In the first two issues of Tony Daniel's new Deathstroke series, a lot has changed for the title character.
Deathstroke is young, his eye is healed, his property and money are gone, and he's in the midst of a storyline that includes the Wilson family — Jericho, Rose and even Slade's father.
The series, which launched in October, immediately immersed lead character Slade Wilson into a mystery that's compounded by the fact that Deathstroke doesn't remember how he got to this point. At the end of issue #2, after taking a truth serum to jumpstart his memory, Slade suddenly recalled a memory involving the rescue of his apparently kidnapped son, Joseph "Jericho" Wilson.
With the new Deathstroke ongoing, Daniel is giving the character a second chance at his own title in the New 52, since the rebooted universe had another Deathstroke title launch in 2011 (canceled in 2013).
It's also giving Daniel another chance at writing and drawing, something he hasn't done on a regular, monthly basis since leaving Detective Comics in 2012. He's more recently been working as artist-only on the DC series Superman/Wonder Woman.
Newsarama talked to Daniel to find out more about why Deathstroke is young, what's going to happen when he meets Batman and Harley Quinn early next year, and what's coming after the Convergence break.
Newsarama: Tony, the most shocking thing about this series so far is the change of Deathstroke from old to young, and the healing of his eye. What motivated you to make these changes to the character?
Tony Daniel: The motivation behind his metamorphosis is a big part of the story. One of the main things I wanted to do with this new series is to give Deathstroke as much of a clean slate as possible without napalming everything about his past. In essence, I'm tearing him down to build him back up.
The first year will show Slade Wilson at a point in his life he hasn't been since before he became Deathstroke. I want to show Slade build back his resources, his finances and most importantly to him now, his family.
There will be more changes to come, so expect the unexpected, which I feel is an important ingredient to a successful series. Will he turn older again? Will that eye be staying? Will he ever be the person he was again? And will he still want all that?
There is a lot of action in this series. It's brutally violent and intense. It's what I wanted to do. But it's the character and his own trials and tribulations, his sacrifices, gains and losses that is the hook that will reel in the readers and keep them coming back for more. So the eye, the younger appearance — all of that is something to look at as a new journey for him. There is a lot going on in both his personal and business world to balance the action as well as the man behind the mask.
Nrama: OK, but with the "younger and healed" thing, I keep thinking he's going to wake up from the trance he's under. Any possibility this is just a dream?
Daniel: I can tell you it’s definitely not a dream. That would be a huge cop out. This new series is a bold step, but that's what this new series calls for.
Deathstroke is very popular for a reason. He's a bad-ass. He kills people. He walks a very fine line between evil and not-so-evil. In my book, we get to see him in a situation [in which] we haven't seen him before — vulnerable and no one to trust, and the only thing he has left, his family, is what he has to fight for.
Nrama: It feels like this Deathstroke book is also a detective book, since there are so many mysteries at the center of the story. Do you agree? And was that your intention as you launched it anew?
Daniel: Yes. I really wanted to push the envelop with this first story. Creating a cast of characters, some of whom tell him his mind was tampered with. He has to fight through the lies and betrayals of people he thought were allies.
Part of the plan, when I signed on for this book, was that I wanted to put Slade in this vulnerable position so we can watch how he handles problems he can't cut away with a sword. It's really a big part of this series, establishing Slade the man, and then going haywire with the action and violence.
Nrama: In recent issues, we've seen your new designs for Bronze Tiger and Shiva. Can you describe your thought process behind the changes made to their look?
Daniel: Bronze Tiger has fighting gear we see in issue #2. But mostly, I wanted him to look sort of like an MMA fighter, just a bad-ass dude. He's a character to watch out for in the coming issues — there is more to his past and present than meets the eye.
As for Lady Shiva, so far she's wearing a hooded cloak, but we'll see her more clearly when the opportunity comes for her to do battle.
I wanted to show that these characters don't dress up in full-on battle gear if they're only meeting and planning. It adds a little more realism to the book for me.
Nrama: Just to clarify… was the image that Deathstroke saw at the end of issue #2 a memory? Meaning he remembered finding a kidnapped Jericho in the past?
Daniel: Yes, these are missing memories that are starting to come back to him. We get more into this in issues #2 and #3.
Nrama: Why did the character of Jericho interest you as a writer and artist as you explore Slade Wilson?
