SIMONE, VAN SCIVER Go For Nuclear Reaction On DCnU FIRESTORM
DC is hoping that when Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver get together, things get nuclear.
As part of the "New 52" initiative in September, Simone and Van Sciver are co-writing Fury of Firestorm, with art by Yildiray Cinar.
It's an odd pairing for a few reasons. Van Sciver is much better known as an artist, having worked on high profile projects like New X-Men with Grant Morrison and Green Lantern with Geoff Johns. And Simone is usually a solo writer, such as her work on the upcoming Batgirl comic in September.
But according to Simone, they also have a type of friction that works well for Firestorm, because the lead characters in the comic -- Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch -- are at odds with one another.
"Ethan and I are polar opposites in many ways, and so are Ronnie and Jason," Simone said. "It's in the book, it shows up in their characters."
Ronnie and Jason unwillingly worked together in Brightest Day as a single Firestorm character. Early indications from the Fury of Firestorm art are that they may work separately in the new comic, but Simone and Van Sciver aren't spilling any secrets yet.
Newsarama talked to the pair to find out more about Fury of Firestorm and what it's like to work together as co-writers.
Nrama: Gail and Ethan, I noticed Firestorm was trending on Twitter when the announcement was made that you guys were doing this series. Has the response from fans surprised you at all? What has it been like since the announcement?
Gail Simone: The day of the announcements was total bedlam. We were in the first group of titles announced, and I think we were also possibly the most surprising creative team, the one that no one could have guessed was coming. So people were already running naked in the streets, and the announcement that Ethan and I were co-writing must have given it all a surreal twist to some people. I actually loved that day. We'd been keeping this stuff secret, even from our best friends, for months, and suddenly the comics new, for once, wasn't filled with the latest crossover or the latest stunt death or the latest stunt resurrection. People didn't know how to handle it. WE didn't know how to handle it. And I really enjoyed that feeling from the readers that this was new and dangerous, and that they wanted to find out more. It wasn't business as usual, and that IS the fun part of this stuff.
Ethan Van Sciver: What does "trending on Twitter" mean?
Nrama: Gail will have to explain it to you. It's been a couple years or more since you two announced you were working together on something. Was this always the project? Or was this what ended up spinning out of your collaboration?
Van Sciver: Nah, that's something else entirely. Gail and I tried to get something Wonder Woman-y off the ground long ago, but that didn't work. Then we got something that worked, and I'm working on that work now. But we had so much fun that we decided to collaborate on something else as well. It's a pretty fun partnership.
Simone: Ethan's always trying to get something Wonder Woman-y off the ground, which sounds absolutely creepy when you say it out loud. I've been a fan of Ethan's since Impulse, and Ethan's been an amazing supporter of my stuff since forever. It's lovely, we disagree about everything in the world except comics, and yet when we set out to work together, you can really feel the sparks fly, there are just ridiculous fireworks right on the page. The other project we are working on, Ethan's drawing. It's just massive. This book came because we enjoyed working together so much. It's a true partnership. We're having a blast.
Nrama: Ethan, you've always come across as an artist who contributes a lot of ideas to the creation of the story. Was this the sort of thing you'd been wanting to do? What motivated this move toward writing?
Van Sciver: I always do it anyhow, and I think I usually do find myself in this situation. I mean, I've gotten scripts before and I've simply drawn them. JLA #20 was an example. But working with Geoff Johns taught me to get involved and offer up ideas. It keeps you invested in the project, frankly. Now I'm actually getting a credit for it, which is nice.
Simone: Not to take anything away from any other collaborators or creators who have run with his ideas, but Ethan might be the best pure idea man in comics. I don't say it lightly, but so many of his idle thoughts have become blockbusters, and in some cases, people don't even realize the ideas started with him. The first time I ever spoke with Keith Giffen in public, he rattled off ideas off the top of his head like they were post-it notes in a tornado, just an endless fountain of concepts and images. Ethan's like that, he thinks on this grand scale, and the exciting thing is, it's never stuff you've seen before. He's not recreating someone else's idea. He takes things we're used to and adds this wall of sound and texture. I just love it.
Van Sciver: Heck, thanks, Gail!
Nrama: OK, but out of all the characters that I'm sure you guys have discussed, why Firestorm?
Simone: Firestorm is in that weird group of characters that the readership really likes and is always happy to see, but for some reason, doesn't seem to find a toehold for the long term. One of the fun things about him is the visual, he's one of the greatest and boldest mixes of elements of any superhero costume, really. He's got puffy sleeves, and no eyes, and oh, yeah, his head is on fire. I've heard people describe him as a Marvel character in the DCU, that's an interesting thought, as well. There's a definite fun factor.
But I think what really appealed to us was the chance to update some great superhero business, to look at superpowers in a different light. To me, if you want to scare someone, you don't dress up as a flying rodent or a spider, you come out looking like a walking nuclear meltdown. Our Firestorm is all those nuclear paranoia films and messages come to life. It really feels like superheroics for a new age, where we have seen some of the disasters readers in the 1970's could only imagine.
