Adam Glass, the writer of DC Comics’ “Suicide Squad” and one of the staff writers on the CW’s “Supernatural,” recently spent an afternoon at the CBR TV studios. Glass and Jonah Weiland spoke at length about the writer’s career, his lifelong love of the Suicide Squad and how he balances writing for two different mediums.
Glass also dive right into the various controversies that have followed him during his SS stint, from fans threatening him personal harm over his depiction of Harley Quinn, to the controversy over Amanda Waller’s New 52 weight loss and the particularly strong fan reaction to Quinn kissing her Squad-mate Deadshot, described by Glass as the writing gig that has garnered him the most vitriolic fan reaction in any medium.
Glass described working with fellow comic book writers Ben Edlund and Brett Matthews and Andrew Daab on “Supernatural,” the likelihood of he and “Tick” creator Edlund ever working on a comic together and his upcoming creator-owned comic “Brick,” a story about a 12 year old boy who has control of his very own Frankenstein monster.
Check out the interview and complete transcript below.
CBR TV: Welcome to CBR TV, I’m Jonah Weiland in the CBR TV studio in Hollywood. Sitting to my left is Mr. Adam Glass, writer for “Supernatural” and also DC’s New 52 title “Suicide Squad.” How you doing, buddy?
Adam Glass: I’m good, brother, how are you guys?
I’m good, this is actually my first time interviewing you. You’ve been here before–
We did that whole “New 52 Five Questions” silliness.
Actually, awesomeness is a better way of putting it.
[Laughs] I don’t remember, I was drunk either way.
As you are and I am now. Just so everybody knows, I do these mostly drunk. But I’m glad you’re here because I just talked to Jay Faerber, who spent his first year on “Ringer” as a TV writer and he has this one little comic book that he does on the side, a creator-owned thing, and you guys are in a very similar boat. You work your butts off on “Supernatural” and then you’ve got your little comic book on the side, “Suicide Squad” in this case. Why? Television writing pays okay. Comics writing, not as much.
Did my wife ask this?
[Laughs] Does she bug you about this, like, “Why are you writing these silly comic books?”
Yeah. She’s like, “Yeah, your son walked today but you were too busy writing ‘Suicide Squad.'”
She’s as cool as she can be about it. The answer is simple: I just love comic books. I’ve loved them all my life and it’s a dream come true to actually write a book, as corny as that might sound. When my first book came out, I can’t tell you how many of my Facebook friends — people who knew me my whole life — oh my God. I could have won an Emmy and no one would have cared — can I curse or no?
You can curse up a storm.
Oh, good. No one would give a shit if I fucking won an Emmy, but boy when I had that first comic book, people came a calling because they knew me always as that guy. Yeah, I do it out of the love and I had a special place in my heart for “Suicide Squad.” When they were talking about a bunch of stuff, nothing was clicking for me and then when they said Suicide Squad, I was like “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
What do you remember about Suicide Squad that’s drawing you to it here?
Obviously, there’s [John] Ostrander. For me and my generation, I think most of us grew up about the same time.
Yeah, I was a “Spirit” guy myself.
Well, I think you’re much older than me. [Laughs]
No! [Laughs] I hope not!
Joking, joking. But at the end of the day — I just always remember loving that book because it was the idea that villains but the shades of grey of the villains and how they’re not just all bad guys and there’s something to them — I’ve always been interested in the darker side of comics. All the characters I’ve written for the most part all have sort of a dark — I even took Deadpool and did a dark “Deadpool Pulp” book with Mike Benson that we wrote together and we looked at the dark side of that. I’ve always been more interested in the street level stuff. You think “Suicide Squad” and you think, “Oh, they’re a bunch of supervillains who turn around. How street is that?” Well, it is street because the way I’m doing it — when I say street, it’s the wrong word. I’m trying to ground it and make it down and dirty.
What’s interesting also about your Suicide Squad assignment here is that it’s actually — it’s your biggest launch in comics. Certainly, you’ve been around, you’ve done a bunch of stuff with Mike Benson, but this is part of the New 52 and of course it came under intense scrutiny issue #1, Amanda Waller looks different and Harley Quinn looks quite different.
There was a big burst of controversy right when it came out.
Then it seemed to kind of go away and I’m curious to see what your reaction to the controversy was and was it real, is it something to be concerned about?
