Normal in the Face of Gods: Rucka talks "The OMAC Project" and "Gotham Central"

Mon, April 18th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

"The OMAC Project" #1
The Countdown to Infinite Crisis has begun and the DC Universe is now a more dangerous place. Sinister magical forces threaten all life with a "Day of Vengeance." The "Rann/Thanagar War" endangers peace throughout the galaxy and The Blue Beetle, a former member of the Justice League, sacrificed his life to uncover a sinister conspiracy against the heroes of Earth. This conspiracy's main weapon is "The OMAC Project" which is also the title of a six-issue mini-series by Greg Rucka and artist Jesus Saiz. "The OMAC Project" follows Batman, Wonder Woman and several other DC Heroes as they try to uncover the fate of Blue Beetle. CBR News spoke to Rucka about the enigma of "The OMAC Project" and another DC book he writes that gives readers a compelling mystery every month, "Gotham Central."

Batman will not be going into "The OMAC Project" with a clear head. As revealed in "Countdown to Infinite Crisis," Batman now remembers that his teammates on The JLA used magic to erase his memories of the mind wipe of Dr.Light. "If you accept the thesis, as Jeph Loeb would argue, that Batman and Superman are amongst the best of friends and if you accept that Batman is nothing if he is not the work, and if you further accept that of all the members of the Justice League he's the one who's entirely human, well, he feels pretty damn betrayed and on a huge level," Rucka told CBR News. "These people were the people he stood with to do what was best and what happened was, when they disagreed with him, they stole a piece of his mind and what does he have if he doesn't have his mind? It would be as if he turned to Ollie and said, 'I'm breaking all of your fingers and taking the bow.' It would be as if he turned to Wally and said, 'You can't run anymore.' His power has never been the suit or the belt or the fact that he is one of the best martial artists in the world. It's the fact that he's got the mind and the will that let him be all those things and they went in and said, 'No. We're going to take this bit out.'"

As a result, Batman is feeling multiple levels of anger towards his teammates. "That trust is broken on different levels," Rucka explained. "Batman is pissed as hell at everybody in the league and then his anger at Superman is in its own separate box. Because of all the people who should have been there and should have fixed it and should have defended him, that's Kal."

Further complicating Batman's investigation in "OMAC" is the involvement of the Checkmate agent who sends Batman on the trail of her agency, his former bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux, whom Batman has some emotional issues with. "There are lots of unresolved issues. Understand when they finally meet in 'OMAC Project' neither is expecting to see the other," Rucka said. "Certainly Sasha isn't expecting to see him.

"The OMAC Project"
#1, Page 7
When Sasha reaches out to him, she does so from a great distance and she does so in a certain amount of secrecy because she's in a very dangerous position. But she's also not who she was three years ago."

Sasha's time as an espionage agent has effected her. "She's become part of this thing that's been horribly perverted," Rucka said. "She can not get out. She is for lack of a better phrase, a double agent. She's got to convince her masters that she is the most loyal, the most trusted and the most faithful servant. Because if she doesn't they're going to kill her."

Sasha has had to do some morally reprehensible things to maintain her cover. She was the agent who delayed Blue Beetle's escape at the end of "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" long enough for Checkmate leader Max Lord to activate the OMAC that captured him.

"OMAC Project" #1 begins minutes after the end of "Countdown" and Max Lord's cold-blooded murder of the captured Blue Beetle. "At the start you've got Checkmate and Max going 'we have a problem,'" Rucka said. "'He found us and we don't know who he told or who's coming for us and I'm not ready yet.' On the other side you've got people going, 'Where the hell is Beetle.' They don't know he's dead. There's an argument in the law that says you can't have a murder unless you have a body. In fact you can't even have a murder unless you have the head."

Readers of "The OMAC Project" will also uncover the truth about the clandestine agency known as Checkmate. "The Checkmate that everybody thought you were seeing wasn't Checkmate," Rucka explained. "They called it Checkmate and they said, 'This is Checkmate.' People look at it and go, 'Ah, Checkmate.' Which is a great way to hide the real one. The purpose of the real one has been perverted by Max."

"The OMAC Project"
#1, Page 8
There are two main villains in "The OMAC Project" Max Lord and the sentient satellite he's allied with. "There's Max and there's the machine, the Brother Mark One. When you say that it's Roman Numeral I. It's Brother I."

