DC's Midnighter may be coming to a close in May as Rebirth takes hold, but series writer - and now DC exclusive - Steve Orlando is taking the Wildstorm alum back to his roots for his series's last story.
In this week's Midnighter #11, the titular star battles Henry Bendix, the "evil dad" (as Orlando puts it) who created him, and a new breed of scientifically-created superhero made using the DNA of DC's top heroes. Midnighter will have an ally in this fight however, as his ex Apollo returns in this issue - but it's unknown if it's plutonic or something more.
Orlando, who'll be writing Rebirth's new Supergirl series beginning in August, talked with Newsarama about the penultimate issue of Midnighter, where the hero sits in the modern DCU, and how this title was "a book [he] needed when [he] was younger".
Newsarama: Steve, my first question is about these final issues being Midnighter vs. Henry Bendix. There's some other players we'll be getting to, but this is perhaps Midnighter's biggest (and first) foe, going back to the Wildstorm days. How long have you had this in your mind?
Steve Orlando: It’s been a while! With the revelation that Midnighter’s Lucas Trent identity was something he falsified for the good of his relationship (in his own cynical mind), it was only a matter of time until Midnighter’s creator started to come out of the shadows. And making him a co-creator with the Gardener just made sense. Her actions in Grayson, the actions that drove Midnighter from the God Garden, are just the type of moves a hawkish autocrat like Bendix would applaud. I was excited to seed him into the DCU as a military scientist, a power broker working towards his ultimate belief that safety comes through control and fear, and that he knows best what humanity needs, instead of themselves. Bendix does not trust us, and more and more Midnighter is learning he has to. So it’s a natural conflict.
And who doesn’t want to punch their evil dad in the face?
Nrama: How many Newsarama readers have evil dads? We’ll find out in the comments.
What are your thoughts and views on the character of Henry Bendix?
Orlando: I covered it a bit earlier, but to me, Bendix has always embodied militarism and fascism. Just look at his rants after his placid facade breaks in Stormwatch, his vocabulary as he denigrates “hippy solutions” and the like falls right in line with the might makes right, ends justify the means mindset of a foregone era. And that’s Bendix. Gamorra attacks America, so he has Rose Tattoo kill exactly the same amount of Gamorran citizens as were killed in the attack. He’s an eye for an eye, hyper modern medieval justice, and he’s ruthless. Bendix is not a uniter; he believes in his own supremacy and despite claiming to ultimately do what it takes to maintain order in the world, like so many he’s a hypocrite, and thinks so little of humanity that he doesn’t even trust us to make our own decisions.
Nrama: And how would you describe the Unified team that he has created? Any inspiration at all from the Wildstorm teams Bendix has created in the past?
Orlando: The Unified is new. He has the DNA of some old school DC characters I love, focused through Bendix’s lens of mean science. Bendix wants to carry the biggest stick in the world, and the Unified will let him do that. All the power of Superman, with the Fight Computer of Midnighter – he sounds unbeatable.
Nrama: In Midnighter #9, you had Midnighter vs. Afterthought in a nice scene. As a whole, what's it been like for you bringing in the Suicide Squad for this arc?
Orlando: It has been great! I love playing the personalities, especially Harley and Deadshot, and especially especially Amanda Waller, off Midnighter. There’s a madness to the action that really lets us do even more of the insane action movie things Midnighter has been known for.
And Midnighter and Waller I find fascinating. Because what Midnighter has done in his own life, turning the bad done to him into good, as best he can, is a micro version of what Waller does with the Suicide Squad – turning bad people to use for good things. Waller and Midnighter may be on opposite sides of the fight, but they instantly respect each other.
Nrama: Henry Bendix is just the tip of the iceberg for old friends/enemies of Midnighter, as solicits spoil the news that Apollo is returning in Midnighter #11. What can you say about that?
Orlando: I can’t say much, other than since pre-release interviews I’ve said I had a plan, I’ve said Apollo would play a role, and it was true! I can’t really elaborate on his return too much, other than to say that even if you’ve broken up with someone, they often still play a pivotal role in your life.
Nrama: Midnighter has cut a very different tone than DC's other books; Grayson is somewhat close, but in many ways very different. Do you feel you have a top-down view on the style of this book, or is the style just the result of smaller individual things you have chosen to do as writer of this series?
Orlando: To me, this is how Midnighter’s book always had to be. He doesn’t back down from who he is in any situation, and neither could we. We are like the more sarcastic, more violent sibling to Grayson, and that’s perfect to me. After all, Midnighter thinks Grayson’s rules are hilarious, so why shouldn’t his book break them? I would say that point-of-view has been in my mind since the first line of the pitch before the book was approved:
“Midnighter loves his job.”
It’s just that his job is horrifying. But we’re still happy to go along for the ride.
Nrama: With the exception of some guest artists, Midnighter Has been running smoothly with you, Aco, Hugo Petrus and Romulo Fajardo Jr. How do you feel about the work you and the team has done?
Orlando: I couldn’t be prouder of it! I had seen ACO’s work before we began, but his work here with Hugo and Romulo has truly been a bold step up for him as he experiments with layout and the energy on the page. This book wouldn’t be what it is without those folks, and I am really just here to encourage them, build the armature of scenes I know they can knock out of the park, and make sure the characters say something entertaining while doing it.
Nrama: Midnighter has been the first ongoing book for you since you began comic books, and now you’re exclusive to DC. Midnighter’s not listed as being part of Rebirth, but how do you feel about what you've been able to accomplish with this book inside the “New 52”?
Orlando: I feel amazing about it! When the book began, people weren’t sure where Midnighter fits into the DCU. Now his place is indelible, unique, and unquestionable. People weren’t sure how much there was to him as a character, what separated him from Batman. Now anyone who has read the book would never confuse the two.
And most of all, people were given a queer icon that they deserved, and they connected with him. All the Best of 2015 lists, a GLAAD Media Award nomination, and the personal messages people send me most of all, are the real accomplishment. This is a book I needed when I was younger, and for people to have it now, in the next generation, is my greatest accomplishment of all.
That, and having an action scene where someone is killed with a T-Bone steak.