The old adage says there’s no rest for the wicked, and with pretty much every issue of the villain-centric “Titans” ongoing series, writer Eric Wallace shows readers just how true this idiom rings for Deathstroke and his band of hired guns.
Part of the bevy of “Brightest Day” tie-in titles coming out of the DC Comics mega-crossover event “Blackest Night,” the ongoing “Titans” by Wallace and artist Fabrizio Fiorentino began with the one-shot special “Titans: Villains for Hire” which set the tone and direction for the series. In the mercenary group’s first outing, they brutally assassinated Atom Ryan Choi, while the subsequent arc in the ongoing saw Deathstroke and his cohorts – consisting of Tattooed Man, Cheshire, newcomer Cinder and the recently resurrected Osiris – protecting infamous Superman villain Lex Luthor from a shape-shifting killer. The most recent storyline begining in “Titans” #26 added a new, and somewhat unlikely, member to the team: one-time Teen Titan Arsenal. Roy Harper’s introduction to the title comes out of his recent decent into depression following the loss of not only his arm but also his young daughter during the events in the “Cry for Justice” miniseries.
Wallace took time out from writing his Titanic stories and spoke with CBR News about adding more Arsenal to the title, what the future holds for Osiris and the villains’ upcoming trip to Arkham Asylum.
CBR News: With your first major arc over and the second underway, what’s it been like working on this title and spotlighting these new Villains for Hire?
Eric Wallace: Writing Deathstroke’s villainous Titans is a blast. I’ve gotten to create some pretty intense scenes as well as explore some very dark psychological territory. I’m also enjoying spotlighting characters like the Tattooed Man, who previously hadn’t had the chance to stand out in the DCU. Having said that, getting to work with characters like Roy, Cheshire and Deathstroke – three people who have so much history together – is fantastic. And yes, as a result of the ending of “Titans” issue #27, you can pretty much see that things are going to get much worse for them before they get better – especially for Roy.
When “Titans” launched following the “Villains for Hire” special, there was a lot of controversy over the events from that one-shot and the death of Ryan Choi. What was your mindset while writing during that time to now? Was that controversy on your mind or was it something where you didn’t let it get to you because you knew the book wasn’t about that?
I can tell you that my mindset and approach to the book is the same now as it was when I first started working on it. I just want to tell the best stories I can every month. It’s that simple.
As for the controversy, the funny thing is that I wasn’t even aware of it until one of my fellow DC writers pointed it out to me by saying, “Hey, did you know there’s a contingent of Ryan Choi fans out there that are really angry with you?” I had no idea, because I was too busy working on upcoming issues to worry about what the reaction to that “Villains for Hire Special” might be. When I did find out about the various reactions, I was just relieved to hear that people had any opinion on the book, good or bad. Fan reactions and critical reviews – both positive and negative – are a part of the process. So, no, I didn’t let it get to me.
You mention some of the characters you’re getting to write in this book – Roy, Cheshire and Slade Wilson. Looking at that group of characters, does anyone stand out as your personal favorite?
That’s a tough question, because I love all these characters for different reasons. I love the air of mystery that surrounds Deathstroke, but I love the honesty and conflicted nature in Mark, the Tattooed Man.
There’s also a sadness at the core of Cinder that just breaks my heart; I really care about what she’s been through and what’s going to happen to her. Conversely, Cheshire’s just cool and sexy as hell. And Osiris? Heh. I just love who this kid is becoming. Yes, his days of being pushed around are quickly coming to an end. As for Roy? I loved him as Red Arrow and now admit to a sadistic glee at getting him on the team at a time when he’s also so wounded. Without a doubt, adding him to the “Titans” roster has given even more urgency and desperation to a team that’s already overflowing with both.
What character would you say you were most worried about going into this book? That is, was there a character you weren’t sure you had a complete grasp on at first but now get 100 percent?
I’ll answer the second part of this question first by saying, even now, I don’t get all of these characters 100 percent. I can’t. If I do, that means they’re not talking me, not keeping me on my toes, not surprising me by telling which direction they want a particular story to take. I believe that you can rarely – if ever – know a person 100 percent. The same applies for me in the writing process. I can never know everything about a character, because once I do, the process of discovery is over. The character becomes predictable, and in turn, so will the writing. Again, that’s just my opinion, but it’s how I approach the storytelling in “Titans.” These characters keep me on my toes, and that’s really exciting.
As for the first part of this question, I’d say the character I was most worried about was Osiris. Despite knowing who the character is, say, in “Power of Shazam” #48, I didn’t really know who he was. By that, I mean that there’s not twenty or thirty years of history for the character like there is for Roy or Slade. Even now, it’s a scary prospect, because in a sense I’m really in undiscovered territory with Osiris. Again, that’s part of the fun. Learning who Amon is and what drives him is the most frightening and rewarding part of this process, and digging deeply into his character has, I believe, already paid dividends from a storytelling aspect.
The current arc has introduced Roy Harper, also known as Arsenal, to the title. You hit on him a bit earlier, but what can you say about where the decision to add him to the roster came from?
