back from the dead?
Giffen: You know, there's this whole idea out there that death is a revolving door in comics. But I will tell you, Nudge is gone. Nudge is gone and yes, the four-armed monkey carried her body off and fled into the jungle. But that is not the end of the story. It was not an "Ensign Redshirt" moment. In other words, I didn't just take the character and go, "Eh, let's take one of the Doom Patrol characters I like the least and slaughter the character." Because if I was going to take one of the Doom Patrol characters that I like the least and slaughter the character, it wouldn't have been Nudge!
Nrama: Having read the first issue, something that seemed to work really well with this team was the setting being Oolong Island. Has that choice worked out well for you as a writer, and will we be seeing more about the place?
Giffen: Well, I had played around with Oolong Island in the Four Horsemen mini-series, and I also had Doom Patrol on the island. Back then, it was just because Niles Caulder was there hanging out with the science guys. And when I got the Doom Patrol, I think it was Dan who said to me, you can keep Oolong Island, if you want. And I thought, what a great setting. It's this fully developed place filled with these mad scientists where you can drop the Doom Patrol down into a setting, and my supporting cast is almost written for me. And I just think it's a unique setting for a superhero book because they're operating out of a place that's kind of a rogue nation. It's like DC's version of Latveria.
And with characters like Cale, Quimby, the various mad scientists, and plus the characters I'm going to start populating the island with. And that will include the last character anyone would ever think would show up on Oolong Island and become a resident. I think it gives a richness to the book, and saves me from having to try to make another secret headquarters work. Although I did like what Geoff did where they were hanging out at Dayton Manor with all the weird Doom Patrol artifacts. And in Issue #7, I do touch on that. Dayton Manor has not been forgotten.
<a href=/11867-dc-preview-doom-patrol-2.html>Doom Patrol has been forgotten. That's the one thing I try to emphasize to the fans out there. I erased nothing. In fact, I'm bring a lot of things back, and in Issue #6, I actually run the readers through the entire Doom Patrol timeline to show that yes, every single incarnation of the Doom Patrol can and does fit.
Nrama: Rocky Davis is also part of the cast on Oolong Island. Is he going to be an ongoing part of the story?
Giffen: He's on Oolong Island for awhile. He's starting to realize there's something going on with the Doom Patrol. And he's almost like their crisis counselor. Whether he'll be around forever, I can't say. Somewhere down the line, somebody might come up with a sterling idea for Challengers of the Unknown, in which case I'd be more than happy to give the character back to them. But as long as I can keep him, he's staying.
Nrama: I like how you've incorporated his new status. Wasn't it Final Crisis: Last Will and Testamentwhere he was shown to be a minister?
Giffen: Yeah, it's established now that he's a priest or minister -- and I don't even know which denomination, to be honest with you. So that wasn't my doing. He came to me with the collar. And it's kind of nice to have a guy there who has been where these people have been. He's the perfect guy to do crisis management for superpowered beings because he's been in the trenches. He knows what it's like. It's nice to have an altruistic character among all the emotional baggage of the Doom Patrol.
Nrama: Is Matthew Clark sticking around after Blackest Night? Because Justiniano is coming on board for those issues, right?
Giffen: Matthew Clark is the ongoing artist. Matthew is one of these artists who puts so much attention and detail into the work, he's not a 12-issues-a-year guy. He knows this and puts it up front. He leads with it. He lets you know. He's not the fastest artist in the world. So we've accommodated schedules to make sure we get as much Matt as humanly possible without putting any kind of undue pressure on him. He was honest enough to say he couldn't do 12 issues.
When Blackest Night came along, Matt was smart enough to say you know, I think it's better if I jump to Issue #6 so I'll be far enough ahead that I can keep the book on track. And with Blackest Night, the deadlines are tight and you have to get things approved, so we brought in Justiniano. And you know, if I can't have Matt, I can't do much better than Justiniano. And he's doing spectacular work on the book. And in terms of the approach he's using on the book, it's pure Justiniano, but he likes the way Matt is approaching doing the book, and he's trying to keep that particular vibe. Not draw like Matt or anything like that, but just make it less jarring for those two issues.
And you have to give Matt Clark a lot of credit, because those two issues that tie into Blackest Night, if anything in Doom Patrol start earning royalties, those two are going to be the ones. You'd think an artist would jump on it. But Matt is more interested in keeping the book running smoothly.
He's like me. He's wanted to work on this book for a long time. Everyone working on this book has wanted to get their hands on these characters for awhile. And that's got to count for something.
Nrama: This week's issue is the end of a two-part storyline, and then we have one issue before the two-part Blackest Night storyline. Are you sticking with mostly short story arcs?
Giffen: Yes, or at least I'm going to try not to do long, extended, drawn-out, decompressed storylines. Doom Patrol stories, as far as I'm concerned, are either one issue or two issues and move on. I don't want to do very many stories that are longer than two issues. I don't think it's really necessary to do a story that lasts much longer than that. I mean, the entire Galactus thing went down in two or three issues. Subplots will run on for as long as they have to until they finally stop being subplots and start being the primary storyline. But once they become the primary storyline, I'll tell the story and move on. Comic books are supposed to, as far as I'm concerned, are supposed to keep the readers interested. If it's a 24-part storyline, where it takes the superhero three pages just to put on his hat, you're not doing anyone any favors. It's not fair to the readers. Look at the price on that cover. We need to supply a lot more bang for the buck. And I'm not just talking 10 extra pages. I'm talking about putting more meat on the bone. That's something I try to keep in mind when doing these books.
