Greg Rucka: Supergirl, Checkmate & Gotham Cops...Oh My!

Mon, February 13th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

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Greg Rucka knows how to keep busy. In 2005, the books he wrote included "Adventures of Superman," "Wonder Woman," "Gotham Central" and "The OMAC Project" - and that was just for DC Comics alone! In addition, he's been working on novels and his "Queen & Country" book for Oni Press. Basically, the man bleeds ink.

2006 is going to be a year of change for Rucka, at least in regards to those DC titles. Of the books mentioned above, he won't be writing any of them come spring (well, he will be writing an iteration of the OMAC Project, but more on that below). What DC fans will see from Rucka includes the following: "Supergirl," "The OMAC Project: Infinite Crisis Special," "Checkmate" and several issues of the weekly "52" from DC Comics. So while the titles of Rucka's books may be changing, his output remains the same (heck, it may even be more than his present levels, if that's possible).

CBR News contacted Rucka to see what we could find out about a few of these upcoming books, and we also talked about the end of a series near and dear to the writer's heart, "Gotham Central." While he was hesitant to reveal too much, Rucka did share a few details that DC fans will find interesting, particularly about the new team members of the One Year Later (OYL) Checkmate. But before we get to that, let us begin with…

SUPERGIRL

The latest version of Supergirl made her first appearance close to two years ago in "Superman/Batman" #8. The character was re-imagined by Jeph Loeb as a brash teenage girl, although her back story remains surprisingly similar to the origin of the Silver Age Supergirl, right down to her Kryptonian name: Kara Zor-El. Since arriving on Earth, she has been an issue of mistrust between Batman and Superman, was kidnapped by Darkseid, and eventually made Paradise Island (home of Wonder Woman's Amazon sisters) her residence.

Naturally, the last part of that sentence can no longer be true if you've been reading "Infinite Crisis." (SPOILER WARNING - we're going to be discussing events from "Infinite Crisis" throughout this interview, so if you haven't read the last few issues, do so now!). Rucka began our conversation by answering a question about his approach to the Girl of Steel.

CBR: So you're hopping from Superman to Supergirl. You've said in the past that Superman was a bit of a challenge to write because of his power levels and finding foes that could be formidable. Do you expect the same challenges with Supergirl?

GREG RUCKA: No, she's a very different cat. For me, the story has to be a story for the character. It's got to be about them. The problem with finding opponents for anybody with extreme power levels is that you end up with a bunch of Luthors in power suits. If somebody is the fastest-strongest-toughest, then it's not really much of a contest if it comes to blows, right? It's a foregone conclusion. Everybody knows that this person is going to win.

In the same way, if you read "Supergirl," and if in issue #9 I surround her with 500 tons of kryptonite - and I'm not saying I'm going to - no reader is going to sit there and say, "Wow, he's going to kill her!" They're going to sit there reading it, going, "How is she going to get out of this?"

It's always a question of trying to figure out what the Achilles heel of the character is so you can go in there and give them worthy drama. It's not heroic if it's easy for them. The Crisis is a great example of this. Superman can do all these amazing things - that's not what makes him a hero. What makes him a hero is when he does the difficult things; i.e. when he steps up. When he leads. When he has to overcome - for lack of a better phrase - himself.

When we're talking about Kara, it's a similar issue. You need to find those things in her, and then you want to give her worthy conflict. Because we all know how hard she's going to hit. So, it's not a question of: will she be able to punch her way out of this? That's not where the drama is going to be. The drama is going to be: what's going on in her internal life that is the cause of all the things she has to punch? What do the villains represent? How do they complicate it? That's the trick across the board, I think.

CBR: Speaking of what's going on with her internally, Kara is a teenager in the book. Given that she wasn't raised on earth, is she still going to be a "normal" teenager with regular wants and needs?

GR: Find me an average teenager in the DCU. (Laughs) I had a lovely conversation with Jeph Loeb about the hand-off, and one of the things he said to me was that for a teenager, everything is life or death. It's always life or death, and they go from one extreme to another - and that's across the board. I don't remember my teenage years as being years of everything being life or death, but…

I was putting my six-year-old son to bed last night, and I found myself remembering high school for some reason. And that acute trauma - how everything is a social nightmare… Basically, Kara is not your average teenager. I have no immediate intention to enroll her at a high school and see what happens. I don't think that's in her character. You know what I mean? But is she going to react to things as a teenager does? Yes. But I think everyone will be surprised by who she turns out to be, because she's not your average teenager. She's packing an awful lot of baggage.

