According to most DC comics in the publisher's "New 52," superheroes have only been around for five years.
But readers of Paul Cornell's comics know better.
As introduced in the pages of Cornell's Stormwatch — and reinforced in his Demon Knights title — there have been superpowered beings on the planet for generations before costumed "heroes" started showing up.
They just operated in secret.
Working with artist Miguel Sepulveda, Cornell has established a new Stormwatch team by combining new faces with a few revamps of well-known characters. Perhaps the most interesting for long-time comic fans is the inclusion of characters that were previously printed under the WildStorm imprint, which was just recently merged with DC for the relaunch.
Now that Stormwatch #3 is being released this week, Newsarama talked to Cornell for this first installment of our two -part interview (check back for our Demon Knights interview later).Newsarama: You have so many concepts going on in this comic!
Paul Cornell: It's kind of packed, isn't it?
Nrama: And it doesn't seem to have slowed down in the second issue.
Cornell: Or indeed the third. We kind of take twists and turns all through the first six issues. It's the most insane book I've ever worked on. And at the end of the sixth issue — which I just finished — I think people will look back and go, "Oh! I see the pattern now! That makes sense."
Nrama: Both of your new titles seem to be the place where the DCnU's history is being established.
Nrama: They're giving you a lot of power here, Paul!
Cornell: [laughs] I think it's all relative. This will last until I use my power for evil.
You know, we have this lovely historical spine throughout the DCU now. Thank goodness we actually have it all sorted out. We have documents going back and forth. We all know what we're doing. And we've got one nice, solid, as-yet-unrevealed spine linking the two books.
The foundations have been put down so we all know what we're doing.
Nrama: When you're telling this much history, you're obviously going to be bumping up against other books, and particularly Demon Knights. But will we see interaction with other books?
Nrama: So this "spine" that you're establishing for your two books will also build some basis for other books?
Cornell: To some slight degree. That is to say, one of the brilliant thing about the New 52 is that the books are all pretty spaced out from each other. You can just read one.
I think that ability to just read one actually encourages you more to read the others, than if they were all tremendously interlinked. I think looking for links is a holdover from the old universe, you know?
Yeah, sure, we lay down a historical spine that could apply to all sorts of things, but equally, I'm sure that the DC Universe will continue to be lots and lots of separate books at this point, because honestly, wouldn't you want to luxuriate in that for as long as possible? I think the readers luxuriate in that as well.
Demon Knights and Stormwatch are very much bolted together. They are fused at the hip. Even so, you really don't need to read one to enjoy the other.
Nrama: But surely you have to research what's going on in the other New 52 books, don't you? Because this ties together different plot threads in the DCU, especially from Superman #1, which you specifically call out.
Cornell: That was something we were specifically asked to do.
There are a couple of things that have been pretty solidly laid down in the early days of Stormwatch that will apply to all sorts of things.
But it's not all going to be as big as the Horne.
With the Horne, you'll see an ending for that item, or at least another point in its journey, right at the end of this arc.
Nrama: This thing that they're digging up, that's buried "deep within the earth," has been hinted at in the last couple issues. Is that related to the Horne? Does this all go together?
Cornell: Some of this goes together. The Scourge of Worlds, the thing that took over the Moon, is very much related to the Horne. What the characters are about to discover buried within the earth is more related to something else.
Nrama: Any hint what's buried beneath the earth?
Cornell: The slumbering something that's buried beneath the earth is very much related to Demon Knights.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the Shadow Cabinet?Cornell: That one has to be dead to join. They've been around for a very long time, actually longer than Stormwatch had.
Nrama: At the center of this story is a new character named Adam One, and he's been around since the Big Bang but is now aging in reverse. How in the world would you describe a character who's been around since the Big Bang? At the very least, it's clear that most readers don't like him.
Cornell: Good! I think he becomes slightly more unlikeable as we go. He's a Boltzmann Brain. The theory goes that — and this will not appear in the comic at all — unless I do a Warren Ellis-style aside at some point about it — but as the theory goes, if we live in a genuinely infinite universe, there will, at some point, simply spring into existence intelligences. And that first moment after the universe was born would be a good moment for them. So he is one of those individuals, one of those people. He was formed simply out of sheer chance in the first moment of cosmic expansion. Or perhaps out of order — there may have been a great purpose behind it. Who knows?
He's been aging backwards ever since, perhaps because he got on the wrong end of that moment when time stopped being a dimension of space and became something a bit different.
I'm talking a fantastic game here, but none of this will show up in the title.
But I suppose it's worth noting that he's quite young now, which is a bit scary for everyone involved, because everybody thinks that his age is an index of where the universe is going.
And of course, he's forgotten almost everything. He thinks he should be in charge, because somebody has put him in charge, and because he used to know everything that might make it very good that he was in charge. But he doesn't know that anymore.
And he's somebody all-important in the DC Universe.
Nrama: Wow, that's a big statement. And he's obviously knowledgeable about the Shadow Cabinet, having encountered them over time, right?
Cornell: I think it's safe to say that, since we already know the Shadow Cabinet are in charge, and Adam's the leader of Stormwatch, somebody must have put him in that place. And that's the nature of that.
