When the New 52 relaunched in 2011, DC Comics set out to reinvent its publishing line, bringing in new heroes, new approaches and new talent — like writer Ray Fawkes. Fawkes first entered the DC Universe writing alongside Jeff Lemire on “Justice League Dark,” eventually taking over as permanent writer for two other titles: “Constantine” and “Trinity Of Sin: Pandora.”
Featuring art by ACO, “Constantine” uprooted the Vertigo hero and firmly reintegrated him into the New 52, involving him in both Justice League Dark and the events surrounding “Trinity War” and “Forever Evil.” Now at the tail end of the latter event, Constantine has been cut loose from the JLD and is back on his own, beginning a globe-trotting new mission starting with “Constantine” #14.
As for “Trinity Of Sin: Pandora,” featuring art by Francis Portela, the unjustly-cursed heroine seemingly has a new lease on life as she emerges from “Forever Evil” as an avatar of hope and light. However, darkness and her curse still dog her steps, along with villains like Giganta and Vandal Savage — and the road to redemption may not be as easy as she hopes.
Tying up loose ends from “Forever Evil,” Fawkes sat down and spoke with CBR about the new directions he’s taking in his books, his long-reaching plans for Constantine and finally tackling the universe-altering events Pandora set in motion four years ago.
CBR News: Ray, both “Trinity Of Sin: Pandora” and “Constantine” have played a huge role in “Forever Evil.” However, “Forever Evil” ends in May. With this in mind, what happens to the two titles after the event comes to a close? Are you taking them in entirely new directions?
Ray Fawkes: Its funny, they are going in new directions and they’re kind of at opposite ends of the spectrum. In the course of “Forever Evil,” all of these supernatural dark characters got to see up close the nature of evil, and its almost like John learned he’s only a good guy against his will! [Laughs] And Pandora learns there are actually good people in this world. They’re both shooting off in opposite ways: John is left with this realization that he’s been running with the costumed crowd, which is something he said he never wanted to do. Zatanna kicked him out of Justice League Dark and he ends up thinking it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him. He’s cut loose and is more John than he’s ever been. So readers are going to see what Constantine does when he doesn’t have this pressure from outside to be a better person and to help save the world. What are John’s machinations like when he’s left to his own devices? I think it’s a lot of fun. The current issue that just came out, issue #13, gives readers a glimpse of how weird things are going to get.
As far as Pandora is concerned, her fight with the Sins appears to be over. The box she carried was destroyed and she had taken on this new power as this sort of avatar of hope and light carrying over from “Forever Evil.” She’s left in between where she can be a really great hero to the world if she wants to, and so now it’s time for her to step up.
Talking about “Constantine” first, it sounds like what you’re doing is closer to the Vertigo’s “Hellblazer” series: Constantine on his own, dealing with weird threats and supernatural foes. Will that be the tone of the book moving forward, John Constantine as a loner, more like the Vertigo version than the superhero crowd we’ve seen thus far?
Yeah, it’s definitely John is striking out on his own. He’s sort of back to, and some readers may be more familiar with it or it may be new to some readers, but back to the really exciting travels where he moves around from place to place dealing with some supernatural things of his own choice, and some that are thrust upon him from the worlds beyond. The next few issues are going to show him in other places, in Russia — he’s basically going to do a circuit of most of the world in pursuit of something I don’t really want to give away. Readers of this latest issue have seen John has a plan in the works.
I don’t know, whenever Constantine has a plan it feels like the rest of the DC Universe should duck.
[Laughs] Absolutely! I don’t think you really want to get involved if you can help it!
Sticking with that idea, before “Forever Evil” began, you brought in a lot of past foes for John and re-imagined some like Papa Midnite. With his new plan and trek around the world will there be more ex-Vertigo or Justice League Dark characters stepping in? Or is this focused solely on John and non-superhero threats?
It’s more the world of magic and wizardry in the DC Universe, less costumed villains and heroes. This is John’s world; these are the people who operate on the streets or in the shadows, behind the scenes. You’re going to see John encountering some new characters and some re-imagined older characters, but these are the people who slip past the notice of super heroes. It’s not like the Justice League would have ever noticed somebody like the Spellbinder but he’s doing a lot of damage. There will be other characters like that we will see soon. I don’t want to say who yet, I don’t want to give away too much of the game, but we’re not going to see Vertigo characters as much as we are going to see new characters who show how magic really works on the ground level of this world.
