A Night at the Space Opera; Gibbons talks "The Rann/Thanagar War" and the "Watchmen" Film

On March 30th with the release of DC Comics' "Countdown To Infinite Crisis," previously known as "DC Countdown," hidden schemes that have been evolving in the DC Universe for months will be revealed. Villains will unite, the truth behind the Omac Project will be unveiled, a Day of Vengeance will occur, and in the farthest reaches of space a conflict between two planets will erupt into "The Rann/Thanagar War," a six issue miniseries by Dave Gibbons with art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos which begins on May 11th. CBR News spoke to Gibbons for a front line perspective on the war and his feelings on the film version of "Watchmen" which is currently in pre-production.

Gibbons got the "The Rann/Thanagar War" assignment because his ideas didn't fit the project he had been working on. " I was working on another project with Peter Tomasi and I had come up with a few ideas that were in the science fiction area," Gibbons told CBR News by phone. "One in particular wasn't quite right for the project I was working on, but it was the perfect springboard for 'The Rann/Thanagar War.' So, Peter asked me if I would like to write that. I was very happy to do it."

The two planetary cultures in conflict in "The Rann/Thanagar War" seem very different at first glance. "Rann and Thanagar have always been painted as somewhat in conflict because they're two very contrasting societies," Gibbons explained. "You have Thanagar which is very war like with a lot of tradition and a kind of warrior culture; quite an aggressive people, whereas Rann is kind of a planet of science. They've almost wiped themselves out once with the fruits of their science in a nuclear war. Of course they have the Zeta Beam and they have all kinds of other things, which they use. In their own way, possibly, they're as aggressive as the Thanagarians, but it's a mental aggression rather than a physical aggression. If you like it's the brain versus the heart."

The cover of "The Rann/Thanagar War" #1 features the series' three chief protagonists: Hawkman, Adam Strange, and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. Hawkman's man of action demeanor and his heritage with ties to Thanagar are what pull him into the war. "Hawkman basically is a warrior, somebody with a huge heritage," said Gibbons. "He's part of a serial reincarnation of great warriors throughout time and he's a very strong character. He's not a character who makes chitchat. He's a character who thinks a lot and goes with his gut; who's extremely brave; who uses whatever weapons are at hand; who is very well aware of doing the right thing as a warrior and as a man and as a Thanagarian. He can't escape that heritage."

Like Hawkman, Adam Strange is also a man with ties to two worlds. "He's a guy from Earth, an archeologist, a guy whose got an analytical brain, who has fallen in love with someone from another planet and has a child with her," Gibbons said. "So, he's a family man as well. He subscribes to a lot of what Rann stands for, but possibly finds their culture a little cold. So he's a man of two worlds really. He's not a native Rannian, but he's probably the best hope that Rann has. His Earth qualities are actually a very positive thing because it makes him a little more able to deal with reality than the abstract thinkers who populate Rann."

Kyle Rayner's feelings of displacement lead to his involvement in the war. "Kyle is an interesting character who of course, has been around for a long time and we're very much aware that he was kind of a substitute for the real Green Lantern. Although he started off hitting the ground running, he really didn't know what he was doing. Over the years that he's been Green Lantern, he's learned and he's probably one of the most experienced Green Lanterns. He is, shall we say, a more stable character than Guy Gardner. He's got a sense of humor. He's a creative thinker. He's a man with a sense of adventure; a man with a sense of romance in his soul, but he's a man who at the moment kind of hasn't got a place. Hal Jordan is back as the Green Lantern of Earth and Kyle has wandered around space a little bit. He's very much feeling the after effects of 'Rebirth' and he's assessing where he stands. He is assigned to a mission, which is not directly involved with the Rann/Thanagar War, but shall we say, he's unable to stay away. He gets involved despite the Guardians."

Hawkman, Adam Strange, and Kyle Rayner are just the three prominent characters in "The Rann/Thanagar War." The series will feature appearances by many of DC's science fiction characters. "The Legion make a fleeting appearance," Gibbons said. "We don't see all of the Omega Men, but Tigorr plays quite a large part in it. Hawkman and Hawkgirl as I said. Hawkwoman is also in there. We also have Adam Blake, otherwise known as Captain Comet. He plays an important part. He becomes somewhat of an ally of Kyle Rayner and teams up with him to attack this problem from another vantage point. Starman is in there, Prince Gavyn of Throneworld. He's not center stage, but he makes a significant appearance."

