In 1984, Jack Kirby’s Pacific Comics title “Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers” came to a close with its 13th issue, effectively closing the door on the inter-stellar police squad and their adventures across the galaxy. While Topps attempted to revive the title in 1994 under their short-lived “Kirbyverse” banner, Victory and his crew has not been seen or heard aside from cameo appearances and unsuccessful attempts to revive the character for a new generation.
Now, Captain Victory is back.
This October, Dynamite Entertainment launches “Captain Victory,” a series following the Kirby character and his crew that ties in to “Kirby: Genesis.” Heading the charge to bring Captain Victory and character-driven, exciting galactic plots to the modern era of comics is “Supergirl” scribe Sterling Gates. Alongside artist Wagner Reis and co-plotter and “Kirby: Genesis” artist Alex Ross, Gates is setting the stage for Victory and his Galactic Rangers from their Pacific Comics days up to their appearance in the first issue of “Kirby: Genesis” and beyond.
Gates took some time out to speak with Comic Book Resources about the upcoming series, how the past Pacific Comics content will come into play and the big secret that Victory is carrying.
CBR News: Sterling, what’s your basic plan for “Captain Victory,” and how does it pay homage to the original Kirby character as well as link the events in “Kirby: Genesis?”
Sterling Gates: The basic plan is to tell some character-driven, exciting cosmic stories in the newly-created Kirbyverse! Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Jack Herbert have been working their hands off making “Kirby: Genesis” the excellent story it is, but they have so much ground to cover and only so much room to do it in.
I’m looking at this spin-off series as a place where I can take both where Kirby was going with Captain Victory in the early 1980s, and Kurt and Alex’s interpretation of the character and really try to combine the two ideas and flesh Victory and his crew out as much as I can. My mission statement was to expand upon the Kirbyverse characters and illustrate their personal stories, all set against this huge, dramatic, space-opera backdrop. Imagine if every character in “Star Wars” got their own spotlight issue before things really hit the fan, and that’s pretty much how the first arc in the book will play.
After things hit the fan? Wellllll, things get a little bigger. And then bigger still!
I really wanted readers to learn to care about these characters and have some insight into their lives and motivations before we catch up to the events in “Kirby: Genesis.” At the end of the first arc, we pick up that moment with Captain Victory in “Kirby: Genesis #1.” The second arc — if I’ve timed it correctly — will be a follow-up story to the events of “Genesis.”
What was the experience like getting to work with Jack Kirby’s original character designs and sketches? How did his designs kick-start the creative process for you?
I think it’s absolutely fantastic what Dynamite is doing, working with the Kirby Estate to create an entirely new comic book universe out of Kirby’s ideas and designs. Just that idea alone is inspirational to me!
There are thousands of unused Kirby characters and concepts to draw from, and I find looking over all the design work and sketches he left behind to be a big boost for inspiration. Kirby was the king of comics, and he created a massive number of characters that no one has ever seen or heard of before. That it’s taken this long for someone to come along and do this with his unused designs kind of baffles me, but I’m happy someone finally did. I would love for there to be three big comic book universes out there instead of just the Big Two.
Kurt Busiek mentioned in a previous interview with CBR that everything that happened in Kirby’s 13 issues of “Captain Victory” factors in to “Kirby: Genesis.” For those continuity-goers, where does your story fit?
We fall after the events of the original “Captain Victory” series, but our first arc takes place before “Genesis.” We’re a few months into a new universe, and already continuity is coming into play! Guess that’s sort of the nature of the beast with connected-universe comic books, isn’t it? I tried to make sure the first issue was extremely open to new readers so that anyone anywhere could pick it up and get a complete story and a feel for what the book will be like. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and I hope people give it a chance.
Tell us a bit about Captain Victory. For this re-interpretation of the character, you mentioned that you saw him more as an antihero in the beginning of your series. How did you come to that particular characterization?
Well, unbeknownst to the entire Galactic Ranger organization, Captain Victory is the grandson of the greatest malevolent force in the history of the galaxy, the villainous Blackmass. He joined the Rangers in order to train them to fight Blackmass, and he’s willing to go to whatever lengths possible in order to destroy his grandfather. Sometimes, that drive and desire forces him to walk the fine line between what is “right” and what is “wrong.” You never really know what he’s going to do as a result, and sometimes he’ll come down on the side of “wrong” in order to strike a blow against his grandfather’s forces.
However, since no one knows that he’s Blackmass’ grandson, and no one knows that he knows just how evil Blackmass is, people jump to the conclusion that he’s becoming more and more dangerous to himself and the Rangers. The first arc is going to show just what happens when he comes down on the wrong side of Galactic Command, and a lot of serious stuff comes spilling out because of it, both for him and his crew.
This is going to be more of an ensemble book, focusing not only on Captain Victory, but his squadmates in the Galactic Rangers, as well. In terms of character work, what has the process been like in bringing the squad up to date for the story you’re trying to tell?
Well, in Kirby’s original “Captain Victory” series, his squad didn’t really have backstories. Mister Mind, Major Klavus, Tarin and Orca were all just sort of there, and we never really got to know about them or learn how they came to be a part of Victory’s crew.