In addition to Batman's investigation, Max and Brother I must also contend with Wonder Woman's inquiry into Blue Beetle's disappearance "In 'Countdown,' she's the one person of the big three who actually had enough time to listen to Beetle and to give his fears credence," Rucka explained. "She comes in very deliberately going to Booster and saying, 'Where is he?' And Booster is like, 'I've been in the hospital. I don't know.'"

The first three issues of "The OMAC Project" have Wonder Woman and Booster working together. "In the last three, things go a little haywire for reasons I can't begin to explain right here," Rucka said. " 'OMAC Project' intersects with July DCU books. The Superman books in July, 'Wonder Woman' in July, they all tie together as sort of an event that happens between issue #3 and issue #4 of 'The OMAC Project.' It radically alters things. The way the publishing schedule works is that 'Wonder Woman' #19 and 'OMAC Project' #4 come out the same week. So, that you read the 'Wonder Woman' and then you read 'The OMAC Project' and you can go, 'Ohhhh boy!'

In addition to Batman, Wonder Woman, Booster Gold, and Superman, a number of former Justice League members will be appearing in "OMAC." "Guy Gardner is going to show up," Rucka said. "Rocket Red is going to show up. Fire is going to show up. A lot of the Justice League that we associate with Beetle are going to make an appearance as what happens to him gets out."

"The OMAC Project"
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Jesus Saiz's art on "The OMAC Project" has blown Rucka away. "Jesus Saiz's art is unbelievable," Rucka said. "It's unbelievably gorgeous. He draws a Wonder Woman to die for. His storytelling is great."

Rucka and his "OMAC Project" editor, Joan Hilty, feel that the tones of the various mini-series spinning out of "Countdown" compliment each other nicely, so that there's something for everyone. "We were talking about this yesterday," Rucka said. "And sort of breaking down like if 'Rann/Thanagar' is your big epic space opera and 'Day of Vengeance' is the magic brouhaha and 'Villains United' is as Gail herself has said, 'The joy of watching really rotten people be really rotten.' It almost has elements of black, black, black comedy to it. Then 'OMAC Project' is the suspense thriller."

While "The Rann/Thanagar War" helps redefine the science fiction side of the DCU and "Day of Vengeance" examines the magical, arcane side of the universe, "The OMAC Project" explores the espionage and political side of the DCU. "There is a level of sort of machination and politics and for a lack of a better word realism, that has been rarely touched on," Rucka explained. "You saw it in one of the best books that ever did it in recent memory and that was 'Chase.' That's a brilliant book and it did it very well. There's a need for that in the DCU. One of the things we don't do very often in the DCU is ask what's it like to be, for a lack of a better word, normal in the face of these gods. It's a valid question. Something that 'Gotham Central' looks at. That's not to say that's what 'OMAC Project' is about, because honestly it's not. Thematically it's one of the things that's there."

"The OMAC Project" leads into this fall's universe altering mini-series "Infinite Crisis." Observant readers of "OMAC" will notice hints to the coming Crisis. "Nothing is happening in these books for the sake of it happening," Rucka admitted. "It is all part of a larger scheme. That's not to say you've got to read them all because you don't. But, if you were to say read all the minis and then read 'Infinite Crisis' you would see it all come together."

"Gotham Central" #31
The changes in "Infinite Crisis" will affect many DC books including Rucka's acclaimed police procedural comic "Gotham Central." "There are at least two visible ways that I can think of off the top of my head that what's happening will impact. Which is not to say you're going to see Allen and Montoya and Marcus and Josie going 'Captain Marvel! Freeze, or we'll shoot!" Rucka joked. "There's stuff that comes down that you get the man on the street going, 'Oh my god!'"

Creative changes have affected "Gotham Central" recently with Rucka's co-writer Ed Brubaker and the book's artist, Michael Lark leaving the book after signing exclusive contracts with Marvel Comics. Currently no replacement for Brubaker has been found. "What we're looking at right now is we have it planned out through about issue #40. We're going to see how things play out. I will say that Ed, Michael, and I worked on the book together for a real long time and loved it very, very much. And Ed and Michael needed to pursue the career choices that they have pursued; doing so for the best of reasons and I honestly believe for their benefit. I think they have made the right choices and changed the status quo. As a result of that were looking at 'Central' and going, 'Well, let's see how it works.' Right now it's going forward and right now we're doing everything we can to make sure it stays there."

