Nicieza Navigates DCU's Backstory in "Trinity"

Thu, April 17th, 2008 at 10:25am PDT | Updated: April 17th, 2008 at 1:31pm

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

Mark Bagley's cover for Trinity #1
Fan favorite writer Fabian Nicieza says he and Kurt Busiek joke that "Trinity" is shaping up to be such an epic adventure that the creative team may need more than 52 issues to complete the forthcoming weekly series.

"The sound you just heard was [artist] Mark [Bagley], [editor] Mike Carlin and [assistant editor] Liz Gehrlein hitting the floor," Nicieza laughingly told CBR News.

"Trinity" - DC's third year-long, weekly event series, which follows up "52" and "Countdown to Final Crisis" - kicks off June 4. Busiek is writing 12-page lead stories showcasing Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman with Nicieza co-writing the backup features with an assortment of players from DCU.

"I'm talking to Kurt more than I talk to my wife and kids, and since I have three female-types running around my house, that's not a bad thing at all," continued Nicieza. "Between comic book conversations, we talk baseball.

"Honestly, Kurt and I are talking almost every day, hashing out all the details of the book from the overall 'superstructure' outline that Kurt created. We know our beginning, middle and end, it is a very solid three act structure, so now on an on-going basis, we have to tweak what will go into the leads, what will be handled in the back-ups, tightening the nuts and bolts on each other's plots and scripts and serving as mutual sounding boards.

Like their superhero counterparts, the trinity of Nicieza, Busiek and Bagley have a long history of working together. Nicieza wrote "New Warriors," a 1990 spinoff of "The Mighty Thor," that was drawn by Mark Bagley. In 1997, Busiek and Bagley launched "Thunderbolts" at Marvel. When Busiek left the title in 2000 after #33, Nicieza took over writing duties and worked with Bagley for another 15 issues.

"As far as Mark is concerned, it's been great to rekindle regular contact with him, as well," said the Argentina-born writer. "We've been friends for 20 years, but the majority of our contact comes when we work together. We don't go to as many cons now, so we don't see each other in person as much, but it was great seeing him at our initial 'Trinity' planning meetings.

"Plus, he's a grandfather now, so he can't move around as much as he used to. Propping him up in front of a drawing board is pretty much all he's physically capable of doing.

"Mark and I have pretty much been there for each other since our beginning as professionals, and I've always been a tremendous fan of his work and his work ethic, so it's a lot of fun to work with him again, even though we're not exactly working together. It's been even more fun seeing him handle the DCU. There's a dynamic spark to his pages right now and I think it comes from the rush of exploring something new within the context of a ridiculously challenging assignment."

To date, Nicieza has worked with the art teams of Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher and Mike Norton and Jerry Ordway on "Trinity."

"They have all produced dynamic stuff in different styles," said Nicieza. "Depending on the tone and setting of the story, science fiction, magic or street-based story, you'll get different looks that suit the needs of the story."

Nicieza said he and Busiek are probably not as far along as his editors would like, but not as far behind as they could be.

"We've knocked a couple months out already and we're working on the third month's worth of issues now," offered Nicieza. "I have the luxury of multiple artists available for the back-up stories, so I could be working on three or four issues at once."

Carlos Pacheco's triptych of covers for Trinity #4-6

In terms of a working arrangement, while both are writing separate parts of "Trinity," Nicieza and Busiek talk through everything

"I plot it out, he tweaks. We get the art, I script, he tweaks then I tweak his tweaks. We don't share one mind, so there are plenty of things we do differently, from panel pacing to dialogue, but we've worked together enough over the last couple years on Superman that we both understand and respect the similarities and differences in our approaches," said Nicieza, who has filled-in and co-wrote a number of issues for both "Superman" and "Action Comics" in recent years.

"On the leads, Kurt and I talk through everything, he sends me the plots and I make comments when necessary," he continued. "Between Kurt, Mike Carlin and me, we have a lot of editorial experience, so once in a while it's a 'too many cooks' situation, but 95 per cent of the time it's just solid professionals covering each others' butts and getting into a very good working rhythm."

Nicieza said his backup features are essential to the storytelling in "Trinity" and the two parts work more as "two halves" of the book.

"The backup stories are a totally necessary part of the greater whole," said Nicieza. "A big story involving the Big Three that spans the DCU from science to magic to seemingly small-time museum thefts will naturally have repercussions on other characters.

SPOILERS!

Nicieza also provided CBR News with an in-depth look at some early plot points for "Trinity" and which DC characters will be moving said plot points along.