A former Teen Titans adversary also plays a role in the series. "There's also a character called Komand'r who is also known as Blackfire, who is a Tamaranean queen. She gets involved in a rather nefarious way. She's a very hard character. You can't really define her as a hero or a villain," Gibbons explained. "She's very much after her own end. Obviously there is a degree of politicking and a degree of power shifting going on and she tries to use it for her own advantage."

"The Rann/Thanagar War" won't just effect the people of two planets. Gibbons said there are other races from the DC cosmos that join the fray. "We have the Khunds, and we have the Dominators, the Psions, the Coluans and the Durlans. There is a sense of everybody getting involved."

There are mysterious and evil forces behind the Rann/Thanagar War. Gibbons wouldn't say who the main force of evil in the series was, but did tease that the villain would be familiar to readers with knowledge of the rogues' galleries of Hawkman, Green Lantern and Adam Strange. "There are forces behind the scenes that are actually driving this thing forward," Gibbons explained. "It's these forces which the good citizens of Rann and Thanagar who are personified by Adam Strange on Rann and personified by Hawkman and Hawkgirl with their Thanagarian heritage. They realize they have to get together to try and deal with the underlying evil."

Peace will not reign throughout the galaxy by the end of "The Rann/Thanagar War." Gibbons said that aftershocks of the Rann/Thanagar war will reverberate throughout the DC Universe for some time.

Fans of 'Star Wars" or TV shows like "Farscape" should enjoy "The Rann/Thanagar War." "I did want to make it a space opera book," Gibbons explained. "I did want to make it science fiction rather than super heroics. I think the mix of characters we've got in it allows us to do that and certainly, I've been a fan of great space opera. I use to read all the Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ian M. Banks books."

Gibbons believes there are a number of core elements to a good Space Opera. "I think you have to have scale," he said. "You have to make it feel that this is a big, big place and that it's a big, big war. I think you have to be aware of the scale, but at the same time you have to be aware of telling a story that's dramatic and involving in human terms. You need to see it through the eyes of characters that you care about. Otherwise, it just becomes like a history lesson or a list of events. I also think you have to utilize, as best as you can, the different exciting locales and settings that there are out there. Also the complexity of civilizations; the culture clashes; the technology that the different races have; the creeds and beliefs of the different races. I think the more that you can give a rich tapestry of possibility, the more you're going to succeed."

"The Rann/Thanagar War" spins directly out of the "Adam Strange" series, but you don't need to have read that to enjoy "The Rann/Thanagar War." "We've tried to make 'Rann/Thanagar' self-contained," Gibbons explained. "These characters have got such long and convoluted histories. Most of them have died two or three times. They've been reinvented. They've been changed around. So, what I've done is to go for the essence of the characters. I've tried not to contradict any continuity, but basically they're characters that hopefully we've introduced in a way that you get what they're about straight away. You don't have to have read the last ten years of continuity. You don't even have to have read the 'Adam Strange' mini-series."

Coordinating and planning "The Rann/Thanagar War" was hard work, but Gibbons has greatly enjoyed the actual writing of the mini-series. "We have spent a lot of time in the planning of this because it involves characters across the DC Universe," Gibbons said. "We had to take some input to make sure that it is coherent with things that are happening elsewhere in the DC Universe. So, the coordination of it is a major point. Now, that we've done all that and we've got it all doped out and the thing works and makes sense, I'm having the time of my life actually writing these characters. DC's science fiction characters are amongst some of my favorites. Now that all the spade work is done, I'm really enjoying getting to grips and making it come to life."

One of comics' most acclaimed works, "Watchmen" which Gibbons illustrated for writer Alan Moore, will soon be making its way to the silver screen. "Watchmen" the movie has entered pre-production and Gibbons is optimistic about the film. "I've got absolutely no involvement with it at all and I never had," Gibbons said. "My Mum use to read in the entertainment section of the newspaper little tidbits and relay them to me. So, that's the closest that I've ever come to it. Although, I do understand it's in pre-production in England. I do have high hopes that it might be a half way decent movie. I have read the script, which I thought was excellent; a better script than I could have imagined being written. I know the director has a very good track record. I just hope for the best. I hope if nothing else it will perhaps serve as publicity for the book which is after all the pure expression of 'Watchmen' and maybe sell some more copies of that."

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