The decision to add Roy to the team came from both from myself and the DC gang. Again, I love Roy as a character. From his troubled past as a drug addict to his rebirth as Red Arrow when he became a member of the JLA awhile back, Roy has always fascinated me. There’s so much inside him that’s yet to be explored. He’s also a former Titan, so bringing him aboard this new team of villains is pretty explosive. For me, the most fascinating aspect of adding Roy to the roster has always centered around one simple question: Why would Roy join a team led by his greatest adversary? There are many potential answers to this question, but only one that feels honest and genuine to me. Readers get that answer immediately in “Titans” #26, as soon as Roy joins. I felt it was very important to get this reason out fast, because it informs a major part of the upcoming stories that this book will be telling.
Where is Roy’s head at the moment? You’ve said before that the characters on this team are all people who make bad decisions for the right reasons. Do you believe Roy is in that mindset at the moment?
Roy’s head is in an extremely bad place at the moment. To say he’s already made some bad decisions is a huge understatement. But rejoining the Titans when they’re led by Deathstroke? Come on. That’s got to be one of the all-time worse decisions any superhero has ever made. And yes, Roy’s going to pay for making such a bad call. The good news for readers is that bad decisions made for honest reasons make for great drama, and Roy is about to get involved in some very major drama.
Speaking of drama, with Roy on the team, one obviously has to address Cheshire. What’s their relationship looking like these days? I assume not well, considering how badly their last encounter ended.
Without giving too much away, Cheshire is one of the major forces pushing Roy to join the Titans. Again, this gets addressed immediately in “Titans” #26 and #27. As for their relationship, it took a major hit with the death of their child, Lian, but it’s also going to bring them together in one of the few upbeat storylines that occur during this initial batch of new “Titans” stories. Also, the rather awkward nature of their last encounter in the “Rise of Arsenal” miniseries gets addressed at the end of “Titans” #27. Initially, they’re going to be in a positive place. But that’s quickly going to go off the rails. I can’t say exactly how, because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.
Looking ahead, October’s issue seems really interesting as it involves the Villains for Hire heading into Arkham Asylum. What can you say about that storyline and what we’ll be seeing?
Carnage, reunions and past sins: these are the three key elements of October’s “Titans” #28 as well as the issues that immediately follow it. I say carnage because, let’s face it, the Gotham Rogues Gallery vs. Deathstroke and the Titans? As far as I’m concerned, that’s what quality comic book action is all about. Seriously, though, there’s a theme that runs through this issue as well as the rest of the “Family Reunions” storyline, and it’s about reconnecting. Reconnecting with loved ones from the past as well as those we’ve lost touch with in the immediate present. A lot of the overarching themes in these new “Titans” stories are about some facet of being in a family. Obviously, with an overall title like “Family Reunions,” familial themes are tackled rather overtly, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a surprise or two hiding within the walls of Arkham.
From the cover alone, we see there will be some appearances by Batman mainstays. Can you talk about some of the Gotham villains you’ll be employing in the arc? What about the Batman villains do you think makes them so popular?
Let’s be honest. Batman has the coolest villains. Period. I believe this is one of the reasons why the character is so popular, because having great adversaries makes a hero all the more, well, heroic. As for which Gotham villains we’ll be featuring, everyone on the cover of “Titans” #28 – Clayface, Mr. Freeze, Zsasz – joins in the fun. Look for Killer Croc – one of my all-time favorite Batman villains – to play a unique role in the ensuing battle. And there might be another well-known Gotham villain not pictured on the cover that also has a role in the carnage.
As for what makes the Gotham villains so popular, I think it’s because each one of them is a metaphor for a specific emotion in the human palette, only taken to an ominous extreme. For example, the Joker is the fun, humorous side of us all. Life is funny and we all like to laugh. Only the Joker’s whoopee cushion contains dynamite, so watch out. For me, a character like the Penguin represents greed, while Catwoman represents sexuality and the Riddler is a representation of human intellect, again, all in their darker forms. What this means is that all of the Gotham villains are weird and wild but always recognizably human. Yes, they take things to horrific extremes, but I know these characters because I see bits of them in both myself and those around me on an everyday basis. But then, maybe I live in a more bizarre world than most.
I also wanted to hit on Osiris. The solicit mentions tie-ins to “Brightest Day,” and with the recent reveal of Osiris’ mission, it certainly brings a whole new light to him being on the team. What can you say about what we can be expecting to see from the character in the coming months?
I wish I could tell you what we have planned for Osiris. It’s pretty intense. But sorry, no spoilers. However, I can say that over the coming months, Osiris will fulfill his heart’s greatest desire. And that will be the beginning of his downfall. As for writing him, Osiris is in the process of becoming a truly tragic figure, and that’s really fun from a storytelling point-of-view. His journey is only just beginning, and how he deals with the revelations bestowed upon him by the White Lantern will change him – and the DCU – forever. So, yes, writing him is one of the most exciting parts of telling these new “Titans” stories.
As a final question, what can you say about what we’ll be seeing beyond the Arkham story? Can you tease what’s to come?
Next up, Deathstroke begins to keep the promises he used to seduce the new Titans team in the “Villains for Hire Special.” Unfortunately, the Titans are about to learn that getting exactly what you want is sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you. Deathstroke is the ultimate chessmaster and he never does anything unless it’s somehow to his advantage. We’ll also find out who was screaming behind that door in “Titans” #24 and how they fit into Deathstroke’s ultimate plan. And for the Ryan Choi fans out there – of which I’m one myself – Ryan’s assassination has been a secret so far, but that’s about to change. And yes, once the hero community finds out the truth, there will be a reckoning.