Part of DC Comics‘ “Second Wave” of titles at the start of the New 52 relaunch, the ongoing “Worlds’ Finest” comic book series written by Paul Levitz followed the adventures of Huntress and Power Girl — in actuality the Earth 2 Robin and Supergirl, stuck in the New 52 Universe and looking for a way home.
But now with the ability to recreate the gateway back to their universe within their grasp, the storied “Legion of Super-Heroes” scribe is sending his leading ladies off and refocusing his title starting in October on a new time period and multiverse duo: the original Earth 2 Superman and Batman.
Speaking about the big changes ahead, his departure from weekly series “Earth 2: World’s End” as well as his non-DC work at BOOM! Studios and Taschen, Levitz gave CBR a preview of what’s to come for “Worlds’ Finest,” illustrated in upcoming issues by Tyler Kirkham, and his goodbye to Huntress and Power Girl.
CBR News: Paul, there are some big changes coming up in “Worlds’ Finest,” so let’s start there — what can you tell us about the big things that lie in store for Huntress and Power Girl?
Paul Levitz: Well, the biggest thing with “Worlds’ Finest” is they aren’t going to be in it for a while! They’re off on Earth 2 and they’ll be in the “Earth 2: World’s End” weekly and someone else will be guiding their destiny for a while. We’ll see what happens to them, but I imagine they’ll have a very challenging time — with a title like “World’s End” that’s some pretty scary stuff, I suspect! But “Worlds’ Finest” will continue, and the guys were kind enough to throw me the challenge of saying, “We’ve never really told that much about the stories of the Earth 2 Superman and Batman that exist now, so why don’t you be Worlds’ Finest traditional and tell some stories about those guys for a while?”
So when does that switchover happen? After August ends the current arc with Helena and Karen’s journey to Earth 2, will September begin your stories of Earth 2 Batman and Superman?
Well, September is the special stunt DC is doing, the traditional everything-fits-together event, so they’re doing a tie-in to the future where the books are jumping ahead five years. We’ve got an issue there that really is very focused primarily on Power Girl — but you’ve got Huntress in it, Huntress is one of the motivating factors, and you see a major challenge for Power Girl that may occur five years in the future. Then when we come back in October we come back with issue #27 and that will be Batman and Superman.
You mentioned that you’re leaving Power Girl and Huntress in the hands of the weekly series. I know you were originally solicited to write on that, but are you now instead just focusing on “Worlds’ Finest?”
Yeah, I’m going to stick on “Worlds’ Finest” and maybe some other projects; ultimately I decided that the structure of the “World’s End” weekly just wasn’t ideal for me at this time. I wish them well with it, I hope fans have fun with them — these weeklies are very interesting challenges, but it just wasn’t the right thing for me to be doing at this moment.
Going back to changing your main characters in “Worlds’ Finest” from Huntress and Power Girl to Batman and Superman, does that mean in the current arc you are wrapping up all the stories you’ve started with them? Is this your send-off for these two characters?
I think so. I suppose I had never expected to come back to these characters, albeit in this different form, when I left them decades ago. So who knows, I may get to play with them again sometime in the future! But I tried to clean up and connect up the storyline bits, or the vast majority of the storyline bits, we had in place and I think there’s some nice human moments in the last couple of issues. There’s some challenges for them as they are trying to get through the gateway to get out, and there are some things we are setting up to have effect on the primary DCU Earth for stories going forward that will roll out in some other titles as well.
Now with Earth 2 Superman and Batman coming in, will this be similar to what you were doing when you started off in “Worlds’ Finest,” where we’ll see the five years in the past versions, or are they the current Earth 2 characters?
No, this is the back history. I don’t know what exactly we’re going to have as the arc title, but my mental image is that it’s the secret history of Superman and Batman. We’ve learned a lot about Earth 2 but we haven’t seen very much about these guys’ lives before the invasion, we haven’t even seen the beginning the invasion, the stuff that pre-dates “Earth 2” #1. James [Robinson] started off, I think, in a very interesting fashion by knocking the triumvirate off the table and saying, “Hey, this is a different game.” But there was a time when the two of them — and for that matter, Wonder Woman — existed as the main heroes of the world that hadn’t yet been attacked, hadn’t yet been destroyed. But we don’t know what their lives were like! Its not necessarily an exact doppelganger of the Superman and Batman stories we’re used to, and if I can come up with some stuff that’s a fun twist on that it comes somewhere between and Elseworlds and a multiverse story.
