Trinity. Kurt Busiek and the gang. The Big Three and the JLA fighting aliens. Gangbuster fighting villains for hire. Let’s go!
Newsarama: Two questions about interactions among the Big Three from the first couple of pages: Wonder Woman picks up on Batman's call to Superman. That seemingly comes down to familiarity and the ability to read expression. In which terms do you envision the interaction between the trio? That is, do they function so well together from familiarity, professionalism, something else?
Kurt Busiek: Yes.
They've got a lot of professionalism -- at least, when Batman's not being a prima donna -- so that factors into it. But so does familiarity, so does experience, so does the fact that they have different approaches and different worldviews and different track records, to the point that they're going to be able to handle different aspects of a case well. Superman can leave because he knows Wonder Woman's not overstating her capabilities. That's both professionalism (she's telling the truth, not bragging) and familiarity (he knows that about her through long experience). Wonder Woman knows Superman and Batman well enough to read a twitch on Superman's part, and the change in his expression, as a clear indicator that Batman just contacted him. And of course, Superman's got the X-ray vision and the lab/engineering skills that he can work with Batman to build the gas gun, something Wonder Woman couldn't do, so his skills and hers balance out in the situation.
Any one factor isn't enough -- it's the fact that they have so many that enables them to work together that easily and well.
NRAMA: Superman hesitates a bit before leaving Konvikt to Wonder Woman. His internal monologue chalks it up a bit to ego, but would say there's more to it?
KB: A little more, at least. He knows that she's injured and he knows how tough Konvikt is, and Superman's natural protectiveness is going to come up in a situation like that, but he overrules it, because he knows that Wonder Woman wouldn't say she could keep Konvikt at a standstill if she didn't think she could -- and that if she thinks she can, she's not likely to be wrong.
But a lot of it is that this guy knocked him cold, even if only briefly, and that's the kind of thing that will make Superman want the satisfaction of shutting Konvikt down himself. He's pragmatic and heroic enough that he can tamp that down; he's not going to insist on it, because it's more important to get the job done. But that doesn't mean he doesn't feel it.
NRAMA: Batman gets to do some interrogating, but smoothly adds Superman to the mix when he arrives. Is Batman the Best "Bad Cop" Ever?
KB: Oh, I don't know. Lobo might be better at playing Bad Cop, because Batman, for all that he might threaten very convincingly, isn't going to rip someone's arm off and make them eat it. Lobo might.
But in this case, Batman's actually playing Good Cop, and putting Superman in the role of Bad Cop -- tell me what I want to know or I'll turn you over to the guy who can go toe to toe with your monster buddy -- which can only work because Graak really doesn't know anything about Superman but his power level. But it's an example of Batman being very, very good at interrogation -- he knows when to play Good Cop, when to play Bad Cop, and even that Graak is likely to snap before Superman can blow the illusion.
NRAMA: During the post-fight clean-up, Firestorm notes that he "didn't really expect anything less" than the Big Three taking Konvikt down. Is it inherently frustrating to be one of the lower-tier heroes once you see what the Big Guns can do?
KB: I think it depends on who you're talking about. Guy Gardner would be frustrated by it, and cover up that insecurity by blustering about how he could have done it better. Hal Jordan's going to figure that he gets his share of triumphs, so it's no slight on him. Firestorm, who is considerably less experienced than most (all?) of the heroes around him, is probably going to find it impressive and inspiring, as he hopes to be that good someday. But I wouldn't see him as being frustrated by it.
I think you'd have to have a streak of "I wish I'd done that instead of those guys" to you to be frustrated by the fact that they're very good at what they do. You're definitely going to see that in some heroes, but not in Firestorm, I'd say -- or at least, not in those circumstances.
NRAMA: The scene between the Trinity regarding Wonder Woman's post-fight condition is interesting for a couple of reasons. Wonder Woman's tweaking the boys a bit on the nature of gender roles, and Superman accuses her of enjoying it. How DOES Wonder Woman feel about being ostensibly the most powerful female super-heroine? And what does it mean to her be the lone female among the leadership?
KB: I think Wonder Woman's very, very comfortable in her own skin, and grew up with powerful female role-models, so she's going to be fairly relaxed and confident about being a powerful superheroine, or being in a position of leadership. Where she runs up against gender issues in the modern world, she's going to think of it as their problem, not her problem, which is why I think it works to play her as amused and a bit playful about the issue, rather than have it not come up or have her be angry about it. She'll reserve her anger for when she sees women being victimized, but she's more than relaxed enough to chuckle at the way her friends' world works sometimes.
Plus, they've just finished a hard-fought battle. Needling around with your pals is a common way warriors let off steam, so I like the idea that Wonder Woman would do it.
As to the larger question about how Wonder Woman feels as the most powerful (or at least most prominent) female superhero, she was sent her to show us a better way, so she's going to be comfortable about being in that position, while still taking it seriously. And it's something that could well be explored over the course of the series...
NRAMA: Once the men have been challenged on their hesitation to push Wonder Woman to seek treatment, Batman responds bluntly that she should be checked out. Is that him vocalizing what he thought in the first place, or is that Batman's, "Hey, I won't be challenged" reflex kicking in?