One of the things I always thought interesting about “Hellblazer” was how much personal lore each writer brought when imagining the supernatural elements John faces. Obviously, there was the whole cohort of British writers who all had personal connections to the stories they were telling, and the supernatural creatures were often local legends or tied to British politics or superstition. For you, how does being from Ontario affect the threats you bring into the book? Are there bits of local legend you want to capitalize on or supernatural ideas that interest you in general?
Yes, kind of. I’m trying to go for a more global approach to be perfectly honest. One of the things I used to love about “Hellblazer” was that it had a very British feel to it. I feel like we don’t want to keep John just in London because that would be retreading ground so many great writers have tread so well before. I don’t really want to do that, and that had a lot to do with the decision to make John in the New 52 a bit of a traveler. He kind of goes everywhere.
I thought one of the great things about “Hellblazer” was actually how relevant it was to the time, and a lot of the supernatural demons and villains and such were actually great illustrations of social problems and events that were relevant to Britain and the world. I am trying to do the same thing but with sort of a global view. So the villains of the Cold Flame are like the one percent of magic, if that makes any sense; they’re the guys who are trying to gobble up everything for themselves. Some of these other villains — the Spellbinders are sort of the shadowy resurgence of Cold War fears. We’re going to see more villains and supernatural beings along those lines. So it’s less that I want to get into local Ontario stuff and a lot more that there are global issues we can address in these stories.
Before we flip over to “Pandora,” I wanted to touch on “Constantine’s” artwork by artist ACO. What has it been like working with ACO on these global issues and what does he bring to the table visually?
I think ACO is absolutely brilliant! I love having him on the book and I love the feel he brings to the magic and John and such. I think he’s got a wonderful understanding of the scope of things I’m going for. There are some other artists who will be taking on some of the issues coming up and I think they’re also brilliant. Edgar Salazar is actually doing #14 next up and he brings a wonderful sensibility. It’s quite cool to see these different artist showing us different versions — its neat to see different parts of the world through different eyes. It’s fantastic, but I think ACO has been — I’m going to call him a really lucky find, he’s been just stellar. I thank my lucky stars every time I look at one of the issues he draws.
With John hopping around the world and different artists coming in, are you going to have long story arcs or are these next issues more standalone stories?
These are shorter, like one-and-done issues that push the greater story forward. Each of them tell their own story but when you put them all together they’re kind of like interlocking pieces that make up the greater whole, and this is all about John’s plan. As John faces these individuals and threats and certain quests he is putting together something larger — and actually later in the year it’s going to explode into a bigger storyline.
As much as John’s been affected by “Forever Evil,” Pandora is a character who basically exists for that event. Where does “Trinity of Sin: Pandora” go after “Forever Evil?” How do you take someone who was so heavily connected to a big event and turn her into her own character?
It’s funny, Pandora’s whole deal is that she’s saddled with this curse and she’s got this terrible reputation and now there are a bunch of heroes who associate her with “Forever Evil.” In fact, readers will see there’re a few people out there who think she is actually to blame for “Forever Evil.” Yet, she is this character who is connected to the light of humanity and to hope. On a meta level, I’m aware of people thinking of her as this crossover character, and in the story she knows people think of her as inextricably tied to these terrible events. What she wants to do, and her struggle here, is to shed that association and show the world that she is a real hero who wants to help.
You said you were taking “Constantine” away from super heroics. Will “Pandora” be like a more traditional superhero story?
Yeah — I mean, I don’t want readers to forget this is a Dark line book. Pandora herself may be full of hope and saying that she wants to step up and join the superhero ranks, but this is still a Dark book and so what we’re exploring with Pandora is her past, her reputation and her curse, and the fact that no matter what she does and what her intentions are the whole world knows her as the mother of all evil. She’s going to find that she’s reaching a hand out to the world and saying, “I want to help you,” and there’re a lot of people out there who could benefit from the help but who don’t want it, because they think she carries evil with her. The thing is too, maybe Pandora doesn’t have it right. Maybe no matter what she does the curse will take hold. So we’re going to get into that.
It does seem like the curse is shadowing her no matter what. When she found out that the Sins were manifestations rather than actively causing evil, it felt like a slap — Pandora’s just had the rawest deal of anybody in the DCU! [Laughter] Was there a point in this where you thought, “Maybe I should just have her get her guns and dig up what’s left of the Circle of Eternity and go to town on them?”
