The behind DC's Tiny Titans is back in November with Super Powers, a six-issue miniseries that further expands the "Art and Franco alternate DC Universe," utilizing Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - as well as characters from throughout the DC pantheon.
Co-written by Arthur Baltazar and Franco Aureliani (with art by Baltazar), the all-ages title will pick up where the pair's Superman Family Adventures left off, continuing to surprise readers with all the "stuff we would do if we were writing the real DC Universe," Baltazar tells Newsarama.
For example, in Superman Family Adventures, the pair found a way to bring back Lara-El in a heartwarming way that involved Superman in a fun, action adventure. And that event continues into the new Super Powers title.
The series will also involve characters from the Super Powers toy line from the 1980s, as well as the DC Trinity, Jack Kirby creations, and more.
Newsarama talked with Baltazar and Aureliani to find out more about the new Super Powers series and whether it's actually DC's Earth 53.
Newsarama: So you guys are back with another DC title. This time it's called Super Powers. How did you guys land on this concept?
Art Baltazar: We did a six-issue Tiny Titans mini-series, and after that, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio asked us what do we want to do next?
Nrama: You just have an open invitation? What do you want to do?
Baltazar: Yeah! Well, we've become buddies with the guy.
Franco Aureliani: I actually have a lot of dirt on Dan, so he has to pony up every once in a while just to keep us happy.
Nrama: So it doesn't have anything to do with all those Eisner Awards?
Baltazar: Hmmm, maybe.
Baltazar: But I remember, when he asked us what we wanted, Franco's the one who said, "All of them! We want all of them!"
Aureliani: Batman, Superman Wonder Woman - all of them!
And he said, "Yeah, well, I'll see what I can do about that."
We got an email a day or two later saying go ahead and do what you want.
Baltazar: Yeah, he said, show me something in San Diego. Show me a pitch. And all I did was a drawing. I call it a pitch card, because I drew the guys on a card with the words Super Powers with the logo, and I handed it to him. And he says, "OK, yeah, we could do this." And that's all he said. [Laughs.] I was like, phew! I didn't have to work three months on a pitch like I did for Tiny Titans and Superman Family [Adventures]. I worked real hard on those pitches, but on this one, I was thinking, "Eh, I think I'm just going to show him the drawing." And he liked it!
But we had to actually do the formal pitch to pass it along through the system.
Aureliani: I'm thinking it might have something to do with the Eisner award now.
Baltazar: Yeah, that's probably it. He looked at the card and he says, "I see the Trinity. What're you going to do with them?" And I said, "Batman, Batgirl, Robin, Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, and Wonder Woman and all her friends." And he said, "OK." That was our pitch. [Laughs.]
Nrama: Can you give us an introduction to the first issue? What's the premise?
Baltazar: Batman is missing.
Aureliani: What happened to him?
Baltazar: Yeah, how come he's not here?
The Bat-signal is flashing and he's not showing up. And Commissioner Gordon keeps looking at his watch saying, where is he? So we see what happens from there.
Superman might help out. Wonder Woman might help out. And as the story continues, we don't just stick to Gotham City and Metropolis. We're all over the DC Universe.
This is stuff we would do if we were writing the real DC Universe.
Nrama: Maybe this is the real DC Universe, and that one's not real.
Baltazar: Yeah, I think so! Aquaman's in there too, so it's got to be real.
Aureliani: We like to kid Dan all the time and tell him this is Earth 53.
Nrama: Well, now there's infinite earths, so it could be.
Baltazar: Yeah. It was funny. We were told not to say that anymore. And we were at a panel, and someone asked, what Earth are your comics? And I said, "Earth 53." And Dan looked at me, and I went, "Oh wait, I can't say that. Earth 65."
He just started rubbing his face, like, "Oh, you guys."
Nrama: People will take that very seriously.
Baltazar: Yeah they do. 'Cause we said it in an interview, a written one.
Nrama: I think that was my interview.
Aureliani: Yeah, that's right! It was you! So you got us in trouble.
Nrama: It is what it is.
So is Super Powers in the same vein as Tiny Titans and Superman Family?
Baltazar: It's a superhero action adventure, and it picks up where Superman Family left off. So it's in the same universe as all of our stuff. And it's really fun. I'm having so much fun.
It's different from Tiny Titans, because in that book, we were doing little comic strips - funny stories. One of my goals forSuper Powers is to get kids to care about the characters and get emotional. It's kind of like when you watch that movie Up from Pixar, and you're crying after the first seven minutes of the film.
Aureliani: I am not. You are!
Baltazar: [Laughs.] But nobody even spoke a word. So I'm trying to get some emotions through these comics that you don't expect.
A lot of it's action-adventure superhero bad guys fighting good guys, and there's humor, but there's always something in that book where after you read it, you're like, "Whoa. Did they do that?"
Our whole big thing is, let's try to do something that's never been done to any of these characters or to the DC Universe.
Aureliani: When we were doing Superman Family Adventures, we were told a lot by fans that this was the authentic Superman. And we did things that we've always wanted to do with Superman.
Like, we brought back his mom, Lara.
Even other professionals came up to us at conventions to talk to us about how much they like the story. I can mention people, right?
