The title World's Finest carries a lot of weight in the comic book community. Associated with Superman and Batman, the words as indelibly linked to the pairing of the two greatest, and most popular, superheroes in the DCU.
With appearances by everyone from the new Batgirl to the new Nightwing, World's Finest promises to not only further explore these changed characters, but throw them up against each other and see what happens.
But never fear, Superman and Batman also show up, and their shared issue serves as a unique meeting between Kal-El of New Krypton and Dick Grayson Batman.
To find out more about what happens with the bat-world meets the super-world, we talked to Gates about the mini-series.
Newsarama: I think people were concerned when this mini-series was announced that it was going to be too much like Superman/Batman. But this is a little different from a straight-up Superman and Batman team-up series, isn't it?
Sterling Gates: Yeah, it's very different. The Batman universe is so full of change right now. So is the Superman universe. Bruce Wayne is dead and Superman has left the planet Earth to be with his own people on New Krypton. The world is suddenly without its two greatest heroes. To me, that makes it a very exciting time for the DC Universe. You’re seeing new and different characters come to the forefront and stepping up to fill the void left with Superman and Batman gone.
Both corners of the DCU have old characters taking on new mantles or new characters taking on old mantles. We wanted to develop a limited series that would pair off all of these people and see what they were like. World’s Finest allows us to spotlight all of these new characters and show how similar or how different they are.
This way, we might be introducing a Batman fan to the epic story we’re telling in the Superman books, or showing a Superman reader the exciting and compelling changes that are going on in the Batman books right now.
Nrama: What’s the format of the series? Do the team-ups have a storyline that overlaps from issue to issue?
Gates: Every issue features a different team-up. One character from the Super-books teams up with one character from the Batman books, with a thread that runs throughout the series and leads into a big, crazy, action-tastic finale.
Nrama: What are the different team-ups we'll see?
Gates: The first team-up is Nightwing and Red Robin. Nightwing is Chris Kent, Superman’s adopted son, and Tim Drake, now Tim “Wayne,” is Batman’s adopted son. So, from the first issue, you’re literally seeing the next generation of superheroes work together to stop a bigger threat and save lives.
Nrama: Tim and Chris have met before, right?
If you’re reading Red Robin, you know that Tim’s currently on a quest to find Bruce Wayne. He’s really raking himself across the coals, though, thinking that Bruce is alive and out there somewhere.
If you’re reading Action Comics, you know that Chris Kent is searching for Kryptonian sleeper agents planted on Earth by General Zod. Chris is trying to make up for the fact that his true father, General Zod, is a bad guy. He’s trying to live like his hero, Superman.
Both of these guys are looking for something physical while at the same time searching for something emotional. While they don’t realize it at first, they’re both sort of searching for the same thing. Pairing them together just made sense to me.
Of course, not all of the team-ups end with the heroes seeing eye-to-eye. Some of the heroes are, well, a little harder for other people to deal with. I’m looking at you, Damian Wayne.
Nrama: And that brings us to Issue #2.
Gates: Yeah, in Issue #2, Damian and The Guardian have an adventure together against the Parasite and Mr. Freeze. Which was a lot of fun to write. Robin and the Guardian do not get along.
Nrama: And this is the first meeting between Damian and Guardian, right?
Gates: Right. I mean, Guardian knows who Robin is. Like most people in the DCU, he's heard of "Batman and –." Damian isn’t quite the Robin he was expecting, though.
I don't know if you know this, but Damian’s kind of an…well, an ass. [laughs] He has this air of superiority about him no matter who he’s talking to. But he has to learn to play by his father’s rules if he’s ever going to be Batman. His goal in life is to grow into this mantle, to be the "ultimate man" – which is what Batman is, the pinnacle of human training.
But that means that Damian already thinks of himself as being better than all of us. Better than you, and you, and you over there. Better than even the Metropolis police department. Which puts him at odds with the Guardian, who’s very much the law man.
The Guardian is the clone of the original Guardian, a law man from the 1940s. The Guardian’s occupation in life now is to uphold the law that his “father” represented, and protect Metropolis.
So when this little masked jerk that calls himself Robin rolls into town and starts beating up supervillains and threatening to drop them off of buildings, Guardian’s not too happy about it…
Nrama: And Issue #3 is Batgirl and Supergirl? Since you write the Supergirl book, how was it to throw her up against the new Batgirl?
