While he hasn’t been booked on A&E’s “Hoarders” just yet, Brian Buccellato doesn’t give his playthings up too easily. Buccellato has been co-writing “The Flash” with Francis Manapul since the dawn of DC Comics’ New 52, and when the opportunity to take a month off became a very real possibility due to Villains Month, he opted instead to stay put and write all three Flash-centric one-shots for September’s line-wide event: “The Flash: Grodd” #23.1 with artist Chris Batista, “The Flash: Reverse-Flash” #23.2 with Manapul, who is also co-writing and “The Flash: The Rogues” #23.3 with Patrick Zircher.
Buccellato discussed the three one-shots with CBR News before his “Forever Evil” six-issue miniseries “Rogues Rebellion” was announced, but the writer did hint that his one-shots are directly connected to Geoff Johns and David Finch’s core series. He also shared his thoughts on the wide spectrum of rogues Barry Allen faces each day and why writing a story from the villain’s point of view is difficult but rewarding and all kinds of fun.
CBR News: I’ve interviewed you a few times and I have never thought of you as greedy person, but you are writing all three Flash-centric Villains Month titles. You just didn’t want to share the wealth, did you?
Brian Buccellato: I do feel proprietary about it, but it wasn’t like I said, “These are mine!” [Laughs] I was offered the chance to write them, and I said, “Yes.” I wish I had the kind of pull where I could say, “Nobody touch the Rogues. Nobody touch the Flash villains. They belong to me.” But I don’t. [Laughs] I was very fortunate that the editorial staff thought enough of me to offer me those jobs, and I happily accepted.
It’s been more than two years now that you’ve been writing “The Flash” with Francis . Did you have a plan for Barry Allen set this far out, or has the story grown organically for him and his foes over time?
In terms of comic book issues, it’s been two years, but Francis and I have been working on New 52 for closer to three when you include the development period and how far we work ahead. We have a solid three years with Barry and “The Flash.” Early on, I didn’t think that we would last this long, but after we hit the first year, it felt like we had our footing firmly set and I have since had the faith that they were going to let us run with Barry for at least a few more years.
I hold Barry in extremely high regard, right up there with Superman, as one of comics’ ultimate do-gooders. How does he get his head wrapped around a villain choosing to do ill to others as it is so far removed from what he holds true?
He has a very clear cut view of right and wrong and he does what’s right because it’s right. I don’t think he was victimized by the tragedies in his life. I think he was strengthened and defined by those. I don’t consider him a haunted character the way that Batman is. He’s a guy who dealt with tragedy, persevered and also has a solid foundation thanks to his foster father, Captain Frye. He’s learned the police angle. He learned about laws and right and wrong. For him, he’s a product of his upbringing. I don’t know that he even looks at himself as a do-gooder. He just does what’s right.
When he fights, he’s not an angry person. He’s not out to hurt [villains], but if they are on the wrong side of the law and they go against what he stands for, he has to take them down by whatever means necessary. Well, not any means. He’s not going to kill anybody because that’s not who he is, but he has no problem kicking ass for the right reason.
The villains you are featuring are A-lister Flash foes: Grodd, Reverse-Flash and the Rogues. But it’s such a wide spectrum. Reverse-Flash is almost pure evil while Grodd is more a madman/maniacal menace. And the Rogues, well, come on — they’re the Rogues. Does this spectrum allow for a deeper exploration of what’s evil and what’s really evil?
You are absolutely right. Reverse-Flash is definitely the most evil and the most deeply motivated of Flash’s villains, and the most willing to hurt others for personal need or gain. I see Grodd as a zealot, who believes what he believes. And he also has a gorilla-sized ego to boot! [Laughs] He’s going to do it his way, and he doesn’t care who he has to hurt and kill or eviscerate. He’s savage, but in some ways, I understand Grodd and who he is, because he’s so primal, whereas the Reverse-Flash is just a different animal. I can’t really give away what that is because his origin is going to be revealed in the “Reverse-Flash” one-shot.
