Comic Wire

Thu, March 1st, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

GIFFEN LOCKS AND LOADS WITH 'SUICIDE SQUAD'

Warning: Adult language in the following article

It almost sounds like just another Internet rumor, a concoction cooked up by comic book fans online: writer Keith Giffen on DC Comics' revival of "The Suicide Squad."

Not this time.

"I just finished the first issue," Giffen told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "It's happening.

"It's launched out of the [summer] annuals. I don't know the exact month," he said. "One or two other books will launch out of this year's annual stunts."

The first reports that Giffen would be bringing the Squad back also competed with reports of who the Squad would feature, none of the stories matching exactly, until one realizes that one squad is the one in the annuals, and the other is the one that Giffen is writing after the story running through the annuals comes to an end.

"It's up to the annual guys to spin their story."

And the annual story belongs to those creators, and "The Suicide Squad" ongoing monthly series belongs to Giffen, and never the twain shall interfere with each other.

"I have to give them a lot of credit, they pretty much gave me a clear playing field other than, here's what you start with, have fun."

Of course, given that Giffen is perhaps best-known for his tongue-in-cheek sitcom tone "Justice League International" series in the early 1990s, some fans are already assuming that his "Suicide Squad" will be along the same lines.

"I don't even think of tone when I start a project," Giffen said. "Each book I've worked on, it's grown its own mood, personality. ... But I did a revamp of the ['the Legion of Super-Heroes'] that was anything but funny.

"Each book is pretty much different. ... Everyone assumes it's going to be mocking, and tongue-in-cheek, and humorous. No. It's not going to be another remake of JLI. I don't remake. I don't want to go back and say 'JLI, take two.' ... At this point, I couldn't tell you what it's going to grow up to be."

Whatever the tone, Giffen has a pretty set idea about what the book will be about, however.

"Same basic idea" as the John Ostrander "Suicide Squad" book from the JLI era. "The same basic 'Dirty Dozen with supervillains' idea," he said. "I hope I'll be able to handle the teams and the missions that they go on in a unique enough way that's not derivative of the old book, or is a slap in the face to it."

And while cabinet secretary Frank Rock -- formerly just known as Sgt. Rock to war comics fans -- will be in charge of the new Squad, don't think that a fellow cabinet secretary and previous Squad commander won't be showing up in the pages of the book.

"For the record, Amanda Waller is one of my favorite characters. I doubt she's going to be out of the picture very long."

[JLA Annual #4]
The new Suicide Squad appeared in this Justice League Annual from 1990 which featured the creation of Justice League Antarctica.
And, as previously reported, Giffen will be using supervillains from his old JLI run in the initial story. And that's about all the spoilers he's willing to give up at this point, more than half a year from the first issue of the new "Suicide Squad" hitting the stands.

Of course, Giffen is under no illusions that the period between now and then will be a honeymoon period. Already online fans are tearing into presumed Giffen "Suicide Squad" ideas and treatments.

"To the people worried about the funny stuff: Lighten the fuck up. They're called 'comic books,'" Giffen said. "For god's sake, I'm just trying to have fun here. They're not real! ... I really appreciate the hardcore fan who supports the book and all, but reality check, you know? Reality check."

Of course, he's been down this road before.

"I lived through Legion fandom. I can live through anything."

In more general terms, Giffen does have some plans for the book, based on what he thinks comics ought to be:

"No stories go longer than two issues, ever. Most stories are one issue, beginning, middle and end," he said. "It's two dollars and change a book. I don't want to force people to spend $10 for a story. ... I don't want to be the guy screwing kids out of their allowance. Comics are meant to be a 10 minute pop. If you can't tell a 22 page story and get the people out of the fucking room, get out of the business, you're hurting me."

That doesn't mean there won't be ongoing plot threads, "but they're not going to be 'part three of a three part epic.'

"I want to get back to something really radical: Accessible comics. I pick up an issue of X-Men, and I don't know what the hell's going on. You need a master's degree in mutants. For a comic book? No way."

Fans of Giffen's work will be in for a bumper crop in the coming year. Among those he can talk about publicly are his involvement with a horror graphic novel for DC/Vertigo, a "Rose and Thorn" miniseries and handling the art chores on an Andy Helfer scripted eight page black and white Batman story for "Detective Comics."

