Another up-and-coming writer is joining DC's writing team for their "New 52" titles, as Joe Harris takes over Fury of Firestorm in March.
As Newsarama reported yesterday, Harris will be co-plotting with current co-writer Ethan Van Sciver, replacing departing writer Gail Simone. The comic tells the story of teen heroes Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond, who both possess nuclear powers they can combine to become "Fury."
Harris begins with issue #7 on Fury of Firestorm. Van Sciver is drawing interiors for both #7 and #8, although he told Newsarama that Yildiray Cinar is still the regular artist for the ongoing.
The creative change is one of several that will hit DC comics early next year, as the initial storylines on the once-brand new comics all finish at around the same time. Some of the replacement writers are people who have been around the comic industry for years, like Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Tom DeFalco. But the shake-ups also include additions of relative newcomers like Josh Williamson and now Joe Harris.
Harris received glowing critical reviews for his 2010 mini-series Ghost Projekt from Oni Press. Other recent titles he's written include Spontaneous and Vampirella, but DC fans may remember his vampires versus Batman story in last year's DC Comics Halloween Special or his one-shot The Joker's Asylum: Scarecrow.
So why did DC give Harris a chance to collaborate with Van Sciver on Firestorm? We called them both up and asked, and it turns out this isn't their only collaboration coming from DC.
Newsarama: Joe, how did you end up hearing about the chance to do this comic, and what did you think of the idea? Were you a Firestorm fan at all?
Harris: I have a pretty basic education when it comes to the history of the title. I grew up reading a lot of the same things everybody else that's familiar with the concept from DC knows. Like the early Gerry Conway stuff and the John Ostrander books.
Editor Rachel Gluckstern emailed me to feel me out to see if I was interested. I have a bit of a relationship with Ethan, going back a little while. Collaboratively, we work really well together. We have another project, an original series that you'll hopefully be hearing about sometime in 2012, that we've been working on for awhile now at the company.
So my reaction really was that I was absolutely thrilled and excited to get in there and work with DC on this. I hadn't worked on a monthly book for awhile, and the opportunity to keep working with Ethan, in particular on some mainstream, really big superhero concept stuff, really thrilled me. So I jumped on it.
Nrama: So Ethan, since you were already working with Joe on something else, were you involved in him being recruited for Firestorm?
Van Sciver: I was! After it was clear that Gail was leaving the book, editorial came to me and said, hey, do you have any ideas about a replacement for Gail? And Joe was my idea. I had a great relationship with Joe on this other horror book that we're doing together.
Joe just gets me. I don't know how to put it other than that. He takes my whims and my ideas and he fledges them out, and he's just wonderful that way. So I recommended him, and it only took a few days for communication to happen between editorial and Joe for them to realize that Joe Harris should be a superstar. He's been kind of overlooked as was working in Hollywood and various independent projects for Oni.
So we're happy to have him. I think he's going to do big things for Firestorm and for DC in the future.
Nrama: Joe, what are you hoping to bring to Firestorm? Are you keeping the direction that's in place, or are you hoping to shake things up?
Joe Harris: I think when I come on the book on issue #7, it will be both a continuation of what they're doing now and some new ideas I'm bringing into the book. In fact there's some pretty startling stuff that's going to happen in the pages of Fury of Firestorm over the couple of issues before I get there that we'll pick up upon. And then once I come on board, we're sort of spinning out of a pretty big moment that happens in the series.
I'm going to put my own stamp on things as we send these two characters — Ronnie and Jason, who make up one Firestorm as two halves of a whole — they'll end up splitting apart, going in very different directions, down some pretty dark twists and turns. And they'll ultimately be brought back together, but that's after some pretty high stakes and highly explosive stuff that Ethan and I are going to put these characters through.
So what I've brought to the book, I think, is this desire to really get in there and deal with the geo-politics of this concept. The concept of Firestorm has been proliferated to all these different countries. We're going to learn a lot more about that in the coming issues of the title.
We'll see the tensions that can arise between countries and individuals associated with this. You've got on the one hand Zither, who is the United States' military industrial complex mega-corporation who's involved with this concept; you've got other Firestorms across the world that take on the mantle out of patriotism for their own country. And everyone's thrown into this mix. Right and wrong should be absolute, but sometimes when you're dealing with countries and other elements or corporations and their own quest for power, it all gets a little skewed.
So I really wanted to explore that a little bit, all through the prism of these two very green, young guys who are thrown into a situation that they're completely unprepared and untrained for. And they've got to try to make it work.
This is just stuff that resonated with me. So I found a lot within what had already been established.
Nrama: Was it the political stuff in particular that attracted you?
Harris: Yeah, plus the chance to do some big science fiction stuff. What you've got is these powers that are associated with the properties of stars. There's so much potential there when you think about what stars really mean, getting into astrophysics and the big bang and nuclear fusion at the core of stars, and how this all contributes to life in the universe and everything we know.
I like doing international intrigue stuff. We did that in my Oni series, Ghost Projekt, so I was kind of able to play off my experience writing East versus West type scenarios involving big genre concepts.
There's just so much potential here.
We're going to really be exploring the different powers some of these characters have, as well as some potential powers they could in fact develop as we go on.
There are some really big ideas that Ethan and I are kicking around, so I'm excited to pull them off.
Nrama: So the things that have been established in issue #1 will stay, but you'll just expand upon them?
Harris: The thing is there's a lot of great ideas in the book now. There's a lot here that I don't think readers have even seen yet, even in terms of the Firestorm protocol, and that these powers are out there, and there are multiple characters wielding them, all with their own agenda and their own values.