Well you know, surprise, surprise, as I’m sure you guys know, and you people at home have no idea but we don’t have full control of everything. With that said, there are certain decisions that are made and I’ve got to be honest with it — neither of those decisions actually bothered me that much but when they first came down, I didn’t really think much of them. My idea is how to make the story work best. So for me, I turned around and basically said, “How do I make the best story?” To me, Amanda Waller, I understand all the people who said her size and having a woman of that sort of looking like a real person who came from the real world and all that, I couldn’t agree more but I would argue that Amanda Waller, no matter what size she is, is still Amanda Waller. It’s her character that always to me made her not her physical appearance. As for Harley Quinn, I can’t tell you, I probably get more emails on her and people find me on Facebook and all the threatening videos — I know who you are. [Laughs]
Are you being serious?
I’ve had people literally send me stuff — Harley Quinn fans — and tell me crazy stuff. Like, literally, “I’d better never see you at a convention” and stuff. Yeah, no, these people play for real. And by the way, I totally love that they’re that passionate about this character.
Because if they weren’t, then it would mean that what you’re doing doesn’t matter.
No, I love it! I totally love it.
That’s true, but it’s a little scary at the same time.
Yeah, look, honestly I write those people back and say, “You crossed a line.” I let them know, like I’m writing you back personally, and a couple of people then have said sorry, a couple never wrote back, but a couple people have said, “You’re absolutely right, I thought about what you said,” so there are some intelligent people too out there, it’s not all just crazy fans who — when you have that kind of passion, it can blind you sometimes. With a couple of people I’ve talked to, I understand it, but as I always say to them, this — your Harley still exists out there somewhere. I don’t know if she exists in the New 52 or if she exists in some alternative universe, she’s there but this is the new Harley for a new generation, so that’s what we’re trying to do.
I’m glad to hear you’re engaging them, too and saying, “Hey, you crossed a line” because it reminds me of a story — and this happens to me on a much smaller level — and certainly I’ve never had my life threatened about something on CBR, but I had a guy write me once and say, “Hey, I watched three of your interviews today and they sucked and why are you doing interviews on CBR?” Well, thanks for watching! By the way, here’s three I think are better than the ones you watched and if you don’t like me, that’s fine. We’re not friends on Facebook and he said, “Well, that was a little rude–“
Best man at his wedding. [Points to Jonah]
[Laughs] Well, not yet. We’re working on that. But sometimes engaging the cranks is the best way of turning them around to your side. But that can be a little scary and I’m sure you’ve run into that, especially both in comics and “Supernatural” but I’m curious now — now that you’ve told me about this Harley reaction — from which writing assignment have you gotten the most vitriolic emails and contact?
You’re talking about “Suicide Squad?”
Whether it be “Suicide Squad” or “Supernatural.”
Believe it or not, it’s “Suicide Squad.” And I knew this was going to happen when — I think it was in issue #3 — when Harley and Deadshot kissed. People lost their minds. Within 24 hours of that book coming back, I had 20 Facebook messages. Like, mails from Harley Quinn fans saying, “How dare you, you don’t understand her” and all this stuff. Once again, some of them had some really valuable concerns that I totally understood and got but I just had a different opinion on it, a different take on it. I wanted her to become her own person and to become her own person, she has to step away from the very thing that I think these fans love, which is she’s attached to the Joker’s hip. My Harley, the New 52 Harley, she loves the Joker. She’s very dedicated to him but if Mr. J’s not around and he’s not around right now, she’s out in the world, she’s got to survive and she’s going to do what she has to do to survive. That might mean crossing some lines, but as I’ve always seen her — and I think books seven and eight proved — Harley’s a dangerous girl and is not somebody you want to come up against. I’m trying to make her be someone you take a little more serious.
One of the elements you’ve added to “Suicide Squad” is the secret organization Basilisk. I’m curious — I want you to talk about them a little bit because for one, they are numerous secret societies in the DC Universe and you are creating a brand new one so I’m curious as to what the motivation is behind that. Let’s start there.
