It seems the end of the world is becoming an annual occurrence with Marvel and DC, but for the Image series Danger Club it’s been practically in every issue – and for their finale they’re going one step further.
For their finale in April 8’s Danger Club #8, writer Landry Walker and artist Eric Jones are giving their meta superhero story not just one ending, but two. Where some issues have variant covers, Danger Club #8 will have a full variant – or alternate – ending.
Newsarama talked with Walker and Jones about the dual editions of Danger Club #8, as well as how they got to this point with their return from a two year hiatus, as well as going big picture to talk about the series as a commentary and criticism of the superhero genre in comics.
Newsarama: Danger Club #8 comes out April 8, capping off a longer-than-expected journey from the beginning to the end. What’s it been like, coming back after a two year hiatus for these last three issues?
Landry Walker: Well, for us it never really ended. We’ve been working on this series non-stop in one way or another for the last five years. It’s very exciting to see it get into people’s hands, and see if people like it. Always tense to spend years of your life working on a project that won’t pay you anything that people may or may not read. So far given the general reaction to #6 and #7, it has been worth the time invested.
Eric Jones: Absolutely, I'm really pleased with the reaction this last couple of issues has received. For a while it felt really strange to have no audience reaction to the book; it's been hard to remember that people haven't seen all this work we've been doing since we've never stopped. I've literally worked on exactly one non-Danger Club piece since 2012 when the series started, and that was just a short story I drew a couple months ago.
Nrama: For this finale, I’ve been told you’re going to have two endings. Can you explain that?
Walker: It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for years, and this story is the first where it naturally integrated into the process. There are many aspects about this comic that deal with alternate realities, and things reach a point, a small and seemingly insignificant aspect, where the slightest change in approach yields a tremendously different result at the end. So that’s what we explored.
Jones: I think we've both always been fond of alternate endings in film and so forth too, so this was a fun opportunity to play with that idea.
Walker: The alternate ending edition contains several pages of new art and/or new coloring, and several pages with variances and changes in the text. There’s also a variant cover. We wanted to seed it in randomly with the exact same cover and not tell anyone. Image strongly recommended against this and we didn’t like the idea that we might leave any readers feeling cheated after their purchase – so we’re doing this publicly instead.
Jones: It would've been fun to see how long it took for people to realize that there were two endings, but ultimately it just wouldn't have been fair to everybody out there. But someday we're going to spring something crazy on you, when you least expect it.
Nrama: I’ve re-read #1 through #7 prior to this interview, and in that second read-through I picked up on what I thought might be some commentary on the state of the superhero genre in comics over the decades. A friend even pointed out Danger Club coincidently is abbreviated as D.C. What would you say to that speculation?
Walker: You picked up on it correctly. As for the coincidence of the abbreviation…? All I can really say is we weren’t unaware. There are tons of obvious and subtle bits of commentary laced throughout the series, and a great deal of effort went into making a point about comics and its evolution without being a bull in a china shop about it from page one.
Jones: Yeah, it's a series about many things. One of those things is absolutely the various changes comics and the superhero genre have gone through in its history. But like our approach to the story itself, we aren't holding anybody's hand here, and it's meant to be inferred.
Nrama: Shaking off the meta for the story itself, for the past three issues the universe has ended at the end of the issue, only to come back re-created as something new. What’s the universe coming in issue #8?
Jones: Well, without giving anything away, I think it's fair to say we're bringing things back around for the climax of the story. Keen-eyed readers will have probably seen where some of this might be going, as we've been careful to seed things throughout the series; clues to what's coming.
Nrama: Where are Chronos and the American Spirit in all of this?
Jones: Spoilers! I don't think it'd be giving too much away to say that they both play an important role in the final issue.
Nrama: Have to ask – “Apocatastasis”. It’s been mentioned a couple times by the Danger Club – what does it mean?
Walker: There are a couple of definitions, but the one relevant to our book contextually is the original, ancient Greek one borne of the Stoicism school of thought. It’s a word that refers to the time when the universe will be consumed by the great conflagration (Ekpyrosis) and restore to its earlier state. When you couple that definition with the context of the series over all, it theoretically should give a fairly clear understanding of exactly what is happening and has been happening since #4. It was a tricky debate, do we spell things out for the reader or try and deliver things in a natural manner. I think a lot of people have assumed that the word is a made-up magical nonsense word… but if you research it…
I think it’s a concept of thought that is well reflected in the superhero universe, and I find it extremely interesting that philosophers thousands of years ago were exploring the same notions that we see played with in a book like Crisis on Infinite Earths. So while some people have interpreted the events in our book as somewhat vague, in a way, we’re just being very, very blatant with things – provided you explore the meaning of the word.
Nrama: Ever since returning from the hiatus, things have gotten really meta and big picture with Danger Club. Was that the original plan from the get-go, or did the hiatus give you a new perspective on the story as a whole?