Or almost like a prequel.
Because of that aspect, how much are you going to get to play around with these characters and how much are you coordinating with Tom Taylor and the other writers working on “World’s End?”
I’m doing my homework first; I’m sitting here with my stack of “Earth 2” issues, re-reading them and making my notes to say what little details have been established, what weren’t, what little pieces come together. Michael Cotton, who is the editor on both projects, will be back and forth making sure the pieces fit together. If we do our job right, some of the things that will be in my stories will be in some of theirs, with little hints that might happen in the future or give something that might connect an emotional dimension to something later on. But obviously they have a really big job in getting the weekly done, so we don’t want this to be a giant distraction for them either!
We’ve seen a little of Batman and Superman interacting with the girls at the very beginning of your run; since this is going back in time, does that mean we’ll get a chance to see Helena as Robin and Karen as Supergirl, along with the main guys?
Absolutely and I hope to have them. They are not going to be the stars of the thing but I hope to see them; I really enjoyed the #0 issue we did with Kevin Maguire on the “Worlds’ Finest” run and I hope to capture some of that flavor. We also haven’t seen any more of Catwoman — we don’t know if Catwoman was originally a villainess on this earth or a heroine or something in between. That gives us a lot of freedom to play with these elements.
It does sound like, despite the fact that it’s in the past, that aspect of the Earth 2 universe is almost a blank slate. So for you, what is the most exciting part of getting to work with the Earth 2 Superman and Batman?
They’re two of the great iconic characters in comics’ history, and when you strip them down to their essence and you say, “Ok, what do you need to have in this to make it Superman and Batman and what can you change,” that’s a fascinating experiment. We’ve seen a little bit of the earlier Batman history in the Thomas Wayne Batman stories of Earth 2 — I don’t think we’ve seen any of the earlier Superman stuff. Having done Superman, having done Batman many, many times in my career, this is a type of challenge I’ve never had with them before.
I know two of the characters from your “Worlds’ Finest” run that have shown up a handful of times have been Desaad, who is involved in the story right now, and Mister Terrific. Will either of those two potentially appear in this new “Worlds’ Finest” format?
I wouldn’t think Mister Terrific would because he’s not on Earth 2 in those years, so I can’t offhand think how he’d fit in and make sense. With Desaad — if I decide to tell the stories that take place between the invasion and “Earth 2” [issue] #1, if I get enough issues to do that, then Desaad would certainly show up during the invasion. He will show up in “Worlds’ Finest” in the last couple of issues with Huntress and Power Girl to carry that story to its logical conclusion.
Back years ago when we were talking about your work on “Legion Of Super-Heroes” you mentioned that you made a giant file of everyone’s names and a big card diorama of how things all connected up. Even though it started as another multiverse, it feels like at this point in the New 52 that the Earth 2 world is almost as complicated as Legion, with almost as many character timelines. Do you feel there are similarities with what you are doing here in the multiverse with what you were doing writing the future with “Legion?”
In a sense. I think the difference is, rather than having lived for way too long with the “Legion” guys — from childhood on! — I’m doing my homework now to look in and say, “OK, Tokyo is still standing, we can do something in Tokyo.” That whole three-year period between the beginning of the invasion and the beginning of the “Earth 2” series, James put a lot of detail and implication into that. I have to make sure I capture all of that in my notes — and Tom too, when he followed James and added to it as well.
You mentioned you might have some other projects at DC and I know you’re working on a Will Eisner coffee table book — what are the other things your are working on right now, both at DC and beyond?