The first issue of our series focuses solely on Captain Victory — so you can see what he’s about — but issue #2 deals with Tarin, this huge lion-man who’s the gunnery officer on their ship. Tarin starts looking at his motivations for following Captain Victory in light of what happens — see, I can’t really say, because that’d spoil the first issue entirely. Each supporting cast character will get some time in the spotlight as we move through the first arc. Every issue will move the arc’s plot forward even as we’re learning about why Tarin joined the Rangers, or what it was like for Major Klavus to train a teenaged Captain Victory, or what happened when the Black Waters invaded Orca’s home planet.
I want readers to understand what makes most of Victory’s crew tick by the end of that first big story, so by the time we get past “Genesis” and things get serious, you know where every person on Victory’s crew stands.
What exactly will you be exploring during the squad-specific issues of the story? Will we be seeing mostly origins, or a series of events told from multiple perspectives?
Well, you’ll see a bunch of different things. Issues one and two are solely from Victory and Tarin’s perspectives, respectively. Issue three deals with events from both Victory’s and Major Klavus’ points of view. We jump around a lot.
Think of the structure for a TV show like “Lost,” where the B-plot flashbacks inform and feed into the A-plot. That’s the main storytelling device I’m employing for the first arc, and issue #1 should give you an idea of what that’s like.
You’ve had a chance to work in the cosmic realm writing a few “Green Lantern” stories, as well as your writing duties on “Supergirl.” How did your experiences in that realm help inform your work on “Captain Victory?”
Well, a lot of my time on “Supergirl” was spent collaborating with some wonderful creators in order to make the New Krypton mega-story work. That’s similar to how I’m working here, with every piece of writing I send in being reviewed by Kurt and Alex as well as my editor Joe Rybandt. Kurt and Alex are the keepers of the Kirby flame, so to speak. I’m seeing their stuff, too, so we’re all working together to build this cohesive universe. I’ve also had a couple conversations with Jai Nitz about his “Silver Star” book, and I’m sure at some point we’ll find a way to make everything connect or do a crossover or something. But we have to wait for it to be for a good reason, and it has to be something as big as “Genesis.”
I cut my teeth on “Supergirl.” That book was my first monthly ongoing assignment, and I learned a lot in terms of craft and character and collaboration. I’m flexing a lot of the same muscles I used on that book with these big, crazy, character-driven cosmic stories. It’s a very different set of writing muscles than I’m using on something like “Hawk & Dove,” which is a much more action-based, “rock ’em up, sock ’em up, lock ’em up”-style comic book. They’re two incredibly different projects, “Hawk & Dove” and “Captain Victory,” and they each use very different parts of my brain!
How does it feel to be working with these iconic Kirby characters? How are you bringing your own spin to the table?
Well, I think when you read a lot of the character stuff we’re doing, you’ll see how I’m trying to modernize some of these ideas and characters. Kirby was much more into the concepts and the weaponry and the procedure when he was writing Captain Victory, and didn’t get too deeply into who the Rangers are and what each of them is about.
At the heart of each of Kirby’s rangers was the desire to do good, so most of the characters — as he presented them — seemed flat to me, a little one-note. They all wanted the same thing, and they were all working to achieve it together. I’m working on pushing these characters around some so we can show off just why they make their decisions, and illustrate how and when their personal motivations come into play. It’s very different from how Kirby wrote the book, I’ll tell you that, but I’m trying to retain the same flavor.
To take it one step further: Imagine if two cooks are told to make chicken parmesan. Sure, the dishes are the same when you set them down, and it’s the same basic recipe, but I guarantee both will taste completely different, even though they’re the same food! That’s what it’s like to me; Kirby and I are using the same characters, but there’s no way his book would look like mine and vice versa.
Our artist is a guy named Wagner Reis. Extremely talented fellow, and I’m in love with the pages I keep getting back from him. But he’s not Jack Kirby, so even the very “look” of the book is different from Kirby’s original series.
Do you have a favorite moment from the original “Captain Victory” run? Are there any throwbacks that longtime Captain Victory fans should look out for?
I poured over those books, read ’em probably a dozen times as I was putting together my pitch for the project. My favorite moment from the old book comes in the second issue, when Victory and Major Klavus just hang out with some small-town cops in “Colorado, U.S.A.” as they search for Insectons. Just mad, brilliant stuff, watching these small-town guys trying to come to grips with the fact that there’s a spaceship overhead and there are aliens walking around!
And yeah, I’ve put in throwbacks galore to the old series, but I tried to include them in such a way that unless you’re a massive old-school Victory fan, you probably won’t even notice. I don’t want you to be distracted by that kinda thing!
What has been the challenge in bringing these characters to modern day? How do you feel they stack up to other modern incarnations of Kirby characters, like the New Gods?
I think it’s a little unfair to compare the Galactic Rangers to the New Gods. A small independent comic book company with a very limited distribution range published the Galactic Rangers, so they never really had a chance to make a mainstream impact like Kirby’s DC work did. And frankly, the New Gods were something special. The New Gods were some of Kirby’s finest ideas, and they managed to seep into greater pop culture in a way no one was expecting.
I mean, my mom knows who Darkseid is. I doubt she could name any of the other New Gods, but she remembers Darkseid from the “Super Friends” cartoon. So to compare them from an impact point of view, after the hundreds of appearances they’ve made over the years versus the 13 issues of “Captain Victory” from 1982? Not a fair contest.
Hopefully, by the end of our time working on “Captain Victory,” we’ll be able to add some new fans to the list!