For Kara, there's a lot going on. Like I said, I had a long talk with Jeph, and he sorta showed me the deck that he was playing with. And some of those cards I looked at, and I was like, "That's very cool. I'm going to use that." And other things I was like, "No way I could do that." More about Kara will be revealed. There's more coming in issues between now and #7 anyway - what Jeph's doing in his final issues - and then, between when I come on and issues 12 and 13, a lot more is going to come out as well.

CBR: The solicitation for "Supergirl" #7 says: "It's one year later...and Kara and Power Girl have become the dynamic duo of the bottle city of Kandor as the new Flamebird and Nightwing!" What…

GR: (Laughs) Never believe the solicitations.

CBR: What? Why would you lie in the solicitation?

GR: We would lie in the solicitation because we wouldn't want people to know what we were doing in the issue, for instance. For example, we would lie in the solicitation for, say, "Infinite Crisis" #4, right? Or, say, in the solicitation for "Nightwing" or for "The Adventures of Superman" - issues that came out this month, where we didn't want people to know what was going to happen.

CBR: Well, since I've prepared my questions based on the solicitation, I'm going to go ahead and ask them anyway. Is the bottle city of Kandor still located in the Fortress of Solitude?

GR: I've gotta take the fifth.

CBR: Okay. Power Girl and Supergirl are hanging out in Kandor though, correct?

GR: I will confirm that Power Girl and Supergirl are in Kandor.

CBR: All right. Well, the last time the two of them encountered one another, they ended up in fisticuffs. How would you describe their relationship now? Friends? Sisters? Cousins? Or even mother-daughter?

GR: I would say their relationship is older sister-younger sister. But, it's kind of hard because they each look at the other and see an iteration of themselves as well. Karen is far more sanguine. She's been through a lot coming out of "Infinite Crisis," and that really influences how she deals with Kara.

Do they get along? Yes, at times, very well. Are they friends? Yes, I think each of them looks at the other and says, "Yes, you are my friend." But I do think that in that sibling manner, they each infuriate the hell out of the other. And I think that Karen has a maturity that Kara doesn't have.

And, going back to that teenager thing, you know, let's remember how much we all liked it when an older teen - not a parent - but an older teen or an older sibling - if you had siblings - corrected your behavior: "Oh, you shouldn't do that" or "You're not supposed to do it like that" or "What are you thinking?" And that just doesn't go over well when it's coming from your big sister, for example.

CBR: As of "Infinite Crisis" #3, the island of Themyscira (a.k.a. Paradise Island) was whisked away to another dimension. As that was Supergirl's residence, she now has no place to live. Is Kara going to be finding a home in your run?

GR: And, my son, you have stumbled right into it. A lot of what's happening in the very first, and even into the second, arc is that Kara is looking for her home - she's looking for the place that will be her home. And eventually, she will find - or make for herself - a home.

CBR: Nice. Is the Supergirl in your book and the Supergirl in the new "Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes" (written by Mark Waid) the same Supergirl?

GR: (Laughs) I'm not touching that. I'm not giving that away. If Waid wants to give a definitive answer, he should absolutely feel free to - I'm not touching it. Part of the reason that we're doing this is for people to wonder about that and to figure out what the reconciliation is - if they are, in fact, the same.

You see, the problem is that I know what books are coming out prior to the questions you're asking, so I feel like, "I don't want to do it (reveal the answers) - it's good stuff! I don't want to give it away." It's not a clone, let's put it that way, all right? I will answer that the Legion Supergirl is not a clone of Kara - No clones. No cyborgs.

CBR: That's good to hear…

THE OMAC PROJECT: INFINITE CRISIS SPECIAL

"The OMAC Project" was one of four miniseries which fed into "Infinite Crisis." Within this story, a spy satellite created by Batman (called Brother Eye) gains a kind of sentience after the death of Max Lord (who was controlling the satellite) and begins attacking metahumans through the use of killer OMAC robots (which are created by nanobots infecting and transforming innocent civilians).

Okay, that probably sounded like ancient Greek if you haven't been following "Infinite Crisis." So I'll just cross my fingers and hope you're up-to-date with all of the Crisis books. As for the purpose of this one-issue special? Well, let's ask Rucka.

CBR: So what is the OMAC Special about? Are you tying up the loose ends from the miniseries?

GR: It actually serves multiple masters. It ties up loose ends from the mini. It ties up some loose ends coming out of "Infinite Crisis" at that point. It serves as a launching point for "Checkmate" in a lot of ways. And it answers some of the last questions, in particular, about Sasha (a former trainee of Batman's who ended up a Checkmate agent, and then became a next-generation OMAC).

CBR: Great. So, the OMAC Special is whose story? Sasha's, Batman's, or Brother Eye's?

GR: Ooh. I like calling it Brother Eye's. In a way, it's Brother Eye's; in a way, it's Sasha's; in a way, it's Checkmate's.

