The Ongoing Question: Greg Rucka on his Detective Co-Feature

Cully Hamner: Answering The Question

As we’ve reported, The Question (a.k.a. Renee Montoya) will be getting her own co-feature position in Detective Comics beginning with June’s issue #854. Cully Hamner will be drawing the co-feature starring the faceless hero, while Greg Rucka will be writing.

For Rucka, the co-feature marks the latest entry in relationship that he’s had with the character – one that dates back to the Batman crossover story, “No Man’s Land” in 1999. Since then, he’s seen her move through the Gotham Police Department, out of the GCPD, into a tough asskicking investigator, and ultimately, into the new version of The Question – mentored, as always by Aristotle “Tot” Rodor.

What stories will he tell coming up in Detective? While he was hesitant to reveal too much, Rucka did give us an insight on how the co-feature come to be, how he was paired with Cully, and why he just can’t seen to quite Renee Montoya.

Newsarama: Greg, Dan [DiDio]’s talked about the co-features and how they came to pass, but how did The Question co-feature come up for you? Was it something that you suggested once you heard of DC’s plans for co-features in its titles, or does every DC editor have a pitch for The Question from you, so when a slot opened up, it was the first choice?

Greg Rucka: (laughs) Actually, Michael Siglain and I had been talking for a while about what to do next, including stories that we wanted to tell with Renee, and in particular, coming out of what Eddie Berganza, Philip Tan and I did in Final Crisis: Revelations. We had different ideas that we were bouncing around, and Mike came back and suggested doing The Question as a co-feature in Detective, and I told him that I thought that would be a great fit. It’s good on a number of levels. He and I had been working up a series idea for about a year and had talked to a few people about it, and it was down to just a question of placing it, and when the opportunity came to put it in Detective, it was just a natural fit. It was a quite organic and natural thing – no one had to fight for it or anything like that.

The only struggle that we had – and it’s a stretch to even call it that – was finding something to draw it, but Mike came back and suggested Cully. I thought he was joking at first, but then Mike talked to him about doing it, and I got this huge e-mail from Cully – like 12 single-spaced pages with sketches attached. Mike had gotten the same e-mail and called me and asked if I wanted him, and on top of that, Jen [Greg’s wife who had completed Black Lightning: Year One with Hamner] told me that I had to work with him – she had such an incredibly rewarding collaboration with him on Black Lightning. So yeah – the choice was simple - #1, it was Cully, and #2, he had my wife’s endorsement. That was a no-brainer.

NRAMA: There’s been some confusion as to what Renee is doing as of late, so when does the storyline in Detective pick up? You mentioned Revelations, which was a tie-in to Final Crisis, but yet, The Question that showed up in the main miniseries was wrapped up with the Global Peace Agency, and may or may not be on Earth-51 now…

GR: What I can say is that this is The Question that we were going to write all along. I’m going to let other people worry about reconciling it for now. There will be a reconciliation eventually that connects what Grant did and what we’re doing, but right now, that’s not my primary concern. My primary concern on the first issue on Detective, both with the main feature and the co-feature is to make sure that we’re establishing both characters in their worlds and in the stories we’re going to be telling.

Like I said, this is stuff that we had worked up quite a while ago and had been developing and refining.

NRAMA: So where’s Renee going to be based, and what can you say about the story plans that you have for her?

GR: She moves around a lot. There is a central location – we used a lighthouse in Crime Bible - that’s where Tot is based out of and where she’s based out of, but she’s not spending a lot of time there. She travels a lot. I don’t want to give a whole lot away, but there will be a mechanism that you’re going to start seeing appear hopefully in June, prior to the debut, where you’ll see how she picks what she’s going to do, and how she gets to where she needs to go. I haven’t nailed down the lighthouse on a map – but it’s not Gotham-based if people are wondering.

NRAMA: Back to Cully for a minute – we’d talked to him about the look and the style he’s using on the character, and he said that you wanted him to justify – not in an antagonistic way - the changes he wanted to make…

GR: Well, “justify” sounds and reads way more prosecutorial than it was. But it’s a collaborative medium, and he came to the table with his ideas – he came to the table with his ideas, and I came to it with my ideas, so we ended up talking about all of our ideas. We had a really good phone call in the midst of all this where he explained at great length his theory of Renee’s hat, and I had no problem with it at all.

Also, I think there’s an assumed writer’s arrogance that some people think is, “It’s my way or the highway,” and I don’t want it to be that way. It’s a collaborative process, and we have to work together. My job is to tell the story, but to suggest that I think I have the best idea for the visual – that’s totally false – I don’t. I’m not the artist – I’m the writer.

The thing is – change for the sake of change? I’m not a fan of it. That’s like having a fight for the sake of having a fight. Cully had good, solid arguments for everything he wanted to do, and most of the things he wanted were things I was already interested in seeing. And both of us take huge pieces from what Denny and Denis did, too. I’ve been trying to get Renee to change her outfit since the end of 52 (laughs). One of the things that I had loved about what Denny and Denis had done was that Charlie changed clothes – if it was snowing, he wore a parka. If it was summer, he wasn’t wearing a fedora, he wore a ball cap. Cully said he wanted to return to that, and I said, “Please, please do that.” He had no idea how much I wanted him to do that. So I’m scripting in costume changes for her in my scripts for Cully to draw.

NRAMA: Just to wrap up our chat about The Question on perhaps a more philosophical note, what is it about Renee that has her looks so deeply into you? You two have been a pair since…just about your start at DC Comics in the Bat office. What’s the attraction?

GR: It sounds like it’s something that’s calculated, but it isn’t. I think it’s something that’s just more fortunate to have happened with the jobs I’ve gotten than anything else. If you look at the way it tracks, where did I start? I started with “No Man’s Land” – well, there’s Renee. She was the first character I wrote. And then, it was on to Detective, and then Gotham Central – both of which had Renee. Then Gotham Central ends, and she’s off climbing into a bottle, and then we’re off doing 52 . We wanted that feeling of “the street,” and Renee was available. 52 finishes which led to Crime Bible, and after that, oh look, her partner is now the angel of vengeance. How do you do a story about him and not use her? Well, welcome to Revelations.

So it seems in that sense, I’ve drawn jobs that make it very logical that she’s present. That said, I don’t think there’s a writer out there who doesn’t sit down with any particular character that they’re spending a serious amount of time with that doesn’t start thinking about where the character is going and what the overall arc is – what’s the destination and the journey? With Renee, that happened to me very early on. I don’t know, maybe it is something unique and happens less often that I think.

Maybe it’s the nature of having come into comics from writing novels using serial characters. Atticus was a series character – when the new book comes out on April 28th, Walking Dead, that will probably be his last story. I think his journey has ended. What I’m trying to say about Renee in all of that is when I met Renee in the comics, I saw a journey for the character, and I kept being given opportunities to pursue it. Over the course of my comics career, I’ve gotten to spend a heck of a lot of time with her, and the more time I’ve spent with her, the more I like her. The more I discover about her, the more I want to show.

Jeez – I guess at some point I should do an aggregate page count and see who I’ve spent the most time with, and she might come out the winner – which is odd, considering that she isn’t Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman, or anyone like that.

One of the things that someone said to me once about Renee was that she was one of the best realized and fully develop characters that they’d encountered in any medium, and I found that incredibly gratifying. All this time that I’ve been able to spend with her, if nothing else, has given me the opportunity to draw her in very fine strokes as opposed to broad ones, and for that I’m really grateful.

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