Few comic book writers can deliver a space opera quite like Jim Starlin, so when DC Comics wanted to revamp the revamped “Stormwatch” with an intergalactic bent, Co-Publisher Dan DiDio knew exactly where to go.
Best known for crafting cosmic adventures starring Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock while creating new characters like Thanos, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora for Marvel Comics, Starlin has also worked at DC Comics over the years, most recently on titles like “Mystery in Space” in 2006-07 and “Death of the New Gods” in 2007-08. Now, Starlin has returned to DC to write “Stormwatch,” joining forces with French artist Yvel Guichet.
CBR News spoke with Starlin following the release of “Stormwatch” #19, his first issue on the series, and the fan favorite writer shared details about upcoming storylines and the heroes and villains that he and Guichet will feature, including Bryan Hitch-infused versions of Midnighter and Apollo, the big bastich Lobo and The Weird, a character that Starlin co-created with Bernie Wrightson for DC Comics in 1988, which later appeared in his subsequent series for the publisher “Mystery in Space,” “Rann-Thanagar Holy War” and “Strange Adventures.”
CBR News: Jim, you’ve been away from DC Comics for a few years. How did this assignment come about?
Jim Starlin: Originally, Dan DiDio and I started talking about me working on their science fiction characters again, which is something I muddled around with before a couple of years back, but I didn’t feel like doing Adam Strange again. And Dan wanted something done with Lobo, so I plotted out a story that involved Lobo and Captain Comet, who appeared in the “Mystery in Space” series that I did a few years back. That was going to be a miniseries.
Unbeknownst to Dan at the time, Comet was already going to appear in “Superman.” With the big New 52 changeover, it was hard to keep track of where everyone was at, so I figured that was the end of that. I had some other work to do so I was just going to pass on the whole thing because it was getting a little confusing. Then Dan called up and said, “Hey, can you convert this story into a ‘Stormwatch’ story and take over than title?”
I said, “Okay, send me some books.” He sent me the first 12 issues of “Stormwatch.” Once I read them, we talked on the phone and we both agreed that “Stormwatch” hadn’t really worked out too well at the conversion to the New 52 [Laughs]. A number of the books worked out really well, but “Stormwatch” was clearly not one of them.
Dan said, “We really want to revamp this and we want you to do the story that you were going to do with Lobo and Comet and see if you can convert it over here.” That’s what we did and that is why, as much as anything, the new Jennifer Soul is a telepath. She replaced Comet in the storyline.
I honestly came into this project very lukewarm, but quickly found the direction it was supposed to go and have been having a great time with it ever since.
Revamping a series or concept is obviously nothing new to comics. Is the medium designed to allow for a major shift like this midstream?
Comics and comic book characters are reinvented just about every generation. If you look at a character like Batman or Superman, they go through major overhauls just about every decade — or every decade as we get nearer to the present.
For that reason, eliminating and starting over didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. They were also busy killing off all of their characters from the Stormwatch before me so by the time I got the book, the only characters that were left were Midnighter, Apollo and Zealot. Everybody else was killed off, so it really was time to start over.
We were painted into a corner and there was no getting around it. We got rid of the old history by page 3 of the first issue and decided we were just going to start over.
We’re bringing back the best things about the concept. Bryan Hitch’s costume designs for Midnighter and Apollo were terrific. There was no reason to change those.
And we brought in a number of other characters. Yvel worked up a new design for The Weird. We played back and forth for several weeks on deciding who the characters were and what they would look like. It’s actually been one of the best collaborations that I’ve had in years. It’s all worked out quite nicely.
When Geoff Johns was selecting the Justice League, he went big with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. For the Justice League of America, he went to a second and third tier but still filled his roster with plenty of recognizable heroes like Green Arrow and Hawkman. How do you go about picking a team like Stormwatch?
There are different kinds of characters. There are characters that have a deep history and are part of the cultural mindset like Batman and Superman and you can tinker with them, but you are a limited to a degree when you are modernizing them.
With something like Stormwatch, or back when I was doing Captain Marvel or Warlock, these are characters that have flown for a while but then flopped. There was no deep set, ingrained image of what these characters represented. That leaves me with the freedom to reinvent radically rather than just tinkering around the edges. We kept a lot of stuff from “Stormwatch,” like the Shadow Lords, the ship, the basic premise of what they are supposed to be doing but we eliminated the U.N. connection because this is a smaller world now and the political reality is that such an organization couldn’t exist. Who would fund it? It’s better to have it where outside forces are in play here.
It would have been too complicated to continue on and everybody agreed that I could eliminate all the past history of Stormwatch, with them being a 1,000-year old organization, start off with something new and fashion something that features the team stumbling their way to success.
Is this a superhero book or a science fiction book?
[Laughs] I don’t really think of things along those lines. It’s a Starlin book. I try to take fantastic characters and give them human grounding and write as interesting a story that I can around their situation. They live in spaceship above Earth.
It fits into a genre, of course, but whether it’s superhero or science fiction, those genres are easy to blur.
You mentioned Midnighter and Apollo, who are easily the most recognizable characters in “Stormwatch.” Will they remain driving forces of the storytelling during your run?
Yes, they are the centerpiece of the group. They have been since their inception during the Authority’s original run. Everything else is really built around them.
Before we go through the rest of the roster, I should back up a bit. Lobo is probably the most recognizable character you have. How does he fit into the mix?