Nrama: Are the Metal Men co-features also going to be done-in-one like the first one was?
Giffen: Yes. The first three or four are pretty much done-in-one with the various personalities and subplots in place to connect the dots. Even thought it's only 10 pages, I don't want to go further than two-parters. And Metal Men lends itself to that 10-page, slice-of-live vignette. And of course, it's getting the boys back together again; the Sunshine Boys are back. Working with [co-feature co-writer] Marc [DeMatteis] and [artist] Kevin [Maguire] is like falling off a log -- it's just so incredibly easy to pull these things together and put them out. I know these guys so well. I know when I hand the plot to Marc, he's going to knock it out of the ballpark. And when we give it to Kevin, we're going to get the perfect artwork back. And we start feeding off one another. I mean, Copper was around in the Metal Men mini-series that came out after 52, and I just put her in there as Copper, helping out. And it was Marc DeMatteis who added that, "we can't remember her" Dickens-urchin attitude. "It's me, sir! Copper, sir!" That came out of the blue, but I took it and ran with it. It's the sort of gag that we can and we do so often run into the ground.
But look, Metal Men is myself, Marc and Kevin doing what we do best, and that is going in and having fun with the characters. I mean, look, their arch foe is names Douglas Robot Hunter. So you know, we're not taking it too seriously. That said, it's not a parody, it's not a goof, and it's not making fun of the characters. It's just that you're going to read through the Doom Patrol and, you know, they're pretty grim characters. And you get the Metal Men in the back and they're sort of a way to cleanse your palette before moving on to other comic books.
Nrama: Is there anything coming up in Metal Men that you can tell us about?
Giffen: Yeah: The Clique. What happens when responsometers find their way into high-end fashion store mannequins? It's kind of like Sex and the City by way of Frankenhooker.
It's a lot of fun. For me, it's about working with the people I trust and telling the type of stories we like to do.
And you know, I'm having fun on all the books I'm doing. Even with Magog, I'm really excited about this book. The fans keep asking, why him? why him? why him? You know what? Give me a few issues and I'll show you why him. Everyone thinks, he's the Punisher... mmmm... no, wrong Marvel character.
Nrama: Captain America?
Giffen: No. If you stick with Magog long enough, Thor will be the one you're thinking of.
Nrama: Ah, yes, you had said you were putting a mythological back-story into Magog's character.
Giffen: Yes. Magog is not the story of how this Lance Corporal got the Magog powers. As it moves on, it's more about how David Reid was possessed by Magog. And that Magog and David Reid are not the same person. It's almost like superpowers by way of possession and witch-form. There's a lot more to Magog than meets the eye, and I'm playing with a lot of things here.
But no, it's not going to be just the Punisher. It's not going to just be "I don't like the way these superheroes are doing business." The fans are right -- that's been done a million times. And it's true that we hit upon that part of the character in the first issue, but it's a first issue. I'm setting things up.
But Magog is enjoyable to me because developing this character and Magog's story is just so much fun.
With Doom Patrol, the fun comes from already loving these characters so much and wanting the book so bad and doing everything I can to make sure this book succeeds.
Nrama: Now that your first issue is of Doom Patrol is out, it seems you're suddenly working on a ton of comics again.
Giffen: It's weird, because I've been cranking on Doom Patrol and Magog and Metal Men, and even the Authority, where I'm finishing Morrison's run. I've been working on this stuff for months and months, and now I'm finally getting some reaction. But Doom Patrol is the book I want to succeed so bad.
The across-the-board reaction to the first issue of Doom Patrol seems to be, like it or kind of dislike it or kind of like the Metal Men better, a lot of people seem to be willing to give it a chance. They'll pick it up and see where it goes and that's all I've ever asked.
Nrama: The cliffhanger at the end of the first story in Doom Patrol seems to set up the type of strange adventures the team might be encountering. What are we going to be seeing in this week's issue and beyond?
Giffen: Well, as you saw in the first issue, a supercollider has created a black hole, and the black hole wants to negotiate. In a way, it is the kind of weirdness that the Doom Patrol dabbles in, and I know that the Doom Patrol is the weird book, and I'm going to try to keep it a weird book. Will it be as weird as Grant Morrison's? No. No. It won't be. But it will have bizarre circumstances and situations that the Doom Patrol finds themselves in, that probably wouldn't fit any other book. I couldn't see myself doing another sentient black hole story the way I'm going to do it in Doom Patrol.
As for what's coming up, we've got the sentient black hole, and out of that storyline comes a new character that might or might not turn out to be a Doom Patrol member. We've got the Blackest Night things coming along next. We've got a few interesting characters showing up out of the Doom Patrol's past, as well as brand new threats.
You haven't seen the last of the Botfly. She wasn't just the James Bond opening. She was there for a reason and will play a role in future issues.
I'm trying to do the kind of Doom Patrol I always wanted to read and hoping enough people will be with me. If you're going to slight me at all on Doom Patrol, slight the writing, slight the storytelling, slight the breakdowns, but nobody's going to be able to slight my enthusiasm for this book or my desire to see this book succeed.