In May, writer Scott Lobdell will shape the story of DC's teenaged superheroes in "The Culling," a crossover between several of the publisher's New 52 titles.
As writer on Teen Titans (with artist Brett Booth) and Superboy (with artist R.B. Silva), Lobdell has been building a story about an organization named N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its leader, Harvest. According to both comics, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. captures superpowered teens and attempt to turn them into killing machines.
In "The Culling," Lobdell will get to the climax of that story as he crosses over his titles with Legion Lost. (See Newsarama's earlier story for a summary about the crossover and what all its writers are saying about the story.)
Lobdell kicks off the "Culling" storyline on May 2nd with the 48-page issue Teen Titans Annual #1. Then the story continues through Superboy #9 and Legion Lost #9, with a conclusion in Teen Titans #9. The new "Second Wave" title The Ravagers, by writer Howard Mackie and artist Ian Churchill, will be released on May 30th, spinning out of the event.
Lobdell is also the writer on Red Hood and the Outlaws with art by Kenneth Rocafort. When Newsarama first reported on "The Night of the Owls" crossover last month, it was believed that Red Hood would be part of the Batman event. But that makes for a very busy May.
Newsarama asked Lobdell about the Red Hood tie-in to "Night of the Owls" and found out the Tim Drake appearance originally reported will now show up in a different Bat-book.
We also talked to him about what's coming up in Superboy, the story behind the name Teen Titans, and what readers can expect when he works with Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie on "The Culling." While some of what he said has been reported as part of our coverage of "The Culling", what follows is a transcript of our entire discussion with the DC writer.
Newsarama: Scott, how did the idea for "The Culling" crossover come about?
Lobdell: Hmmm. Well, the very first idea came from the fevered mind of my longtime friend and colleague, Fabian Nicieza, [former writer on Legion Lost]. But just as we were developing the initial idea, Fabe dashed off to greener pastures and I was left with a crossover but no story.
Enter Bob Harras! After years of working together, Bob has this great talent for seeing all the varying plotlines and character bits that I create as a go, and weaving them altogether into a Big Picture story! After six months of me teasing the deep dark secrets of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. in both Teen Titans and Superboy — and because of Kid Flash's 31st Century origin from the same time period in which the Legion of Super Heroes exist — Bob decided it was time to hold my feet to the fire and start spilling all the secrets about N.O.W.H.E.R.E., Kid Flash and the villain known as Harvest.
I have to say though, as people start to read the story I think they are going to be very surprised by the tone of this crossover. Usually when fans think of Teen Titans, they think of superheroes, and when they think of the Legion, I think people expect elements of sci-fi. But instead, the Culling has more of the tone of horror.
So anyone that was thinking N.O.W.H.E.R.E. was little more than "a shadowy government agency" is going to be in for a surprise.
Nrama: Some people might say that "organic" is just a nice way of saying you make things up as you go along. But then again, you've never been known as a creator who thinks really long-term, have you?
Lobdell: I would never say I make it up as I go along, but I will happily fess up to learning about the characters and the intricacies of the plot as I go. Take Solstice and Bunker as two examples. When I was developing them on my keyboard in my Chinatown office, it was all theory and ideas. But then Brett starts drawing them and breathing life into them and making them so fun and vibrant and adorable together that they are suddenly becoming fan favorites over night. I couldn't have planned that — no one can — and so there are many times along the process where I think it is the writer's job to step out of the way and see where the characters take them. Sometimes we have to walk down a dark alley to see what's on the other side, sometimes we have to buy a movie ticket and hope the film is as good as the word of mouth.Look at me as another example: last year I was working on another movie script when I got a text to come to lunch with my old boss while i was in town for Christmas break. Flash forward twelve months and I'm writing three books for a company that had only hired me twice before over the course of my career! Suddenly I'm back at conventions, I'm learning about the mysterious world of message boards and I'm working with some of the most talented people I could ever have imagined! (Hey Brett! Kenneth! R.B.!)
