Halloween may be just around the corner, but the spooks really come out in the New Year when DC Comics is set to unleash an epic crossover between two of its biggest stars. And we mean really big.
Not unlike how Frank will assuredly track down Kevin Kho’s alter ego O.M.A.C. in the crossover, CBR News managed to capture the attention of DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, living legend Keith Giffen and multiple-Eisner nominee Jeff Lemire to collect a few thoughts on their planned monster mash-up while shedding some more light on one of the darker corners of the DC Universe in the process.
DiDio and Giffen serve as co-writers on “O.M.A.C.,” which Giffen also draws with Scott Koblish, while Lemire writes “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.,” a series illustrated by Alberto Ponticelli.
CBR News: Both of these titles feature “monsters” as the leading men versus classic superheroes. Why was it time for DC Comics to jump back into monster books?
Keith Giffen: Why not?
Dan DiDio: I have to say the same thing, too. One of the things that we tried to do when we launched the New 52 was to really try to change the silhouette of the DC Universe. Not all the characters stand and look the same. That’s what makes characters, like O.M.A.C. and Frankenstein, so exciting. Just by their outline, you can tell they are completely different from the others. And we want to treat them in a different way, as well.
Giffen: Monsters have really never gone away. Other media has always done monsters. There are monster movies and monster books, and comics have a history steeped in monster books. It’s about time they made a comeback.
Jeff Lemire: I agree with both those things. I just feel all the good things about the New 52 are based on trying to reach a broader audience. Instead of doing just one type of book, there is a chance for books like “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” and “O.M.A.C.” Again, we’re trying to diversify the line a bit and bring in a more diverse fanbase.
There’s a great line in “O.M.A.C.” #2 where Kevin Kho yells out to Brother Eye, “You’ve turned me into a freakin’ monster!” Is O.M.A.C. a monster?
Giffen: Uh, yeah?
DiDio: To the person being turned into the monster, sure, he would feel that way, as would everyone else around him. To Brother Eye, he’s just another pawn or another weapon for him.
Giffen: Yes, I think you would call O.M.A.C. a monster. But like Dan said, I guess it depends on your perception.
DiDio: I think one of the things that I like is that we are creating characters that if they were walking down the street, the inclination of the public would be to step back, not towards them. They create a sense of fear or concern whenever they enter a room.
To quote one of the characters, in “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” #2, Nina Mazursky says, “To create these monsters, she’s tapped into man’s irrational fear of the unknown.” Jeff, again, are these monsters? Because while they may look like monsters, when you read the words in the panels, the characters don’t sound like monsters.
Lemire: The whole conceit of that book is that you have these creatures who, if John Q. Public saw them on the street, they’d be horrified by them. But their main purpose in life is defending and protecting those very people. I think that’s the interesting tension of that book.
Giffen: The thing I like about the Frankenstein book is, these monsters come across deceivingly like creatures, but once they’re done with their mission, they go out for a couple of beers. There is humanity to them.
DiDio: One of the reasons I enjoy the Frankenstein book so much is for scenes like when Frankenstein is complaining about his ex-wife. I think that is funny stuff. I’ve never thought of a big monster doing things as mundane or as commonplace as that.
Giffen: I also like the line afterwards, where Father Time says, “She’s been your wife in name only for at least the last seven decades and you know it.”
While the New 52 allows a retcon of sorts for characters’ back stories and origins, I did some digging, and while there are some historical links like those between Maxwell Lord and the Creature Commandos, Frankenstein and O.M.A.C. aren’t exactly a natural fit for a crossover.
Giffen: I disagree with that. I think this is one of the easiest crossovers to figure out. The purpose of S.H.A.D.E. and the purpose of Frankenstein are to keep creatures like O.M.A.C. in check.
Lemire: Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward. You have two organizations that are kind of espionage/spy organizations, so in a way, it just seems natural to have them intersect. I think Frankenstein and O.M.A.C. are pretty much opposite characters. O.M.A.C. is at the mercy of Brother Eye and forced to do things that he doesn’t want to, and Frank is the noble soldier who is willing to take orders but he also does what needs to be done. It just seemed like an obvious choice to put them together.
Both titles feature lots of shadowy organizations and covert science-based government outfits like S.H.A.D.E., Checkmate and CADMUS. “Justice League” heavily featured S.T.A.R. Labs last week. With a big push to bring in new readers, are you concerned at all that if there are too many of these types of settings and bases of operation that readers may get confused?
DiDio: We’re working very diligently to try and track them all and actually bring them all into focus so that each one has a clear sense of purpose. Specifically, when we introduced Checkmate into “O.M.A.C.,” we wanted to make sure that we’re explaining what it’s about and what its purpose is, even if we’re not 100 percent coming clean on everything we’re doing. At least for a new reader, you can get into what the group’s motivations are and why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Giffen: Yeah, and remember, it’s kind of a young universe right now that just started in September, so you might look at all these organizations and go, “There are quite a few of these top secret organizations working against one another.” But as times goes on, they’ll start separating and each one will have its own M.O. and you’ll be able to tell, hopefully, down the line, which organization is behind something just by the way something is going on.