A lot of them are in fairly early stages; the Eisner book is still in progress with Abrams ComicArts, we’re talking about a summer 2015 release on that. The other three volumes of the breakdown from my big Taschen book into individual ages are now looking to be 2015 releases as well, and I understand I may be able to get back to work in the next month or two on that. The art director, Josh Baker, who did such a wonderful job on the volume so far is finishing up something else for Taschen and is getting ready to jump on that, so that will be cool. Working on some different future ideas at different places, but nothing pulled together enough to happen yet; I’m continuing with teaching and the other writing project that is coming out end of this year is the second edition of the textbook, “The Power Of Comics,” which was originally written by Randy Duncan and Matt Smith, that I’ve joined as the third author on the second edition. It’s supposed to ship late this fall, so I’m going to be terrifying people in classrooms by the spring term! [Laughs]
With all your work on the history of comics, have you ever considered taking your research and making a non-fiction graphic novel about the subject? A comic about the eras and topics you’ve spent so many years writing about?
You know, it’s certainly possible I guess. Fred Van Lente and [Ryan Dunlavey] did a comics-style history of the business over the last couple of years. But it’s challenging; it’s challenging form to use. Comics tell such great stories when you visual movement and activity, and a lot of what happened in the history of comics is five guys sat around in a bar in England with Karen [Berger] and Jenette [Kahn] and pitched on projects that ultimately became Vertigo. It’s not the most exciting picture! I think I once accidentally hit somebody with a coke can tossing it across the table at an early editorial meeting, got an assistant editor, and that’s probably as visually dynamic as anything that’s ever happened to me in an editorial meeting. [Laughs]
I don’t know it’s a perfect fit that way, and its also challenging particularly for me to do something that is a history of the field in the years I was working in it, which is a lot of what people would be interested in. At some point I assume I’ll get around to doing my memoirs, whether it’s in graphic novel form or in prose form; I’m certainly not an unbiased historian in that. I can look at a person like Will Eisner with a reasonable historian’s eye despite the fact I knew him for many years, worked with him when I did “The Spirit Archives.” That’s really the core theme, that what happened in his career wasn’t about what I did but the closer you get to doing it yourself, the better served it is as memoir rather than history. History needs to be more objective. Somebody may make me eat these words twenty years from now, but at least that’s my instinct today!
To touch on the last big thing you’re doing outside DC, you’re now on the board of directors at BOOM! Studios. As someone who is working on projects that span the comics industry, from historian to superhero writer, what does BOOM! and being back in the business sphere offer you versus all your other projects?
One of the things that the work with BOOM! does is it brings me in contact with things that are happening now. There’s a lot of young people; there’s a lot of fresh, creative things happening there that I might not have read if I was just filling my diet as a reader for my own amusement, and it says, “Pay attention to this.” It gets me to know more people I didn’t know before. It’s also mental exercise, there was a portion of my skill set that was built up over the years running a comic book company. I learned how to do certain tricks, some of those are still useful; I’ll get into conversation with Ross [Richie] and the others at BOOM! and I’ll say, “You’re trying to solve that problem? Well this is how we solved it, have you thought about this approach?” Or, “Maybe you can do this thing that we couldn’t do because it didn’t fit our business needs, but it’s appropriate for you.” There’s a lot I can bring to it and there’s a lot I can learn from the process. I’ve not been on the board of this young a company for any length of time in my career previously, so I’m learning how they manage business in ways that are more relevant than to an old company part of a larger corporation.
Then to wrap up with “Worlds’ Finest” again, with this big finale story what are you going miss the most about writing Huntress and Power Girl?
I think it’s just the relationship between them has just been fun. I had more room to explore them teasing each other, them being friends with each other; this fundamentally was a book about two very good friends who just happened to have these strange and extraordinary lives, and that’s not something I’ve gotten to write in comics before at that kind of length. It’s not something you often get to write in comics today. I guess it happens a little more in the indie world where you can tell human stories, but it’s very rare to have that kind of superhero buddy-comedy moments available to you. Those are the moments I got my biggest kick out of.
[To fans,] thank you for sticking around, hope you’ll check out their younger selves in new stories and check out the weekly and see what continues to happen to them. I think DC has some challenges ahead for the two!
“Worlds’ Finest” issue #24 hits shelves June 11.
UPDATE 5/27/14 1:50 PM PT: Diamond’s latest weekly product changes update, released Tuesday, initially indicated that “Worlds’ Finest” #27 would be the final issue of the series. CBR News confirmed with DC Comics that the update was in error, and Diamond’s site has since been corrected.