Why Magog? - Keith Giffen on the New Series

Keith Giffen on "Why Magog?"

from Magog #1, art by Howard Porter

Similar to how the writer breathed life into a new Blue Beetle, Keith Giffen will be bringing the new character Magog to readers in a new ongoing series starting in September.

With Howard Porter on pencils, Magog #1 will launch a series focusing on Lance Corporal David Reid, a former American soldier who was given mystic powers to save his life after being injured. Along with the new Magog, Giffen plans to round out the comic with a new group of supporting cast members and villains for the character.

It all fits with Giffen's mission to establish new characters in the DCU, an effort the writer emphasized when Newsarama recently talked to him about his new Doom Patrol series that starts in August. Giffen said he intends to infuse the DC Universe with new characters and concepts on "everything I touch from now on."

"I think that's critical in comics right now," he said. "The old communal well has been plundered to the point of depletion. Time to restock it."

Although Magog first showed up in the '90s mini-series Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, that villain's origin story was never told. And once the Kingdom Come universe was confirmed as an alternate Earth in the DCU -- specifically "Earth-22" -- a new, young Magog character was introduced to the mainstream DC Universe by writer Geoff Johns within the Justice Society of America title. His transformation into Magog occurred during the “Thy Kingdom Come” story arc co-plotted by Ross.

Newsarama talked to Giffen about his plans for Magog, why he compares the new character to Thor, and what readers can expect from the series launch.

Newsarama: I think the first question on most people's mind, Keith, is: “Why Magog?”

Keith Giffen: I guess they wanted to see if Magog had legs. I'll be honest with you, when they first called me up and said, "Do you want to take a crack at Magog?," I had no idea what I was going to do here. I mean, the character was not among my top 10. Doom Patrol was something I was begging to do for a long time. But I thought, hey, that just means it could be an interesting challenge.

Then I actually sat down and started reading it and getting into this guy's head. And I found his voice. Now I love the book. I love the book and I love the character. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

NRAMA: You said it's not on your top 10, but honestly, Magog probably isn't even on people's top 40 list. So what is it that you saw in this character that moved him up your list and might make readers enjoy stories about him as well?

from Magog #1, art by Howard Porter

KG: Like most comic fans, I had limited access to the character. I knew his role in Kingdom Come and the Gog story that Geoff told. But what struck me was that, underlying all the glitz and the armor and all, this guy is still a soldier. He's David Reid, lance corporal. So I thought about how I could apply a real hardcore military mindset to a superhero and get into his head. Most, if not all, of the captions in the book are Magog's narration, so you can really get into his head. And dealing with a hero whose moral parameters are much wider than, say, Superman's kind of became fun. It's nice to play around with a hero who's more protagonist than most heroes, maybe even antagonist. And he's willing to do what needs to be done to get the job done. He's not exactly Jack Bauer, and he doesn't have that faux toughness that comes with Wolverine, but he's definitely somebody who gets things done in his own unique and sometimes incredibly violent way. And I've been having a ball. I love this character. And honestly? No one is more surprised than I.

NRAMA: Is Magog still part of the Justice Society?

KG: Yeah, he still is a member of the Justice Society. I was told to keep in mind that he's still part of that team, but that I don't have to keep cross-referencing all the time. I get to tell Magog stories. The same rules apply as in Doom Patrol. Aside from the occasional Justice Society appearance, when it comes to villains and circumstances... new, new, new. I am not opening the DC Encyclopedia.

NRAMA: Are you exploring the character's origins? We don't really know a lot about him.

KG: Of course. When you pick up this book, it will give you everything you need to know about the character, obviously. But there are still mysteries that even he doesn't completely understand about his powers. And that will be part of the story.

I've been looking into the mythic meanings of "Magog" and I found out that every single one from different cultures is completely different. So it's great because I get to cherry pick. I get to do what Stan Lee did with Thor. He was from Norse mythology, but they got to kind of cherry pick. So I've been doing the same kind of thing. And I've been really enjoying working on this book and rounding out this character and his cast.

And when you get an artist like Howard Porter on the book, that's just icing on the cake. That guy's on fire. He more than recovered. It's gorgeous, gorgeous work. With Matt Clark on Doom Patrol and now Howard on Magog, I'm in a real good place.

NRAMA: In Justice Society, David Reid came out of a real world story because he was actually an active soldier in Iraq. Will this series reference current events in the same way?

