BRING OUT YER DEAD! NICIEZA on LEGION LOST's Body Count

BRING OUT YER DEAD! Fabian Nicieza on LE

 

In the New 52 title Legion Lost, things are not really what they appear to be.

According to writer Fabian Nicieza, the first issue's death toll and frenzied tone may have misled readers a bit. He hinted that the next couple issues might clear some of that up.

Legion Lost, drawn by Pete Woods, follows the story of heroes from the future who come back in time in order to stop a future terrorist from ravaging Earth. And what's worse is the heroes — time-traveling members of the Legion of Super-Heroes — may not be able to return home for fear of carrying a deadly pathogen back with them.

The team includes Tellus the telepath/telekinetic, Gates the teleporter, Dawnstar the tracker, Wildfire the reluctant energy being, Chameleon Girl the shapeshifter, Timber Wolf the hunter, and Tyroc the sonic manipulator.

But in the first issue, Gates and Tellus appeared to be killed. In an issue that saw a lot of confusion among members as disaster struck, readers were shown a situation that looked deadly to the two Legion members — although their bodies weren't found.

 

As issue #3 is released this week, Newsarama talked with Nicieza to find out more about what's coming up in Legion Lost and whether those two team members are really dead.

Newsarama: Fabian! How could you kill them off?

Fabian Nicieza: That's how we're going to start this interview? What am I, on a Legion message board all of the sudden?

Nrama: You got stuck with a Legion fan as an interviewer.

Nicieza: In that case, I want to take this opportunity to formally apologize to all the readers for having killed off a shapeshifter and a teleporter in a superhero comic book.

Nrama: OK, I hope readers will understand the hints you're giving here.

Nicieza: What could I have been thinking that they would all just think that a shapeshifter and a teleporter were killed off in a superhero comic book?

Because clearly, dead is dead, isn't it?

Nrama: Hint taken!

Nicieza: Yeah, I mean, what can you read into that? I don't know! Hmmm...I wonder!

Nrama: You know, Fabian, a lot of people picked up the first issue and got the idea that this book was going to be all about action and character peril, but you seem to be doing a lot more with this comic now. As a writer, were you planning from the start that the first issue should be fast-moving to grab readers with the perilous situation and confusion of the characters?

Nicieza: Actually, as a writer, I wasn't. This is the first time I'm even talking about it, so I have to be diplomatic about it. It was not my original intention to break the story down that way. After we did a six-issue outline, we had lunch and a meeting editorially, and we all talked about it. There were aspects of my original six-issue outline that they didn't want to do yet. They thought it was too soon, too fast. They wanted a slower burn for some of the things, like the spread of the disease and the Legionnaires themselves having options available to them.

 

So I had to go back reconfigure my six-issue plans to kind of create more of a slow burning fuse to their presence here on Earth.

Part of that meant that, instead of opening it the way that I'd envisioned, which was them here for a few days already, them contacting Superman for help, and clearly putting out on the table exactly what's going on within the first eight pages of the book -- that changed.

What they wanted, and I understand why they wanted it, they wanted the first 20 minutes of the Lost TV pilot.

Nrama: Ah, yeah. The peril is similar, with the crashed airplane.

Nicieza: Exactly. They wanted a sense of frantic, chaotic turmoil and uncertainty. That, in and of itself, is twisting the usual "Legion in the past" story. And they wanted a twist on the usual "Legion in the past" story. And I get that.

So I turned the dial on my head a little bit and reconfigured it, and this is what we got.

There's a lot of good to that, but there's some bad to that too. And I do think clarity is one of the things that got sacrificed in that first issue, which is a bit frustrating, because I felt that it was an important aspect that we needed in that first issue.

Nrama: But it was laid out very neatly in the second issue.

Nicieza: Right, and I tried to fold it all into the story so it wasn't done in a boring way. Aspects of what I wanted to do in issue #1, I folded into issue #2, just to get some of that information going.

 

I also know that if you read it as a trade paperback, which is a huge chunk of our audience too, they won't have any of these concerns, because there's no month wait between #1 and #2.

Nrama: It's interesting that you have a comparison to Lost, because I think most people forget that TV shows do just fine without spoon-feeding every little detail to new viewers in their first episode. Critics like to pretend they know what new readers enjoy, but I think it's been too long since they were new readers.

Nicieza: Yeah, we've had a lot of pundits on the inter-webs who claim to speak for new readers, although they are not new readers themselves. But at the end of the day, if it takes little work to read through the issue, see all the characters, see their powers -- they're all identified, their powers are clearly delineated -- it just happens to be happening in the course of a pretty frantic, quick session.

Like I said, we slowed down in good ways in issue #2.

Nrama: Wildfire narrated the story with issue #2, which echoes the previous Legion Lost run. Will that continue?

Nicieza: Yeah, and that allows us to dig into their characters a little more than they've had the chance to do in the main Legion book. The way that book is structured doesn't allow for first-person narration for an entire issue.

I think you possibly learned more about Wildfire by reading his one issue that he narrated than you have had a chance to in 20 or 30 years of his career.