Dan, you mention the role of Checkmate in your series, and Jeff, you’ve got these shadowy figures working at S.H.A.D.E.. Is it characters like Maxwell Lord that are the real monsters of the DCU?
DiDio: Well, for “O.M.A.C.,” it’s not as much about monsters as it is about control. Who is in control of whose lives? And who’s manipulating behind the scenes? That’s why Maxwell Lord is so prominent in that book, because he’s one of the master controllers in the DC Universe. That’s why it’s kind of fun to watch the cat and mouse game between Brother Eye and Maxwell Lord just as it starts to develop, and seeing how O.M.A.C. is a pawn caught between them.
At the end of the day, O.M.A.C.’s decisions will probably be the truest of the bunch, so he’ll be least monstrous of the bunch.
Lemire: I think S.H.A.D.E. has some ulterior motives and stuff, but that’s something we’ll start to reveal a bit later in the series as Frank starts to discover some things Father Time has done that he doesn’t necessarily agree with. But as to whether S.H.A.D.E. is the monsters or not, I don’t know about that, but definitely, there’s going to be some tension.
From the solicitations, we know that your crossover features Frank chasing down O.M.A.C., who is still on the loose, but what else can you tease?
Lemire: Without giving away any of the fun stuff, it’s a fairly simple story. Not to downplay it or anything, but it really is. It’s a big monster mashup and it’s a lot of fun. Who wins and who doesn’t, that’s a surprise. We don’t want to give that away.
DiDio: The real subtext that’s going on here — and there’s actually not that much subtext — is seeing a little a bit of what Checkmate versus S.H.A.D.E. is about. How the two different agencies compare to each other or how they look at each other.
Lemire: The other subplot that is really interesting is, without giving too much away, Brother Eye might want something from S.H.A.D.E. and this might be a way of putting up a big distraction. Trying to slip in the back door.
DiDio: If you’ve got Brother Eye attacking S.H.A.D.E., you start to wonder what Max’s motivations and thoughts are about the whole thing, too.
Giffen: And it doesn’t hurt, since we have two books that feature two big monsters, to put them together and show how they operate differently. They are not cut from the same cloth.
Lemire: Definitely not. Neither of them are one-dimensional monsters. They may physically resemble one another because they are both these big, hulking creatures, but they’re quite different.
DiDio: Are we allowed to use that word?
Lemire: What? Creature?
DiDio: [Laughs] What about a tale of the tape? Who is stronger? Who is smarter? Who is quicker?
Giffen: I’m the strongest.
DiDio: We all know not to take on Keith Giffen.
Lemire: No, Dan’s the strongest. Keith’s the smartest and I’m the tallest.
DiDio: That’s your answer.
It sounds to me like this is more than a two-issue crossover. Might we see some continued interplay between these two titles?
Giffen: As it warrants. We’re not deliberately going to go out and say, “How many DC characters can we crossover into these books?” I think at this point and time in space, we found a good way to crossover “O.M.A.C.” and “Frankenstein” without interrupting the flow of the books. These books are young. I think the guest stars and other characters will come in, but only as it feels natural to the book. We pretty much have to set our own parameters for the first year or so.
Lemire: When I wrote the issue, it didn’t feel like I was crossing over. It just felt like the next natural issue of “Frankenstein.” If you can do stuff like that, sure. Anything else that feels forced won’t be great anyway.
Do we get to see a moment where Frank gets to talk Kevin as opposed to O.M.A.C., so he can mentor him monster to monster?
Giffen: Are you kidding? Kevin would run from the room.
DiDio: Exactly. Screaming like a little girl.
“O.M.A.C.” #4 is a 90 percent-Kevin issue, so you get a chance to see what he’s like on his own, and really, how this has affected all of his life. But there will be a character coming up after this — that has his own series — that will become a little bit of a mentor for Kevin.
Speaking of a supporting cast, Jeff, I love that you’ve introduced Ray Palmer to S.H.A.D.E. as a scientific liaison. Any chance he’ll be suiting up as The Atom anytime soon, alongside Frank and the Creature Commandoes?
Lemire: Whether or not Ray will become The Atom, we’re not allowed to talk about yet, and I think that’s what makes him an interesting character right now. That he’s not The Atom. He’s just a scientist. I think, in many ways, he’s more interesting now than he was previously as The Atom.
“O.M.A.C.” #5, by Dan DiDio, Keith Giffen and Skott Koblish, is scheduled for January 4. “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.,” by Jeff Lemire and artist Alberto Ponticelli is set for January 11.