Scott Snyder and Aaron Gillespie's New Challengers series has introduced a lot of new mysteries to the DCU, spinning out of the events of Dark Nights: Metal.
But after this week's New Challengers #2, the series will start to fill in some of the blanks as it escalates through appearances by the original Challengers of the Unknown toward a conclusion this fall.
The six-issue mini-series, which features art by Andy Kubert, has already introduced a brand-new team of Challengers, who all became part of the team the moment they died. They're all "living on borrowed time," post-death, following the directions of the mysterious Professor, who's the only one that seems to know what's going on.
Gillespie, a graduate of DC's Writers Workshop, is currently not only co-writing New Challengers with Snyder but is also writing the current story in Green Lanterns, which is also releasing an issue this week.
Newsarama talked to the busy writer about New Challengers #2, what some of the mysteries mean, and what the future holds for these new Challengers of the Unknown.
Newsarama: Aaron, with the first issue of New Challengers, there were a lot of mysteries introduced about the motivation for this team's missions and the people and artifacts that seem to be attached to them. Will we learn more about them soon?
Aaron Gillespie: The second issue ramps up the mysteries even more, but you do get some hints at what's to come in issue #3. So, we're getting closer to answers. We're kind of trying to do a Lost-style storytelling where answers come with more questions.
So, there will be some hints in issue #2 as to answers, but there will also be more questions.
Nrama: One of the main characters we met was Trina, and she's joined this team of people who have all apparently died. So, they're living on borrowed time, right?
Gillespie: Yes, my favorite thing about the original Challengers of the Unknown is this idea that they were living on borrowed time because they survived this plane wreck.
So, it was really important to me to raise the stakes on that hook. And I think that Scott and I talked about ways to do that, and I think with the first issue, we show that this borrowed time is no joke. So it escalates things in a way that makes everything feel more important and more urgent.
I think that really drives home that cool Kirby hook of living on borrowed time.
Nrama: We've met this bandaged man in the past who's collecting artifacts. Is he the same man as the Professor?
Gillespie: That's a good question! We'll definitely answer that. But that's a good idea.
The artifacts you saw, these shards of bone that the Professor is trying to collect, is a central plot to the whole story. Where do these bones come from? What are they all about? What are they actually doing? Why does the Prof need them? And why does he need the Challengers to go after them for him?
But yes, everything is surrounded by these mystical, magical bone shards.
Nrama: There's been some speculation about the fact that this new character calls himself the Professor, and there was a character in the past Challengers known as the Prof. Are those related?
Gillespie: I love all these questions you're asking. I wish I could answer them!
Yes, it is true that we have a character named Prof, and it is also true that, in the Jack Kirby team, there was a character named Prof. We will see if they're the same or not.
Nrama: With this Lost storytelling approach, will we get to know the characters a little better through flashbacks, including Krunch and Moses and Bethany?
Gillespie: Yes, every issue will focus on a different member of the team. And we will learn more about their backstory. We will also see how their backstories contribute to the emotional arc of the series. So, while the present-day storyline focuses on the plot elements and the escalating plot structure of the story, we're using the character backstories to match the plot with the emotional arc, if that makes sense.
So, with Trina, it was all about casting aside your former life and challenging the unknown, face-first, with gusto. With Moses, we see a much more disillusioned approach to his backstory. And that contributes to the emotional arc of the whole series. And Krunch and Bethany — everybody's going to get an issue devoted to them.
Nrama: When this was originally announced, there was some expectation that it was an ongoing series. But now, it's a mini-series. Is there hope that this becomes a bigger story?
Gillespie: Yeah, we've got six issues to tell the story that we're telling now. We definitely have ideas for it going forward. I would like to explore some of the deeper mysteries in more than the six-issue run. But that's out of my hands. We'll see where it goes from there.
But right now, we're telling our story in a six-issue mini-series.
Nrama: OK, then anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming up in New Challengers?
Gillespie: I would just say that some of the questions that you've asked start to get hinted at in issue #2, and then things really get rolling after that. And like I said, with every answer comes more questions, and I'm excited to see how people react to it.