Working in television and comics for the past decade, Andrew Kreisberg has told stories beyond the boundaries of real science (“Fringe,” “Warehouse 13”) and grounded in the reality of street-level crime (“Green Arrow and Black Canary,” “Batman Confidential”), but in 2013 he’s blending the two genres in his latest project as co-writer of “Justice League of America’s Vibe.”
Yes, that’s right. DC Comics is launching a new ongoing series starring Vibe, arguably the most lambasted character in the history of the Justice League, co-written by “Arrow” executive producer Kreisberg and superstar scribe Geoff Johns and illustrated by Pete Woods.
Created by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton in 1984, Vibe first appeared in “Justice League of America” Annual #2. Able to emit powerful vibratory shock waves, Vibe served during the Detroit era alongside Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Elongated Man, Steel, Vixen and Gypsy.
Next year, Vibe will also appear in “Justice League of America,” written by Johns and featuring art by David Finch.
CBR News connected with Kreisberg — who just finished taking coffee with The Well Dressed Man from “Arrow,” John Barrowman — to talk about reinvigorating a character that has been largely parodied since his debut and what he, Johns and Woods plan to do with Cisco Ramone to make him three-dimensional (and inter-dimensional) in the New 52.
CBR News: When DC announced its latest wave of titles, the natural fit would have been for you to write “Green Arrow” given your familiarity with the character. I have to say, a new ongoing Vibe series was not on my radar. I’m guessing you’re a long-time fan of Paco Ramone.
Andrew Kreisberg: Of course. [Laughs] I owe Vibe one because when I wrote my episode of “Justice League Unlimited” with Booster Gold, I actually had Vibe save the day because I wanted Booster to feel extra humiliated. I asked, “Who is the ‘lamest’ hero I can use to solve the problem.” And everyone said, Vibe. It’s karma that I now feel that I have to turn Vibe into a hero that is never teased again.
Is it safe to say you weren’t familiar with Vibe from his original run in “Justice League of America” in the 1980s with Aquaman and Martian Manhunter?
No, not at all. But Geoff is the one that came to me and said, “Everyone can write Superman. And everyone can write Batman. But there is something so cool about taking one of these guys that isn’t very well thought of and making him cool.”
It’s higher risk but it’s a higher reward. That’s why we’re so excited about this.
For those unfamiliar with Vibe, and I am guessing there are many, what do we need to know about the New 52 version of Paco Ramone?
For one thing, Paco is the annoying nickname that his brothers call him. His real name is now Cisco Ramone. That alone makes him a little bit cooler. [Laughs] But we’re really trying to make him a three-dimensional person. We’re giving him a family and a relationship with his brothers and trying to invest him with as much humanity as possible. He lives in a real world in a grounded, realistic way so people can relate to him. We’ve also set up a really cool franchise, which is sort of the Justice League version of the Men in Black.
Detroit, which is where Darkseid’s invasion started in Geoff and Jim’s “Justice League” book, is now unstable. Pockets of the membrane of reality have been so badly damaged there that things are constantly falling through from other dimensions. And Vibe is there to help clean up the mess. Even he says that is kind of ironic being Hispanic that he has become a dimensional border patrolman.
Is Vibe super-powered when the series starts in February?
We actually flash back to how he got his powers. And we’ll see that he got his powers five years ago during Darkseid’s original invasion. And then we’ll progress to the present day and explore how he sets up his own franchise in his book and how it relates to him being a part of what Geoff and David [Finch] are doing in “Justice League of America.”
What exactly are his powers? Are they the same as they were pre-New 52?
Very similar. He still has the ability to create vibrational waves. But there’s a lot more to it. One of the clever conceits we have is that because he is constantly vibrating, he can’t be photographed. Every photo you take of him is a blur. And he can’t be videotaped. And also, because his powers are borne from these dimensional rifts that are occurring in the city, he is able to detect them. And he is also able to detect people that come through the rifts, who shouldn’t be there. In some ways, he is sort of a human Geiger counter for these dimensional tears and inter-dimensional incursions.
That’s why he is so valuable to the Justice League and as a border patrolman for Detroit. He is a living, breathing detector and weapon against these things.
Will there be a lot of interplay between the two titles and will members of the JLA regularly appear in “Justice League of America’s Vibe?”
I think in the beginning we really want to establish Cisco as the star and hero of his own book before we bring in the Justice League, because you are going to get so much of Vibe working with the Justice League in that book, but there is definitely going to be room for guest stars. We’re also going to be bringing in some fan favorites on Vibe’s side.