I was always familiar with Lobo but my interest and knowledge of the character was limited. He always had a reality all of his own. He’s a humor character or a satirical character at DC. He didn’t fit into what I was doing, but they revamped all of DC and the Lobo that showed up in “Deathstroke” was more grounded in reality of the rest of the universe. Taking what was his history — he’s a villain, he’s not a hero, he’s a villain — and I thought having him as the first one villain of our run would work. He’s a peripheral villain of this first arc. He’s not the main villain. The Kollective is the main villain. I’m giving away their name, which we never mentioned in the first book, but they are the creatures that were at the beginning of the series and they are going to be one of the two main villains that the team has to deal with down the line.
Another badass you have returning to the team is Hellstrike. He definitely wouldn’t have played well with Lobo.
[Laughs] Hellstrike isn’t a nice person, which you can probably gather simply from his dialog in the first issue. That darkness will get darker. He’s a being of light but that darkness will get darker as time goes on. He’s going to be a troubled character.
We started talking about Midnighter and Apollo, who are the only true established members of Stormwatch, but we also have the Engineer returning, who you have recruiting new members in your first issue. A new role for her moving forward, perhaps?
Well, yes. In this particular setup, she’s rather new to all of this. In the first issue, it’s kind of her maiden voyage, her first mission for Stormwatch. She’s a recruiter at this point. She’s not one of the active members because of the newness of her abilities.
The members Hellstrike, Apollo, Midnighter and The Weird have been around and have experience when we meet up with them. Angie is relatively new to it and will develop as the stories go on.
Jenny Soul is just a kid, of course, so she is sort of the protected member of the group even though she has incredible powers herself, which you’ll see manifest as the stories go on.
I love that you’ve included The Weird, who’s a character that you’ve worked with before. Were you eager to get back to him or did he just fit what you were looking for within this team construct?
He certainly fit into the science fiction of it. This was originally going to be a science fiction story when DC offered Lobo and Comet. When Dan said, “We want to get some DC characters into the lineup,” I went down the list and all the really A-list characters with science fiction backgrounds — like Green Lantern, Hawkman and characters like that were wrapped in “Justice League” and “Justice League of America” — so I looked around and I found The Weird.
I’ve always loved The Weird. I love the way he talks and the child-like qualities that he has so I thought that he would be good to get in there, especially as a bodyguard. His chief goal is to be Jenny Soul’s bodyguard. He just seemed to be a natural fit.
There was some talk about Lobo joining the team, but how are you going to have Lobo in a group like that? [Laughs] Dan’s original idea was to have him join Stormwatch but if you think about Stormwatch, why would he and how would they keep him in check? Stormwatch and Lobo wouldn’t not fit together well in any form whatsoever, that I could think of.
While we haven’t seen very much from him just yet, one character that really has me intrigued after one issue is The Forecaster. He is a new creation, correct?
The Forecaster runs the show. He basically keeps all of the trains running on time. As far as his origin, that’s going to be revealed down the line a little bit. I have a bit in mind but I actually have to tell everybody’s origin all over again — because these are all new characters.
As the early issues come out, we’ll be getting Midnighter’s and Apollo’s origins to start off with.
One of the other characters, Xiomar, who shows up for the first time in “Stormwatch” #19, is going to become a major character in the series. He has links to another character in the series, which aren’t good. It’s going to be complicated and the reveals of whom these people are going to happen as they happen.
My chief idea is to keep the main story going while introducing origins and the background story a little bit at a time. Just enough to give you a little advance each issue. It won’t be shown all at once.
If The Forecaster is keeping the trains running, what’s Storm Control’s role as he seems to have the best understanding of what’s going on?
Storm Control probably looks the most uninteresting of all the characters but he’s going to be the one who proves to be the most interesting of all of the characters.
He runs the team. He’s the boss. He reports to the Shadow Lords and calls the shots. He runs everything.
One final new character is Force, who was super mysterious even by Stormwatch standards in your first issue. Anything you can share because he looks pretty cool awfully powerful?
Force is going to be a background character for a while. He’s sort of a retooling of Fuji from the original Stormwatch. We’ve got a different origin for him in mind. Like I said, he’s going to be much more of a background character for a while. He’s sort of a reserve. He’s another that is new to his power so you’ll see him showing up but I’ll warn you ahead of time, you’re not going to learn much about him for a little while.
It’s sounds like you and Yvel are building something quite grand here. Are you planning to stay on the series for a long while?
If the stuffs sells, I think I’m just going to stick around here for a while. I’m having a great time with it. I have big plans for all of these characters.
Finally, what are you enjoying most about working with Yvel and what do you feel he brings to the collaboration?
He has a really beautiful, clean style of art that I really like. He’s good at the action and he’s given me exactly what I need in the story.
We have a nice chemistry going when you consider that we have not met. We talked over the phone once and the rest of our communications have been done via email.
When we were designing the characters, he would send something, I would tweak it and send it back and so on. We just had a great time for a couple of weeks just figuring out what these guys would look like.
We both agreed that Apollo should go back to his original outfit but we also both agreed that there was too much white so we had to break it up a little bit with a belt and a few things like that. We seem to be on the same page in terms of how things should go visually.
“Stormwatch” #19, by Jim Starlin and Yvel Guichet, is available now.