"It's been a combination of everything in just the first eight issues, from side-stories that begin to develop the villains in #1 to an all-out action with an alien in #2 that slides directly into the #3 lead, to a multi-issue story that introduces a brand new character named Tarot in #3-5, to Hawkman investigating museum robberies in #6," teased Nicieza. "That's how it'll go throughout the run of the series. The back-up is actually a second - or side - chapter that sometimes provides the glue to the events of the lead, sometimes a little spackle to cover some things they didn't have room for in the lead, sometimes we're swinging like Tarzan on story threads being dangled by the lead, for example we introduce a new character in the back-up in "Trinity" #3 named Tarot, who becomes very important to all parties concerned, the Trinity and the bad guys, whom we call the Troika in the plot just for the sake of differentiating them from Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

"So she has to be found before the Troika manages to use her powers for their plans. Who is looking for her? Why, it's Hawkman and Ga... well, let's just say a returned and retooled DCU character. That subplot becomes its own story thread that we can follow in the backups while also focusing on other stuff as well, such as why is the Gotham Underground robbing museums all over the world? And what's crawled up John Stewart's butt?

In #2, Nicieza said Green Lantern's irritability has something to do with a rampaging alien by the name of Konvikt, who is dead set on destroying a 'very nice' New England town."

"Good luck with that, John," quipped Nicieza, who also shared the flashpoint for "Trinity" - an unlikely alliance between three villains who see an opportunity to snatch and wield a tremendous amount of lingering power gestating in the DCU.

"In order to attain this power, they have to either get the Trinity out of the way or get them under control. As the Trinity and Earth's heroes realize what's going on, they organize in a big way to investigate and stop the villains' plans," said Nicieza.

"I like to think of it this way: DC heroes don't react, they act, so they become very proactive in identifying then stopping the villains, right up front. You won't have to wait until issue #50 for the big plans to be revealed. The readers - and the heroes - will know very early on."

Nicieza shared a few more DCU characters that he'd be playing with early in the series: Green Lantern, Firestorm, Nightwing, Robin and Oracle.

"I really pushed for Hawkman during our story meetings, since he is a character I have wanted to write for a long time," said Nicieza. "And I am using Nightwing and Robin, which I hadn't initially expected, but was more than happy to write again.

As for those who he'd still like to add to the "Trinity" mix, Nicieza said he would love to use Atom - be it Ray Palmer, Ryan Choi or both.

"Ironically enough, I'd love to write Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but go figure, they're in the lead," laughed Nicieza.

"I would also love to play around with Ragman if I can, since he's been one of my favorite 'unexplored' characters since I saw those Joe Kubert covers on the 7-Eleven racks in the '70s. I know we get a surprising peek at him early on but I don't know if his thread will play out in the lead or backup yet.

Ragman, a homo magi, is a member of Shadowpact. He possesses a suit that is made of the corrupted souls that he has eliminated and can draw from their collective powers.

"Geez, there are so many DCU characters I want to write, but they need to be appropriate to this story. As much as I want a crack at the Metal Men, I don't see them fitting into 'Trinity.' Oh wait, they do appear in the lead, sort of," he teased.

Nicieza said it's a rush to be working on such an important and "ridiculously challenging assignment" for DC Comics.

"I'm beyond thrilled, at this point in my career in comics, with as many notches as I have on my belt in terms of comics written and comics sold, some good work and some not-so-good work, to be offered something so incredibly exciting and challenging to work on. It gets my competitive and creative juices going," said Nicieza.

"I don't work on comic books everyday of my work week anymore, but ever since I started getting steadier work from DC last year, I look towards the comic writing time with renewed energy and a desire to do right by a company that has shown trust and support for my work."

Beyond "Trinity," if that is even possible on such a massive undertaking, Nicieza is writing "Captain Action" for Moonstone, a job he secured by participating in an open call for story pitches. The series, featuring the adventures of a 1960s' action figure-inspired master of disguise, begins in April.

He is also writing a five-part "Batman Confidential" arc with art by Kevin Maguire, which begins with #17 in May.

"It's a lot of fun and will include a completely pathetic attempt to get sales and word of mouth by featuring an extended all-naked catfight in #18," laughed Nicieza. "As the father of two daughters, I must say I'm not very proud of this, but I blame Kevin, even though he absolutely didn't want to do the scene and I vetoed him."

As stated earlier, Nicieza also does lots of 'non-comics' work with Starlight Runner Entertainment as a writer for their "Hot Wheels" line of DVDs, TV shows and comics.

"Once we get the snowball rolling downhill on 'Trinity,' maybe there will be some more projects I can do with DC, we'll see," said Nicieza. "But once 'Trinity,' is finished, I am going to sleep. For one night, at least, then back to work."

Now discuss this story on CBR's DC Comics forum.

TAGS:  dc comics, fabian nicieza, kurt busiek, mark bagley

 
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