It’s funny, I’ll give you the answer and then you guys decide later if you can actually put this on the thing. My answer to me was, I talked with Pat McCallum and I just said, “I’m sorry, maybe it’s when I grew up but to me always — as I say it — Cobra was G.I. Joe.” I never got into the — it confused me. The DC Comics Cobra, the G.I. Joe Cobra, all that stuff. So to me, any time I think of Cobra, I think G.I. Joe. I don’t think Cobra of DC Comics. We knew that the society, there were certain things that were already in place that have this sort of serpent theme. At first we actually said, yeah, maybe we use them but I think as time went on, that’s where we came to a decision and said plus we’ve got this new playing ground. So, let’s create someone new. That’s also the thing, getting into King Cobra, redoing his origin and all that — we’re redoing a lot of origins so why not create something completely fresh? We did and actually the leader of that book, Regulus, is going to start being seen a lot more. You’re going to start learning more about his history and him and Amanda Waller’s past and why Waller is after this guy and wants to take him down.
Well yeah because there’s this whole story about them believing there is a coming war between the humans and the metahumans and all this kind of stuff yet, here we have Amanda Waller who’s not a metahuman, who’s the head of a team that’s filled with metahumans. The question is, where does this all fit in in this war between metahumans and humans? Basilisk believes this is coming. How does that team fit into this war?
Absolutely, well you have to think about this: everybody wants something. So, what do they want? Everybody’s playing chess. If there’s going to be a new world order and this is coming, everybody wants something different. I don’t want to reveal what anybody wants because that’s what you’re tuning in for. There’s a reason that Amanda is going after them, there’s a reason why — and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here — they have a past. There’s a history between them and it’s all sort of playing out now and we’re learning stuff about the past and what happened and we’re leading up to a story with them that will basically leave everything in a million pieces.
Let’s switch a little bit to “Supernatural” here. You are a writer on that team there but what I find so fascinating about that show is that it’s populated with a whole bunch of comic writers. Let me just make sure — Ben Edlund, Brett Matthews, Andrew Daab and you — all comics writers. There are no other comics writers on that show that I know of.
No, and all those guys are just brilliant, awesome guys. I grew up reading Ben Edlund, like “The Tick” and we’re the same age, so it shows how lazy I was when I was 18 years old.
So, I grew up reading his stuff and he’s an amazing guy. Brett Matthews wrote “Lone Ranger” and —
Numerous Whedon books for Dark Horse.
Yeah, exactly, so I’ve been a fan of Brett’s also, [I] just think he’s a great writer. Andrew’s “Dungeons & Dragons” and all that — it’s interesting too because we all have different comic book backgrounds. I’m actually the sell-out. I’m the mainstream guy. “You and your ‘Suicide Squad’ book, your 40,000 readers.” [Laughs]
But yeah, lot of respect. We all do something a little bit different and yet we’re in the room all working together.
I always find it fascinating when a comic writer joins a television series, especially one with a mythology as big as “Supernatural’s” and Jeph Loeb has worked on “Lost,” Brian K. Vaughan has worked on “Lost” — these shows with great mythologies seem to really thrive when you’ve got comic writers on them. Is that just a lucky happenstance or is it because these guys have this incredible love of this style of soap opera that translates so well to TV?
It’s all us. [Laughs]
Who’s the guy who wrote “Y: The Last Man?”
Brian K. Vaughan.
Yeah, he was the “Lost” guy. That other guy, Damon Lindelof, nothing! It was all him.
First of all it’s interesting because for me, I’m sort of the opposite of a lot of those guys. I’m a TV writer who happens to write comics whereas a lot of those guys were comic book writers who came and wanted to write TV. I came at it from a different way in and I find that both are very similar in many different ways. The way you lay out stories, I look at stories like episodes of a season. I’m just doing shorter seasons. My season is like a cable season, I’m doing 12 episodes, 12 issues and that is — I’ll work three or four arcs through that and finally lead up to something and you’ll say, “Oh, that’s why you put that in book one” just like a TV show. To me, they’re very similar worlds. You’re creating basically — it’s interesting if you think about it — you’re creating something that you want your engine that pushes you through every issue, every episode and then you want an overall myth arc that plays out. That’s why I think they’re both perfect worlds, especially as things that become serialized and yeah — very similar storytelling.
Do you guys ever talk in the writers room about possibly collaborating on comics together? A comic with you and Ben at Image I think would be pretty kick ass.
[Laughs] That’s funny. Let me tell you something, I would love to crawl into Ben’s head and sit there for a week. I don’t know what would happen when I came out. [Laughs] I’d be a different person. I just really, really think the world of him. But yeah, I think we’re all so busy and we’re all doing our things but it’s probably like musicians — like, “Yeah, we should jam together” — but in a way we do, we jam together every day in the room. I think that’s our collaboration.