KB: It's more Batman's "let's stop goofing around and cut to the chase" reflex kicking in. Superman, she can needle more effectively, because he'll easily banter back and forth about whether she's enjoying this or not, but Batman -- well, Batman doesn't let off steam, so he'll just go to the bluntest way to end the conversation. It's a way for him to withdraw and move on, rather than to relax.
I'll also throw in here that I love the last panel on that page -- I don't know whether Bags meant it this way or not, but there's a real Ross Andru vibe to that Wonder Woman figure that hearkens back to all those covers Ross did when I was a kid. It instantly says "Yes, this is absolutely and completely Wonder Woman," to me.
NRAMA: Rita appears at the close of the first story with some more thematic teases. How early in your conception of the plot did the Tarot become a prevalent element, and was Rita's character created around the notion of using that concept in the story?
KB: Rita was originally created for a different project -- I'd come up with a Tarot-based group of villains for JLA, and Dan thought it would make a great series, so he wanted a pitch built around that concept. I turned it into a mini-series idea that cold go on to a solo series, and in the process, Tarot emerged as the central figure. That pitch didn't go much further, since DC got caught up in Infinite Crisis and its many tentacles, but I still liked the idea and Dan still liked the idea, and when we started turning my original Trinity pitch from an ongoing series into a year-long epic, I suggested that we take the Tarot storyline and make it a part of the proceedings. So it's really part of the central spine of the story we're telling -- what Tarot's dealing with, in her abilities and her connection to the universe that results in her doing Tarot readings that should be impossible because she doesn't have a subject at hand for them -- that's all part of what's going on with the Dark Trinity's assault on the Trinity, and how it's going to play out. But you'll see more about that in the next couple of issues.
NRAMA: Okay, you schooled us last time on Blindside, Throttle, and Whiteout, but they get schooled themselves by Gangbuster. It's been a while since we've really seen him in action. Can you newer readers in on Jose and what he's been doing? And what does he mean to the DCU?
KB: Well, he's not one of the structural building blocks of the DCU or anything, just a fun character who was particularly suited to being brought in for this story. I can tell you the basics -- he's from Metropolis, a Suicide Slum kid, who was working to better his community as a teacher when he found out Lex Luthor was targeting gang kids, recruiting them into long-term criminal lives, and he became Gangbuster to fight against that. He used to date Lois Lane -- and for that matter, Cat Grant. He eventually retired, left Metropolis as a fugitive, and has been only rarely seen since.
What he's been doing the past few years remains to be seen, but as we picked him up in Trinity #3, he's living in LA, working as an anti-gang activist, and, well, he's just stumbled into a situation that has him picking up his Gangbuster identity again. What this means for his future and for his place in the DCU, remains to be seen, but he's around for us to explore it.
I'd love it if a new Gangbuster project came out of this - he's a cool character, and I'd like to see him get a new ongoing life. If he lives through Trinity in the first place...
NRAMA: The last panel . . . more of Morgaine's minions?
KB: Could be. She did say she'd set events in Los Angeles in motion, so she's doing something in the area, at least.
NRAMA: One last tangent-type question: A few readers discussed the destruction of Thayer's Notch and the idea of rebuilding. Understanding that this isn't part of this particular story, I was just curious if you had a particular view on the rampant destruction that super-battles cause. Do you think that the DCU would have a FEMA-like organization for Heroic Battle relief? It would be sort of fun in a metatextual way to see a Threat Elevation Board at the Pentagon or some such with "Multi-Team Combat" at Orange and "Crisis" at Red.
KB: It could be indeed. But frankly, I don't know if the DCU has an organization like that because it hasn't been addressed in the stories. It could be a source of good stories either way -- if demolished communities face disaster even after heroes have saved their lives, or if the government steps in, providing funds and shelter and jobs and reconstruction and more. Even the question of whether they should or not is a possible source for good stories.
Marvel's got Damage Control, so that's one way to go, but not the only way -- and Marvel already went that way, so DC might be better off going another way. Having created Thunderbolts, I immediately start to wonder if there's an opportunity for bad guys here, if there's a charitable group that goes around rebuilding demolished communities, but at he same time planting lots of bugs and weapons and hidden villain-lairs, because they're a bunch of would-be world-dominators using philanthropy as a cover for infiltration. Or maybe they build this stuff and rent it out to the Society.
There's lots of ways you can go with this -- it could be simply papered over with a hasty explanation for how such destruction is made all-better, or it could be left open for someone to really explore it. Something like what I rattled off above could be a good context for a Manhunter story, or for Nightwing, for Gangbuster, for the Titans -- it all depends on what kind of scale you'd want to play it on.
Or maybe someone else has a better idea. That's the cool part about a shared-universe -- someone else can always come in with a new angle that sparks off a whole new set of ideas.
Thanks, as always, Kurt. Don’t forget, readers: post your own questions for Kurt below. We’ll occasionally use some in the column, but he also frequently drops by to answer them in the comments himself. Check back throughout the week to see where the conversation takes us!