Nrama: Drop some names.
Aureliani: Yeah! Like, Brad Meltzer and Judd Winick.
Baltazar: Yeah, they would call each other when the book came out.
And like Franco said, we brought Lara back. And in the original series, Superman Family, when Krypton exploded, we learn that Jor-El sent her to the Phantom Zone right before the planet exploded. So he sacrificed himself. And he actually did save his family.
In our comic, Superman brought her back. And now, she's still in the content of the story.
Nrama: In Super Powers, that story element continues?
Baltazar: Yes. There's a big plot line through with her, but of course, we bring in all of the Justice League and all kinds of DC characters. We using the Jack Kirby comic guys.We using the toys from the Super Powers toy line. We're using everything.
It's going to be a little different from what people expect, but I think they're going to really dig it. We're throwing everybody from the DC universe in this thing.
Nrama: Any character you can talk about?
Baltazar: I'm drawing Brainiac right now. He has the Geoff Johns design from when he was writing the book a few years ago.
Nrama: Yeah, with Gary Frank.
Baltazar: I just like how he looks. I don't know if that's his current design still, but that's the way Brainiac looks in our universe, so we're keeping him that way.
I'm having so much fun. Man, I'm digging it. I'm actually working on Super Powers #4 right now.
Nrama: Something cool happen in issue #4?
Baltazar: Yeah, there's something in here that gave me this feeling - it's like when we were doing the Lara scene, bringing her back. When I did the Lara scene, I had to stop and go tell my wife. I started crying before I could tell her. And she's asking, what's wrong? I said, "I wrote this scene where, when Lara comes back, she sees Superboy and she touches his chin and she says, 'Kal-El?' Because you know, Superboy's a clone of him, so he looks just like him. And then he said, 'No mom, I'm up here.' And then when she looks, she says, 'Wow, you've grown! You're so big!'"
That scene, when we wrote that, I was like, "Man, I've got to take a break."
So this issue, Super Powers #4, it has that same type of scene in here, where I'm doing more with this. I've been so excited to draw this page, these few pages that - things won't be unraveled or revealed until maybe issue #6.
I'm so proud of it. We're doing so much in this six-issue series, and it all starts with issue #1 and it continues throughout.
Aureliani: I can attest to the fact that Art's very excited.
Nrama: And this is still all-ages.
Baltazar: Yeah, we write books so kids can read them, but they're not just for kids. They are all ages. So they're going to dig it.
It's an all-age action adventure.
Nrama: We've talked about this before, but some of our readers might not know that you guys were doing your own independent comic books and met each other while sitting by each other at convention tables in artists alley, right?
Aureliani: Yeah. I met Art when I was yelling at some guy. You know, back in the days of self-publishing, when you were the writer, the artist, the editor, and the letterer - you tend to make a few mistakes on your books because you're the only one doing them. And there was this guy telling me everything I did wrong with my book.
After about 20 minutes of his ranting about what I did on my book, "I'm like, well, you know what? You don't have to read my book!"
And this other guy comes over and starts yelling, "You're not going to sell a lot of books that way!" And I thought, "Who's this guy? Where's he been for the last 20 minutes that he missed all that stuff?"
And then he sat down next to me. And I'm like, "Oh great."
Baltazar: Yeah, I sat at my table.
Aureliani: I thought, "Great, now I've got to sit next to this guy all weekend."
Baltazar: And then nobody came to that show. We were just sitting there looking at each other all weekend. There were like three people who showed up.
And then we got to know each other. So it was pretty cool. And we became friends. He invited me over for pizza and wrestling. And I brought my sketchbook. And that's it.
Nrama: You guys co-write, but you don't live in the same place. I mean, the same city.
Aureliani: Yeah, we both live in my basement.
Baltazar: No, I'm in Chicago.
Aureliani: And I'm in New York.
Nrama: Go Cubs?
Baltazar: I'm conflicted. I'm a Sox fan. Should I root for the Cubs or stick to my Sox?
Aureliani: I'm going for the Mets.
Nrama: Good luck with that. So the writing process is kind of like what I'm hearing right now, right? You guys are just back and forth on the phone?
Baltazar: Yeah, we write and we talk, and then I'll get an email from Franco with all the stuff we talked about. And then I'll make stories from all that stuff. That's the first stage. And then we'll continue to keep working our stories.
It's a system that we've made work for all these years.
Nrama: And you're continuing to do that, and it sounds like you have a lot of freedom because the books are outside of continuity. Or rather, your books are building their own separate continuity.
Baltazar: Right. It's not tied to a license or anything, so we don't have to stick to a cartoon or anything. We've just got to respect the characters - who they are and what they do. But DC knows that we're fans. So we're going to do that anyway. No matter which characters we write, we're going to stick to who they're supposed to be.
Aureliani: It's always been about telling a good story for us. We came from a place where we were doing our own books, because we couldn't get jobs with anybody else. I've got a stack of rejection letters a mile long and have been rejected by Marvel and DC and everybody at one time - at many times or another over the years. So now, all these years later, we get to pretty much do what we want, and they know, because we have a proven track record, that we're very respectful of the characters and we know what we're doing. So we're given the freedom to write and draw these stories how we want.