CBR: The end of the "OMAC Project" miniseries left me with several questions. First, is Checkmate still functioning in this special?

GR: Barely. (Laughs) There's not much of it left. The command hierarchy has been decimated. There's nobody really in charge. There are agents scattered all around the world who don't know what the hell is going on, and those are the ones who are still answering the phones. Because, a lot of them saw what Max was doing - and while they didn't perhaps know exactly what he was doing - they knew enough that they didn't like it. So when you come in on Checkmate in the Special, the organization is not in a good way.

CBR: Is Checkmate aware of the truth behind the footage of Wonder Woman killing Max that Brother Eye is broadcasting worldwide?

GR: Oh yeah.

CBR: So, how much of Sasha is computer now and how much is human?

GR: Where she is when we left her at the end of the OMAC Project - she is basically a new generation OMAC. How she became it, and why, are questions that get answered in the Special. She isn't actually a machine, because the OMACs are not actually machines. What they are is they're biomechanical organisms - they're people who have been infected with a mechanism - with these nanobots. And the nanobots are then controlled and configured by Brother Eye.

Sasha is a later iteration of that and far more autonomous, but she is still tied very tightly to Brother Eye as a result. Underneath the shell, the woman is still there. Unlike the OMACs, she can't revert…which is her curse right now.

CBR: Well, if Checkmate is still functioning in this Special, what is their job now? To stop the supervillains, reign in the superheroes, or stop Brother Eye?

GR: Remember that everything is happening against the backdrop of "Infinite Crisis," so their goal is to resolve the Crisis, because the Crisis is the thing that's threatening everything - I mean, everything. And at that point, you don't sit there and go "heroes-slash-villains." You go, "What can we do to stop it?" And if they're going to own a particular piece (of the Crisis), the piece of it they have to own is Brother Eye.

CHECKMATE

The One Year Later initiative from DC is exactly as it sounds - it's one year later in all the publisher's books. So what does that mean for Checkmate? Apparently, it means they get their own book with Rucka as the writer.

CBR: It's One Year Later, who is Checkmate at this point and what is their mission? The solicitation (if it can be trusted) says they are a spy agency. Who are they spying on?

GR: Everybody. (Laughs) They're the watchmen. There is a line in the proposal that says, "If Superman goes postal, they'll take it. And if the Joker gets his hands on a nuclear device, they'll handle that. too." They're an equal opportunity bully.

CBR: Also in the solicitation, it says they have to prove themselves to the UN. Are they now a global organization?

GR: They are a UN-chartered organization.

CBR: Between these two descriptions, they sound a bit like Marvel's SHIELD and a bit like your own "Queen & Country." How would you describe Checkmate?

GR: That's not a bad way to put it. Saying it's SHIELD-like and saying it's "Queen & Country"-like is probably both fair ways to put it. They are an international organization that exists to monitor the whole meta problem, or the whole meta situation - so villains, good guys, all are grouped together (as part of that situation).

CBR: So, if a common terrorist gets a nuke, they don't handle that?

GR: No, there are plenty of other organizations for that, and there are lots of heroes for it, too. You know, every now and then they may get involved in some of the dirtier stuff. The big "Queen & Country" piece is the backdrop of the DCU which we're setting Checkmate against; it's one that is more reflective of the real world and politics in it, and international relations in it - how countries interact.

And one of the things that hasn't really been addressed - it's been touched on at various points and some writers have gone into it at length, but mostly using fictional countries…Keith Giffen did a great job in "Justice League International" with this - is how different countries react to super-power presences.

From a strategic level, the US is way ahead of the rest of the world in a meta-gap. If there's a meta-race, well, pound-for-pound the US is going to crush anybody on the basis of the number of super-powered "good guys" they have. So, say you're Pakistan - wouldn't you like to have a couple of heavy hitters of your own? And so it goes. It runs all the way through like that.

CBR: Interesting. Who are the characters on this new Checkmate team?

GR: Sasha, Fire, Amanda Waller, Alan Scott, Mr. Terrific, Count Vertigo, King Faraday…and many others. (Chuckles)

CBR: Whoa. I didn't realize metas were going to be on the new team as well…

GR: One of the bylaws is that there has to be a balance now. There's a whole new royalty in place. There are new black kings and queens, and white kings and queens. One of the things the UN has demanded is that there be a balance. In the command hierarchy, if you have a meta, you have to have a human - a normal human.

It's also an organization also that's trying to live down the legacy of Max Lord. Everybody is wandering around going, "Never again." And one of the big conflicts in the beginning internally is who exactly do they serve? "We're a UN-chartered organization." Okay, that's great, but do you think Amanda Waller's loyalty is to the UN or the US?

