With the highly-anticipated, long in gestation "DC Universe Online" (DCUO) massively multiplayer online game hitting stores this week, CBR News connected with Marv Wolfman ("New Teen Titans") and Tony Bedard ("Green Lantern Corps"), the writers of DC Comics' upcoming bi-weekly series, "DC Universe Online Legends." The 26-issue maxi-series kicks off February 2 and details the story of Lex Luthor cutting a deal with Brainiac that not only destroys Superman, but perhaps ends humanity as we know it.
Wolfman, who wrote the DCUO game storyline along with DCU Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and Bedard shared their thoughts on the differences between the game and the comic, which superheroes and supervillains will be major players in the series and who will make some surprising cameos, as well. (Were you really expecting to see Accomplished Perfect Physician?)
CBR News: First things first, are you both gamers? And if so, have you had a chance to play "DC Universe Online?"
Marv Wolfman: I've been a gamer since the first arcade games, to ColecoVision, to PC games, to the PS2, X-Box 360 and PS3. I've played the Beta version of the game and can't wait to get started on the full game.
Tony Bedard: I wasn't a gamer for years, and still wouldn't consider myself one, although my wife would tell you I spend way too much time on "Call of Duty." Of course, I play that on the Wii, which doesn't do much for my gamer cred. But I am increasingly interested in the storytelling possibilities of games. As for the "DC Universe Online" game, I had an opportunity to visit the Sony offices in Austin and try out the game as it was being developed. I had a great time running wild in Gotham, wailing on everyone I ran into, friend or foe.
Marv, you wrote the game's story along with Geoff Johns. How closely is the story within the comic series tied to the events revealed within the game?
Wolfman: The comic is not the events in the game; that would be redundant. In the game, the players make their own stories, which is what MMOs do best. We can't assume the player's storyline as one player will be different from the next. Instead, we're playing off the hero and villain stories, Luthor's story. Brainiac's, Superman's, Batman's, etc. We're showing the story if you were to primarily follow the DC heroes only and not have your own adventures. On the other hand, we will be using new heroes created by Brainiac's exobytes, too.
What's an exobyte?
Wolfman: Exobytes are tiny, nano bug-like things that absorb our heroes' powers and dispatch them to the player characters. We saw them at the end of the first trailer.
Tony, how did you come to be involved in this project? Did Marv have to bring you up to speed, or have you been involved in this long enough to watch the story evolve organically?
Bedard: I was invited on the project by [DCU Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio almost two years ago, while everything was still early in development. Over that time we've discussed doing the comics adaptation of the game in a variety of ways. It's been a real education for me trying to stay in sync with the long and unpredictable process of producing a game like this.
Are the superheroes and supervillains presented as they would be in the DCU proper, or are these alternate versions? For instance, my understanding is that Lex Luthor's motivation might not be quite what readers/players expect.
Wolfman: My belief is these are the DCU characters as we've known, put under extraordinary and dire circumstances. Superman has never had to face this sort of peril before. Luthor has helped cause the destruction of everything even he holds dear. It's the DCU characters brought to the extreme and also filled with, I hope, many surprises. Tony, editor Ben Abernathy and I are trying to surprise the readers in almost every issue, creating situations they did not anticipate.
Bedard: While not everything in the game exactly mirrors the current continuity in the comics, it's basically the DCU we all know and love.
What can you tell us about the storyline? Does the storyline shift back and forth between future and present?
Wolfman: The story goes back and forth to the future only for the first arc, then it's completely in the present, until -- well, I can't reveal that.
Bedard: If you've seen that great computer-animated video that sets up the online game, you'll have a big clue as to why we jump back and forth between the present and the future.
From the preview, it doesn't look like things are going so well for Superman (or Captain Cold for that matter). Does he play a role in the comic book series?
Wolfman: Superman plays a major focus in the story, and what he does should pretty much shock anyone who's ever read Superman comics. Earth's gone to hell and Superman has to do things he never might have before.
Bedard: As important as Superman is to the story, Lex Luthor may be even more so. We spend a lot of time with the villains in this tale, and it really gets interesting at a certain point where the distinction between heroes and villains kind of doesn't matter anymore. The online game gives players a chance to play either side of that divide, and we're having fun in the comic with both heroes and villains.
There are more than 100 characters featured in the game. Is your cast equally extensive? Who are the major players in the comic series?
Wolfman: There are lots of characters and more to come, but I have no idea how many. We're trying to tell a really great and surprising story, so cast is added and removed as needed. We're only almost halfway through, so the final tally is unknown.
Bedard: I'm totally enjoying this opportunity to use so many characters. I have my own favorites, like Mr. Freeze or Solomon Grundy that I've thrown in the story already. I even put the Great Ten in there since I enjoyed doing their miniseries so much. There's a certain freedom to a comic like this, where we can do things with characters that we probably couldn't get away with in a regular DCU title. It keeps things very interesting.
Is there any one character you've really enjoyed writing, one that you think readers should specifically be excited to see when he or she arrives on the scene?
Wolfman: I love writing Superman especially when he's not acting like everyone presupposes Superman should act. I also love writing Luthor. So for me those would be the answers.
Bedard: The big guns like Superman and Batman are always fun, but getting to write guys like Atom and Aquaman is often even more fun for me.
The series is solicited for 26 issues. Is there a finite story being told in the series or could it be expanded, like the game?
Wolfman: The story we're telling takes 26 issues. Since the game goes on, the comic could, too. But it would have to be a completely different story we're telling. But if this proves popular I know I would love to do more. It is absolutely great to be writing back in the DCU again after doing all the slightly outside the universe stories I've been doing.
Does the bi-weekly format enhance the type of story you can tell? Are there any major limitations?
Wolfman: No limitations except having to make sure you never miss a deadline, which I don't often do anyway. And working with Tony and Ben means we're sparking ideas in each other. No downsides that I can see.
Bedard: Yeah, I'd have to say that this project actually has more opportunities than limitations. At least from the writing side of things. Our biggest challenge is just to keep surprising each other so that we can surprise the readers. The tricky part of a bi-weekly is for the artists. We have to work with several artists, like they did on "52," so it's a challenge for Ben to coordinate them all -- but I think he's up to it.
You mentioned the artists, so I'd be remiss if we didn't mention at least the ones we know so far: Howard Porter, Adriana Melo, Norman Lee and Livesay. What can we expect from the folks involved, because based on preview, it doesn't appear that quality was sacrificed for speed?
Wolfman: That's more of a Ben Abernathy question. I've loved the art I've seen so far. How he's doing it on our schedule is beyond me, but he is.
Bedard: Personally, I'm thrilled to be working with Howard Porter again. I was associate editor on his "JLA" run back in the day, so the chance to write for him is a joy. Howard's a great guy and though I don't see him as much as I'd like, I consider him a good friend and a tremendous talent.
"DC Universe Online Legends" #1 hits stores on February 2. "DC Universe Online" is available in stores now.