While “Night Of The Owls” is set to begin over in the Bat-books come May, another spring DC Comics crossover looms large as the Teen Titans, Superboy and the Legion Lost band together for “The Culling.”
Currently, the shadowy organization known as N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has been kidnapping meta-human kids, interfering in the lives of the newly formed Teen Titans and sending their own meta-human muscle, Superboy, out to hassle the group. Upping the ante, “The Culling” brings the Titans and Superboy into contact with Legion Lost, beginning with “Teen Titans Annual” #1, continuing through issue #9 of “Superboy,” “Legion Lost,” and “Teen Titans,” and launching a brand new monthly comic book series “The Ravagers” at its conclusion.
Helming the crossover is new “Legion Lost” writer Tom DeFalco and “Superboy” and “Teen Titans” writer Scott Lobdell, working with “The Ravagers” writer Howard Mackie. The indomitable trio spoke with CBR about “The Culling,” explaining everything from the origin of the crossover and the villain Harvest to the origin of their first meeting at Marvel Comics.
CBR News: “The Culling” spans “Teen Titans Annual” #1, issues #9 of “Teen Titans,” “Superboy,” “Legion Lost” and spins off Howard’s new series, “The Ravagers.” What was the genesis of this crossover? Were the three of you looking for a way to collaborate?
Scott Lobdell: Tom and I were in the process of writing this story that, while we tried to contain it in “Teen Titans” and “Superboy” and “Legion Lost” and even into the Annual, it got so big and so powerful and so amazing that it could not help but spawn a new series out of this giant story about N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and what they’ve been doing with these kids we’ve learned about in “Teen Titans.” We’ve learned that N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has been taking kids and corrupting them or killing them or turning them into something they weren’t. Now we’re going to get to see the results of all N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s machinations up until now through the “Ravagers” series. So really the story became so big we couldn’t contain it in the crossover and had to spin off into its own title.
Howard Mackie: Once they decided that there would be this title called “The Ravagers,” only one person was capable of solidifying a story of this magnitude — but since Scott had so much else to do and Tom said, “What are you, crazy?” somebody said, “Hey Howard, why don’t you look at this!” [Laughs] Next thing I knew I was on an endless series of phone calls with two of my favorite people in the universe!
Lobdell: That makes one of us.
Mackie: Oh no, it was neither of you! [Laughs]
Tom DeFalco: You were talking about [DC Editor-In-Chief] Bob Harras!
Mackie: Bob is two of my favorite people in the universe.
Obviously you guys go back a ways — when did you first meet each other? Was it all over at Marvel or did you know each other before then?
Lobdell: It was certainly all over at Marvel by the time we were done! [Laughs]
Mackie: I’ve actually never met either one of them.
Lobdell: When I met Tom, he was actually an editor who had rejected me about a dozen times before I finally got work somewhere else! And Howard I knew because Howard was always hitting me up for writing tips when I was over at Marvel.
Mackie: I actually wanted betting tips, Scott never seemed to understand what I was saying.
Lobdell: But we’ve all known each other for uh, something something years now!
DeFalco: Two, three years! [Laughs]
Lobdell: Howard and Tom got to work together pretty extensively over on the Spider-Man books, but other than Tom being the Editor-In-Chief at the time we touched based a little bit on Onslaught, we didn’t have a lot of dealings with each other. So for me it’s been a lot of fun to get to know these two guys on a working level as opposed to, you know, them always calling me up to borrow money level.
Mackie: Yeah, I’m going to pay you a week from next Thursday! My working relationship with Tom goes back a while; when I was an editor on staff at Marvel he was a cruel and unusual taskmaster as the Editor-In-Chief, but then we got to work together on a few projects as we were both writing Spider-Man books at the same time. Scott, I was tangentially involved in some X-Men stuff at the same time as you, but other than that I don’t think we had a direct working relationship.
Lobdell: I think at one of the X-Men writers’ conferences you bought the donuts, right?
Mackie: I think I ate the donuts! [Laughs]
Scott, you’ve been setting up for “The Culling” for a while in “Superboy” and “Teen Titans.” I know from talking to Howard on “The Ravagers” the Culling is how Harvest is selecting his Ravagers — Tom and Scott, how do the Teen Titans, Superboy and Legion Lost factor into this?