Stephanie and Kara have had tough lives as super-heroines, and I thought they’d get along really, really well. They both look as they leap, rather than exercising a lot of caution or analyzation. They’re both trying to live up to the families that have accepted them. And the pair of them really hit it off. Two old friends who didn’t know they were friends yet. Through Issue #3 – and even through some of #4 – you see their relationship and their friendship blossom.
Nrama: Since most of these characters have never met, you're basically starting from scratch, aren't you?
Gates: Yeah, there wasn’t a lot for me to worry about coming into it, continuity-wise. Which allowed me to write it without worrying about what we’d seen before, who’d seen what. I could just have fun throwing these characters up against each other and against the villains of the piece and see how the story played out.
And I think readers will find a lot of fun in this series. Each issue is completely different from the last, as characters, villains– heck, even artists switch out. That first issue is a race against time to save Nightwing’s partner, the second one is the Odd-Couple-as-cranky-superheroes, the third one is a huge romp through Gotham, and the fourth issue is the big action movie finale.
Nrama: And Issue #4 is the team-up of the two characters we'd expect in a World's Finest comic.
Gates: Right. Issue #4 is the team-up of Commander El of the Kryptonian Army and Dick Grayson Batman. Superman is called back to Earth to help wrap up that thread I was referring to earlier, and he and Batman face off against some really serious (and dangerous) stuff.
Nrama: And according to solicitations, there are a ton of villains in these issues?
As we’ve seen on Phil Noto’s amazing covers, villains include: Penguin, Kryptonite Man, Mr. Freeze, Toyman, Catwoman, Parasite, and the new and improved Composite Superman/Batman, which is really the ultimate Superman-Batman villain team-up.
And it’s an even deadlier giant robot than ever before.
Nrama: Does this meeting between Dick Grayson and Kal-El and the rest of the series tie-in to anything else that comes after it?
Gates: Well, Issue #4 has a definite conclusion to this story. However, since I’m heavily involved in the Superman books, it’s probably safe to assume that events in this series are setting up a thing or two for us to use in the future.
Nrama: Since this obviously falls right into current continuity, did you have to get up-to-speed on the Batman characters? Or did you work with the Batman editors to make sure it would fit what's going to be happening with those characters over the next few months?
Gates: I worked very closely with some wonderful editors – Mike Siglain and Harvey Richards from the Batman office, and Liz Gehrlein and Sean Ryan, from the Superman office. Mike and Liz really kept me informed of all the things that were going on with all of the characters. With so many changes going on with the Superman Universe and the Batman Universe, it was invaluable to have their help.
Nrama: And every issue is a different artist? Does that play into how each issue has a little different feel to it?
Gates: Absolutely. It helps to give each issue a distinct tone and look. We’ve got some of the most talented artists out there on this series. It makes me smile just thinking about how sweet our art teams are.
Julian Lopez is drawing issue one, and it's gorgeous. He really rocked out on the issue, drawing a really dynamite Red Robin and Nightwing, and possibly the most perfect version of the Penguin I’ve ever seen.
Issue #2 is drawn by the inimitable Ramon Bachs. I love that issue’s art. I adore how well Ramon is able to sell that air of superiority that hangs around Damian Wayne. And the way he draws the huge battle underneath Metropolis with the Parasite and the “Mr. Zero?' He did a really great job.
When we figured out what Issue #3 was going to be, I immediately called my partner-in-crime on Supergirl, Jamal Igle, to ask him if he wanted to draw the first-ever Supergirl-Batgirl team-up. He literally accepted as I was in the middle of asking the question. So Jamal is taking a couple issues off of Supergirl so he can draw an issue of World’s Finest, then he’ll jump back to Supergirl for the double-sized Supergirl #50! And just wait til you see the first time Supergirl and Batgirl go across Gotham together.
Issue #4’s artist is the extremely talented Phil Noto, who's been doing our covers. Phil’s one of my all-time favorite artists, so I was psyched to get a chance to work with him! I think, just based on the covers alone, people know that he’s perfect for drawing the climax of this series.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell people about the mini-series?
Gates: World’s Finest was a lot of fun to produce. It was a huge honor to bring that title back after so many years away, and I want to thank Dan DiDio and DC Comics for allowing me to do so. And readers? I hope you enjoy it!