Currently Stefano Gaudino and Kano are alternating issues as artists for "Gotham Central." Kano becomes the regular artist on the book with issue #33. His style is quite different than Lark's "The word that springs to mind is softer," Rucka said of Kano's art. "Michael has this wonderful technique where he takes photo ref and sort of translates it into this near realism and Kano is more a draftsman. He's working a little freer of literal reference. One of the things I'm really enjoying about his work is the acting and all the subtlety is there. Which, thank god, for that because the book lives or dies on that. So I'm very excited."

Readers looking to catch up on "Gotham Central" stories they missed will get a chance. "The 'Half a Life' trade is coming out in a month or so," Rucka explained. "That's actually kind of cool. What they're doing is taking the first Montoya/Two-Face story I did way back in 'Batman Chronicles' and they're taking 'Detective Comics' #747, which was another Harvey/Renee story, the birthday story, and those are going to be in the same collection. So, you see sort of the progression into 'Half a Life.' Then the collection for 'Unresolved' and 'Soft Targets' is being assembled as well. So there are two more trades in the works. The first trade sold very well. So the hope is that the second and third will and that will lead to a fourth and fifth because Ed, Michael, and I have been going, 'Trade these! Trade these! People will read them in trades.'"

"Gotham Central"
#31, Page 2
"Gotham Central"
#31, Page 4
Issue's #30 and #31 of "Gotham Central" finish the "Keystone Cops" arc. Issue #32 is a stand-alone issue drawn by Rucka's friend and "Whiteout" collaborator Steve Lieber. "It's really nice to be working with Steve again," Rucka said. "It's the sort of thing that Steve can really get his hooks into. The myth of Gotham is that Gotham only works if you accept that everybody on the police force with like the exception of 14 people are absolutely corrupt. Because, if they're not, there's no need for Batman. And we've said over and over again, 'This is the way Gotham is.' But, we've rarely shown it. We're finally doing a 'Gotham Central' issue that's from the point of view of those very corrupt cops. You're looking at these two cops and how they see the Major Crimes Unit, how they act and how there's always somebody meaner than they are."

Issue #33 of "Gotham Central" is Ed Brubaker's final story on the book. It's a "Red Ball" story that Rucka and Brubaker wrote together instead of their usual way of writing alternating story arcs. The four-part arc is called "Dead Robin," in which the police find the body of a teenager dressed in a Robin costume. "They have a body and it's dressed in a Robin suit and it looks to them like the real suit," Rucka revealed. "They've got to assume it's Robin. They don't have a choice. Even if Robin then shows up and says, 'No, I'm fine.' They're in a position of saying, 'Take off the mask kid. We've got nothing to go on.'"

"Dead Robin" will feature appearances by a number of characters that readers never thought they would see in "Gotham Central." "If you're investigating the murder of Robin, then you have to start questioning all the people you know he associates with. Batman, the Teen Titans, and Nightwing," Rucka said. "These are people who aren't likely to say, 'Sure we'll come in and answer a few questions.' And that's not even looking at them as suspects. Because, you ask any homicide investigator they're going to tell you that if you're looking at a murder investigation you look at the people who knew the victim."

Batman's relationship with the cops in Gotham is bad and in "Dead Robin" it looks like it only gets worse. "Who's the one person that everybody on the police force knows Robin is associated with?" Rucka asked. "So, who's the prime suspect? How do you think Batman is going to respond to that? 'One, there's a body and it's dressed up like Robin. Two, the cops want to ask me if I did it?' Yeah, there's gonna be real sunshiny days in Gotham."

"Gotham Central"
#31,Page 19
"Dead Robin" will differ in tone from Rucka and Brubaker's past collaborations. "Most of the times when Ed and I come together it's just a horribly grim, grim story," Rucka said. "Dead Robin is actually kind of fun because every reader knows its not Robin. So instead of the sitting there and going, 'What? Who? How?' Sure there's a mystery, but it's almost more fun to watch, in this instance, the cops really getting in way over their head."

Many "Gotham Central" readers raised their eyebrows when a corrupt CSI tech appeared in the book. His name was Jim Corrigan, which also happened to be the name of the former human host of the Spectre. "I will say that we've got 'Keystone Cops' and then we've got the stand alone issue and then we've got 'Dead Robin' and then the next story is called 'Corrigan 2,'" Rucka said. "Because issues #23 and #24 were 'Corrigan One.' So, yes he comes back."

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