Certainly, Dawnstar, who narrates issue #4, has never had the kind of a spotlight that she's going to get, both from a narrating standpoint and then from an action standpoint in issue #5.

This is a great opportunity explore these characters in new ways. So we'll have issue #3 narrated by Timber Wolf, then #4 by Dawnstar, #5 is Tellus, and #6 by Tyroc.

 

And that's the first arc, which ends the chase for Alastor, the terrorist who released the virus.

It ends with their understanding of where they are, in terms of their ability to get back, the fact that they may very well have the virus themselves, and the fact that they may not have a clue how to stop this and may not be able to.

So it really changes the dynamics of the way they're going to have to think moving forward.

Nrama: What does Pete Woods bring to the title?

Nicieza: You know, I've been really lucky the last few years that I've gotten to work constantly with really good talent. And when I was told that Pete was drawing the book, I was even more on board.

Like I had told you, I was hesitant to take the book originally. I said no when they first asked me to do this, until we got into details, and then I got hooked because I've loved some of these characters since I was a kid.

But when they told me Pete was drawing it, the deal was done. I'm in.

I think that he's one of the strongest, cleanest storytellers. I think he does a great job. Drawing a team book is very difficult, and it's also very different from drawing a solo book. And it's muscles that need to be flexed and exercised regularly. Pete hasn't drawn a team book in a little bit. So he needed to flex his muscles.

But when you start seeing issues #3 and #4, the art that's coming in is amazing. He's moving his camera all over the place. The characters look dynamic and interesting. There's mood and there's a motion. What more could you ask?

 

And Brad Anderson's colors just add to that. I honestly believe he's one of the single best colorists I've ever had working on one of my books. And I've been doing this for a long time, so that's saying a lot.

His coloring is phenomenal on the books.

So I think it looks great. Now we just have to figure out how to get a new writer so it reads great too.

Nrama: Wait a minute. Didn't you just tell me last time we talked that you were the fourth greatest, handsomest and most modest writer in the world?

Nicieza: I don't remember that! I must have been too modest to take the compliment seriously, even if it's my own compliment.

I usually say I'm the third best writer in a room of two writers.

Nrama: What was it like for you to be able to take part in the New 52 and see so many people grabbing these #1 issues?

Nicieza: You know, it's kind of cool. It's always nice to be asked. I don't do that much comic book work nowadays, so when I'm asked, it's always nice.

I honestly, from a publishing standpoint, I don't feel like I've gotten the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something radically different because we decided -- and I think for the right reasons -- not to change too much of the Legion's status. Paul [Levitz] had been doing a really solid job on the regular book, but he always does. And we wanted to carry that over, which meant, as a result, that it had to carry over with Lost as well.

So we tweaked the costumes a little bit, we're fudging their ages a little bit, they've been kind of amorphously depicted as either being 22 or 42 lately. I could never tell which it was. We know now that they're grounded between the ages of 18 and 22.

Those are really the only changes. Legion Lost could very easily have been issue #16 of the ongoing previous Legion series.

 

I think what they're doing is really cool in a lot of the books that I've read. They've been really interesting. But I don't feel completely like I was invited to the "radical change" party.

But I certainly have enjoyed working on these characters and getting the chance to see people pick up their first Legion book because of the #1 issues. That's certainly been a thrill.

Nrama: But you are able to set these characters in a new DCU. I was noticing, as I was looking at the covers to these issues, that the characters are really alien-looking. And in this new DCU, aliens aren't that established. So I assume the Legion doesn't want to interact with people -- if for no other reason than they don't want to change the past, right?

Nicieza: Yes. That's true.

Of course, the problem is that they're not 100 percent sure that their past already hasn't been changed for them.

The one thing that we're trying to take advantage of is that this is a separate universe that has always existed, right? This new DCU. It's always existed. But Flashpoint did happen.

Nrama: And the Legion would notice that, right?

Nicieza: These characters acknowledge that there was some sort of an event called Flashpoint that screwed stuff up. So there's a window here that we're calling a very hazy picture on your TV screen, and it lasted several decades. And this is that period of time.

So for all they know, they were here all along, and they did have to deal with this plague. It just was lost to history. So they don't know for sure. So it's all like virgin territory for them.

They may not be changing the future, because they may be living out their true past. You know?

Nrama: Ah, the beauty of time travel.

Nicieza: I'm not going to get into those temporal things too much, because I really like the idea of their resignation that they're stuck here, and they're trying to figure out what that means for them as individuals and as members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The book's called Legion Lost, but that's not because they're lost in time. It's because you'll see little by little that they are lost emotionally and spiritually, and they're losing a connection to what they are, which is Legion of Super-Heroes.

And the book, if it really were being titled accurately, it would be called, "Legion Found." Because however long it takes, if the book runs five years or 10 years, the real true story is the process of them reclaiming themselves and what means the most to them, which is being Legion of Super-Heroes.

Nrama: Is there anything else fans should expect from upcoming issues of Legion Lost?

Nicieza: Possibly the return of some characters who, I hear, are "dead."

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