Convergence is jumbling together different worlds of the DCU, so it probably shouldn't be surprising that DC put a Vertigo writer on Plastic Man, particularly as he builds a world around him that includes robots, Nazis and Freedom Fighters.
Yet the pairing is unexpected and full of potential — giving an innovative writer like Simon Oliver the chance to give greater depth to Plastic Man, a character who's often used as simple comedic relief. According to Oliver, he's giving the character more of an "emotional connection" for his Convergence role, as he teams with the Freedom Fighters to fight against the Nazis that have taken over New York City.
In Convergence, the mega-event that takes over the DCU in April and May, different versions of DC characters from the past and future have been captured inside domed cities by an evil Brainiac. In a series of two-issue tie-ins to the main Convergence story, they end up fighting each other when the domes come down and they all meet.
Oliver is well known to Vertigo fans for his ongoing series FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, the mind-bending yet character-focused comic that plays with the laws of physics. As he kicks off his two-issue Convergence: Plastic Man series next month — his first work within the DCU — Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about his Plastic Man and the characters who'll be fighting with him.
Newsarama: Simon, where did the concept for this story come from?
Simon Oliver: Well, because of the big Convergence story arc a lot of things were set in stone going in, which was kind of great, because it gave me a chance to really get in and create the very character-driven story that's at the heart of all this crazy, big action type stuff that's unfolding around them.
Nrama: Knowing your work on FBP, I probably wouldn't have pegged you as the writer on the Plastic Man book. What attracted you to writing these characters?
Oliver: Not having done a DCU project before, I was a little apprehensive going in, the continuity and characters can be a little daunting to a complete outsider like me.
But I got to kind of pick the storyline and characters, at first honestly because of the Nazis in New York City angle, but then when I started digging more into Plastic Man, who he was, who he had become, I really started to find that emotional connection I honestly didn't expect going in.
Nrama: Were you familiar with these characters before the project, or was this all new material for you?
Oliver: Not really. I'm a real outsider to the DCU, so they gave me everything they could find that related back to the storyline I was picking up with, which in itself I found really interesting.
You know you want to honor the continuity but at the same find that way, that angle where you can kind of make it your own, and bring something new to the characters.
Nrama: What's the Plastic Man like that you're writing? What's his story, and at what point do we meet him?
Oliver: There are certain things I can't get into because it will give away certain bigger overall plot points I know they want to keep a lid on.
I think one of the things I picked up on going in was in the past, readers had felt Plastic Man had fallen a little too hard into the comic relief role, without making him dark and gritty (which is itself becoming a well-worn trope). I wanted to stay true to who I felt Plastic Man was, but at the same time show some inner conflict, and at the heart of this huge story is his coming to terms with who he once was and who he is now.
Nrama: What are the Freedom Fighters like in this story? Who are they?
Oliver: Because they're living in Nazi-occupied New York City they're in freedom fighters, insurgent, resistance mode. We've got Phantom Lady, Human Bomb, Condor, Doll Man, The Ray and Uncle Sam... and they're taking names and kicking butt.
Nrama: What's life like for the Freedom Fighters?
Oliver: Once again I can't get too much into this without going down a story avenue I'm not supposed to, but things aren't going too well when we first meet them, and they're due to be hung by the Nazis at dawn.
Nrama: What other Earth-X characters will we see?
Oliver: Other than the Freedom Fighters, probably the big one is the return of the Silver Ghost.
Nrama: That should get some people interested. Is that the threat the characters meet?
Oliver: Well I got to come at all angles with that — first the Nazis and the Silver Ghost, then the robot superheroes of The New 52: Futures End. I really got to build a seven-layer dip of threats...
Nrama: Did anything surprise you about these characters or these team-ups once you started writing them?
Oliver: I think it was finding more than I expected in the Plastic Man character.
Nrama: Did he end up being your favorite thing you got to write in these issues?
Oliver: At first honestly, it was the idea of Nazis in occupied New York City, in fact my first story ideas came back with the note that I was focusing too hard on the Nazis, I blamed it on the snappy uniforms.
When I got into it, I became quite attached to Plastic Man, but there's a lot of what I think are great moments and visuals in the book. One thing in particular you'll have to wait and see, but I'm still kind of surprised that they let me get away with it.
Nrama: What's it been like working with John McCrea on the story?
Oliver: I was just doing a lettering pass yesterday, so I got to put the art with the words for the first time, and on a couple of pages I felt really bad having to soil the amazing art with dialogue, in fact in a couple of places I took dialogue out. The art is simply amazing... he kicks serious ass.
Nrama: Since you're kind of new to the DC side of things, what do you think of the overall Convergence story?
Oliver: I only really know my little corner in any huge detail, but from what I’ve seen I'm pretty excited to see how it all comes together. It's what it needs to be — big, ballsey and above all fun. I think it's a great way to look back at past versions of characters while still looking forward.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about your Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters story?
Oliver: It's got robot superheroes and fricking Nazis in it!