I was able to get in, see what they were doing, see what they've already done, and really put my own stamp on it.
There is going to be a lot of new stuff in what Ethan and I are doing. But the foundation had a lot of gold there to be mined from. There's no shortage of that.
But I think what's really exciting for the kick-off of our run is that Ethan's drawing the first two issues.
Nrama: Yeah, Ethan, had you always planned to draw issue #7, or was it something that came from working with Joe?
Van Sciver: I kind of felt like I was retired from drawing comic books on a monthly schedule. I had a few projects that I was kind of working on, but wasn't working on diligently.
A few fans asked me. They said, "How come you don't do fill-ins on Firestorm?" And it just had never occurred to me that I could step in for a moment and draw a book.
I love what we have coming up. So I guess in a way, I was kind of envious and wanted to get involved in some way.
But when Joe stepped on board and turned in the first script to issue #7, I started having dreams about it. It was so cool!! There are moments in the script that are so heavy, and so palpable that they just started to invade my subconscious, and images just started coming into my head again like they used to when, you know, I was working on Green Lantern with Geoff [Johns].
With it in the back of my mind, and a couple of fans asking why I don't draw an issue of Firestorm, I approached DC and said, you know, I don't know how you're going to feel about this, but may I draw issue #7?
I told them, it just feels like it's going to happen, and it feels like it might be a good time for Yildiray to take a break. It's the start of a brand now plotline called "Firestorm Protocol." And it kind of resets things a bit, so it's a good coming aboard issue for new fans. So it just seems like a good opportunity.
So I was shy about it, but DC said yes!
Harris: To me, Ethan drawing superheroes is just comic book crack, so I'm really excited about this. It's thrilling to see him doing consecutive issues of something on a DC book. It's just a bonus.
Van Sciver: I'm having so much fun. I really am. I've been at my desk. I'm working 12-hour days again. I'm just inspired.
Nrama: Is a 12-hour day a good thing?
Van Sciver: Well, you don't notice it! When you're having a bad time, those 12-hour days really feel like 12-hour days. And often times you just don't even want to sit down at the drawing board. You'd rather go outside and exercise or watch TV.
I can't wait to get out of bed. I've been telling my wife, you know, before I came to bed, I read the next page so that I can think about it all night and get a plan because I can't wait to come back to my office and start laying out that next page.
It really is silly like that. I feel like I'm 20 again.
Nrama: Is Yildiray gone from the book?
Van Sciver: No. No, no, no. Yildiray is not gone. He'll be back with issue #9, and from thenceforward.
Nrama: Will we see you drawing the book again anytime?
Van Sciver: Who knows? I might do more. I might pop in and do a couple more fill-ins here or there. But this is Yildiray's book.
Nrama: What can you tell us about what you guys have coming up?
Harris: We've got a real shocker in issue #7. There are some really startling things in that issue.
That first issue will establish the mantra that we've been throwing around on the creative team and in editorial that "there are no sacred cows."
We've got a pretty dark, hopefully fascinating story coming up between these two characters, Jason and Ronnie. They're going to be following very different paths. And they don't really have any guidance. Some of the mentor-type characters that are going to be coming into their lives will find them very impressionable young guys in ways that they don't expect. And I think people will be surprised by them.
They're playing with forces they can really barely understand, much less control. We're talking about a new Nuclear Age. A new dangerous type of nuclear proliferation. The questions are going to present themselves in terms of who's really responsible enough to wield this. Can we really trust that mutually assured destruction is really going to keep everyone in check? To that end, we'll have lots of characters and lots of different agendas, and it's going to be up to Ronnie and Jason to chart their course and decide if they're going to do it alone, or if they're going to come back together. Because there are few people they can trust.
Hopefully, they will learn that they can trust each other. But it's not going to be that easy.
Van Sciver: We also have the Firestorms of England and France coming up. In issue #8, readers are going to meet France's Firestorm, Firehawk. And Great Britain's Firestorm. And I won't name him yet. You'll have to wait and see.
Nrama: Are you getting to design these characters?
Van Sciver: No, Yildiray designed these characters way back when. This was part of the initial concept from when Gail and I first started. And Yildiray just overnight hammered out these designs. He was so inspired by it. I get to work from his designs in almost all cases.
Nrama: Ethan, can you talk about what was going on with Gail that may have led to her leaving? I mean, it feels like there are a lot of creative changes coming up at the end of the first arc on DC's New 52 books. Any insight into why?
Van Sciver: I think Gail's situation is really up to Gail to talk about. But I will say what didn't happen:
- We didn't have arguments over politics that made it impossible for us to work together, even though I think people wish that would be true in some cases, or that would be fun to think about.
- We didn't have any personal problems whatsoever. We're still working together on another project.
Gail's reasons for leaving are her own, and I'm still looking forward to working with her on other things after this.
As for the turnaround with other writers on DC projects, I don't see how that's any different than how things normally happen with DC. This stuff gets turned around all the time.
I think in this case, it's the best for everybody involved.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to say to fans about taking over Firestorm?
Harris: I just want to say that Ethan and Gail and Yildiray have done some really great work. And there's so much there for me to pick from. As Ethan and I have mapped this out, we've come up with some overarching plans that go quite a way into the future, and that's because of the very imaginative work at the front end. And I'm just really happy to take the opportunity here. I think that there was a lot to work with when I stepped in, and I'm excited about where we're taking the book in the future.
Van Sciver: Take a chance and pick up #7. I think readers will notice a new flavor in this book with issue #7 and with Joe Harris. I think they're in for some surprises.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!