Since revamping Steve Ditko’s Shade, the Changing Man for DC Comics in the early 1990s, Peter Milligan has made a name for himself by redefining numerous iconic comic book characters ranging from Batman to John Constantine. The British scribe’s latest endeavor is transforming a super-powered group featuring the likes of Apollo and Midnighter into a highly-secretive strike force in the pages of “Stormwatch,” a central series in DC’s New 52.
With all of the media buzz surrounding the upcoming nuptials of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu in “Astonishing X-Men” #51 and the reveal in “Earth 2” #2 that Alan Scott is gay, it’s easy to forget that Apollo and Midnighter were married a decade ago in the pages of “The Authority” #29 by writer Mark Millar.
With the characters now un-married as part of DC’s New 52 continuity reboot, Milligan told CBR News that while the their sexuality will be explored in future issues, for now his focus is on establishing the core group while integrating new members — it has already been announced that the Martian Manhunter quits the team in “Stormwatch” #12 this August in an issue illustrated by Ignacio Calero.
Over the course of our discussion, Milligan spoke about his homage to the infamous one-punch Batman so famously delivered to the kisser of Guy Gardner in “Justice League” #5 (1987) and why it was important in his effort to drive home the absurdity of a superhuman killing machine like Midnighter facing off against Dex-Starr, an equally ruthless red ring-powered cat.
CBR News: You’ve jumped into “Stormwatch” headfirst and delivered two wham-bam issues to kick off your run. Were you familiar with the members, specifically Midnighter and Apollo, from the original run of “The Authority” or did you have to go back and research them before tackling this assignment?
Peter Milligan: Yes, I was aware of the characters, but not too familiar with them. Besides, I feel as though “Stormwatch” is a bit of a clean slate as far as these fellows are concerned. They’re kind of the same characters, but we have the latitude to change them around a little to suit our purposes. In other words, this is “Stormwatch’s” version of Apollo and Midnighter.
While he was originally conceived as a pastiche of Batman, a character which you have a long history writing, what differentiates Lucas Trent’s alter ego from the Dark Knight?
I’m not seeing him that way. Both are dark characters, sure, but Lucas has gone even darker. Of course the biggest thing that separates Batman from Midnighter is their moral code. What creates a lot of the tension in Batman is that, though he has this darkness and anger, he has a strict code of not killing. Midnighter will kill if he has to. His inner tension is different and maybe more existential and has more to do with where that lack of moral code might lead him: might his willingness to kill tip him over an edge to an even darker place? Just what might be become?
What are your first impressions of working with the solar-powered superhero, Apollo?
I think he’s really interesting and likeable. As I’m seeing him, on the surface he’s brighter — physically and emotionally — than Midnighter but he has real issues he’s trying to contend with, too, in regard to his sexuality and his powers. And working for a secretive group like Stormwatch is more of a challenge to him than, say, Midnighter.
You’re no stranger to writing team books, so tell us what separates Stormwatch in terms of how they operate and the personal interplay versus Justice League Dark or even the X-Men?
Well, the two books you mention are very different. And Stormwatch is different again. There is a sense of them being professionals, linked by the necessity of their job rather than who they are, rather than being outcasts or having certain kinds of mutations.
Another major player in this series is one of my all-time favorites, the Martian Manhunter, but solicitations for future issues indicate that J’onn J’onzz is set to quit Stormwatch. Is that a storyline we will see unfold in your first arc? And was it your choice to let him go, or did DC have other plans for the Martian Manhunter?
J’onn’s time in the team is numbered, yeah. It was an editorial thing, but it fits in my idea that I want to freshen up the team from time to time. We’ll see his big valedictory moment. As for new members, I can’t really talk about that yet.
In your first issues of “Stormwatch,” you’ve crossed-over with your other current DC title, “Red Lanterns.”Now, Red Lantern Skallox is a character whose backstory you’ve developed during that series’ initial launch. Why did you feel he was the best fit for challenging Stormwatch?
Organically, Skallox fitted in well with the story. And he’s a nasty bastard. Not as bad as Atrocitus or wicked as Bleez, but a real bruiser, which is what I wanted.
The crossover continued in “Red Lanterns” #10, and the big buzz online was all about Midnighter’s face-off with Dex-Starr. More specifically, the homage to the infamous one-punch scene from Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire’s “Justice League” #5.
I took the fight seriously. That is, I really liked the idea of Midnighter facing off with Dex-Starr. And I suppose I wanted some tough old school move like the one-punch to drive home the essential absurdity — in a good way — of this near superhuman killing machine squaring off against a cat.
Will the events in this crossover have ramifications in the two titles moving forward?
It’s heavily hinted at that Atrocitus will return to sort Stormwatch out when the Red Lanterns are in better shape. But such cataclysmic events are happening in the world of the Red Lanterns and beyond that it would be foolish of me to go into too much detail about the cast members — though I should imagine that Dex-Starr wants a rematch with Midnighter.
It appears Harry Tanner will play a significant role in “Stormwatch” for the foreseeable future. For a team built on secrets, I guess an archenemy that has the power to lie and have anyone believe him is pretty potent.
Yeah, and I really like the fact that Harry was once a part of their team. He was the Engineer’s lover, for Christ’s sake! This makes what he’s up to so much more personal. There are all those issues of romance and betrayal rather than simple old world-domination thrown into the mix, which is great
“Stormwatch” #11, written by Peter Milligan and featuring art by Ignacio Calero, is scheduled for release on July 4.