When Dynamite teamed up with the Kirby estate to resurrect his creator-owned parties, they started small with one title covering the Kirby-verse as a whole. With names like Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek at the helm, it was easy to see they were taking it seriously.Captain Victory #2 Now, they're expanding with a second title focusing on Captain Victory, the space cop of the Kirby-verse and his team. The new title, by Sterling Gates and Wagner Reis, will be fleshing out a specific corner of the world that Jack Kirby created and Dynamite brought back to life. For more on the new series and its cryptic solicitation, we talked with writer Sterling Gates, and he brought along this exclusive pre-color art you can see below!
Newsarama: Sterling, what drew you to this project, something that may seem to your fans as a little out of your wheelhouse compared to your other work?
Sterling Gates: The idea of creating an all-new comic book universe out of unused Jack Kirby characters and concepts was the draw! Starting something from scratch using blueprints drawn up by Jack “King” Kirby? Such an obvious, fantastic idea. I’m terribly surprised no one had ever done it like this before!
Alex and Kurt’s involvement was a big draw for me, too. Marvels was one of the books I read over and over again in college, and Kurt and Alex both went on to do some of my favorite comics ever, from the Avengers and Astro City to Kingdom Come. They’re modern masters in their own right, and I knew if they spearheaded this universe together, it would be something special.Exclusive Interior Art I also wanted to write something different. It probably sounds really silly, but when DC took me off Supergirl last year, I decided I wanted to write something big that featured a number of male protagonists. When I was writing Supergirl, I made a conscious effort to write an almost completely female cast. Supergirl, Alura, Lana, Cat Grant, Lois, Superwoman, my issues were all about women and their relationships with one another. Coming off that book, I decided that it’d be fun to write a book that was just about men. About a big group of cool dudes, looking to kick some butt and protect the universe. Use a different set of writing muscles, you know?
I had a very, very interesting conversation with Nick Barrucci when he was out in LA last March, and he told me about the Kirbyverse project. After reading Kurt’s big pitch document, I was more interested. However, it wasn’t until I read the old Kirby issues of Captain Victory that I said, “Okay. This stuff is awesome. This is what I want to do, and here’s how I want to do it.” Kurt, Alex, and editor Joseph Rybandt all liked what I pitched them and we were off to the races.
And now that you mention it, I’m not sure it’s that far out of my wheelhouse, really. It’s big, cosmic action with a very character-driven story, similar to my work on War of the Supermen or Last Stand of New Krypton. I’m focusing on fleshing out these cool, new, rarely-seen Jack Kirby-created characters as we move across a bigger picture. Think of those “Spotlight” issues I did in Supergirl starring Alura or Superwoman. We get to see what makes people tick even as the story moves forward.Nrama: This is one of Kirby's earliest non-"big two" works. Is that intimidating or motivating in how you approach the book?
Gates: Not intimidating at all. I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to write Superman and Lex Luthor and Brainiac and General Zod. To me, those guys were intimidating because they probably have the greatest number of reader preconceptions attached to them. Everyone on the planet knows how Superman “should” sound, and that kind of thing can be crippling for a writer. You don’t want to mess that up!
Creators always try to write for themselves, but any good writer also has the audience in mind. If you write an “off” line for Superman or Harry Potter or someone, everybody spots it. If you write an “off” line for Tarin, the Lion-Man, people just accept that that’s what he sounds like, because it’s not like there have been thousands of well-loved stories starring Tarin! Even though there should be, Tarin is freaking awesome.
I’m approaching Captain Victory like I would any other project, though: find the interesting hooks for the characters, come up with an exciting plot, and write to the best of my abilities.
Nrama: Obviously the "space cop" idea has been used quite a bit in different ways in comics. What's similar to some of those other concepts, and what's different?Gates: Well, the Galactic Rangers aren’t the Green Lantern Corps. They have a sense of honor, yes, but they’re far more soldier-like than the Green Lanterns. They’re not going to detain you if you try to shoot them, they’re going to fire right back, and they’re going to shoot to kill. Know what I mean? They’re soldiers doing their best to protect the galaxy from harm, and Captain Victory in particular will go to great lengths to make sure evil doesn’t spread out and overtake everything. As you see in the first issue, he’s willing to go to greater lengths than even his fellow Rangers would like…
Nrama: When updating a concept for today's readers, what do you do to toe the line of using the old style and injecting something of your own?
Gates: Honestly, I can’t write like Kirby, so I’m not trying to. Kirby was big and brash and bold and full of this…this kind of dripping literary hyperbole that seems impossible to duplicate. I love reading his work. Every panel of his Captain Victory series seems to be shouting at you with this lyrical excitement. The style played big back then, but I think comics have changed pretty drastically. The way we write and read comics has changed. Readers don’t seem to respond as well to the crazed narration style that Kirby used. If anything, people read that kind of thing as “retro-pastiche,” and I didn’t want to write the book that way. I wanted to tell these big, space operatic stories using a modern comic style, so that it appeals to any modern reader.Nrama: The solicitations list Alex Ross and yourself both as writers, what was the process of writing the issue like for you?
Gates: Alex and Kurt read all my outlines and scripts and offer the occasional note. They’re the “Keepers of the Kirby Flame,” so to speak, so they want to be sure everything “works” within the greater context of the Kirbyverse. Essentially, that means all my plots are cleared through them, and then I write the script. Everyone seems to be pretty happy with what I’m doing so far, as they’ve been fairly hands-off.
Nrama: The solicitations also somewhat cryptically list you as writer for this "Special first issue." Does that mean you're not doing anything beyond the first?
Gates: I’m on this series for as long as Dynamite will have me. I have a two-year mission and plan for this book, and I mean to see it through.
Nrama: For you, personally, what was Kirby's "secret," or the it-thing that made his concepts and designs so eternal (no pun intended)?Gates: Terrific designs, terrific characters, timeless concepts. There’s a wonderful timeless sci-fi quality to his designs that resonate and echo within people even now. Look at Tron: Legacy, for instance. I think a lot of those designs call back to Kirby’s work far more than to the original movie. Hell, look at Star Wars. There are a few key designs in the original trilogy can be traced directly back to Jack Kirby’s ideas.
Kirby’s a legend, and no one will ever be as prolific and artist or as influential to pop culture.
Nrama: For people who've enjoyed your writing at DC, what in this book will be uniquely Sterling Gates that they can look forward to?
Gates: I like writing big character-centric stories with lots and lots of action. If you’ve read my DC work, you’ve got an idea what my writing is like, and you know I enjoy writing excitement and intrigue and fun and adventure. They hired me to do the book so I could bring those things -- as well as my voice -- to the Kirbyverse table.
I think Captain Victory is going to be a very, very unique book on the shelves, and I’m absolutely honored to be continuing one of Jack Kirby’s most personal stories. I hope everyone gives the first issue a look. I’m extremely proud of it, and think it’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve written!