In a month where DC Comics did quite a few things nobody expected, it may not seem that outrageous that two artists were given the task of writing a relaunch for The Flash in September.
Yet when superstar writer Geoff Johns announced last spring that he was leaving The Flash, few would have suspected what DC would decide about replacing him.
They decided to just let the comic's penciler and colorist start writing it.
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, who were the art team on The Flash earlier this year, are now also teamed up as writers for the title, introducing the world to a new Barry Allen for a relaunched universe. The two are still producing art for the book, but they're doing it while also collaborating on plot and dialogue.
Now that the DCnU is into its second month, Newsarama is checking back with some of the writers who guided the relaunch of the publisher's books.
In this first installment of a two-part interview with Manapul and Buccellato, the two co-writers are able to talk a little more freely about their vision for Barry Allen, and responded to fan fears about whether they'll be able to hit their deadlines.
Newsarama: Brian and Francis, you were talking a little in the Justice League panel about how you feel like you two have an advantage, because you're doing both art and writing on this book. Is the benefit of that approach that you can really integrate the two?
Francis Manapul: Yeah, it's a much more integrated process. And I do think we're in a fortunate position to be co-writing, drawing and coloring the book. We're able to really utilize every aspect of the art to tell the story.
Brian Buccellato: We aren't interpreting someone else's script, so there's no gap between the story and the art. It's integrated from the idea, all the way through colors. So I think that gives us an advantage, especially with the visuals.
Nrama: What's the process as you two work together on this?
Buccellato: We work out the story together, then we write a plot. We break it down by page, but not necessarily panel by panel yet. Then once we get that back from editorial with their notes, we actually go to layouts. And once the layouts are done, I actually integrate them into the plot.Then we do the dialogue on top of that. And then once he starts doing the pages, we finish the dialogue.
Nrama: OK, I understand tweaking the dialogue to go with the art. But you said you "integrate" the layouts into the script. Can you explain that?
Manapul: Usually, when the editors get the script, it's a traditional plot. It's just a general direction of where we're going with that issue.
Once I start doing the layout, I'm beginning to actually tell the story in a visual way. So I'm adjusting the plot a little here and
there to fit with the visual structure of how we can best tell this story.
Nrama: So you're doing the layout and thinking, "we're going to need more of this, and less of that...."
Manapul: Exactly. Sometimes the plot that we initially give the editor will literally just say "they enter a room and stuff starts
happening." And that part of the story gets further defined as I'm doing the layouts.
Then of course, with the dialogue, it allows us to really match the art to what's being said. We're able to really control every step of the way.It's a lot of control. It's rewarding. But it's a lot more work.
Nrama: Long hours?
Buccellato: And he has the added disadvantage that he's not just penciling it, but he's inking and doing an ink wash. He's doing all that. He's not sleeping a lot.
Nrama: We've heard that DC has really tight deadlines now. Even Dan DiDio has said publicly that if artists can't meet monthly deadlines, they're going to get a fill-in. Is that a lot of pressure?
Buccellato: We're ahead! We're way ahead. The art on issue #4 is completely finished.
Manapul: I hope we've proven to both DC and the fans that we're staying on top of this.
And even though we're being given these tight deadlines, we're hitting all of them.
Nrama: Let's talk about Barry Allen as you portrayed him in this first issue. He has such a long history, but you seemed to come up with a unique and compelling way to introduce him. How did you decide upon the approach for the character?
Manapul: When I started, I read a lot of the old Showcase books to really try to capture what it was that drew people to Barry Allen.
Reading those old books, it had a very positive feeling.
What's interesting about Barry Allen's perception among fans is that a lot of people think he's "old-school." But in reality, the only thing old-school about him is his idealism. His optimism. Right?
So he's this very black and white type of hero, and he's been thrust into this world that's gray.
We decided to play with that. I mean, that sort of theme doesn't get old. The heart is the same, but we're putting it in a very modern setting.
Buccellato: And we just made sure that we had a clear vision of where Barry is going. We want to show his journey in this story, but we had to back up from that result to begin this story. And I think that's important as you approach a character.For us, introducing Barry was about arcing the trajectory of his character.
Nrama: So do you think people are drawn to a hero who has a clear sense of right and wrong?
Buccellato: I think there's room for all types of heroes, but I also think that sometimes these things go in cycles. We went through a period where the anti-hero and tortured hero were prevalent, and it's because they were unique at the time that they captured the imagination of readers. But now, I think people see a noble hero as something special. We want somebody who will do the right things because they're the right things, and maybe we don't need to know that deep down he's tortured.
Manapul: And you know, I think of Barry Allen as a comic book version of us. He's this nerdy comic book guy who happens to have superpowers.
If you had that, the first thing you would say, no matter how down you are, you'd say, "this is awesome!" And that's how we feel about writing the book.So when we're writing the comic, we're very aware of how awesome it is. "This is so much fun!"
Buccellato: And just like us, Barry is aware of how awesome this is!
I think that's the fun of it. And I think that's what people are responding to already, after one issue.
Check back tomorrow when we hear more from Manapul and Buccellato about The Flash, including talk of Keystone and Central City, what comes next in the comic, and the upcoming appearance of a certain treadmill.