Walker: We’re on the same course we began with the start of #1. The very first lines of the first issue laid it all out: the universe is in deadly peril. Reality’s ultimate evil has already taken out the heroes and is coming to Earth. From the onset the book has always been intended as commentary on the evolution of the art form – hence the “retro” page at the beginning of each issue highlighting the difference in tone, but we just didn’t point it out directly – we preferred the idea of letting it unfold with the story.
Jones: I think the hiatus we were on kind of makes that tonal shift seem more pronounced than it really is, too. We were always working toward that part of our story, and the tipping point into it was the climax of #5. Unfortunately that just happened to be when we had to take a break from publishing the book, so it effectively put emphasis on what was really intended to be more of a dovetail than a leap into the more “meta” aspect of the story.
Nrama: Besides Danger Club, the only context people have for you two together is Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures– which is several leaps and bounds away from this. Was doing Danger Club a reaction in any way to that?
Walker: First, you are absolutely correct. But it’s funny, because we’ve done hundreds and hundreds of comics pages together over the last twenty-plus years. There’s even a TV show based on one of our creator-owned comics that’s airing in multiple countries right now. We also did creator-owned stories in Disney Adventures Magazine for close to a decade – and that was a book with a readership that numbered in the millions. But the comics market, it’s a bit (very) blind to anything outside of the direct market, so you’re 100% correct. Supergirl and Danger Club are absolutely what we are best known for. And yeah, I’d say that the execution of Danger Club is certainly a result of the post-Supergirl experience.
Second, whatever kind of book you do, you get pigeonholed. My first DC work after our all-ages Supergirl was a very dark and brutal look inside the mind of the Mad Hatter, an extremely dysfunctional serial killer with a very well-known obsession/fetish. I know it was a hard sell for my editor at the time to get me approved on that book, as the expectation internally was “What? He’s a kiddie book guy!” – I wrote an all-ages Supergirl book. Not a “kiddie” book. And it’s critically-acclaimed. Storytelling is tone and its content-blind. Structure is structure, as is the task of creating an emotional bond between reader and story. So when an editor who probably hasn’t read the book you worked on dismisses it casually without consideration for what they perceive it to be…
Jones: Yeah, as someone who has worked in comics in one way or another since 1990, it can be irksome to know that in this industry you often kind of don't count unless you're working for a major publisher in the direct market, and even then, only if you're working on a book marketed toward an adult demographic. Our Supergirl series was really well-received, and we've always maintained that the reason for that is that we worked really hard on it – it's a good book regardless of the fact that it's devoid of profanity, gore, or heady “meta” concepts (though we did manage to squeeze some of that in there, actually). But since our Supergirl wasn't in DC's main continuity, there were a lot of readers (and industry people as well) who weren't interested in it because it wasn't the 'real' Supergirl – which we both found absurd. So yes, Danger Club is definitely a reflexive reaction to all that, in some ways.
Nrama: Re-reading this while covering news for the comics industry, and I can’t help but see Danger Club kind of presaging the preponderance of universes ending and returning which is happening at DC and Marvel with Convergence and Secret Wars. You mentioned Crisis on Infinite Earths, but this modern resurgence we’re in now. What do you say as this idea, which seems almost exclusive to the superhero genre, of universes ending and returning so – well, flagrantly?
Jones: It's definitely been a comics trope for several decades now, yeah. And again, Danger Club is largely an examination of and commentary on those tropes, good and bad. The fact that there have been a few “reboots” of various comics universes since Danger Club started really speaks to that seeming reliance some publishers seem to have on cleaning house every few years and starting over – I think one of the themes of our book is that there are consequences to that reliance, and that wiping the slate clean is essentially impossible when you have eighty years of history preceding it.
I've always been a big proponent of comics that take place outside continuity; maintaining a full line of fifty-plus comics, all of which must maintain some connection to each of the others, is a logistical nightmare. Comics have the deck stacked against them these days as it is – freeing up the creators to make good comics first and foremost -- without regard for what dozens of other creators are doing at any given moment – would result in better comics, pure and simple. And Danger Club is, in part, a comment on that fact.
Walker: Complete serendipity that the DC’s “New 52” launched after we began this series, and that the two have co-existed. Even more so that Marvel is now launching its newest iteration of Secret Wars. But at the same time, it was inevitable, wasn’t it? There’s always some new big shift that will “fix” everything and bring in new readers in the world of corporate comic books. Mind you, I enjoy a lot of the reboots that have occurred. I was, and still am, a huge fan of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I’m a huge fan of superhero comics in general. But I think there is a fine line between changes that are born from a creative position versus one designed to advance things strictly from an editorial/corporate point of view. That’s the role of Chronos in our series – he’s the corporate entity, and he keeps manipulating this reality to meet his own gains, and the heroes of our world are fighting back. They like who they are, they miss who they were, and they reject the world that Chronos desires.