Lobdell: When N.O.W.H.E.R.E. decides they’re going to destroy Superboy once and for all the Teen Titans take it upon themselves to go save him, but in order to do that they have to go deep into the heart of the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. complex deep in Antarctic. Unfortunately, they get their heads handed to them and they find not only themselves but Superboy and a whole bunch of other teenagers trapped in something called The Colony, which is used to marinate meta-human teenagers and even human teenagers in an enclosed environment that’s a very hostile environment controlled by the leader of N.O.W.H.E.R.E., whose name is Harvest. So they are already captives of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. when this story starts. One of the things Harvest has done over the years is he has been raising kids in The Colony but has been taking them annually into something called the Crucible, where all these kids fight for their lives and whoever comes out alive ultimately serves Harvest as a Ravager — and those who don’t are buried somewhere. That’s where Tom can pick up with “Legion.”
DeFalco: Unlike Scott, I don’t want to give away too much stuff! [Laughs] But I will say that Harvest is looking to raise an army, which is why he has been having these cullings and why he’s been gathering these kids and all that other stuff. The reasons having to do with his origin, which we’re going to learn over the course of this, and the Legion of Super-Heroes and why he can see a use for teenagers with paramilitary training.
Mackie: Tom, could you speak a little bit more slowly, ’cause I’m writing all this stuff down. [Laughter]
Those notes are going to appear on the recap page, huh?
DeFalco: This will be featured in the story. If you’ve never read “Legion Lost,” which is a lot of you, you’ll get the information on the fly in the course of this crossover! [Laughs]
Lobdell: It’s funny you say that because I don’t know about you guys but I’m very anti-recap pages. I agree with Tom, I think in the earliest days of comic books you’d pick up everything you needed to know in the comic book to get you from one issue to the next. So I say no more recap pages!
Talking about the villain at the center of “The Culling,” how would you three sum up Harvest and his impact on your books?
Lobdell: I actually am using Tom as the model for Harvest. [Laughter] It just came to me one day in the middle of our conversation.
Mackie: But Harvest isn’t nearly as good looking!
DeFalco: I basically told Scott to imagine the most evil person you ever met in your life. I was thinking of one of my former bosses, but I guess so was he! [Laughter]
Lobdell: I think the thing is, in the New 52 there’s been a lot of talk about new characters. While it’s great to see some of the standards, I know when I was tasked with writing “Teen Titans” I made a deliberate effort to steer clear of Trigon and Deathstroke and Brother Blood and those characters who have been around for several decades. The idea was Tom and I talked early on about making Harvest a Darkseid-level threat.
DeFalco: A major bad guy, somebody who could go toe-to-toe with Superman.
Lobdell: So that was really the impetus for Harvest. Visually, Brett Booth has created a really scary and creepy looking villain. A lot of times you go back and forth trying to come up with the perfect look for a character and really he read the plot and there was no character description at all and the first thing he sent over email we were all stunned by how awesome and cool it looked.
Was Brett in charge of designing the new characters crossing over into the other books in “The Culling” or were you guys working with your artists on characters unique to each one of the comics in this crossover?
DeFalco: The characters pretty much run through all the different books. In terms of designing a couple of different of people had their hands in, designing different characters and stuff.
Lobdell: Like Pete [Woods] developed the characters you’re using in “Legion,” which are awesome designs.
DeFalco: Yeah, they mainly appear in “Legion” #8 and show up in “The Culling.”
Lobdell: We have kind of been joking because we know while Howard’s characters would be showing up throughout the crossover, we really didn’t know what they would look like because Howard and Ian [Churchill] had been developing the characters over the time Tom and I were writing the crossover. So it was a tremendous amount of fun to see these characters we were talking about and see how Ian really brought them to life. The new characters are exciting but so is what he’s managed to do with Terra and his take on Caitlin. It’s been fun to see all the artists being involved in the prep work.
Caitlin is a character in “Superboy,” she’s going to be in “Ravagers” and she was part of Gen 13 and Wildstorm before the New 52. Is this crossover giving the three of you a chance to go into the Wildstorm library and bring out other characters for this crossover?
Mackie: Yes, my take on it was that all doors were open to us when we were investigating character and story ideas.
Lobdell: You know, what’s interesting is I’ve been working on this going on a year now — not this story, the New DCU.
Mackie: Yeah, we’ve been working on this story for way longer than a year! [Laughs]
Lobdell: I have to say the more it goes on, the more I don’t really think of the Wildstorm universe as a separate entity. Like Warblade is going to be front row and center in “The Culling” story and I don’t think of him as I’m taking something from the Wildstorm universe. The longer we are in the New DCU I don’t really think of Wildstorm as a separate entity anymore.
Mackie: I think that’s exactly what was going through my head. I don’t know that any of us have been instructed to think of them as different entities, it’s all part of the DC universe. It was good to hear Scott say that because that’s just the way I had been viewing it all.
DeFalco: To me, I’m meeting the DC characters, a lot of them, for the first time. Some of them I don’t realize if they’re DC versus Wildstorm characters, I’m just meeting them all. So when you asked I was thinking, I’m not even sure which guys are the Wildstorm characters!
