KEITH GIFFEN on O.M.A.C., DCNu Revamp & His Writing Future


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In September, the creative team of Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio will stick together for O.M.A.C., a new series for DC's line-wide relaunch.

The two had already been working together on the now canceled Outsiders comic, so the pairing isn't a surprise. But what is surprising to Giffen fans is the fact that he isn't launching a new comic in September as a writer.

But today, he clears up the confusion. He is not done writing for DC.

For the last decade or so, Giffen has been more recognized for his writing than his penciling, including his recent run on Doom Patrol and Booster Gold (the latter with J.M. DeMatteis. But Giffen told Newsarama readers last year that he's enjoying the chance to draw again. "I picked up the pencil and can't put it down," he said.

That was fine with fans. Giffen's return to drawing for writer Paul Levtiz on the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual thrilled loyal Legion readers, even though the comic was delayed because of the artist's detached retina that required surgery. And as one would expect from busy Giffen, the eye problem only temporarily sidelined him, and Giffen jumped right back into his job as penciler on Outsiders, as well as continuing to write.

Yet his constant output of writing and drawing for DC ended earlier this year with the cancelation of Doom Patrol and the end of his Booster Gold run. Giffen's summer titles only included a DC Retroactive - Justice League issue that's coming out in August.

Now that readers know he's back as a penciler in September, Newsarama gave Giffen a call to ask whether he's writing in the future. And as he discussed the new character who stars in O.M.A.C., the outspoken creator shared what he thinks of DC's relaunch and its goal to reach new readers.

Newsarama: Keith, what was the thought behind the way O.M.A.C. looks? He's bigger than we've seen before, isn't he?

Keith Giffen: First, let me say that what you saw is not the cover. It was a promo piece, just so we could show what we intend to do.

But in designing O.M.A.C., I was just looking for something "big and monstrous looking" as opposed to "bulky," since this O.M.A.C. is closer to beast than man. I was just trying to get something that had a lot of power to it. And then Jim [Lee] stepped in and helped out. He worked up some costume designs from what I had done, and then I cherry picked some stuff from Jim, because he had some really good stuff there, and combined the two and BAM! We had something everyone agreed about.

Nrama: So can you describe this new O.M.A.C.? The tech that transforms Kevin Kho is obviously not the same as the O.M.A.C. idea we've seen more recently.

Giffen: Yeah, this is not that O.M.A.C.. You know: the stealth guy in the blue and orange. It's a different take on the character. It's a different take on the concept of One Man Army Corp.

When Dan and I sat down and just started talking about O.M.A.C. in a preliminary manner, we knew what we wanted to do. We wanted a big, action-packed kind of comic. We wanted to do the kind of comic that, when we were comic readers, made us go, "Hey! I want to do that!"

It's really been an attempt to have a book that goes barreling along at full velocity. That doesn't mean we don't have our softer moments; that doesn't mean there's no character development. But it just means it's big and bold and full of action.

Nrama: We've been told that this is a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye. But the premise is that Kevin Kho is an unwilling participant, right?

Giffen: Yeah, the human element is that this guy who becomes O.M.A.C. is massively unwilling. It's not like he's suddenly O.M.A.C. and runs around beating up bad guys. This guy does not want anything to do with this conflict. But Brother Eye is basically giving him no choice.

The first issue introduces O.M.A.C. and the circumstances he's in now. But we'll get some flashbacks to his life before he was O.M.A.C. in the first issue, and you'll see that there's nothing about this guy that makes you think he's going to be a superhero. He's just an ordinary guy named Kevin Kho. He's an adopted Cambodian orphan, but he's not a black-belt or anything like that.

Plus, like with any comic, he's got a supporting cast, he's got relationships, he's got the type of human conflict that doesn't involve throwing a punch, but you've also got the big fight scenes where they're throwing buildings at one another and ripping up the road.

Nrama: DC is clearly trying to reach new readers with this initiative. Is that informing what you draw and what you're doing with this comic?

Giffen: I would hope it informs every single book coming out in September. As near as I can tell, the idea behind this launch was to provide some fresh air and get rid of some luggage while giving a chance for people to jump on board and let us see if we can reach new readers.