Daniel: I've always enjoyed Jericho. I got to draw him during my Teen Titans run with Geoff Johns. I'm very fond of Jericho and all of the Teen Titans. He's very important to Slade and I want to get into the family aspect of the character.
There is also Rose Wilson, which we'll see soon enough. I haven't mentioned yet another family member coming into the picture.
Nrama: We just saw, in the solicitations for March, that Slade's father is supposed to be revealed. So we see Jericho, Slade's father and Rose?
Daniel: This first arc, which is six issues, has a lot to do with family.
Nrama: Interesting. OK, then with issue #3 coming out this week, what can we expect from the family reunion?
Daniel: Well, at this point I can only tell you that now that he remembers finding Jericho in that cave, he has to learn what happened next.
And from there, where the hell is he? So there's lots to come. I will tease that we see Jericho use his powers in a very cool and destructive way. So destructive it even scares his father. This is a big part of the story as well as what Odysseus, the story's main villain, is after.
Nrama: Solicitations for January's Deathstroke #4 have indicated Harley Quinn's going to guest star. Does this relate to their time in the Suicide Squad?
Daniel: I want to tie in some elements from the Suicide Squad series, mainly Deathstroke's betrayal of the team. There's unfinished business there and Slade needs to shore up the damage he's done, especially in his current state.
He needs her help — in fact, she's the only one he can trust to help him when he arrives in Gotham City at the end of issue #4. It's going to be fun when they meet for the first time since he sold the team out. You can bet Harley has something besides a hug in store for Deathstroke.
That brings us to one of the more interesting match-ups in the New 52 — Deathstroke versus Batman. Just couldn't stay away from the Bat, could you, Tony?
Daniel: OK, the fanboy comes out in me. And if you were me, why wouldn't you put Deathstroke up against Batman? This series is going to be a lot of fun first and foremost. This is going to be a showdown in Gotham and the most epic of battles I've ever drawn or written.
Deathstroke goes to Gotham City for answers. And you can imagine Batman doesn't take too kindly to Deathstroke's interrogation tactics upon the Gotham citizens (no matter how outside the law they are).
So the Battle Royale will be huge.
Can Deathstroke get what he came for while fending off the Dark Knight? Who wins? Who is nursing broken bones? Intrigued? I am and I'm the guy writing and drawing this! So the question isn't why would they meet, but why wouldn't they?!
As you can probably tell, I'm excited to start working on that issue right after Christmas.
Nrama: You mentioned that this arc is six issues, and that will take us to the start of Convergence. How would you describe the upcoming issues until the Convergence break?
Daniel: I get to wrap up a lot of what I started, regarding building Deathstroke back up. When we're done with the arc, this will be the new status quo for Deathstroke.
But hell yeah, to get there will be a struggle. I consider these first 6 issues to be the jet on the runway, and issue #6 will be when the wheels lift off from the tarmac. It's only getting started at that point.
Nrama: OK, you mention a new status quo… so are you writing Deathstroke after Convergence?
Yes, I am still writing Deathstroke and plan to for most, if not all of 2015. The two months that Convergence takes up in the schedule allows me to get 2 more months ahead on Deathstroke, so with that kind of lead time we'll all be in good shape.
My creative team, Sandu Florea, the inker and Tomeu Morey the colorist are just brilliant and doing phenomenal work. Everyone involved is pumped for this series and what we're doing. Also it helps to have a great editor, and I do in Eddie Berganza. He's been the anchor on this team. He lets me do my thing, but it’s because we've both been on the same page since jump street.
It's been such a smooth ride and that really helps when you're trying to crank out the stories (and art) on a monthly basis.
Nrama: Anything you can tease about what's coming in 2015?
Daniel: The Deathstroke series will actually be getting bigger, in terms of story lines. We face the Teen Titans soon, in a new type of Titans Hunt. And the threats get bigger after that — I'm not going to say who comes up against next, but it'll be crazy.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Tony, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Deathstroke?
Daniel: Yes, thank you all for checking out the new series. There's a lot to take in during the first three issues, but keep on reading and it'll all pay off. I'm on a mission, just like Deathstroke, to freaking kill on this.
For sneak peeks and more insight on Deathstroke, readers can follow Tony Daniel on Twitter at @tonydanielx2.