Dan Didio and Keith Giffen are kicking off DC's unique, competition-style title Kamandi Challenge in January, and it's not their first time in the shadow of Jack Kirby. The two worked together on "New 52"'s O.MA.C.and Infinity Man & The Forever People, but are now re-opening Earth A.D. And in fact, it's a place Giffen has been to before - in 1976, Giffen drew four issues of Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth.
Loosely inspired by 1985's The DC Challenge, Kamandi Challenge will feature a new creative team each issue, each picking up the story where the previous team left off, then forwarding the story just as far as the end of their issue. DiDio and Giffen will tell a 12-page introductory story in the double-sized first issue.
But then later in the series, Giffen will come back for Kamandi Challenge #8, this time writing a story for artist Steve Rude. Giffen and Rude will have to take the cliffhanger from issue #7 - created by a different writer/artist - and not only resolve it, but invent a story and different cliffhanger for the next team to pick up in issue #9. The full list of creators can be found here: http://www.newsarama.com/31294-kirby-s-100th-birthday-celebrated-with-dc-s-kamandi-challenge.html
As a follow-up to our interview with Giffen about his incorporation of Sugar and Spike in his new Blue Beetle series, Newsarama talked with the writer/artist about the concept behind Kamandi Challenge, why he's reuniting with DiDio and what readers can expect from the book's tag-team approach.
Newsarama: Keith, you're drawing something in the first issue of Kamandi Challenge. How did you get involved in the series and can you describe what you're doing?
Keith Giffen: Dan had a list of people that he wanted to work on it as writers, and a list of people he wanted to work on it as artists. And I'm actually teamed up with Steve Rude for an upcoming story.
The 12-page prologue that I'm doing the art for - that kind of came after the fact. I don't know how it came up, but Dan felt that he needed some type of prologue, a small story to get you into the main story.
And I've got to assume that the reason he approached me was because we had so much fun doing O.M.A.C. together, which was another Jack Kirby character.
And when I'm doing these books, I can kind of channel Jack Kirby; if not an honest representation of him, I can at least capture the spirit of the character. Or at least, that's what Dan says.
So I agreed to do the 12 pages at the beginning. Dan and I like working together, and we're always looking for projects to do together. We're both fans of Jack Kirby. So it was almost meant to be.
Nrama: As part of the project, what do you think of the concept? The "challenge" part of the project? Can you describe it at all?
Giffen: As far as I know, each issue picks up where the other guy left off and then tells a story and ends on a cliffhanger.
And it's up to the next team to solve the cliffhanger, move the story forward and leave a cliffhanger.
I guess it's called the Kamandi Challenge because you've got to pick up the story that somebody's telling, get into the terrain that is yours, solve the cliffhanger that they left behind and throw up another one.
It's sort of a good-natured competition. The idea of the book is not to make it difficult for the next team to carry out the story. When we leave cliffhangers, it's not supposed to be some sort of a cliffhanger where they'll have to call you to find out how to get out of it.
But when it comes to solving the cliffhanger, it's up to the next team.
So it's more a fun project. It's an odd little competition where nobody wins and nobody loses. That's kind of the best way to word it.
Nrama: And after drawing this issue, you're going to be involved in he writing side later in the series.
Giffen: I'm doing issue #8 of the series. I'll be solving a cliffhanger, and Steve Rude is drawing it.
Nrama: They could do this with probably any DC character. Why do you think it makes sense with Kamandi, and why do you think writers (and readers) are excited to see this particular character undergo this type of treatment?
Giffen: To be honest with you, I have no idea. For some reason, Kamandi is a character that most of the professionals I talk to are like, "Oh! I want a shot at him!"
I've always been kind of, well, OK, Kamandi's there and if I get a shot at him, fine, but if I don't, it's OK.
So the Kamandi Challenge is also partly a wish fulfillment. Here's Kamandi. Here's your chance to do Kamandi. And that's part of the appeal, I think.
Nrama: And another part of the appeal is Jack Kirby?
Giffen: Yes. New Gods. Mr. Miracle. And Kamandi. I think Kamandi's probably one of the most popular books of Kirby's from DC.
Kamandi was also the purest Jack Kirby book, because he had Kamandi and didn't have to worry about the Justice League or any of the other DC characters.
Kamandi was practically a book out of DC's continuity, where he got to tell all the stories he wanted to tell. If he wanted to bump up against DC continuity, he'd do a story about Superman's costume. But there was never any concern about, where is the Justice League and where is that.
I don't think he even told the tale of what the Great Disaster was. It was just a fun book. You picked up Kamandi to see what kind of adventure did he have next. There was no connection to the DCU. There was no timeline where this took place. It was just a fun book, and I think that's what most people are responding to with the Kamandi Challenge - a chance to just do a comic book and have fun.