First, in “Worlds’ Finest,” Levitz and artist Kevin MaguireM will examine the Earth 2 pasts of Huntress and Power Girl — or as they were then known, Robin and Supergirl. Then, in “Legion,” artist Scott Kolins joins Levitz to take a deeper look at core Legionnaire member Brainiac 5, who in the current storyline, drawn by Francis Portela, is prisoner of the alien race known as the Dominators along with the somnolent Dream Girl.
As his current arcs move onwards towards September’s #0s, Levitz spoke with CBR about both series, the New 52 lives of Huntress and Power Girl and the enduring appeal of the kid from Colu.
CBR News: Your #0 “Legion of Super-Heroes” issue seems to be Brainiac 5-based and something of a glimpse into his past — what can you tell us about the story?
Paul Levitz: We had the unique challenge in “Legion” with the #0s. Unlike any other DC title since the launch of the New 52, we had just done a miniseries titled “Legion: Secret Origin.” Certain parts of the story were already laid out, so we couldn’t go back and re-do what was done two months ago. That would have been kind of silly! So we tried to find the next logical secret, the next piece of the beginning; we had left Brainiac 5 not yet having joined the Legion, presumably returning home to his home world. He’s obviously one of the more interesting Legionnaires in terms to his linkage to DC history in so many ways.
We were able to come up with a storyline that simultaneously deals with stuff we didn’t know about Brainiac 5 as a person, how he came to make his decision to join the Legion and also about how he has been dealing with essentially having inherited the great cosmic Pandora’s box that is the original Brainiac’s treasure trove of past stuff.
Are you going to touch on the whole Brainiac/Dox family history in the issue as you tell Brainiac 5’s story?
There really isn’t room to do all the “begats” and so forth and get much of an adventure going, so we concentrated on the pieces that had the most direct link to the past, but also some things that have a very direct link to where “Legion” is going over the course of the next year. We’ve been starting to build this whole set of threads around the idea that the Fatal Five is being reformed. In the New DC logic, the Legion hasn’t met the Fatal Five — there apparently was one in the cosmos, and it’s coming back together or it’s in danger of coming back together. There’s links to that, and in that fashion, it becomes an important bridge to what is going on over the next year as we do a major arc about the new Fatal Five. I’m going to have the great fun of working with Keith [Giffen] on that — he’ll be stepping back in to do a six-issue run to tell that story.
With him stepping in, are you two co-plotting, or is he overseeing the entirety of his six issues?
I’m still writing, but when I work with Keith he’s way too imaginative a guy not to take advantage of ideas he has to offer and involve him in the plotting process!
While there are threads in the #0 issue moving the “Legion” book forward, are we going to see anything of the present Legion in the story?
It’s all set in the past, but the things that happen in those, I guess a day or two, have direct ramifications for the Fatal Five storyline.
You label Brainiac 5 as one of the more interesting Legionnaires — is this one of the reasons you wanted to focus on him, or is it all simply because we didn’t see him join in “Secret Origin?”
The very specific charge the editorial team gave us for the #0 issue was they wanted something that was revealing of the origins of the past but also was very specifically linked to the ongoing storylines. There were very many different ways to possibly solve that, but this seemed like an elegant solution to that challenge.
Turning to the art, while Francis Portela has been penciling the book, Scott Kolins is coming on with this issue.
I’ve not had the pleasure of working with him before; Scott came into the business, I think, in the years where I was at the desk not doing writing. I’ve seen and enjoyed his work, but this is the first chance we’ve had to collaborate, which is fun!
Do you feel Kolins’ artistic tone matches what you and Francis have been doing in the greater overall story?
I think both he and Francis have some similarities in their storytelling approach. I think there’s very clearly that European illustrator touch in Francis that is a very different style that’s added a lot specifically to the Dominator story. There’s a kind of richness to the Dominator society and the Dominators themselves, whereas Scott brings a more classic superhero energy to things, which is fun. We’re trying to take advantage of that on the three issues he’s doing. We’re just trying to keep all of the artists on “Legion” rolling smoothly at the moment!
How would you describe this young, not-Legionnaire-yet Brainiac 5 versus the older Brainiac 5 in the book now?
I think in many ways it’s a function of immaturity. He’s literally the smartest guy in the room, but he hasn’t yet learned any kind of methodology for managing how that makes you feel and how to relate to other people. The issue, in some ways, is about learning the limits of his own decision-making and wisdom. It’s fun that way, and it’s fun watching the dynamic of him interacting with some of the other characters who he’s just met. One of the pluses of the New 52, structurally, was it created opportunities in a lot of the book to explore things set very early on in the lives of the characters, and there’s something to be said for first love, first disaster, first almost anything — probably first murder!
Speaking of firsts, on “Worlds’ Finest,” you’ve got ex-Earth 2 Robin and Supergirl navigating the New 52 world as Huntress and Power Girl. You’re early into your run and only a few issues are out before the #0 issue — how does that issue fit into what you’re doing in the book?
Actually, I think the #0 issue fits almost perfectly on “Worlds’ Finest.” It evolved really nicely that way. The #0 comes after issue #4, which wraps up the battle with Hakkou. If I’ve done my job right, by that point you’ll kind of like the girls and you’ll have a feeling for their lives and the dilemmas they are facing and you’re curious to know more on how they got to this point.