Fair enough. Switching gears here a little bit, what’s next for you in comics? I hear a little rumor of something at Oni, maybe.
Yeah, actually, Mike Benson, who helped me break into the business and really did a great take on “Moon Knight,” he and I have done a lot of books together: “Deadpool: Suicide Kings” — I’ve written “Suicide” and “Deadshot” and “Deadpool.” Try doing that as you write and you look at half of the script and you’re like, “Why have I written Deadpool into half of the script?”
We did “Luke Cage Noir” — we did a lot of things together and “Deadpool Pulp” which we loved. So him and I are collaborating again for a book that we’re doing for Oni right now. We’re just in the middle of writing it. It’s called “Brick” and it’s basically — the long and short of it, and I don’t want to give too much away — about a boy’s journey and it’s powers in a different way; sort of back to the old school Spider-Man message “great power comes with great responsibility,” what do you do with it? I’ll give you the tagline. This is how we sold it. I said, “What if a 12 year old boy had the control of a Frankenstein monster” and that was my sales pitch with Mike and that’s what they bought.
And this is your creator-owned comic?
So that’s another thing that’s been a part of the discussion in a big way online lately is creator-owned comics. This is your first creator-owned comic, is it not?
Yes, yes it is.
Is that the direction you want to continue to go in with comics or do you want to play in the corporate sandbox as well?
You know, I think I want my cake and eat it too. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Why not?
You know, it’s so fun to play with the big chess pieces. “Suicide Squad” is the biggest titles I’ve ever worked on. I mean, one would argue “Deadpool” was pretty big but rabid fanbase, also doing a monthly book. I’ll tell you what I miss and it’s not so much that I don’t like doing the monthly books, I miss doing miniseries and I do miss doing one-offs. The thing about mini series is that you don’t have to worry about the continuity of everything else necessarily, so you can almost be more creative in ways — a different kind of creative. You have to be very smart and very specific about what you do in a series but you can sort of get a little wilder, I find, in a miniseries so I would love to do that. Bring back Elseworlds. That’s what I want to do. I would love to write those books, just do total different Elseworlds characters — I loved those books when I was into comics.
And those were some of my favorite books.
Very similar to Marvel’s “What If…?”
I never got into “What If…?” as much as I did the Elseworlds. The Elseworlds seemed bigger to me for some reason and sometimes they were bigger. They were these glossy things and the “What Ifs…?” were — I’d say —
“What if Galactus…” — that was the other problem.
Right, it was also very superhero goofy. But I loved “What If…?” and there were some classic stories. Elseworlds was always more my thing, plus I grew up a DC guy.
You know, it’s funny, I never realized that was such a big two camps. I grew up reading both. As I grew up and talked to people they’d say, “I never read Marvel” and I said, “What, how did you miss Chris Claremont’s ‘X-Men’ and Jim Lee’s ‘X-Men?'” Those to me were the building blocks. I’ve told this story before. When I did as a kid, my mother turned around took me to the school psychiatrist because apparently I had been very depressed for two weeks and I wasn’t talking so she wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. I’ll never forget, I talked to the psychiatrist and on the bus ride home — I’m like eight years old — and she turns to me and she’s like pissed. Really pissed. And she’s like, “Really? Really?” I’m like, “What” and she’s like, “We’ll talk about it when we get home.” We get home, and open the door, she sits me down and she says, “Where is it? Where is it?” and I’m like, “Where’s what, mom?” and she says, “Where is that f-ing comic book?”
You have to understand Beta Ray Bill has beaten Thor and taken his hammer. I was devastated. She said, “I thought someone touched you.”
Oh my god!
[Laughs] I had no idea, but that’s how emotional that book was for me. So it’s funny and yet “The Judas Contract,” DC Comics, when Robin becomes Nightwing — that has just as much mood for me. I guess my point is I never understood the one camp or the other camp, I just always loved both camps and just loved all those books growing up as a kid. I actually find myself to be better than you kids who had single comics. [Laughs]
[Laughs] God, I’m fascinated to know what that psychiatrist really thought of you at that moment when like — “This is what I’m talking to this kid about? Are you fucking kidding me?”
Now he’s going, “My God, they rule the world! If I only knew then!”
Adam, a pleasure seeing you again. He’s Adam Glass, I’m Jonah Weiland and this is CBR TV.