As Terrifics begins a new “future-focused” direction for the team this year, this week’s milestone #25 features a story that allows the reader to choose the path they will take a la a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story
The oversized issue by series writer Gene Luen Yang and guest artist Dan Mora gives options to the reader and prompts them to “turn to page ___” if they want to choose one action, or turn to another page for a different one. And each choice plays out completely differently for the story - and most not so well.
It’s all part of Yang’s new focus on what he believes is a defining characteristic of the Terrifics team - its belief in the future. Or as Yang puts it, “building a future through technology and science.”
That new focus will go DCU-wide in April, with the introduction of the “Terrific Council.” Pulling together what Yang calls the “nerds of the DC Universe,” the Terrifics will get help from a group of science and tech heroes like Kirk Langstrom and Ted Kord, calling them the Terrific Council.
Newsarama talked to Yang to find out more about his “choose-your-own-path” adventure in The Terrifics #25 and what’s coming up for the team in 2020.
Newsarama: Gene, let’s start with the reasoning behind the Terrifics in particular making sense for a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. How did the idea originate, and why did it make sense for Terrifics?
Gene Luen Yang: I think the first thing is just the structure of the team. You know, the team was actually created by Jeff Lemire. I signed on, I think, issue #14 or #15, around there. Before that, I was just a fan. It was actually part of my pull list, so I would get it every month.
I think Jeff really set up this team to be kind of fun and quirky. The team members are some of the quirkier heroes within the DC Universe: Plastic Man, Metamorpho, Mr. Terrific and Phantom Girl.
So we were talking about issue #25, which for a brand new team is a really big milestone. And Paul [Kaminski] and Dave [Wielgosz], the two editors on the team, and I had a brainstorm on the phone about how to celebrate - how to really bring what makes this particular team unique within the DC Universe to the forefront.
I’m a big fan of Jason Shiga, who does a lot of "Choose Your Own Adventure" comics. And there have been experiments with "Choose Your Own Adventure" in the past. I think Squirrel Girl had an issue as well.
But we really thought, you know, this team is about possibilities in the future. And having a choose - well, I shouldn’t say “Choose Your Own Adventure,” because that’s a copyrighted term, right?- choose-your-own-path … having a choose-your-own-path story would be a great way of highlighting that.
Nrama: Some of the paths don’t end too well… not to spoil the idea here, but it’s almost like you have to find the right way out of the thing.
Yang: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I think, the way we wrote it, most of the paths are kind of terrible. I think there’s only one real winning path.
Some of that is that we wanted it to feel like a video game on paper.
Nrama: Yeah, it’s like “game over, try again.”
Yang: We want the reader to really feel like they’re participating and there are some stakes in what they’re choosing.
Nrama: How different was it for you as a writer, to put together this plot and have different paths and endings for each choice?
Yang: The script is unlike any other script I’ve ever turned in to DC Comics. It essentially looks like a flow chart.
We outlined it as a flow chart, and even the script itself, I had to really push - I write with Microsoft Word, and I had to push that program to its limits.
I had text boxes and arrows going all over the place.
I’m so thankful - you know, one of my favorite parts of this particular issue is that the art is by Dan Mora. I’ve been a fan of his for a very long time. I loved what he did on Klaus. This is his first full DC Comics issue, and I could not be prouder to be a part of that because Dan’s involved.
I was worried, you know, since we hadn’t really worked together on interiors before. He’d been doing covers for Terrifics for awhile, but he hadn’t done any interiors. So I was worried whether or not he could understand my script. And he totally did.
It totally went way smoother then I was expecting it to.
Nrama: It sounds like this was quite an innovative experience yet a little difficult. Is it something you would ever want to do again?
Yang: It was hard. It was hard. But I feel like I also learned a lot. I feel like I know how to write a choose-your-own-path comic now. ‘Cause I think … it wasn’t just that we were making up a story as we were going along, but we also had to make up the method for creating this story as we were going along.
Now that that part is set, I feel like I could do it again if I wanted to.
Nrama: As you mentioned, this is an anniversary issue, so you got some extra pages. But it also represents a turning point for the series. You just finished up a big storyline, and after #25, you’re launching something new. Do you want to tease what’s coming with issue #26 and how it starts a new direction?
Yang: Yeah, we want to hit the idea of what makes the Terrifics terrific. In my view, the Terrifics are DC’s most future-facing superhero team. So they’re all about the future. They’re all about creating a future for themselves and for the planet, using technology - like, bringing out the best in humanity using technology.
That’s what we’re aiming for.
It’s going to be the Terrifics trying to build a future and all this crazy stuff getting in the way - not just supervillains, but also monsters and dystopian visions of the future. Everything will be getting in the way.
But what really makes Mr. Terrific a hero is that he forges ahead no matter what. So that’s what we’re going to be doing, from issue #26 on.
Nrama: The cover of Terrifics #27 features the “Terrific Council.” Can you tell us anything about that?
Yang: Yeah, yeah. So the DC Universe is full of nerds. Mr. Terrific is my favorite of all the nerds, but we decided we’re going to bring all the nerds of the DC Universe together in one issue. It’s going to be a major nerd-fest in comic book form.
Nrama: So all the inventors and super-smart heroes?
Yang: Yeah, that’s right. All the nerdy science heroes all gather together.
Nrama: And that’s all part of this concentration on the “future” that you were talking about?
Yang: Exactly. Building a future through technology and science - that’s exactly what the Terrifics are about.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell readers about what’s coming up?
Yang: I started off as a fan of the series, and I’m so thankful that the fans of the series have allowed us to get as far as we have so far.
But Terrifics is about the future, and I’m very excited about the future.