KG: We'll reference that origin. Out of all the different suggestions for who Magog is and where he came from, I favor the one that Geoff introduced in Justice Society. He was Lance Corporal David Reid and had that thing on his arm and was approached by the Justice Society to become a member. I'm launching from that part.

But yes, there will be contemporary events. In fact, he winds up in the Sudan in the first issue. But I'm not going to turn it into a comic book that traffics in relevancy. It's not Green Lantern and Green Arrow with all kinds of wink wink nudge nudge socially relevant stories. And he's not a big, "I'm the best at what I do" type like Wolverine. But it's about a soldier in the modern DCU.

It's about someone who brings a totally different mindset to being a superhero. And he will be learning what it means to be Magog, and the baggage that comes with being Magog. And he's also gradually learning what his powers can do. That armor didn't come with an instruction booklet.

NRAMA: It sounds like it's a little similar to Blue Beetle in that way, although clearly this hero isn't a clueless kid and has very different ideas about how to get his job done.

KG: Well, Blue Beetle was much lighter. I actually look at Magog the way Stan Lee and Jack Kirby developed Thor. Don Blake finds the hammer, turns into Thor and as he's learning his capabilities, he finds out, oh wait, I have a father? Oh wait a minute, there's this whole world out there called Asgard? So it's that type of development. It's not groping around like Blue Beetle was. It was a kind of light-hearted groping around. As David becomes more comfortable being Magog, it's more that he's managing the learning curve. Blue Beetle never really managed the learning curve. Magog is a soldier who says, "I'm capable of doing this. And maybe I'll test to see if I'm capable of doing this other thing. And if that doesn't work, OK, I'll move on and see if this one works."

And also, I've given him a whole supporting cast. I'm treating Magog as if, yes, he's a member of the JSA, but this is a stand-along Magog book. He's not a soldier anymore, so he's Magog now, and that's all he's ever going to be. He became Magog by way of Gog. And that's irreversible. I know that Stan and Jack turned around the whole Thor thing where Don Blake was Thor all along. But I kind of like the idea of a guy who has no idea there's a legacy headed his way, and it's going to be a whopper.

NRAMA: Since the character, in most people's minds, is so connected to Kingdom Come, is that potential future for this character referenced at all?

KG: I tried to take the same approach on Magog as I took on Legion of Super-Heroes, wherein I sort of pretended the adult Legion wasn't there, so I'm saying with Magog that I know eventually he might participate in certain events, but.... Mike Carlin put it best when he said, "If Kingdom Come is going to happen, then what we are doing is showing the early days and showing how he became that character." It's almost like doing a mini-series showing the early days of the Comedian. You know where he's headed, but how did he get there?

NRAMA: And is this definitely an ongoing?

KG: Well, that's up the readers, isn't it? To me, it's an ongoing. If people buy the book and support the book, it runs its course as long as it can.

NRAMA: OK, Keith, after all this conversation, I understand that you want to bring this new character to readers and establish his supporting cast and these new villains. But I'm not sure I understand the premise or set-up of the comic. Is there a tagline you're using to describe this comic? Or is the premise part of the story and can't be revealed?

KG: My tagline for the series would be, Magog: Be glad he's on our side. Honestly, I really am having a ball with this book. I really thought the issue would be a grind and I would think, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" But I ended up enjoying this a lot more than I would have expected and I think we've created something that, at least I hope, readers are going to really like.

NRAMA: You say "be glad he's on our side," so does that mean this is a darker comic? You're so good with humor that I guess I imagined this would lean that way.

KG: I wouldn't say dark, no. And yeah, there's always going to be humor in what I do. I can't walk away from humor. But it's not a book that's driven by humor. If there's humor, it would just be in the interaction between Magog and his supporting cast.

NRAMA: Is there anything you can tell us about the supporting cast?

KG: Fans of Larry the Cable Guy will not be displeased. Other than that, if you want to know more, come on in and give it a read. I don't want to give away too much because it never hurts to be surprised.

NRAMA: You dropped a hint that you're creating new villains. Can you tell us anything about them?

KG: The first story arc involves an organization that is, while not being DC's version of Hydra, it comes close. That the good thing about Magog. I can deal with global threats like the one this organization poses, but I can also deal with smaller threats, like the character who shows up in issue #2 which is an inner-city story. I can take this character almost anywhere. I don't want to blow who the characters are. I think part of the appeal of a new book that is going to traffic in new villains and new characters is discovering them as they come along.

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