Team-ups are often the life blood of the superhero genre. From the classic character crossovers between heroes like Superman and Batman to more recent creative collaborations like the four-writer team that created DC’s “52” series, mashing together multiple elements always yields noteworthy results.
Later this year, Dynamite Entertainment hopes to catch lightning in a bottle by teaming-up two of mainstream comics’ most accomplished writers for an original cross-genre epic, as the publisher announced exclusively through CBR that Bill Willingham and a soon to be named co-writer will launch a new as-yet-unamed project through the publisher.
“The fact that they’re both excited about working together excites me,” Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci told CBR. “That tells me they have passion. Passion is something you need to make a comic. It tells me they want to be collaborative. It brings something to the table. I’m willing to ‘roll the dice’ just based on the fact that I have faith in these guys.”
Willingham echoed the sentiment, noting that although all the pieces haven’t fallen into place to give too many details on the project, he’s prepared to devote his time to what can often be the difficult task of teaming with a partner. “Whoever said this first was exactly on the money: collaboration is like doing twice the work for half the money,” Willingham remarked. “And that’s absolutely true. It is not easier to share the workload of a written story amongst people. It’s more difficult. So the real reward comes in answering, ‘Do you really want to work with this person?’ Do you find a compelling talent there that pulls you into where you have to be part of creating something with them? [My co-writer] is that kind of person.”
As far as the project itself, Willingham and his partner are in the early stages of writing the book, which is planned to launch as a six-issue miniseries (though the length may change). The book will incorporate elements from across the genres Willingham has worked in before as separate projects like “Fables” and his varied DCU superhero books. “It’s going to be in the superhero realm, and it’s also going to be in the sorcery realm. One of the characters is going to be a wizard. One of the characters is sort of going to be a knight errant, but it’s in the modern day,” Willingham confirmed. “There’s superhero aspects. There’s fantasy aspects. There’s a lot of action adventure. The only thing I can promise is that I’m fairly certain there won’t be an old west-style gunfight in there. But it’s primarily superhero kind of thing. Hopefully over the years – if things like ‘Elementals’ and ‘Shadowpact’ have been any indication – when we say ‘superheroes’ it’s sort of a unique and eclectic take on the vastness of that genre.”
And though their initial foray into this new world will take the form of a miniseries, Willingham and company promise that to them this story represents the start of a bigger epic. “This is a prelude,” Willingham explained. “We’re building up to something. I was just going to use the word ‘event,’ but it’s not an event because that word means something very particular in the comics world. It’s not an event in the sense that it’s a big multi-crossover with everything and the kitchen sink thrown in. It’s a prelude building up to a really cool thing. And this story, in addition to being a really cool action adventure in its own right, sets the stage for that. It gets a lot of characters into the right place for a pretty huge and extraordinary thing that’s going to follow.
“We don’t know the title of the six-issue series yet. We absolutely know the title of the big, extraordinary title this is setting the stage for. But we can’t reveal that. So we’ve got one title we don’t quite know and one that’s a state secret.”
One thing the series does promise for certain is that Willingham will return to the drawing table to help shape the world he’s creating with his scripts. “We have not picked out an artist, but all of the main characters will be visually designed by me. As a matter of fact, if they tried to keep me from doing that, there would be blood spilled.”
Jokes aside, the origins of the new project come from a long connection between Dynamite and Willingham, though not in the usual business sense. “Basically, I’ve known Bill Willingham for over 25 years, though take that with the grain of salt,” said Barrucci.
“To properly set the stage, let me talk out of school about Nick,” Willingham added. “Way back in the days when I was still a brand new young turk in the comic book business, living in Philadelphia and doing ‘Elementals’ with Comico, we would hang out at this store called Fat Jack’s. And Nick was this young kid that would also hang out at that store and be alternately amusing or annoying and what have you. That was how I knew Nick. Then I moved along and hadn’t seen him for years until one day he comes up to me at a convention — probably in San Diego — reintroduces himself and mentions that he was the kid who made good, that he’d started Dynamic Forces and gotten successful. I’d been aware of Dynamic Forces but had no idea Nick was involved in it.
“Fat Jack’s Comicrypt has been a breeding ground for success in and around the comics industry. Matt Wagner used to hang out there. Joe Matt, who went a completely different way with his comics work, was a regular there. Nick made good in the comics business area, and one of the managers of the satellite stores went on to become a big whig in the game distribution industry. So if you’re a young hot turk comic artist or writer trying to break in and you’ve been frustrated, maybe you should just move to Philadelphia and hang out at Fat Jack’s for a while.”
Despite the long connection between the two, it took until this year for Barrucci and Willingham to finally make a project together, although they’d been “in talks” for years. “Almost as soon as he reintroduced himself to me, Nick mentioned that Dynamic Forces was also starting a comic book line called Dynamite,” said Willingham of the initial talks five years ago. “That’s how long we’ve been potentially talking about doing something some day. Now, I’ve been hampered by the fact that I’ve been exclusive with DC all this time, so the talks always ended with, ‘That’s great. Let’s do something together someday when I can.’ So finally when the possibility for renewing my exclusive with DC came up this time, because of my talks with Nick and others, I decided not to renew my exclusive just so I could retire some of these obligations I’ve been building up.”
Head back to CBR early next week for the revelation of Willingham’s writing partner and more details on his new Dynamite Entertainment series.