Then we go to the #0, which is all set on Earth 2 and is the first meeting of the two of them. You get a bunch of very important moments in their history, you get a bunch of revelations large and small about what their lives were like on Earth 2, things that we previously haven’t had a chance to reveal because its very early on in the Earth 2 evolution as well. It’s got a very young feel because they are at a very young moment in their lives. But again, there’s some really interesting dynamics in those moments and very important moments in their lives.
As Kevin Maguire has been handling the “past” segments of the book, is he handling everything in the issue?
George is taking that month off! He will return, but we’re giving him a little breathing time. George always has been amazing for the level of detail and energy he puts in his work.
The book has been balancing their distinct art styles up to the #0 issue — do they trade thumbnails and notes about their separate halves while working?
No, I do the book with a full script first, so both of them know what the other parts are when they’re working on it. There’s no separate thumbnailing. So far, there’s been a couple of different cases where George wanted to visually expand one section and tighten up another spot so we made adjustments to do all of that. When you’re working with guys this big, there’s really no reason not to go with what they can add to it. Kevin’s got some very inspired pieces; he’s got one little moment of fan service that comes out in another issue in a week or so that I think will have everyone smiling. It was his neat little addition to the moment.
But it’s fairly organic; these guys are extraordinarily skilled and experienced, they have done every kind of variation possible so they know how to put the pieces together. If I’m serving it up right to them, I’m serving it in a way where there are a lot of psychological and visual transitions for it.
Getting back to the characters, are we going to see Helena and Karen’s interactions and relationship with Earth 2 Bruce and Kal? Or is it all about the girls?
It’s more focused on them because it’s their story, but we get to see both of those guys. We get to see Catwoman for a little bit of action — she has a couple of the more dramatic moments and she’s a very significant influence on her daughter’s life. I had a lovely time channeling my inner Jerry Robinson with Catwoman and Robin together!
One of the interesting things about Earth 2 as a place and its connection what we’ve seen so far to Huntress and Power Girl is, we’ve seen that these women have very different priorities to their heroic careers here. We haven’t seen a tremendous amount before the #0 issue that showed the influences that have led them to that. You see them reacting to the event of being tossed into this world and making very different choices, but there isn’t a very clear “why” to it yet. Hopefully, by the time the #0 issue is over, you’ll have a little different sense of what underlies some of those emotional choice and decisions.
In “Worlds’ Finest” right now, Kevin’s sections of the comic are detailing their past adjustment with George dealing with the action-adventure in the present. At some point will the past parts catch up to the modern day? Or will the comic always be split going into the foreseeable future?
Well, I think there’s a couple of things at work here. One, we’re living in a time where it is very hard to get any artist to produce twelve issues of a monthly book with the quality that’s being demanded. I’m doing my best to build this series so we get as most advantage as we can of these two extraordinary guys so that not only are you having everything being done as first string as possible, but also that they’re really being taken advantage of in their specific skills and story elements that fit together. That doesn’t always have to be a past and present dichotomy; issue #5 is set up really with more separate story elements with Huntress and Power Girl off doing their own things for part of the story, Power Girl off at the CERN supercollider, which is a pretty cool piece of science fiction reality in our world, and you get the Huntress on the Boston Commons on a Take Back The Night demonstration, which is another piece of reality, but not science fiction — social reality. So I’m trying to fit the pieces together and build them so the seams will be like seams of a garment intended to come together rather than a patchwork quilt.
How has it been balancing not just the two sides of the book but the two different personalities and heroic approaches of Helena and Karen?
I think it’s the fun of the book; on one level, you have the Superman/Batman dichotomy with two very different sets of powers, and to some extent, different heroic worldview. But on another, you just have an utterly different emotional relationship than you’ve seen with Superman and Batman. Hopefully, you’re really getting to like these two people.
The last time we spoke, you said one of the important things for you was portraying the female friendship in the book as realistically as possible. With some issues out now, are you happy with reactions from female fans on that?
Essentially, for any young woman fan who comes up when I’m at the table signing “Worlds’ Finest,” my first question is, “Do you buy this relationship?” I’m very curious to see if it feels plausible to them. Obviously these characters have had a life different from any human being, but, “Do you believe how they’re interacting with each other?” is an important question to me. Maybe people are just being polite, but it generally seems to have been a getting a pretty positive response!
Finally, with regard to your #0 issues, what do you hope people get overall out of them? Is it a richer backstory for current fans, or a jumping on point for new fans?
I think it’s a little different for the two different books. I think there’s a level of jumping on point on “Legion,” if you happen to be reading the New 52 “Superman” books and you’ve come in fresh there, and you’ve seen the Brainiac battle there and you’re curious to see what that has to do with this “Legion” book you might not have tried yet that people have said, “You don’t need a scorecard it’s fun, check it out,” it gives you one more impetus to do so.”
In the case of “Worlds’ Finest,” I think we’re really hitting some moments that are potentially just enormously interesting friend moments we’ve never seen the likes of before in the DCU because the new Earth 2 is very different than the old one. The new Robin is utterly different than the old one, the Supergirl of Earth 2 is certainly not Power Girl. I think that gives a tremendous number of things where a fan can both have their curiosities resolved but hopefully build a greater curiosity about where that goes.
“Legion Of Super-Heroes” continues in issue #11 while #0 hits shelves in September; the story in “Worlds’ Finest” continues in issue #4 and issue #0 is out in early September.