So really, none of us know what our lives are going to be like tomorrow — heck, sometimes we don't even know what the rest of our day is going to be like when we wake up in the morning! So this whole notion that a writer should have the first year or two years or five year plans for company crossovers feels more odd to me than a guy who learns new things about the characters and the world every time he sits down to his keyboard!
Life is an exciting and messy first draft — why shouldn't a comic book story be as well?
Nrama: What's the premise for the meeting between all these characters?
Lobdell: To say they all meet under duress would be an understatement. Without spilling all the beans — though I realize most uber-fans are also glued to the solicits and so can intuit future elements of most issues.
We know that the Teen Titans have been a pain in N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s side for months now — and when Red Robin and the rest of the group try to break into N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s Antarctic base the poor kids get their heads handed to them. While they are captives there, Harvest's larger plans involve the members of the Legion Lost and he dispatches people to bring them to him.
It seems that the Hypertaxis Virus has been a carefully planned disaster to bring these very Legionnaires into the here and now in order to help — against their will — Harvest with his long-term goals!
So now you have two teams of teenagers meeting for the first time under the very worst of circumstance — and it doesn't go very well.
And remember, this is the New 52, so Red Robin and the others are skeptical of the Legions claim that they are from the 31st Century — "Um, yeah." And the Legion wonder why the Teen Titans is being formed some twenty years before their history books claim there was a team by that name — "Teen Titans, huh?" So yeah, off to a rocky start!
Nrama: The solicitation for Teen Titans #8 mentions that Superboy is going to be leading the team. Is that an indication that Superboy is joining up soon?
Lobdell: Well leading the team as in team leader and leading the team as in leading them over a cliff are certainly too different ways to look at it. I think if Superboy ever decides to join the team he would naturally see himself as the undisputed leader, but whether or not the Teen Titans are going to open their arms wide for a guy who nearly killed them during their first encounter in Teen Titans #5. Well let us just say that Superboy is a far cry away from getting a membership card.
And no, the Teen Titans don't actually have membership cards. It's just an expression!
Nrama: We're finding out that the DC relaunch in your books involves a storyline that integrates WildStorm characters with DC's teen characters. Was that one of your goals?
Lobdell: I wouldn't say it was a goal as much it is just happened. When the New DC was in the earliest days of discussion, I was told to look at the large DC landscape and figure out what worked best for the stories I wanted to tell. Maybe it is because I've worked with Wildstorm characters in the past with runs on WildCats and Gen 13, I just naturally thought of them when it came time to make the most use of the characters at my disposal.
I don't like to think of the company as a series of fiefdoms — the Superman Family, the Batman Family, The Wildstorm Family. I think of every character as part of the DC Family! Here here for cross-pollination!
Nrama: We've also been shown in Teen Titans that Tim Drake seemingly made up the name, "Teen Titans." Is the implication that the name has never been used before? There's some confusion among fans about whether there have been former teen superteams, and what they were called.
Lobdell: Well the decision making process as to what existed before the DC New and after the DC New has certainly been organic. But I think that is a good thing. I am a big fan of organic.We see over in Red Hood #6 that certain characters like Nightwing and Starfire and Arsenal certainly had adventures together in the past, whether they were officially called Teen Titans, or that was a name other people called them? I don't know because I wasn't there.
OK, people are going to give me grief for what sounds like a quip and not and answer -- but, seriously, I don't really think much about the past because I don't really see how it plays into the present stories I am telling.
I am the World's Hugest Fan of Marv [Wolfman] and George [Pérez]'s Titans and Geoff [Johns] and Mike [McKone] did a stellar job on the book — but those stories have been told and they exist in many forms and will be sold on bookshelves forever and ever. Now let's tell some new stories!
Nrama: In the last issue of Superboy, we saw the character's ability to read memories of Krypton and learn the language. Was that an important turning point for him, to meet and learn from Supergirl?
Lobdell: No, not really. Eagle-eyed readers of Superboy know that he spoke Kryptonese in Superboy #2 when he was having his butt kicked by those alien prisoners — instinctively, and with no real awareness of what he was saying. So I think it is clear that he didn't really "learn" anything as much as what he had known in part through genetic memories had come to the surface upon meeting Kara.