O.M.A.C. #1,

page 14

I think it's a great time to be working at DC right now, because you're handed a character and you're told it's a new #1: You have to approach it as if your readers might not have ever heard of the character before. And to me, that's thrilling! I can just go in and let the imagination run rampant.

With O.M.A.C., I've got an advantage because it's a take on a character that never really found a niche at DC, so we can use our imaginations. I feel quite comfortable in the... what are they calling them? DC Edge?

Nrama: Yeah, there are different "families" within the DC titles, and O.M.A.C. is listed as part of "The Edge."

Giffen: Yeah, they've got things like the Superman family, the Batman family, DC Dark... I was just glad, when I walked in and looked at the 52 titles up on the board and saw what DC was doing, I was glad to see that it's kind of eclectic groupings. There were a lot of books there that I didn't expect to see. And thank God there weren't, like, eight, nine, 10 Batman titles. You know?

Nrama: I also wanted to ask you about the cancelation of Doom Patrol, because I really loved that book.

Giffen: Well, you seem to be the only one. No, I'm kidding. I know a lot of fans loved the book and I obviously enjoyed doing it, but I'm really excited about what I'm doing now.

Nrama: Your fans have voiced a lot of concern about the fact you're not writing anything for DC, especially now that Doom Patrol is gone.

Giffen: Oh, no, they shouldn't worry. I haven't walked away from writing. I'm not really able to talk about any of that right now, but you'll be hearing about a couple things coming from me as a writer at DC.

These 52 comics come out of the block hard, then other things will be gradually filtered in down the road.

I have not put away the computer. You'll see what I'm writing later. But right now, my primary focus is making sure O.M.A.C. gets a good send-off.

Nrama: Are you helping at all with the art? We heard from Brett Booth that Cully Hamner was helping with character design.

Giffen: I'm helping out, but not with character design. Jim Lee and Cully are the ones helping out with that, and it's not like they're forcing designs or anything. It's really about "helping," because they know the guys who do the book day-in and day-out are the ones who make the costumes work for their book. It's a team effort. Then I think Cully does the official turnarounds on the characters so everyone will know what the character looks like when they appear in different issues.

It's been a lot of teamwork as we get ready for this. It's exciting. But it's a job. That's what comics really should be. We're removing a little bit of that high school aspect where it's like, "Oh, I'm so precious I should be able to do this or that." No, that's not what this is about. We're still having fun doing it. It is a fun job. But it is a job, and we're in the business of telling stories and publishing comics. This isn't my hobby; this is what I do for a living. And I think that's more of the approach to this whole thing. DC seems to be more serious about deadlines, more serious about keeping consistent teams on the book, and really, really serious about telling the best stories. You can have the best gimmick in the world, but if the story's weak, it's not going to go anywhere. So the quality has to be there.

Nrama: One of the things DC keeps pointing toward as a success in their efforts at diversity is the new Blue Beetle, which you created, and they're giving him his own comic again. Will there be more chances for you to create other new characters as a writer?

Giffen: Absolutely. DiDio and the editors have said they want to see new characters, and you'll see us doing that on O.M.A.C. and you'll see me doing that elsewhere. Part of our job is to be creative, not just to plunder legacies. Some of these characters still need decent rogues galleries. Some of them need their supporting cast rounded out. And there are new heroes in here. It's about being creative, so you'll see more of that.

O.M.A.C. #2 cover

Nrama: Then to finish up, Keith, is there anything else you want to tell fans about O.M.A.C.?

Giffen: It's going to be a lot of fun to read. We're going in with that kind of attitude. We're having fun. And I've always believed that if the creative team is having fun on a book, then the readers can tell. Paul [Levitz] and I were having fun on the Legion [of Super-Heroes] when we did it, and I think people picked up on that.

But O.M.A.C. is just a big, boisterous, loud book. We're going to move this story along fast, and it's going to be full of new ideas and fun concepts. All I can ask is that people take a look at it. If you like it, great! If not, I'll catch you on the next comic. Just give it a try.

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