And finally, we wanted to write a book that is actually about something, a book about what binds people together, and what separates people. Because they are the same things that bind and separate countries. And Jason and Ronnie are two young men with lots of questions and few answers. That stuff is very moving to write, it feels like it's real, and not just the villain-of-the-week wrestling match.
Van Sciver: Yeah, I've always been visually attracted to the character, since I saw the action figure back in the 1980's.
Nrama: What are you hoping to do for this character?
Van Sciver: I'm hoping we do for this character what Geoff and I did for Green Lantern, frankly. And that is to define who and what Firestorm is, and break the superhero concept therein down to a concept that a child could understand and be excited by, as well as adults. I still see superhero comics that way. Power fantasies. I need people to want to be Firestorm. Readers of all ages.
Simone: Exactly, and this is a new thing, I think. It's surprising, it doesn't matter if you've read every issue of Firestorm, or never read an issue in your life. This is the ground floor of one of the most compelling books I've ever been involved with. It's a rule breaker. This book is going to be one of the foundational titles of the DCU, and Firestorm's powers shift the entire balance of power on Earth. Every hero will have to take the Firestorm Protocols into account, no matter where their base of operations are. They have to address Firestorm, not the other way around. Not to mention that there's a scary as hell by-product of Jason and Ronnie getting powers, essentially what happens when Conan the Barbarian mates with nuclear reactor. And there's more, lots more. The Firestorm Protocols leave a mammoth footprint on the new DCU. If Firestorm farts, the JLA knows about it.
Nrama: And what are your goals for the title? Are you working on a rogues' gallery or supporting cast?
Simone: Ethan and I are both fond of villains that make you want to wet your pants. We like villains that are as charismatic and intimidating as the heroes. There is a very interactive quality to the villains in this book, it's a concept new to the DCU, and readers can play along at home. I love that stuff.
Van Sciver: Our supporting cast and our rogues’ gallery will be full of fresh surprises. I honestly don't think anyone is expecting one particular reveal in issue #1. It'll open a lot of eyes.
Nrama: What's the process for how the two of you are working together? Are plots done over the phone? Who scripts?
Van Sciver: I'm over at Gail's house almost every morning before she wakes up, ready to work. It's a hell of a commute, but I'm dedicated.
Simone: I sent Ethan to Geoff Johns' house and made Geoff wear a red wig. Ethan's not twigged to it, yet.
It's interesting, I'm not the most collaborative writer on Earth, I've only done it a few times. I'm a control freak about scripts and a bit of a fanatic about structure. So this might not work if it wasn't Ethan. But he and I have been tossing ideas back and forth for years, and there's no ego blocking good ideas from triumphing, we don't tote up who came up with what ideas. When we're done, we don't remember who came up with what, we just take the best bits and run with them. It's nice. There's tremendous trust. We work up the plot together, and I do the script. Ethan's keen to do more writing in the future so we have long talks about that, as well. I love all the creators I have worked with, but some are very special because there's this extra connection... like with Nicola Scott on Birds of Prey, or Neil Googe on Welcome to Tranquility. It's like that with Ethan. We just fit together creatively and there's this wonderful friction.
It's great fun. And it's on the page. Ethan and I are polar opposites in many ways, and so are Ronnie and Jason. It's in the book, it shows up in their characters.
Nrama: Let's talk about the status of these characters. DC has said that Brightest Day did happen, and that Firestorm is Jason and Ronnie. But does their history come into play in this new comic, or do they start anew? What can you tell us about their status as we pick up this new #1?
Simone: It's a number one issue in the classic sense. That used to mean, when you picked it up, you got Day One of the story, and that's what happens here. It's Day One, Ground Floor, the starting pistol is now fired. You absolutely do not need to know a thing about Firestorm to pick this up.
Van Sciver: But if you are a long time fan, you'll enjoy revisiting some familiar faces and concepts.
Nrama: Gail, how do you distinguish between their personalities? How would you describe Ronnie and Jason as you plot these stories and write their dialogue?
Simone: This has been the element that everyone at DC has been so excited about, Ronnie and Jason, and a new character, Tonya, who was an innocent bystander who is unfortunately caught up in their nightmare. Ronnie and Jason almost instinctively don't like each other, and the horrendous circumstances make that worse. It's two kids, neither of whom is completely right or wrong, who both suddenly have their hands on the nuclear football. Every book I do, I'm trying to find the key, the Rosetta stone, that unlocks the language and the rhythm of the book, that expresses its soul to the reader. With this one, I took a lot from Ethan's son and my son, both teenagers, who could not be more different. And I took all the villain dialogue from Ethan, who actually talks a lot like the Red Skull in private.
Van Sciver: In public too.
Nrama: We saw some changes to the Firestorm matrix in Brightest Day, but the cover we've seen for your first issue indicates some even bigger changes. Are Jason and Ronnie separate now? How does the Firestorm matrix work in the new DC Universe?
