Before Marc Guggenheim starts his run on Action Comics, he's making a stop at The Web this week, bringing his version of the Black Hood to the DCU by incorporating the Detroit era of the JLA.
And according to Guggenheim, this one issue of The Web is among the writer's favorite work he's ever done in comics.
The Web – part of the Red Circle group of characters being integrated into the DCU – is a superhero with a modern twist. The Web uses his success and abilities to fight crime, but does so through requests he receives via the Internet.
In this week's issue, Guggenheim explores the fact that the Web allows other people around the world to be part of his "franchise." He outsources his superheroics via the Internet, allowing others to function as "Web Hosts." It was an idea that Guggenheim found fascinating.
Plus, fans of Archie Comics characters will be happy to hear that Guggenheim has a new take on the Black Hood that is introduced in this issue to the Red Circle world, and the DCU.
Guggenheim, who recently ended a run on Amazing Spider-Man and co-wrote the Green Lantern movie, is writing just one issue of The Web before new writer Matt Sturges takes over the series. The Web #5 will fit right into continuity, but will function as a "done-in-one" story -- something the writer said he really enjoys creating.
And according to Guggenheim, he's become an enthusiastic fan of The Red Circle characters and what a group of innovative writers are doing with them in these comics.
Newsarama talked to the writer about the issue to find out more about why this issue was a welcome challenge for him.
Newsarama: Marc, since you just came into this world for one issue, what do you think about what's being done with the Red Circle characters?
Guggenheim: I think it's all very high quality stuff. It's really impressive. It's super exciting.
Nrama: It doesn't seem like a lot of people know about it, though.
Guggenheim: I think it's hard to make noise in this marketplace in the midst of all the other events. It's so difficult to actually get people to spend their limited dollars on stuff that doesn't tie into those big things.
Nrama: How did this one-issue job come about for you?
Guggenheim: It's something DC asked me to do. They were going to be in between two runs of writers and needed a fill-in issue. Honestly, it was one of those situations where they came to me and asked me to do something, and I had the time and the inclination and an idea, so I said yes.
One of the reasons I want to talk about this comic is that, I realized in doing this issue of The Web that some of my favorite work I've done in comics, including this issue, are these one-offs. Working on a character who's not a Spider-Man or a Superman, but something like my Hyperion vs. Nighthawk issues, which was only a four-issue series. That's some of the most rewarding writing that I've done in comic books.
And I was really pleased with the way this issue of The Web turned out. It's about 20 pages, so it was like, what can you get done in 20 pages? But it turned out being very ambitious for the amount of space that I had. I really had fun with it. And Talent Caldwell really knocked it out of the park. I think it's worthy of some attention.
Nrama: Talent's got such a great style.
Guggenheim: I've always wanted to work with him. And he just rocked this issue.
Nrama: So if DC came to you about writing this, did you have to get up to speed on the character? Or were you at least familiar with the old version from the Archie comics?
Guggenheim: You know, it's funny... I have the original Archie superhero digest, where all of the Red Circle characters, or most of them, made their appearances. So I was familiar with the characters from when I was a kid. But when the editor called me about this, I did have to claim ignorance of what Straczynski was doing, although I'm a huge fan of Joe's writing. And a huge fan of the way his mind works. So the editor sent me the bible of materials Joe had put together, and the initial issues and scripts he had written. And I just sort of devoured it all.
Of course, I really enjoyed what Joe had come up with. He's really very original and very smart. And I thought what he came up with in terms of the Web was really interesting. I think it says a lot that, when I read his treatment of the character, I immediately had a dozen ideas. I think that shows the strength of the concept that Joe had come up with.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story?
Guggenheim: There's no spoiler alert on this one. It's not exactly a top-secret project. But what I was really enamored with, when I read Joe's idea, was this notion of the various different people who are franchisees of the Web's superhero identity.
It's this idea that a superhero would outsource his heroism to these various different volunteers. I just thought, wow, I've never seen that before, and that's very intriguing to me. What were the unintended consequences of the Web doing something like that?
And the other idea that intrigued me was.... well, I should explain that one of the initial ideas that I pitched was that the Joker goes on the Web's website and asks him for help. That's really all I had at first, because I was intrigued by the idea of a bad guy coming to the Web for help. Unfortunately, because of what's going on in the Batman books, the Joker was unavailable, but I still couldn't get the idea of a bad guy asking a superhero for help out of my head.
Then the third thing that happened was that [editor] Rachel [Gluckstern] made the Black Hood available. And she asked if I'd be interested in introducing my version of the Black Hood into the book.
So I ended up putting those three ideas together: The concept of the web host, the idea of a bad guy asking for help, and finally, this new idea of the Black Hood.
Nrama: What can you tell us about your take on the Black Hood?
The story I ended up with is that there's a drug dealer in Detroit who wants to get out. He asks the Web for help, and the Web sends one of his Web Hosts, and chaos ensues. And out of that chaos, the Black Hood is born.
One of the things I was able to do – and quite frankly, when I pitched it, I didn't think I'd get the green light to do this – was to draw from some JLA history. The Detroit years of the JLA. And that history, that legacy, plays a role in the origin of the Black Hood.
It's one of those stories that has a lot of different ideas and a lot of different elements going into it. But they all really go together. I think they coalesce really well together. It's a fairly tight story.
Nrama: So you found a way to integrate the past into these characters' introduction?
Guggenheim: I think one of the advantages of the DCU is its long history. I think you see that in these legacy characters like Red Robin and Impulse and Superboy and Wonder Girl. For me, there's a difference between accessing history and accessing continuity. I think if you access continuity, it's so specific that it can keep new readers at arm's length. But if you're accessing history, there's this sense that, OK, stuff happened in the past, but I don't need to go back and read all those issue to understand what happens, or what's happening the present story. So I don't like writing stories that depend upon continuity, but I do like acknowledging history.
Plus, I think a lot of people don't realize the Red Circle is part of the DCU. I have to admit, I was surprised to learn it was, before I knew about it. I think these are great characters, and they were in need of what Joe did. He dusted them off and infused them with a great deal of imagination.
Nrama: Were you privy to the game plan for these characters?
Guggenheim: Somewhat. I know they have a very cool game plan in place. There's so much mythology planned out. It reminds me of the early day of the Ultimate Universe where there was this implied connection between the characters, but you didn't know what the big mythology was. And I think there's something similar going on in the Red Circle. And I think that's very interesting.