Dan DiDio on Bringing the Archie Heroes to the DCU
by Matt Brady\
Date: 29 July 2008 Time: 06:16 PM ET
DiDio on the Archie Heroes
As announced at the San Diego Comic-Con the DC Universe will grow by two groups of heroes in the coming months, as both the Archie characters and the Milestone characters are slated to both return, and to be fully integrated into the DCU.DC Senior VP and Executive Editor Dan DiDio spoke with Newsarama about the Milestone characters’ return during the convention, and now, it’s time to hear the DC side of bringing in the Archie heroes. For those who don’t know them, “Archie heroes” surely brings up all the wrong mental images. This isn’t Archie, Jughead and the gang dressing up as superheroes – “Archie heroes” refer to the superheroes created prior to Archie and published by MLJ Comics in the ‘40s through the ‘60s. The roster of characters include the first patriotic superhero, The Shield (he beat Captain America to the newsstands by 14 months in Pep Comics #1, January 1940), Jaguar, The Fly, Hangman, Black Hood, The Comet, The Web, the group called The Mighty Crusaders, and more.
We’ve spoken briefly with J. Michael Straczynski about the characters coming in to the DC Universe via The Brave and the Bold series which he will write, and now, it’s DiDio’s turn. Newsarama: Dan, how did the deal get rolling with Archie for the use of these characters? Obviously, you had use of the characters before with the Impact line in the mid ‘90s, but that was an administration or two ago… So how does the deal work? Is this a full-on acquisition or a license deal? Dan DiDio: It’s a license deal, but we’re handling it differently than we did with Impact. The characters and the interpretations of those characters as they were done with Impact will not be used in the DCU. We’ve gone back to the original incarnations of the characters, which were introduced in the ‘40s and ‘60s and such, and distilling down to what we feel are the strongest characters of the bunch. What we want to do, and the best part about this is having such a great writer like Joe Straczynski on board for this, is that we wanted to give Joe a point of difference for the Brave and Bold book. It just wasn’t going to be about “Batman and…” Here, working with the Archie characters, there will be both team ups with Batman and among themselves, and even the potential for solo stories. This allows us a really great showcase to introduce these characters and slowly bring them into the DC Universe. NRAMA: What’s the larger plan here by introducing them into the DC Universe? DD: My goal is to help broaden or expand on what the DCU is, both with the Archie characters and with the Milestone characters. The stories will be taking place inside the DC Universe proper. Because of that, I feel that it helps to broaden the horizons of the DC Universe as well. NRAMA: In what way? Were there gaps in the larger DCU pantheon when it came to types of characters? DD: There are certain interesting aspects of them, but largely, these are characters that we’ve yet to explore, both in terms of their reactions and how they live in our world, and more importantly, how they would interact with our other characters. There’s an awareness of who they are, but we feel that we can help increase people’s understanding of who they are, and launch them in a way that will help us expand the types of stories that we tell today. NRAMA: The mechanism of bringing them in – is this a situation where they’re reveled to have been around in the DCU the whole time, or are they transplants into the DC Universe? DD: We’re not going to do the “transplant” thing either with these or with the Milestone characters. There will be a story that will explain where they come from, but what we want to focus on is that our heroes are meeting these heroes for the very first time. You get a lot of great moments with that, and especially with the Archie characters, since there’s never been any interaction before. I felt that Brave and the Bold was a perfect showcase for the larger introductions. NRAMA: And as you said, this is something that continues the throwback approach to Brave and the Bold that Mark Waid and George Perez started with, that is, not strictly “Batman and…” and even, the occasional solo story… DD: Right. When Joe was first coming on board with DC, we were talking about how he remembered Brave and the Bold, and in the early days, back in the ‘60s, it wasn’t about Batman and the guest star of the month, but was a place to showcase characters that were popular, or were being tried out on their own, particularly the Earth-2 characters and the Golden Age characters. Many of those characters were being seen by the modern audience for the first time, or were being reintroduced to an audience that maybe remembered them. We’re going to try and use that same formula here with the Archie characters with the hope that these characters find an audience – not only one that may have read them before either as Impact characters or in their other incarnations, but also an audience that just enjoys good superhero comics. What I’m hoping for is that people get excited by them, and then we can grow out and tell more stories with these characters, not just in Brave and Bold but also in their own series over time. Honestly – we’ve done a lot with our characters over the last few years – we’ve told a massive amount of stories and told big stories, and have used so many characters in our pantheon. This gives us an opportunity to explore new stories and new characters, but still operate within the DC Universe that we’ve created. NRAMA: Speaking both as a fan of the characters and as someone who’s overseeing what Joe has in store, who’s an odds-on favorite for being the breakout character? DD: That’s a tough one. I have my own personal favorite – I’ve like to see The Hangman break out, along with The Hood and The Shield…there are several of the characters that I really do enjoy and feel that they serve as particular areas that, when presented properly, and knowing that they’re in Joe’s hands, I know that they will be presented property – that I think can be strong examples of the types of characters that we don’t currently have in the DC Universe. NRAMA: And the Mighty Crusaders? You looking for a team book to spin out of this as well? DD: You bet. NRAMA: Are they going to have their own flavor as characters? DD: I hope so. NRAMA: I’m sure you do, but as we’ve seen in the decades following the introduction of archetypes, there are dozens of “dark vigilantes” that are only one shade removed from Batman…which reduces the value of the copy… DD: That’s the joy of being able to introduce these characters to new readers, and even fans who may know them – and having those introductions handled by Joe. You can boil so many superheroes down to particular archetypes, but their roots, their motivation, the things that determine how and why they act and respond to any situation is something that we’ve been striving to do throughout the DC Universe. How is Green Arrow different from Batman with a bow and arrow? How are they different characters? How do they handle situations differently? It completely plays into our exploration of the proactive nature of the DC heroes. DC heroes go out to try and do good. But what motivates them, and what their interpretation of “the greater good” is is what really separates them, and now we have more characters where we can explore those themes. NRAMA: What’s the scope of the deal with Archie on this? Obviously, if you’re bringing them in to be a part of, and play a role in the DC Universe, this sounds long to indefinite term in its length… DD: The good part is that Archie had no plans for these characters, so they are really working hand in hand with us to explore the potential of these characters, for me, it’s not a one or two year thing, it’s an extended plan. We also have the opportunity to reprint old material that exists for these characters, so that if we see them taking hold in their current form, you can expect to see collected editions or material coming out, featuring the characters from their earlier days.