After being away from writing for the DC Universe the last few years, writer Will Pfeifer has one, overriding goal as he takes over Red Hood and the Outlaws in March: smiles — both for readers and for himself.
"I’ve got nothing against angst-driving, grim-and-gritty comic books, but if I’m writing a book about a guy who used to be Robin, a trucker cap-wearing weapons expert and an orange flying alien, I want it to put a smile on the face of the person reading it – and, for that matter, a smile on my face when I’m writing it," Pfeifer said. "Don’t get me wrong – the serious moments will be plenty serious, but they’ll have even more impact because they’ll be surrounded by edge-of-your-seat thrills, spills and chills."
The writer takes over with Red Hood and the Outlaws #29 , following a run by James Tynion IV, who is clearing his schedule for April's launch of the Batman: Eternal weekly. Pfeifer will be joined on the title by artist Rafa Sandoval.
So what brought Pfeifer back to the DCU? And what else is he hoping to focus upon with Red Hood and the Outlaws? Newsarama talked to Pfeifer to find out.
Newsarama: Will, it's great to see you returning to the DC universe. How did this gig come about?
Will Pfeifer: I was sitting at work, minding my own business, when an editor from DC called and wanted to know if I wanted to pitch some ideas for an arc. I spent most of the rest of the day ignoring my day job and trying to figure out the most interesting way to put Jason, Kori and Roy through the wringer. DC apparently liked what I came up with, because not too much later we went from proposal to outline to script to revisions … which I was I was just polishing up tonight.
Of course, the lesson for all you aspiring comic book writers out there is be sure to keep your phone on at work!
Nrama: Since you haven't written for the DC Universe since 2008, are you having to catch up on what happened when all the comics rebooted in 2011? What do you think of all the changes?
Pfeifer: They’re exciting. When you’ve got a universe like DC has, with so much history and so many legacies, you have to make sure that you don’t let the weight of all those stories hold you back. Every so often, it’s important – and hell, it’s fun – to blow things up, take some elements from the past, toss in some new twists and start all over again.
Nrama: Let's talk about your plans for Red Hood and the Outlaws. What's the premise of your first issue and first storyline?
Pfeifer: My three issues form a short arc called “The Big Picture” which pits Jason, Kori and Roy against some aliens they’ve never met before. In fact, no one’s ever met these guys before, and they’re definitely not your average “take me to your leader” sort of aliens. They’ve got impressive science and a diabolical plan, but their motives are a bit out of whack compared to everyone else.
What attracted me to Red Hood and the Outlaws was the sense of fun, of seat-of-your-pants, anything-goes adventure, and that’s what I’m trying to capture in my work on the book – especially in this storyline. We hit the ground running and we don’t stop until the story comes crashing to its end.
Nrama: Anything you can tell us about what characters — either from existing stories in Red Hood or from the rest of DCU — might show up?
Pfeifer: In all the books I’ve written – Catwoman, Aquaman, H.E.R.O., Amazons Attack – my favorite moments came when I bounced the heroes off the rest of the DC Universe. It’s such a rich place, packed with all sorts of outrageous characters. As the saying goes, it’s a sandbox that’s a lot of fun to play in, and I plan to do just that in Red Hood and the Outlaws. The first issue offers a glimpse of a couple of characters who will play a big part in the second issue, and the bad guy behind the scenes is someone I’m sure every DC reader will recognize – but I don’t want to say too much too soon. I've got to save some surprises for the book!
Nrama: Then let's talk about the three characters that we know are showing up. What are your thoughts behind each of the lead characters in Red Hood?
Pfeifer: For me, a book like Red Hood and the Outlaws exists to showcase its unique characters. Each of them is a completely different sort of personality, with their own distinctively troubled pasts and even more troubled ways at looking at the world.
When I mentioned how much fun it is bouncing characters around the DC Universe, I was specifically talking about characters like Jason, Kori and Roy. The big guns are great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a special sort of enjoyment in taking offbeat personalities like Jason, Kori and Roy and seeing how they react to a world packed with superheroes, supervillains, aliens, magic and other elements of the DC Universe.
Jason is the ex-Robin, ex-assassin struggling to figure out just what he is now. Kori is a frighteningly powerful former slave who wears her emotions on her sleeve – whether it’s her love for her adopted planet or her rage at some of the folks who live on it. And Roy is a former addict who wonders, in a trio that includes one of the most skilled fighters on Earth and an alien who can fly and shoot energy beams, what exactly he brings to the table. And, if push comes to shove, could he pick up that table and clobber someone with it.
Nrama: You know, it's a relief to hear you talking about Roy so much, because Roy's name wasn't in the solicitation for your first issue. We should be concerned by that, should we?
Pfeifer: I wouldn’t be too concerned. After all, what’s a group of outlaws without a guy like Roy? You can be sure that he’ll be showing up.
Nrama: You use the word "outlaws," but the team does tend to fight on the side of good. Do you still see them as outlaws? How would you describe their role in the DC universe?
Pfeifer: I consider them outlaws in the sense that, unlike most other (for lack of a better term) super groups, they’re not holding regular meetings to vote on bylaws and decide the best methods for saving the world. Sure, they’re on the side of (for lack of a better term) “good,” but it’s not at the top of their priority list. Most of the time, they’re just trying to stay out of trouble – and since they never quite accomplish that, they’re trying to minimize the trouble they’re in.
Put it this way: If everyone else in the DC Universe is Omega House, Jason, Kori and Roy are definitely the Deltas. And damn proud of it.
Nrama: I'd be tempted to rename the series, "Delta House." OK, we've talked a little about the sense of "anything-goes" adventure. Is that what you hope to bring to the series? Is there a certain focus and/or style you're hoping to sort of inject into the title?
Pfeifer: When I was first approached about writing Red Hood and the Outlaws, the word that kept repeating over and over was “fun” – and that’s what I want to bring to the book. I’ve got nothing against angst-driving, grim-and-gritty comic books, but if I’m writing a book about a guy who used to be Robin, a trucker cap-wearing weapons expert and an orange flying alien, I want it to put a smile on the face of the person reading it – and, for that matter, a smile on my face when I’m writing it. Don’t get me wrong – the serious moments will be plenty serious, but they’ll have even more impact because they’ll be surrounded by edge-of-your-seat thrills, spills and chills.
Nrama: Is there any of your former work that you'd compare this to? Or do you really feel like you're doing something new with the series?
Pfeifer: If you liked my work on Catwoman, H.E.R.O and, going way back, Vertigo’s Finals, I think you’re going to like Red Hood and the Outlaws, because I’ll be bringing the same off-kilter sensibility to the series. Having said that, this will be the first “team” book I’ve done, and the interplay of personalities is something I can’t wait to start playing around with.
Nrama: Where will the stories take place? The solicitation said something about a spaceship. Is this a space story?
Pfeifer: Most of the first three issues take place in the deep, dark reaches of space, with bookend moments back here on Earth.
Nrama: I know you said you want to "save some surprises" for the book, but is there anything else you can tell us about the story you're telling as you first take over? Maybe a hint?
Pfeifer: Just this: If you’ve always dreamed of seeing Jason Todd fall out of a spaceship or Roy Harper put a paperclip and a rubber band to dramatic use, this is the storyline you’ve been waiting for.
Nrama: Now that you're writing for DC again, does this mean we'll see you writing more — either at DC or elsewhere in the comics world?
Pfeifer: I sure hope so. I haven’t written anything for DC since I penned a pair of issues of Blue Beetle five or so years ago. It’s been too long!