Nrama: With Martian Manhunter, there were some questions about his power limits after the first issue saw him bettered by Midnighter, but you certainly cleared that up with the second issue.
Cornell: Yeah. Oh ye of little faith. I always have to ask people to wait for it, you know. People say, "Oh, he couldn't have done that." I know! I know!
As for his powers, I've kept them almost exactly the same. His shape-changing is a bit more enormous.
Nrama: We heard from one of your characters that Marian Manhunter was once on the Justice League. Will we find out more about that in this comic, or perhaps in Justice League?Cornell: Yes, Apollo mentioned something about that. And you'll find out the story behind that in, I believe, issue #5 or #6.
Nrama: You have a lot of re-introduced characters and new characters in the comic. Has one emerged that has surprised you how much you enjoy the character?
Cornell: I've fallen for the Projectionist. There's something about the wry and ironic way that she does her acting. She's just got such a sigh in her voice. Do you remember Hong Kong Phooey?
Cornell: Do you remember Spot the cat, who would always sigh? Like, huehhhhhm. It's a little like Kif in Futurama. The Projectionist is always going, "huehhhhhm."
So sometimes an artist will direct you in one direction, and you'll just start writing to that.
And I don't think Jenny has done much yet. I'm looking forward to the chance of doing more with her.
With so many characters in the book, it's really a question of just making sure everybody will get their chance somewhere down the line.
And at the end of issue #6, I think the shape will become obvious as to what we've done.
It's a bit high speed at the moment, but we're drawing something, and hopefully, at the end of issue #6, everyone will be able to step back and understand what this is.
Nrama: Will we ever see the poor Fox again?
Cornell: Yeah! [laughs] I think it's always going to be the Fox. I think the Projectionist just picks on him.
Nrama: We've seen in solicitations that Stormwatch is going to lose a couple members, and I think we can all guess who at least one of those characters might be.
Cornell: Yeah, I think it's a little bit obvious from the preview pages that are out there that Harry is not entirely working on the side with everyone else. He's the Eminence of Blades, and to be a great swordsman, one has to be an absolute expert in misdirection.
And I love all the people out there who are saying, "Oh, but if he's really, really good at misdirection, and the Midnighter is really, really good about tactics in the moment, wouldn't a fight between those two be fantastic?"
Yes, yes it would.
Nrama: I remember you being quoted in an early interview, when someone asked you about whether the team had an archnemisis, you said he'll appear early on, and readers won't know. I'm curious whether Harry will emerge as a bigger threat?
Cornell: I think that's a question where I'll have to say to keep reading.
Nrama: It's interesting that you use existing WildStorm characters, but there are several new characters as well. What was the idea behind bringing in so many new characters and concepts with the existing WildStorm and DC characters?
Cornell: We didn't want to just repeat what had been done before, but wanted to bring something fresh and new into this series.
And I do want to counter a perception that seems to be out there: If we change something, that doesn't mean we thought there was something wrong with the old version. Some people seem to think it's like we're doing up an old house and finding the bits that didn't work and putting new bits in. Some of it might be like that. But a lot of it is because we're starting anew, and we might as well have some fun.
These are not holy relics. So, for example, Apollo's got a whole new swage — I just invented that word... see, I can do it with words too — of new powers. Basically anything that fits with his power set.
WildStorm was never particularly about the powers anyway. It didn't depend upon the minutiae of the "Who's Who" entry. Because, honestly, how would you do that for Jack? How does he do that?
I can't remember the question now. See? I'm a little like Adam One myself. That's why I write him like that. He's the me I don't like.
Nrama: It's interesting that you bring up the difficulty explaining the minutiae of their powers, because I've seen you describing Stormwatch as being more about science, while Demon Knights is about magic. Are you trying to base the Stormwatch powers more in science?
Cornell: Yes. It's the science fiction compromise. Following Warren Ellis' lead, everything in Stormwatch does depend on science, but it might be a science that we don't understand yet. So I'm doing the very old science fiction thing of saying, "Yes, it is science, but at the moment, it's indistinguishable from magic."
Nrama: There have been a lot of concepts introduced from the former WildStorm Universe, and we've seen things that are familiar to people who have read comics like The Authority and Stormwatch, like Century Babies and other concepts. Will we see more things from the WildStorm Universe, and more explanations of their new existence in the DCU?
Cornell: Sort of. A lot of online discussions have said, "Well, we don't know who these characters are now." Well, no, indeed, but that's because this is a new series. These might as well be new characters, and we're starting at the beginning of the story. At the start of most stories, you don't get an enormous amount of info about who everybody is. You're meant to gradually work this out as the story goes along.
I think people still have half their heads in the old universe, you know?
So yes, we will learn more about these concepts and characters. It's a story. Hold on. It's coming.
Nrama: You've established that this team is functioning in secret, rather arrogantly, while superheroes are doing the more public fighting. Is it inevitable that Stormwatch will eventually bump up against the Justice League?
Cornell: Oh yeah. That's what the whole title's about, isn't it? That's the dirty great thing we've got hanging over us always. And that's how it should be. That's the tension. That's the set-up.