That’s definitely a temptation, of course! [Laughs] And actually in the context of this book, that’s the temptation that Pandora has. If there was anybody left who she thought could release her from her curse, there’s definitely a thread in her that says, “Maybe I’ll put my guns to their head and just do it.” It’s funny, Pandora has the rawest deal of anyone and yet somehow she is the most resilient of anyone in the DCU, because after thousands of years of suffering and pain she’s still the one who thinks people deserved to be helped. That’s what I think is the most appealing thing about her, the fact that even in the face of all that she can say, “I care about people and want to do right by them.” Perhaps that’s the greatest tragedy for her. She’s subjected to this suffering and this terrible reputation, and yet all she wants to do is the right thing.
Looking at the solicits, Giganta, then S.H.A.D.E. and Vandal Savage are all coming in these next three issues. What can you say about the direction you’re taking Pandora in? Is this similar to “Constantine” where these are one-and-done stories that further a larger plot?
Yes, absolutely. Those three, Giganta and the particular Agent of S.H.A.D.E. we’re talking about, and Vandal Savage, have all encountered Pandora during these crossovers, and Pandora’s kind of got the better of them. All three of them are coming back to her as a reminder that you can’t just walk away from the things you’ve done in the past. The individual stories with them will build to this crescendo where we do get to a bigger story, so it’s similar to what’s happening to John, just in a different way.
Of the three, the most interesting contrast to Pandora is Vandal; they are both immortals, they’ve both run into each other before and both have a strange, adversarial but also regretful relationship. Is there any chance Vandal Savage might become a supporting cast member or reoccurring foe?
Well, never say never, but things are about to get way more complicated between the two of them!
Are you interested in building a supporting cast for her?
A supporting cast is coming together for her — and actually some of these people who are coming after her with the intent to do her harm, they end up her best friends.
Might the Question and Phantom Stranger be part of that, or drop into the book anytime soon?
I certainly do have plans to involve the Trinity of Sin more with Pandora at some point. But I’m giving it a rest for a couple of issues because I think Pandora could use a little room to breathe on her own and show the readers what she’s made of without anyone else bouncing off of her.
We spoke about Pandora being equated with “Forever Evil,” both with readers and on a meta level with the heroes of the New 52 However, she’s also a character whose very existence came out of “Flashpoint” and was the one who merged the three timelines together in the face of some evil that hasn’t been specified. Is this something you’re going to touch on at all in your stories? Are you building up to answering the question of why she merged the timelines?
It’s definitely something I’ll touch on and I’d love to get to an answer; careful readers will see that Felix Faust might have gotten a little bit of truth during “Forever Evil: Blight.” He started to tell Pandora that he realized she’s not from this universe and he began to talk about it, but of course circumstances cut him off. Yeah, it’s something that always hangs over the book and informs a lot of what is going on. It’s interesting to me that Pandora may not recall what she did, but we all know what she did. It definitely will be addressed, absolutely.
Looking at the book’s visuals, you’re working with artist Francis Portela, who did a lot of work over on the more sci-fi “Legion Of Super-heroes” book — what does he bring to the table in terms of Pandora and the Dark line book she’s in?
Man, I’ll tell you something, one of the things Francis brings to the table that I’m so grateful for is his characters act so well. The emotion on their faces, I’m just so happy whenever I get back the artwork — the way he has Pandora convey her pain and her hope and her love and her rage, all these things come across so beautifully. Likewise with the other characters. I keep hearing from readers that they love Vandal Savage in this book, and I do too, and I think one of the real reasons for that is Francis has done such a magnificent job giving us someone who is so bad and yet looks so appealing! This book would never be half as enjoyable as it is without someone like Francis Portela.
Wrapping up, is there anything you think fans need to keep an eye out for in both books as they move into their post-“Forever Evil” incarnations?
All I want to say is that I’m so glad that readers are enjoying these books. I keep hearing from them that they are having a great time and I just want to say to those readers, and to anyone who is picking up this book, that we are going one hundred percent now. We’re going buck wild in both directions with these books! I feel so encouraged and so thankful to the great responses to these books that I just want to give the readers a great ride.
“Trinity Of Sin: Pandora” #10 hits shelves April 16; “Constantine” #14 is out May 14.