In terms of the Rogues, they are these blue collar, working class villains. I don’t think they even consider themselves villains. They think that they are hard working Americans whose jobs happen to be on the wrong side of the law. They’re all about the score. They’re all about accomplishing their goal, getting the money and then spending it on their creature comforts of life. They’re drinkers, they play pool — they’re very classic American Joes. In a lot of ways, they are the most fun to write because they toe that line between good and evil. When “Gorilla Warfare” happened, they saw their city become overtaken by gorillas and they decided to help. The Rogues are my favorites, especially Captain Cold.
You’re delivering Villains Month one-shots with tried and true Flash foes while other writers are telling stories with new villains. Why the decision to stick with the classic supervillains versus introducing something new?
I don’t know why, but especially in the Flash universe, fans and readers want to see the established characters. For the New 52, we introduced a new character called Mob Rule, and it seemed that he did not get near as much interest as when we debuted the New 52 Captain Cold in “The Flash” #6. Maybe it’s because comic book readers, as a whole, like the familiar. That’s why they are so passionate about the origins and they get so up-in-arms with retcons. They feel a real ownership for these characters. There’s something inherently attractive about the familiar to comic fans in general.
And I think The Flash has great villains. They like Flash, and the Flash family and the Flash supporting cast, and they also love the villains. It’s almost a no-brainer to stick with the classics. How can you do Villains Month and not do Reverse-Flash, Grodd and the Rogues?
In the “Reverse Flash” story arc, you teased that you’re going to be telling his untold origin. Is this a New 52 retconned origin versus his classic origin?
I don’t think that it’s giving anything away to say that this Reverse-Flash is no way related to any previous incarnation. He’s definitely a New 52 version of the character, but even though he’s a different person and he has different motivation, I think he still embodies the Reverse-Flash way of being. He will be familiar in that people won’t say that he is a completely different character, even though his origin is not the same. What he wants is not exactly the same as previous Reverse-Flashes.
In the Grodd one-shot, you’re tying the story back to the “Bearer of Light” story, which I loved. When you were originally plotting that storyline, did you know that you would be able to return to it for Villains Month?
It wasn’t that long ago that we had the “Gorilla Warfare” storyline, so obviously Grodd is very fresh in my mind. Beyond that, we basically told his origin in the pages of “The Flash.” We told where he came from, what he is about and why, so to me, instead of rehashing his origin, I took him from we left him and I showed what he would do under the circumstances that surround Villains Month and “Forever Evil.” For Grodd, it’s an evolution. It’s a continuation of the story rather than me retelling the origin.
And you have the Rogues facing off against the Secret Society. Does the Secret of Society represent too much evil for the Rogues?
You’re right on the money. The Rogues don’t have the same agenda as a lot of other supervillains. A lot of villains have very nefarious, rule-the-world or burn-the-world-to-the-ground type of mentality. That’s not the Rogues. The Rogues are happy robbing a bank or a museum or scamming somebody, just making some money and then spending it. They don’t have the same sort of needs as other villains so this is quite a conflict for them because they’re not fighting for the same things. There will definitely be issues when the Society call upon them and ask them to do things that they don’t want to do, because the Rogues have a code. It’s pretty well established what the Rogues are willing to do and not willing to do. This will cause a major conflict for the Rogues during “Forever Evil.”
Not too many Villains Month solicitations cite “Forever Evil,” but your books appear to be directly tied to the upcoming series. Is that the case?
Absolutely. The Rogues story is very well connected to Geoff’s story. That’s not to say that you need to read both but I think reading both is added value. You can read one without reading the other. If you only have $4 a month to spend, you could pick one, but if you have $8, you can enjoy it that much more. I’m also in conversation with Geoff so that story meshes and feels like part of the event that he’s doing.
Finally, you’ve been doing this for a while but is it a little more fun to tell a story from the villain’s point of view versus the hero’s?
Absolutely. In some ways, it’s harder, because you are writing a story about a person that is despicable in some way. You want to find a way that you can root for the character on some level, and that’s a challenge. If you can’t identify with or root for the character on any level, then you’re not going to write a story that’s interesting or that people will respond to.
The flipside is that a lot of these villains don’t have the same kind of ethics, so you can do all kinds of crazy shit. It’s a double-edged sword, but it’s a cool sword.