Van Sciver: Completely differently. New and improved. You'll see.
Simone: It's new. It's even a little bit shocking. I feel like, in some ways, this book is more Swamp Thing than, say, Teen Titans.
Nrama: How are you tailoring this for new readers?
Simone: New story, new everything. You meet the characters before the traumatic events that make them do what they do.
Nrama: People who follow you two on Facebook and/or Twitter know you two both have a great sense of humor, and we've seen it utilized in Gail's comics, particularly the darker humor in Secret Six. What's the overall tone of this comic?
Van Sciver: It's a religious tract for Scientologists, but we've disguised it as a nuclear scare superhero comic book. That's how we get your money.
Simone: It's got humor, but a lot of it is extremely sardonic, because it's imprinted on top of this new cold war close-to-the-brink-of-death tension. My favorite. It's a nuclear terror book. There may be a rubber chicken now and then, but it's glowing and has a half-life of ten thousand years.
Nrama: How are you approaching the structure of the comic? Is it a standard five- or six-issue arc structure? Or is it different?
Simone: I was never a big one for writing for the trades exclusively. I never was really on board with that. This is an ongoing book, the stories end organically, so do sub-plots. There are resolutions every issue. I think that's the best possible approach.
Van Sciver: Yeah, I think we're planning this toward goals, not neat six-issue arcs. We have moments schemed that lead to mini-events within the book itself, that will grow the franchise and explore new avenues with these characters.
Nrama: Ethan, did you work on the designs we see for the characters? What was your thinking behind the way they look?
Van Sciver: I did some initial sketches and designs that will probably pop up here and there. But Yildiray Cinar came on board, and he just blew them out of the water. He started with a fresh approach, and we modified this and that slightly...I think he came up with something new and exciting, but it's still the Firestorm brand. And it's only the beginning. The design work on this new Firestorm comic is a big job.
Simone: Ethan's being modest, but this book has an insane artistic pedigree. The designs for the many, many new characters, including Firestorms, are done by Yildiray Cinar, Ethan Van Sciver, and Jim Lee. I mean, come ON. We are actually having to choose between these guys at times. When a book has the juice to turn down a design by one of these guys, because someone else had something slightly better, that's the wealth of emperors.
Nrama: What has it been like working with Yildiray on this comic? What does he bring to the title?
Simone: I was not familiar with Yildiray's work, but DC was nuts about him and asked us to give him a shot because he really wanted to do this. I was mostly concerned about Ethan's reaction, because he's a perfectionist and does not suffer hacks gladly. I don't know what to say except that Ethan is now Yildiray's biggest fan. If you've seen the Yildiray Firestorm sketches floating around, they are more than gorgeous. They are original and powerful and just completely fearsome.
He's part of the team, his enthusiasm and ideas are a huge part of the book. We are damn lucky to have him...it's kind of a privilege being CC'ed on the artistic conversations between him and Ethan, they're just completely on another level. The desire to do it right, to do the best work possible, from them is very inspiring.
Van Sciver: I'm very, very pleased with Yildiray. He has a different method artistically than I do, and I think I have a lot to learn from him. And he hasn't disappointed me once yet. He nails it every time. Except for once, but that was because he didn't quite understand how to draw American football. We straightened that out, and he's dynamite. I think he's the next Ivan Reis. But we'll leave it to the fans to decide!
Nrama: What has the experience been like working on this comic together as co-writers?
Van Sciver: It's been a lot of fun so far. Remember, Gail is doing almost all of the heavy lifting. I'm just the co-plotter.
Simone: Again, Ethan's being modest. I write the scripts and pull the stuff together, but Ethan was the guy who pushed for us to do this, he's the guy who had the original vision, who had enough brilliant ideas that we could do this book for years before we had to come up with any more new concepts.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Fury of Firestorm?
Simone: I want to thank the readers in advance for giving us a chance, and I want to thank the creators who added so much to the characters and gave us such fertile ground to work. The day this was announced, I got incredibly gracious notes from Firestorm's co-creator, Gerry Conway, and the man behind one of Firestorm's most popular runs, John Ostrander, who both said they could not be happier with the announcement and the creative team working on their baby. That felt wonderful, like the masters were passing the torch, but it's also a huge responsibility.
I want to say, if you miss comics that surprise and shock you, with heroes you want to see succeed and villains you want to see plummet to their deaths, this book is really that thing. We're not trying to recreate anything, we're trying to build a new thing, a new engine. The book is scary and heartbreaking and fun and full of the kind of spectacle that Ethan perfected in Flash: Iron Heights and the groundbreaking stuff he did for X-men and Green Lantern. It's the kind of book you can't wait to write because it feels like undiscovered country.
I'm really enjoying it, and I hope the readers will, too.
Van Sciver: I think they will! We love Firestorm, and we're here to tell great, fresh new stories. You're all invited to join us and see what we've got in store!