And really, Superboy has been so busy trying to figure out this world, I just don't see him having a lot of interesting in learning about a planet that stopped existing some 20 years before he was even born. I get why Kara loves all things Krypton, but it is kind of like asking me to pick sides in the debate on Prohibition in the roaring '20s. Why would I care?
I know it sounds a little like blasphemy, but I am not sure why Superboy cares about life on Krypton other than whether he has to worry about becoming the mindless CMD that Kara alluded to.
Nrama: That makes sense, but one gets the feeling reading the issue, with the reference to "Kon-El" and the clone rebellion, that these things might be referenced again in the book. Will the mentioned clone rebellion come into play in Superboy's future?
Lobdell: I am not sure! Let's meet again in the future and talk about it! (But it certainly seems likely!)
Nrama: You plotted the last issue of Superboy with Tom DeFalco doing the dialogue. What brought about that collaboration, and does it speak to what's coming in the crossover at all?
Lobdell: Well Tom will always be remembered fondly around the Lobdell Family Home as the first editor to ever send me a form rejection letter with a hand-written "P.S." that said "This story wasn't as bad as your last one!"True story!
During all the years we worked at another company, however, we never really got to work together on anything, though he might tell you differently since apparently he's hung on my every word like a besotted teenaged girl for years! (I jest! I jest because I love!)
So when I learned that he was taking Fabian's place on Legion Lost, we got on the phone and started hurling ideas back and forth at each other and realized — maybe for the first time — how many similar ideas we have about what makes great comic book stories. It was just so fun and so exciting that when the schedule dictated that I had to step away from the scripting of Superboy for an issue or three, I pleaded with Chris Conroy to give the dialogue job to Tom — my new creative soul mate!
Naturally it took me weeks of begging and bribing to get Chris to take a chance on Tom... (I jest! I jest because I love!) ...and here we are.
Nrama: There's a lot of anticipation for the fight between Superboy and Rose Wilson, but it seems doubtful that Rose has enough power to beat someone with Superboy's power level. What can we expect from the battle?
Lobdell: Power? Is that really what you think it takes for one person to beat another in battle? Where would Gandhi be today if he thought that way? Where would the United States of America be if a bunch of Colonialists with muskets and knives thought they could not stand united against the full force of the British Empire? Where would we as a nation be today if a young man from Chicago thought he was powerless to become the first person of color to become the President?
Seriously, power is as power does! And don't let Rose hear you badmouthing her, Vaneta, or you're going to learn first hand how "powerful" she is!
Nrama: I'll watch out for her. But where should I look? We've heard she's in The Ravagers. Will Rose Wilson continue to be a part of the Superboy comic?
Lobdell: Gosh, I hope so! She rocks, right?!
Nrama: And she's so powerful! Ok, after the Rose Wilson fight, Superboy #8 pits him against Grunge, a fan-favorite character from the old Gen 13 days at WildStorm, What threat does he offer Superboy?
Lobdell: Let me just say this — that Superboy is going to get the butt kick of his very short life! We learned earlier in the series that his T.K. does not work against some people, and Grunge is a guy who can not only enter a room, but by touching it he can become the room itself!
So while Superboy was able to temper Fairchild's assault by dropping her apartment on him, he won't have that option against Grunge. And, unfortunately for him, this is a Grunge who enjoys getting his hands dirty!
I will say this. I think there have been times over the years where Grunge has been played almost entirely for comedic effect, but when you consider his powers as a mega-morph, you start to realize this is one very scary young man when he wants to be!
Nrama: It looks like the Teen Titans Annual finally introduces readers to the Colony. Much of both series has been building to this discovery. You've mentioned that we'll see a "hundred or so" teens trapped there. What can readers expect to see from the inhabitants of the Colony?
Lobdell: Pain and suffering. It is a very depressing place. In fact, seriously, I don't even like to think about it when I'm not writing it.
