Dan Abnett has some advice for people questioning why DC would revisit storylines from the past in the April-May event Convergence: Just look at Doctor Who, the BBC TV series-turned-worldwide phenomenon, which constantly revisits the past and future.
Of course, Abnett already established his fondness for alternate worlds and timelines in his video games tie-in comic Infinite Crisis, which drew from some of the greatest stories in DC history. And his Doctor Who comparison isn't a surprise coming from the British writer, who's not only worked on comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion of Super-Heroes, but has also wrote Doctor Who comics and novels.
In Convergence, Abnett and other writers are telling the story of different cities and characters collected under domes by Brainiac while he traveled through time and space. After Brainiac doesn't return from one of the jaunts into another time, his assistant, Telos, decides to lower the domes and get the residents to battle each other to save themselves.
In Convergence: The Flash, one of several two-issue tie-in series to the main, weekly comic, Abnett is working with artist Federico Dallocchio. The story follows Barry Allen, who's been trapped in Gotham City just before the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The two-issue story eventually pits Barry against the Tangent Universe's Superman.
Abnett is also currently writing He-Man: The Eternity War for DC and both Guardians 3000 and Secret Wars: Korvac Saga for Marvel. He just closed out his first run on Wild’s End, his creator-owned series for Boom!, plus works on novels and within the video game industry.
Newsarama talked to Abnett to find out more about Convergence: The Flash, who he's such a mismatch for Tangent Superman, and why he chose Barry Allen in a bidding war with other writers.
Newsarama: Dan, we already spoke with you about Convergence: Justice Society of America, the other series you're doing for Convergence. How did you land on Barry Allen as a character? Was it more of an assignment, or did you get to choose him like you did the JSA?
Dan Abnett: We were invited by the editorial team to “bid” for the characters, books, time periods we wanted to use — the aspects of the DCU we weaned to revisit. And the villains, or opponents, too.
Nrama: You mentioned that in our last interview. It sounds pretty crazy.
Abnett: It was process that, while effective, proved to be highly amusing. But that’s a story for another time.
Nrama: OK, so how did you land on Barry Allen?
Abnett: I’d been writing Infinite Crisis for DC at the time, and had included the Earth Prime Flash (or the Infinite Crisis version thereof, anyway), and had enjoyed writing the hero more than I was anticipating.
Nrama: He surprised you?
Abnett: I mean… I’ve always considered the Flash to be a fine, appealing and iconic hero, but I’d never much thought about writing him or finding that process exciting. He was such unexpected, instant fun, I immediately pitched to use him on this project.
As for his ”villain’ that was more complex… and ended up not being a “villain” at all.
Nrama: Yeah, you got to choose from the Tangent characters. But before we talk about Barry's adversaries, let's just clarify the time period that your version of Barry is coming from. This is just before Crisis on Infinite Earths?
Abnett: “Just prior to Crisis” is one of the Convergence "target areas," so that was chosen for me, and it’s not ultra-specific, but I feel it’s kind of "sometime in the publishing history of DC comics in the last couple of months before Crisis hit."
It’s the next thing that’s about to happen… except that Convergence is happening first, exploding into and intercepting the timeline.
Nrama: OK, got it. But Barry died in Crisis, so... how would you describe this Barry Allen?
Abnett: I feel rather cruel. I’m picking up with Barry at a time in his life where he was at his happiest. And ruining it for him.
This is just after “Trial of the Flash” and Barry has literally ended up "happy ever after," living in the future with Iris.
Circumstances have taken him from that — temporarily, he thought — and now he’s trapped and torn from his happy future life. He’s desperate to get back to it.
The added irony for knowledgeable readers is, of course, that the happy future will be stolen from him anyway, along with his life, in his huge sacrifice in Crisis. In other words, if he escapes this danger, he will be escaping not to a settled bliss but a terrible date with destiny.
Nrama: How does that type of Barry function in Gotham City, particularly with a dome trapping him there? And from what we've heard, it messes with people's powers. So is Barry still a hero?
Abnett: He’s helping out, of course. He’s using his skills to assist law enforcement in the effort to keep order — his scientific skills especially.
Nrama: OK, so the dome comes down, and Barry and others in this dome get to battle characters from the Tangent Universe. Didn't you help out with the original Tangent comics?
Abnett: Yes, and I was happy to return to it, though I’m using a character I had no hand in.
I’m using Tangent Superman, a fascinating character who is like something out of a Ted Chiang story. He’s kind of a "non-kinetic" character, who is able to perform astonishing feats cerebrally, with hyper-thought processes. At total mismatch with the Flash’s supremely physical skills. And not a villain, either.
Nrama: So you're getting to explore that contrast, with these two mismatched characters?
Abnett: I said mismatch, but it’s not even that. Prime and Tangent are conceptually out of step, which makes the contrast more interesting.
Nrama: What was it like working with Federico Dallocchio, your artist on these two issues?
Abnett: He’s a terrific artist, and his work on this is wonderful. Dramatic, realistic and with a sly eye for the details of the period.
Nrama: You're also working on the Convergence: Justice Society of America issues. What do you think of the Convergence concept overall?
Abnett: I think it’s a fine concept, and a wonderful showcase that allows revisits to classic eras, places and tones of the DCU.
Nrama: Why do you think comic fans are so nostalgic for times gone by? Or rather, stories gone by?
Abnett: I think it’s hardly surprising and entirely healthy for us to want to sample and revisit classic stories and characters from different eras.
It reflects the richness and diversity of the DCU and its long history, and adds to the mythology that makes the DCU such a compelling place. You can be nostalgic for the eras of the past and still love the present incarnations. Just ask any Doctor Who fan.