Lobdell: Howard is a Wildstorm character. [Laughs]
For you three, after “The Culling” happens —
Mackie: I’ll never speak to either one of these guys again! [Laughter] Sorry, I cut you off?
No, you’re just reading my mind! [Laughter] Tom and Scott, does “The Culling” represent a turning point in your characters’ lives or are your books going to go off in completely new directions after this?
DeFalco: A little bit of both. My book is taking off in some very weird directions as a result of “The Culling” but because of things that happen in “The Culling,” we’re going to have to circle back, because Harvest is going to be a major player in “Legion Lost” in the future. I’m sure he’s going to remain a major player in the “Teen Titans” in the future.
Lobdell: Yeah, I have to say that when Tom showed me what had to be done in the final pages of the crossover to set up what he’s doing in “Legion Lost” moving forward, it completely blew me away. It’s really going to be a tremendous amount of fun. I’d like to think that the crossover is going to be a jumping on point for people who maybe sampled “Legion Lost” earlier and wasn’t sure it was for them, but with issue #9 and #10 moving forward, I know as a fan I’m super excited to see what will be happening in “Legion Lost.” As far as “Teen Titans” goes, I think that a lot of what happens in this story is going to move them in a direction that is a little farther afield from the N.O.W.H.E.R.E.-centric adventures they’ve had since the beginning of the series. I think for the next six months we’ll see them in different environments fighting against different threats. N.O.W.H.E.R.E. will certainly still be there in the background, because anyone who will read “Ravagers” and “Legion” knows N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is going to still be active. But as far as the “Teen Titans” go, I think we’re going to see less Teen Titans involvement in N.O.W.H.E.R.E. for at least probably about half a year.
Is that the same with Superboy? The book and his background are currently tied to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. — when he joins the Titans, will it still be a large component of his individual story?
Lobdell: Actually to be honest, it seems to me for issue #10 and #11 that “Teen Titans” and “Superboy” will almost read as a bi-weekly book. Up until now we’ve seen Superboy guest starring over in Titans but now we will be seeing Wonder Girl and Bunker and a few other characters going back and forth. So yeah, they’re going to be tightly compressed together as a book, though it’s still going to be a while before Superboy feels comfortable joining Titans and it’s going to be longer that the Titans think of Superboy, the guy who tried to kill them when they first meet, as part of the team. Red Robin is certainly the most open-minded of the group, but the others are not thrilled about the idea of Superboy hanging out with them. But yes, so we’ll see a lot of cross-pollination between the two books.
To wrap up, for you three what has been your favorite part or the most challenging part going into “The Culling?”
DeFalco: I love the creative challenge of doing something which is basically a tale that in many respects will invoke horror and yet try to tell it in a positive, uplifting way even though everything goes to hell!
Lobdell: I find that often the criticism behind a crossover event is, “Oh they took that story and really stretched it out.” I have to say the most daunting part of this process is that we have so many ideas and so many big character revelations and the fallout from them scattered throughout this crossover that I honestly wish we had a “Superboy Annual” and a “Legion Lost Annual” so we can tell all these stories that start with the “Titans Annual” and spins off into “Ravagers.” To me the most daunting part has been the fact that there’s just so much to tell that’s so exciting and dynamic that I feel both piqued and strained by the fact that we have so much story to tell.
Mackie: I’ll go a slightly different direction; with all our joking aside and taking slights at one another, it’s been a really rewarding experience for me primarily to work with these two guys. I mean, we bust each other’s chops quite a bit but I honestly could not respect two guys more. The creativity that came out of our many, many, many, many hours of telephone conversations and emails exchanged were just amazing. It was dizzying at times — nauseating at other times, but that’s a different story! [Laughs] But it really has been rewarding to see the end result and for you guys to know that there was a lot of energy, a lot of blood sweat of tears in the creative process that resulted in a lot of blood, sweat and tears for the characters.
Lobdell: And I think I speak on behalf of Tom and myself that we’re really excited our little Howard bird is leaving the nest with his “Ravagers” book, I can’t wait to see.
I think there’s a group hug about to happen.
Lobdell: Tom, you want to sing a few verses of Kumbaya? [Laughter] Now if you want to call back and get the real story, you just call me directly!
Mackie: I’ve been keeping a diary for the last 12 months — trust me, the last six chapters are written in my own blood. That will be in the trade paperback! [Laughter]
“The Culling” begins May 2 in “Teen Titans Annual” #1, continuing May 9 in “Superboy” #9 and “Legion Lost” #9, May 23 in “Teen Titans” #9 and ends May 30 with “The Ravagers” #1.