CBR: I guess we'll find out in a few months…

GOTHAM CENTRAL

On February 1st, "Gotham Central" had its last issue arrive in stores. The series was a very intriguing look at the effects a superhero's actions had on a city's police force. The book wasn't about people in tights with capes, it was about men and women with badges who were extremely mortal (as evidenced by the deaths of several characters during its forty-issue run).

Writer Ed Brubaker ("Catwoman," "Sleeper," "Captain America") worked together with Greg Rucka to provide readers with this unique look at life in a police precinct. And while the book never set the sales charts on fire, it had vocal supporters and critics loved it. And in speaking with Rucka, it's clear he loved it too.

CBR: What are your thoughts now that the series is ending?

GR: I'm very sad to see it go. I think it was a very special book, and I think it was a very rare book. And I have a feeling that when all is said and done in my life and I'm not writing anymore, I'm still going to look back on it and say, "I'm really proud of that."

It was a joy to work on. It was a joy to be able to tell those stories, and it was a privilege to be given the opportunity. It was an honest-to-God honor to work with Ed (Brubaker) and Michael (Lark) for as long as I did; and to work with Stefano (Gaudiano) and Kano, and Clem (Robins), and I mean, everybody - I could go down the line - Lee (Loughridge)…

And I'm going to miss it, but I do think that it is the kind of book that…it was very much an ensemble effort. I think it's better that the book go out strong and on its own terms than get cancelled. And I think that it ends appropriately. I think it ends the way it should. I think there are going to be some people who aren't going to be real happy with the issue when it comes out. And then there are other people who will read it and go, "Yeah, that's right. That's the way it has to be."

CBR: Towards the book's end, it seemed that more and more heroes were creeping into the series - Captain Marvel made an appearance, and the Spectre is present...in a sense. If the series continued, would the presence of heroes have become more pervasive?

GR: I would argue that everything you're discussing doesn't happen in "Gotham Central" - that those characters move outside of the book and the rest of the DCU then interacts with them. But inside "Gotham Central," the Spectre never showed up. Inside "Gotham Central," they survive in that bubble where the heroes and the villains were, for the most part, the noise in the background - the gods who descended and messed with the mortals' lives and then rose up again to Olympus.

CBR: And as long as we're on the topic of the Spectre - can I say Chris (from the series, a.k.a. Book) is the new Spectre thanks to the events of "Infinite Crisis" #4?

GR: I think it's safe to say that Chris now has the Spectre locked inside his chest. (Laughs)

CBR: I thought it was a cool use of the character. Whose idea was it to make Chris the new Spectre?

GR: I honest-to-God don't remember. I suspect it [came from] sitting with Geoff Johns and Dan Didio and talking about the end of "Central" and what I was going to do. And it seemed not only logical, but just to deal Chris something that I think is actually pretty cool and I think has a lot of incredible story potential. I honestly wish I could tell you, "Yeah, it was actually my idea," but I don't remember. It wasn't something that was a hard sell for me - I looked at it at it and I was like, "That makes sense to me."

CBR: Did you already plan to have Chris killed before the Spectre idea came up?

GR: Yeah. I knew how I was going to end this series long ago. I mean, three years ago if you had asked me if I knew how "Gotham Central" was going to end, I would've said, "Oh yeah."

CBR: Really? When I interviewed you last year at the Emerald City ComiCon, you told me then that the presence of Jim Corrigan (Chris' killer and the former Spectre) in the series was a request made by Dan Didio

GR: Yeah, but you're talking about two different things. Chris would've died regardless - whether or not he would've become the Spectre. Corrigan was put in the book at Dan's suggestion, and all he said was, "Do me a favor. Put a guy in the background in this scene and name him Jim Corrigan, okay? And the fans - when they notice it - they're gonna start eating their legs trying to figure out what that means."

And we did. And when I wrote the first Corrigan story, I wrote him as a corrupt bastard. The second I did that, it was pretty much written in stone for me. I knew how it was going to end.

CBR: Is there any book coming in the future that will replace "Gotham Central" in terms of tone and content?

GR: Not in the next year. Aspects of "52" will touch on some of the things that "Gotham Central" did - parts of "52" will provide the man-on-the-street view. It's sort of that, for lack of a better word, more "grounded" view of the DC Universe - the average person view. But there's not going to be another "Gotham Central." There will be something else one day, but that day is a long ways off and I really can't talk about it.

AND ONE LAST QUESTION…

CBR: While you sound plenty busy, do you have any other projects you want to make readers aware of?

GR: "Queen & Country" is back on its feet. Look for it to be back come March. I'm very happy. That laid fallow for far too long. I'm very glad it's back. There are other things on the horizon that, well, talking about them now would be precipitous, shall we say…

CBR: We shall. Thanks Greg!

 
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