We get this question a lot on “Arrow,” which is of course based on a comic book superhero. For us on the show, it’s really important to establish Oliver Queen as the star, in the same way in the Vibe book, we’re really bringing him front and center. We really want people to invest in him. When other big heroes come on, they’re added value. They’re not there to overshadow.
Beyond superheroes, who is featured in the supporting cast? You mentioned his brothers, will they play a role?
He is very close to his older brother, Dante. There were actually three Ramone brothers: Armando, the oldest, Dante, the middle brother and Cisco, the youngest. Armando was killed during Darkseid’s invasion. He actually died saving Cisco’s life. And his death reverberates throughout the book. Armando’s death had a very large impact on both brothers and in the present day, Dante and Cisco are trying to work through that experience.
Also, Cisco is essentially recruited by agent Dale Gunn, who becomes his crusty, older mentor. He is the one who brings him into the fold. There is a little bit of a “Men in Black” dynamic. Dale plays the crusty, older, jaded world-weary guy and Cisco is the younger, hipper fresh face on the team. I think their interplay will be fun for the readers.
Not sure Vibe even has a rogues’ gallery but will we see any classic Justice League villains in your series or will you create some new bad guys for Vibe to encounter?
We’re going to keep the villains under lock and key for now. But it will be a mix of some familiar faces and some new stuff we’re planning. These books are going to be interlocked so I don’t want to give too much away.
I can say, in the first issue, he is up against the Parademons, which obviously, fans are familiar with.
Beyond that, we have some really exciting stuff planned. What’s really cool about the book is that because it’s based on a character that has been around for a really long time, and does have fans, you have to honor that, but in the same way, we are excited to create as many new characters as we can and really have them make a real impact on the DCU, and hopefully take hold. We’re hoping you won’t be able to imagine a time before Vibe and his cast of supporting characters weren’t a part of the DCU.
You’ve teased a quite a bit, but what else can you share about the opening arc?
The first storyline is really about Cisco getting his powers and finding out what he has been doing with his powers and more importantly, what he’s not been doing with his powers. He had his powers for five years and he hasn’t really stepped forward into the world. He actually outs himself by stopping an ATM robbery. That’s what puts him on the radar of Agent Gunn.
The book, in a lot of ways, is about growing up. Cisco has all of these amazing abilities but he’s not quite sure what to do with them. It’s about finding your direction in life, finding your purpose in life. The other thing we really like about him is that everything that happens in this book is all crazy and scary to him. He’s afraid of being killed. And that makes him a quote-unquote realistic hero because he is dealing with these things the way an average person would be dealing with them. That really separates him from characters like Green Lantern and Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman.
What can you say about teaming up with artist Pete Woods for the series? Have you seen any art from him yet?
We haven’t seen any pages yet. Geoff and I are still writing scripts. I have talked to him and I am a big fan, so I am really excited to see what he does with it but no, I haven’t seen anything yet.
For a character that hasn’t always been treated with great respect, certainly having top-tier talent like Pete Woods and Geoff Johns will only help. And I am just hoping to add my small part too.
And what can you tell us about your collaboration with Geoff?
Working with Geoff is like being a basketball fan and getting to play with Michael Jordan. Not to mention, he turns out to be the nicest guy that you’ve ever met. He’s so smart and such an amazing writer. He’s forgotten more about writing comics than I will ever know.
Another thing that is great is that I’m working with a friend but also after I write a page or even have an idea and watching him take a pass on it or have him making a suggestion, it’s always better. That for me is what I am so gratified by. I want to do right by Vibe and we are serious about turning him into somebody special. And collaborating with Geoff shows we are bringing out the big guns.
With how “Arrow” has been presented to date, it’s hard to imagine Darkseid, interdimensional rifts or Vibe fitting into that world, but is there any chance we might see Cisco Ramone at some point?
[Laughs] I don’t know. There are no superpowers on our show so I’m not sure Vibe as a superpowered hero will show up. But never say never. Hopefully Cisco Ramone’s name will become as well known as Barry Allen or Hal Jordan.
The fun with “Arrow” is taking the lesser known characters in the DCU and introducing them to a wider audience. I guess anything we can do to help Vibe is a good thing, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
“Justice League of America’s Vibe,” co-written by Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg and illustrated by Pete Woods, launches February 2013.