He's also working on the "Static Shock" animated series, doing storyboards.

"I love it, I love it. It's pure storytelling," Giffen said. Milestone founder "Denys Cowan is my director. They're great people. And unlike the comic business, they're kind of glad you're there."

But to many comic readers, Giffen will be best remembered as the writer who gave the Martian Manhunter an Oreos obsession, had Matter Eater Lad dig up the Batcave a thousand years in the future for a reality television program, created Lobo and had Ambush Bug thoroughly (and repeatedly) humiliate Superman and the whole DC Universe.

"I find comics today very humorless, with a few exceptions," Giffen said. "Comics are so deadly serious now. And yet, when you get a bunch of comic professionals together, these are some funny people. ... It doesn't translate to the work. That's something that I don't understand there. There's people out there doing these very serious, grim books, that are the funniest people I know. I'm not saying turn every book into a cavalcade o' laughs. Just lighten up."

And while they're at it, Giffen has some other ways he'd like to change the industry.

"Let's dump continuity. Replace it with consistency," he said. "It just strangles you. It fucking kills ya. ... Just make it consistent. The Green Lantern appearing in the crossover is the same one in the monthly book. It's Kyle Rayner. He's got the same personality. ... Consistency, not continuity."

As for the green-suited superhero-in-his-own-mind who served as Giffen's surrogate for tearing into the comic industry as a whole, "I would go back to Ambush Bug in a second."

In fact, Giffen said, he's got an idea to bring back A. Bug in the vein of "Candide."

"The only thing that's stopping the bug is demand. So demand it!"

Related Information
News Stories
Giffen to write new Suicide Squad Book
Message Boards
DC Comics Message Board

JOHNS ON THE ONCE AND FUTURE HAWKMAN

PREVIEW: 'JSA' #23

[JSA #23]
JSA #23 Preview
Hawkman is coming back. "Back" may not mean exactly what DC Comics fans are expecting, though.

Without giving too much away, in "JSA" #23, the issue in which a character named Hawkman returns to the DC universe, weaves together elements of the Golden Age and Silver Age Hawkman characters, discussing links between the characters in such a way that fans might at first blush think this was just a restating of old bits of the Hawkman legend. Nope, the "JSA" creative team is taking the old and forging something new.

"We like all aspects of the different incarnations of Hawkman," series co-writer Geoff Johns told the Comic Wire on Tuesday, "So we took what we liked and used it the best we could."

Hawkman fans who haven't been reading the new adventures of the Justice Society of America won't need any explanations of who these characters are or what's going on if they pick up the issue to see the Winged Wonder's return.

"It's all explained in #23," Johns said, "Except Hawkgirl is having some personal problems figuring out her place on the JSA."

("Hawkgirl?" out-of-the-loop Hawkman fans might be asking at this point. She too gets explained.)

But while the issue opens with the current Hawkgirl on the planet Thanagar, home of the Silver Age Hawkman, readers shouldn't take that as any indication of who or what this new Hawkman is.

"Yes, the Katar Hol [Silver Age] Hawkman is from Thanagar," Johns said. "OUR new Hawkman is not."

The character will also be joining the JSA after this story, "but his role is not yet clear."

Hawkman fans have waited a long time while the franchise was in limbo, and the first step to the classic character's return is complete, if not yet in the hands of readers.

"After all is said and done we have a great new Hawkman with a simple concept driving the character," Johns said. "It was a blast doing it and you can bet more Hawkman is on the way."

Related Information
Message Boards
JLA/JSA Message Board

THE COMIC BRIEF CONNECTION

Here's what's news and press releases in CBR's Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire:

  • "Green Arrow" #1 sells out before hitting the stands; goes immediately back to press

  • Top Cow releases its 500th comic book in July

  • Team Red Star unveils new Internet content designed exclusively for "Red Star" trade paperback

  • Alex Ross auctions artwork for charity

  • CrossGen Comics now available in Latin America

  • "CrossGen Chronicles" #2 sells out in two days

  • Preview the cover to "X-Force" #117

And for those of you who might have missed it, last time, in the Comic Wire:

  • Layman Gets Funky in Frisco with "Bay City Jive"

  • Millionaire to Do "Sock Monkey" Children's Book

  • Giffen Announces New "Suicide Squad' Project

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