STERLING GATES Expands HAWK & DOVE Mythology for the DCnU


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For writer Sterling Gates, it's a little surreal.

Not only is he getting to launch a comic for two favorite characters, Hawk and Dove, but he's working with the superstar artist who helped develop them more than 20 years ago, Rob Liefeld.

Gates, whom DC readers know best for his work on Supergirl and the current Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost, will pick up the story of Hawk and Dove after they were featured in the recent limited series Brightest Day. The comic will follow the adventures of Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, the DC characters known as Hawk and Dove, as they fight crime utilizing powers as the avatars of "war" and "peace."

Hawk and Dove will also introduce these characters to new readers, using Gates' brand of high-action plots with character-focused stories. The crime-fighting pair will set up their home base in Washington, D.C., and try to prevent a civil war while adjusting to their new status in the DCnU.

But Gates hopes to take the concept of Hawk and Dove much further, building their mythology as he introduces other avatars and how their powers work in the DCnU.

Newsarama talked with Gates to find out more about the series and how he ended up working with Rob Liefeld.

Newsarama: Sterling, before we talk about anything else, give readers an introduction to the type of comic that Hawk and Dove will be. What's the tone and general description of the comic?

Sterling Gates: Thematically, Hawk and Dove is all about balance. Hawk and Dove are the living avatars of the gods of war and peace, doing their best to keep the world from falling into a warlike state. How they go about that, how they get along with one another, and what each of them brings to their team-up is what we’re going to be exploring in the book.

Tonally, it’s very much in line with my other comic work: big superhero action with very character-driven stories.

Nrama: How did this job on Hawk and Dove come about?

Gates: Last summer, my phone rang and Rob Liefeld was on the other end. And he said, "DC wants me to do Hawk and Dove post-Brightest Day. I told them there's one person I wanted to write it, and that person is you."

And I was like, "Hahaha, Rob. Very funny, but I need to get back to work."

But he was serious. He really wanted me on the book!

At that point, "War of the Supermen" had just come out in comic shops. Rob said he really liked what we’d done with that event, and that he was a big fan of my work on Supergirl. He wanted to see what I would do on Hawk and Dove.

I thought a lot about it, and Rob and I talked it over some at San Diego last year. Then Bob Harras called me up and said he wanted to talk to me about the ideas I'd come up with for Hawk and Dove. I had a long conversation with Bob and Eddie Berganza, where I told them where I wanted to take Hawk & Dove and what I wanted to do with them. They liked what they heard, so then we were up and running!

I've got to say, Rob's energy and enthusiasm for projects is infectious. The man just radiates excitement about comic books, and he really got me hyped up to do this project. Talking to him gave me this amazing creative energy that I poured into the concept, and I'm really happy with the project.

Nrama: It sounds like you're going to be exploring some new concepts with the characters. Can you tell us anything about what's new?

Gates: Yeah, we're really having fun with the concepts behind Hawk and Dove, and really trying to dig into not only who they are, but what they are. I always thought the world of Hawk and Dove was interesting, but it felt at times slightly confined. Small in some ways. We're going to open their world up a little more and really delve into their mythology while still using their relationship to one another as our touchstone.

For example, the avatars of war and peace are embedded in Hawk and Dove, and the avatars give them their abilities. One of the first questions I asked when I first started talking to Rob about these characters was, "Are there other avatars?" Rob always had the idea that there should be. After he and I talked some more, we decided to make that a huge part of this run.

Hawk and Dove were created as a balance to one another. They were created as two sides of a coin. The terms were popularized in America around the time of the Vietnam War, because you were either pro-war -- a "hawk" -- or pro-peace -- a "dove." That's not what their characters are about anymore, but I find the idea fascinating now, that one person on your team is all war, and the other person is about finding the value of peace in the world.

We'll be exploring the relationship between what each side of this coin does to the other. Does Hawk's relationship with Dove make her more prone to violence, and is Dove keeping Hawk's violence in check? What does that relationship look like? Obviously, “war” and “peace” are two ideas that easily introduce conflict in any relationship.

I’m also approaching writing comics a little differently now. I'm no longer doing long arcs anymore, where you pick up a comic and find out it's the third part of a five-issue story. I'm trying to take into account new readers and doing semi-standalone stories in each issue, and each issue will be a piece of a larger puzzle I’m crafting. Yeah, I'll still be planting seeds for a bigger overarching story and keeping subplots boiling, but it's not going to be done in "Part 1-of-19”-style story arcs.

That way, each issue feels like it matters and has an importance to it.

Nrama: Solicitations say Hank and Dawn will be trying to prevent a civil war in the United States. So is the Hawk and Dove home base still Washington, D.C.?

Gates: Yeah, Washington, D.C., is Hawk and Dove’s home base. The first few issues take place in Washington. Later in the first year, Hawk and Dove leave the next and go out into the greater DCU, but I want to establish the characters in their home city before we take them out.

It helps that Hawk can’t fly, too. Flying’s not one of his powers, and Dawn doesn’t want to carry him two hundred miles to the next big city! [laughs]

Nrama: Can you tell us anything about the supporting cast or the villains they'll face?

Gates: You're going to see a lot of new characters with different abilities spring up to go against Hawk and Dove, and many of them are connected to that idea of accessing the avatars of war and peace.

There will also be some appearances by Deadman, although he's not a main character by any means. But he'll be involved to some degree because I thought the relationship between Dove and Deadman was so interesting during Brightest Day, and I wanted to take elements of it forward in my book.

Nrama: Is it kind of surreal getting to work with Rob?

Gates: Honestly? It's bizarre! I’m so, so happy to be working with him. I was just a kid when Rob was drawing New Mutants, which was my favorite Marvel book behind Art Adams and Ann Nocenti’s Longshot miniseries. Then he transformed New Mutants into X-Force, then that became my favorite Marvel book! And I loved X-Force. Rob’s such a prolific creator, creating characters like Deadpool and Cable. Oh, and Shatterstar -- another one of my favorite Marvel characters. He created so many of the characters I've followed since I was young, so to be working with him is amazing and surreal all at once.

It's a hell of a lot of fun too, because Rob's art retains the flavor that it had in the early '90s, but it’s changed enough that it feels new and different. And he's going back to characters I think he has a real passion for. He created this Dove -- Dawn Granger -- along with Barbara and Karl Kesel back in the 1988 mini-series.

Nrama: And I noticed the costume hasn't changed at all in more than 20 years!

Gates: Yeah, it's Rob's design. Hawk’s design has changed slightly so there’s more grey in his costume than white, but their designs are pretty much the Steve Ditko-inspired designs they've always been.

One thing we are tweaking, though, is the transformation. It’s an entirely new take on when Hank and Dawn change into Hawk and Dove. You'll have to wait and see what that looks like, though.

Nrama: Were you already a fan of Hawk and Dove before you heard about the chance to write the characters?

Gates: I was. The Kesels did a great Hawk and Dove series that ended in Armageddon 2001, the long-forgotten 1991 DC Comics Annual crossover. I was reading those all along. And when Armageddon happened and Hank Hall became Monarch and the characters went away, I was crushed! I liked Hawk and Dove, and the Kesels has a really interesting take on them and a really cool story for them.

I was extremely excited to see them show up in Blackest Night and later become the focal point in Brightest Day. They're characters in the DCU that I really love, and now they’re going to be starring in a brand-new series drawn by Rob Liefeld! This project is full circle for Rob, and I can’t wait for people to see how spectacular the artwork is.

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