NEW CHALLENGERS Meet Their Predecessors - But Are they the Original Team?

New Challengers #3
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Now that the New Challengers have been introduced to the DCU, the original Challengers of the Unknown have shown up to help out.

Then again, it didn’t seem like helping at the end of New Challengers #2. Not only does the original team’s appearance kind of throw a wrench in the system (apparently killing the new group’s leader), but the group suggested the New Challengers had some explaining to do.

The book’s co-writer, Aaron Gillespie, said the tables will turn in issue #3, as the original Challengers end up answering questions that have been plaguing the new team since they were thrust into their role as Challengers.

And among those answers will be the revelation that the original Challengers weren’t actually the original Challengers at all.

New Challengers features art by Andy Kubert and is co-written by Gillespie and Scott Snyder. Newsarama talked to Gillespie to find out more about the surprises in issue #2, what readers can expect new from the series, and what it’s been like to work with Kubert on New Challengers.

Newsarama: Aaron, at the end of New Challengers #2, the original Challengers of the Unknown showed up. Are they a big focus of this week’s issue?

Credit: DC Comics

Aaron Gillespie: It’s a focus in part of the issue. The old Challengers bring with them some answers about what’s been going on in the last two issues.

So while there’s still more missions to go on, we do take a bit of a breather to get some answers to some of the mysteries we’ve seen so far.

Nrama: The end of issue #2 also featured the death of the Professor, killed by one of the original Challengers. I don’t know if that means he’s dead or not…

Gillespie: Yeah, it’s still mysterious, but we will find out a little it more about why that happened, the fallout of it happening, and the specifics of whether that sticks or not.

Nrama: So we’ll find out if he’s really dead or not?

Gillespie: Yeah.

Nrama: The first two issues had the New Challengers learning to work together, and failing quite a bit. Will we see the team start to grow together as they learn to work together to complete these missions coming up?

Credit: DC Comics

Gillespie: Yeah, it’s important for us to show that, while the team didn’t intend to be a team, they slowly start working together as one.

So issue #3 is really the start of seeing that. We’ll see it more and more in future issues.

Nrama: As the characters evolve, and as you’ve been writing their evolution, has it altered the story at all?

Gillespie: Yeah, that’s the most fun thing about creating these characters is that, while we have a set plan in place, there’s still room for discovery. And we’ve definitely altered some things and went in a bit of a different direction with a few of the plot elements based on the characters and how they kind of evolved as we’re writing them.

That’s been the most fun, is thinking we know where they’re going and kind of having the characters take over and showing us that there’s actually some unexplored places we can go.

Nrama: You said the original Challengers are going to be part of the next issue. Are they involved through the rest of the series at all? It sounds like the focus is still on developing this new team of Challengers.

Gillespie: The original Challengers play a role throughout the rest of the series, but it’s not a major role because this book is called New Challengers. So it’s definitely the new team’s book.

But there is room for the original Challengers as well, and we’ll see them throughout the rest of the series.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: I don’t think we’ve talked about this before, Aaron, but what’s it been like working with Andy Kubert? I assume you were aware of his work before this…

Gillespie: Yeah, it’s been a dream. I’ve followed Andy’s art since I was young. I think the very first thing I bought that he worked on was Batman vs Predator. And I’ve loved him ever since.

So hearing that he was going to be working on this book, I had to pinch myself. I’ve become addicted to receiving new pages from him in my email in-box.

He’s really spectacular. He can draw the big, crazy, sci-fi, pulp moments, but then he can also nail the very, very quiet, personal character moments. And that brings an emotional aspect to the scene above and beyond what Scott and I tried to put in it.

And it’s just been a dream working with him. I think the pages he’s turned in are some of the best of his career, and I couldn’t be happier.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: You mentioned the “crazy, sci-fi” stuff he’s drawing. We’ve seen the New Challengers in one wacky world so far. There are more coming up in their future missions as the mini-series continues?

Gillespie: Oh yeah. Before the book started, I heard an interview with Andy where he said he was excited to draw dinosaurs. So we put dinosaurs in it. So I can tease that a little bit.

One of the things I loved about the original Challengers of the Unknown is that every issue would be this completely new environment. They would always be going to different planets or different timelines or whatever.

And so that’s an element that we really wanted to bring into this series as well, that you never knew where the Challengers were going to next.

So that’s been a real treat for me as well, seeing Andy concoct and create these new environments.

We’ve kind of stepped back and let him just take over in that respect, and he’s done an amazing job.

Nrama: Anything else you want to tell people about what’s coming up in the mini-series?

Credit: DC Comics

Gillespie: With issue #3, we find out that the new Professor has been on a mission his whole life to hunt down and collect these strange, magical artifacts. And that involves a lot of time-jumping as well, so the original Challengers aren’t necessarily the “original” Challengers anymore. There might be Challengers that were around before them.

So we find that out, and we find out a little more about the origin of the new Professor. And it has some roots in Dark Nights: Metal and the Dark Multiverse, as far as the motivation and the missions that the new Professor’s been going on.

Nrama: Yeah, we’ve heard reference to the “Dark Frequency,” so this all appears to tie to Metal, but there are a lot of new elements to this…

Gillespie: Yeah, it was important for us to be aware that the book is coming out of Metal, but then also, there are going to be new readers that might not have read that series. So we wanted it to be very user-friendly and something that a new reader could just step into and not have to hunt down all of the continuity.

So we’re definitely aware of that and we want to push forward and introduce all these new things and know that Metal is merely the background of the book.

Nrama: Yeah, with that lurking in the back of the book, it also feels like the original Challengers of the Unknown is a huge inspiration on the style of the book.

Credit: DC Comics

Gillespie: Definitely, yes. I think any Jack Kirby property lends itself to that type of inspiration. I think it would almost be doing that legacy a disservice to just plop the old Challengers into a new book and tread the same ground. I think Jack Kirby was all about idea exploration and trying new things with these properties.

So I think it was important for us to be mindful and respectful of the original Challengers and the original creation, but to also forge ahead into something completely new.

Nrama: You’ve finished your work on Green Lanterns and this series is halfway through its six issues. Where can we see your work coming up, Aaron. Anywhere else? Any announcements coming up at Comic-Con International: San Diego?

Gillespie: I don’t know if there will be any announcements in San Diego, but there are some things that are in the works that I just can’t talk about yet.

But I can talk about a story I have in an upcoming WWE: Attitude Era special that I’m pretty excited about. I’ve been doing wrestling stories with them for a while now in their specials, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. So I’ve got a Stone Cold Steve Austin story coming out. I think that’s out August 1, so I’m excited about that.

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