Classic DC characters Sugar and Spike are segueing from their recent revamp in Legends of Tomorrow to joining the ensemble cast of "Rebirth"'s Blue Beetle. That's all thanks to Keith Giffen, who writes both stories.
Originally created by cartoonist Sheldeon Mayer, Sugar and Spike were toddlers who got into crazy adventures in their own comic during a run that extended from 1956 to 1971. Now Giffen has re-imagined them as being older, but still the best of friends, teaming up as detectives to help superheroes who are being blackmailed or bothered about some of their more embarrassing moments from the past. And that past is pulled straight from DC Comics - the more bizarre stories from DC's archives the better.
"In other words, if Green Lantern has a problem that he really doesn't want to hit the press, like, you know, I used to fly around with a little thing called Itty on my shoulder," he calls Sugar and Spike to handle the potential blackmail, Giffen explained. "Or somebody stole all of Batman's rainbow suits he used to wear, and it's kind of embarrassing if it becomes public knowledge."
The duo's Legends of Tomorrow serial is being collected November 15 as Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations, and then in November 23's Blue Beetle #3 they will be joining Jaime Reyes, Ted Kord, and Dr. Fate in that growing book Giffen creates with artist Scott Kolins. Newsarama talked with Giffen to find out more about his approach to Sugar and Spike, how they come into the Blue Beetle book, and why he uses the word "perfect" to describe his time writing them.
Newsarama: Keith, for people who might not have picked this up as part of Legends of Tomorrow, but might want to check it out as a single story in this collection, what's the basic idea behind this approach to Sugar & Spike?
Keith Giffen: The basic hook is, what happened when they grew up? I've had this in the back of my mind for years. I wanted to play with Sugar and Spike as older kids. What are they doing now?
So one day, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio approached me and mentioned Sugar and Spike and it just clicked.
I don't recall which one of us came up with the idea that they would be the detectives of choice for the superheroes. They're the private detectives that would be called on by superheroes, to handle the stuff that superheroes are kind of embarrassed about.
And once we had the detective thing in place, it was a labor of love.
Nrama: I think it's also a love letter to anyone who enjoys whacky stories from DC's past.
Giffen: Yeah, just the idea that Wonder Woman's carrying around this memory of, "Oh my God, I almost married an alien," which is something that happened in the comics - just imagine that she's go this thing in her past.
And now the alien is threatening to go on, like, the Maury Povich show and say he did marry her. She doesn't want to have to deal with it. She's got other things on her mind.
So Sugar and Spike are a resource she can use and go, "Yeah, just make this go away."
And when we went to look for the stories that the characters, as detectives, would take on, we found that we had quite a few.
So choosing those stories was pretty easy. There were really so many. For awhile there, DC used to have every cover be some weird variation - the Flash with a big, futuristic head; Green Lantern fighting giant gila monsters (which is probably my all-time favorite Green Lantern story)…
DC had an almost childish wonder about these stories. I don't think anybody was thinking about continuity or does this work in terms of the character. If it could make the story work, you did it. And if it was kind of goofy, you just fit it in.
Superman, at one point, I think actually turned into Alfred E. Neuman.
Those old stories have always fascinated me, and I got lucky because those older stories have also always fascinated Dan. So it just came together properly.
Sugar & Spike is a book that I'd be happy doing the rest of my career. There are just so many wonderful little stories from DC's past. They are silly, some of them, and others are totally outrageous. I could pretty much keep that book going for years and years and years.
Nrama: And you have a reason, in the story, for why they became the detectives who dealt with this sort of thing for superheroes.
Giffen: Yeah. I wanted it to be kind of circumstantial, the way they became the private detectives of choice for superheroes. Because really, any group of people who are discrete could fill that bill. There had to be an odd little reason they chose Sugar and Spike. And we touched base on that in one of the stories.
Nrama: Although this was originally published in a series with other stories, it was originally meant to be a single mini-series on its own, right?
Giffen: Yes, what we were going to do originally was do every one of the books in that Legends series - they were all going to be mini-series.
Nrama: And to be clear, even though they're grown up now, they're just friends.
Giffen: Yes, yes. As I wrote Sugar & Spike, the characters… they embedded. I suddenly understood who Sugar and Spike were. And one of the things I swore to myself is, they'll never be an item. It's not a story about a romance between these characters or a budding romance between these characters.
It's a guy and a girl. They've been friends from childhood. There's nothing wrong with friends. I have plenty of friends that I don't have a relationship with. And that's what I tried to get across with these characters.
Nrama: OK, so the collection comics out next week, and you said you could easily do more of these stories. Is there a chance you'll do more? You left room for them to do more - it's open-ended.
Giffen: It's not open-ended anymore. As of Blue Beetle #3, they are now part of that book. They are supporting cast for Blue Beetle. I told you I liked the characters! I worked them in.
Now, if this collection finds an audience, I could see DC thinking it might be commercially successful and giving them more stories on their own.
But until then, they're in the Blue Beetle book.
Nrama: And their role there is still as detectives?
Giffen: Yes. They've been hired by Ted Kord to keep an eye on Jaime Reyes's family. I'm not sure what we'll do with them eventually in the book.
Nrama: You said this was a labor of love. Would you do more?
Giffen: In a heartbeat. Sugar & Spike is one of those books where, if DC called tomorrow and said, "You want to do Sugar & Spike?" It's an absolute yes.
Everything about the story, to me, ran perfectly - from Bilquis Evely right down to the colorist Ivan Plascencia keeping almost a Vertigo flat color scheme.
I look at it now, and I go, "wow." It's rare that you feel like you hit it out of the ball park, but with Sugar & Spike, I do.