It is essentially a death camp that Harvest has set up in the miles and miles and miles of underground tunnels beneath the frozen hell that is his base in Antarctica. He tosses these human and metahuman and other teenagers into the camps and essentially leaves them to live or die — with a good part of them dying underneath these horrendous conditions. You see, he needs the best of the best metahumans for what he's doing, and if you die in the Colony, well, that hardly makes you the best in his deranged worldview.What is the most horrifying about the place is that its existence is what Red Robin was hoping to prevent by starting the Teen Titans. Tim thought he has learned about the creation of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. in its infancy, but upon learning of the Colony he is devastated to learn how far behind the curve he's been — and how much catching up he's going to have to do to stop Harvest once and for all.
Nrama: Will we see more Gen 13 and WildStorm characters being introduced as the result of the Colony's discovery?
Nrama: Will we find out more about the "13" characters related to Caitlin? In the crossover?
Lobdell: Not in the crossover, no.
Nrama: We see Harvest on the covers that we revealed today. What was your approach to this villain's personality and the way he looks?
Lobdell: I had fleshed out his personality with Tom. In fact, now that I think about it, no one has ever seen Harvest and Tom DeFalco in the same place... Hmmm.
But the visual came to me through an email one day! That is, his visual sprung fully formed from the beauteous brow of Brett Booth! He had read the description of Harvest's character and sat down and created his look with absolutely no feedback from me — and there he was, DC's newest uber-villain!
Nrama: What kind of threat is Harvest to the Titans and the other teens?
Lobdell: He is as bad as they come. In fact, he's probably worse than a Darkseid, who is more inclined to move pieces around a chess board and less likely to get down and dirty in the mud and wrestle with his enemies.
Because of his own horrific past, Harvest likes to kick ass. He likes to break people down and recreate them in his twisted image. And, like most great villains, he doesn't see anything he does as being wrong. He is convinced, because of his past, that he is Earth and mankind's last and greatest hope for the future — and that is going to make him one of the most dangerous "villains" in comics!
Brrrr, it frightens me just to think about the things this guy has planned!
Nrama: We'll also get to see Warblade introduced during the crossover. What can you tell us about the new Warblade?
Lobdell: Just that he isn't much like the last Warblade. Yes, he's still Reno Bryce, but this is a guy who isn't an homage to another famous character "with claws" — this isn't the berserker or the ronin. This Warblade is a "surgeon" of sorts, as cold and calculating as the razor sharp edge of a scalpel. Seriously, this is one scary dude.
Nrama: How has it been working with Howard Mackie and Tom DeFalco on the crossover?
Lobdell: It is sort of like the Beatles getting back together again, if Paul was played by Peter Tork from the Monkees and Ringo was the little boy who used to play drums on the Partridge Family. But we don't play any instruments and none of us can sing!
But seriously, it is a blast to work side by side with people who have been doing this very type of epic stories over the course of their career!
In fact, the only time we've run into a problem is when they suggested that the Teen Titans are all actually clones of themselves! (I jest! I jest because I love!)
Nrama: We found out last month that you're also doing the Red Hood and the Outlaws tie-in to the Night of the Owls event. What can you tell us about that comic, and how Tim Drake gets involved?
Lobdell: It is funny you should ask that particular question! Because I found out only yesterday that Tim is going to be involved — but he's going to be appearing in the Batman: The Dark Knight book. And I haven't seen the plot yet so I can't tell you the details!
Now, that might seem like I'm complaining, but I'm not! I couldn't be more excited to see another writer and artist do their take on Red Robin. Again, I am not a comic book creator that gets hung up on "these are my characters" and "these are your characters!" — the fact that we're all getting to tell stories using some of the greatest characters in the history of publishing? Come on, how much fun is that?!
Nrama: Then to finish up, Scott, is there anything else you want to tell readers about "The Culliing?"
Lobdell: Just they should pick up a box of Kleenex and a bar of soap on their way to the comic stores. This is a sad and dirty place the Teen Titans and the Legion Lost and the all-new Ravagers are trapped in.
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