Being Human: Raab Talks DC Comics' "The Human Race"

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Yesterday when we spoke with writer Ben Raab he told us about the new, creator-owned series he's got coming out early next year called "Living In Infamy," about a town created by the Federal Witness Protection Program to house reformed super-villains. Raab's also hard at work on another series, this time for DC Comics. In March of 2005 Raab and artist Justiniano will introduce fans of the DC Universe to an entirely new super team in the seven issue series "The Human Race." Raab spoke with CBR News about the series.

"The story centers around a teenager named Ulysses Adams who wakes up on the morning of his high school graduation to find himself in the Kafka-esque predicament of having been transformed by an alien virus into something not quite human," Raab told CBR News. "Turns out Ulysses is the central figure in a centuries-old prophecy about the extinction of all humanity and a pawn that the forces of good and evil are fighting to control."

Raab said that Ulysses has been infected by a DNA-altering xenovirus and that his genetic code is now in the process of being rewritten. "He's a hybrid. A living larva. And the monstrous face of what humankind may become should Delta Chi Delta fail."

Delta Chi Delta? Who's that?

"Delta Chi Delta are the good guys," continued Raab. "Their current ranks include Delphi, a woman with an Artificial Intelligence for a brain, Sensei, the 300-year old samurai with the body of a 21-year old and Nymph, an empath.

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"The Omega Concern are the bad guys. They're led by Paracelsus, a post-modern Dr. Frankenstein who'll stop at nothing to possess Ulysses in order to use his altered DNA to create his own mad version of humankind."

So we've got two fraternal orders with very different charters, but are we talking about fraternities the likes of which you find on college campuses or brother hoods in the vein of the mysterious and ancient Masons or Shriners?

"Delta Chi Delta -- ?.X.?. in Greek -- has far more in common with the Masons than the Shriners," said Raab. "And not just because they don't wear funny little red hats and parade around in small towns. It's an ancient fraternal order founded by the last oracle at Delphi who saw a vision of the future -- the DC universe today -- and the horrible destruction coming in its wake. The literal end of the human race as we know it.

"Why a fraternity? Well, if you want to get all cerebral about it, you could argue that ?.X.?. is a metaphor for all humankind. Its roster is constantly changing and evolving over time to meet the needs of the species, doing what it must to ensure our continuity on this Earth, but the simpler reason is I love secret societies. The Templars, the Freemasons, the Rosicrusians, I've long been fascinated by those organizations and their so-called 'secret histories' and this series presented an opportunity to explore one of my own creation."

Raab said above that Delta Chi Delta is an ancient fraternal order, founded by the last oracle at Delphi that saw a horrible vision of the DC Universe. With speculation running high as to what the upcoming (and also March debuting title) "DC Countdown" one-shot is about and what it ultimately means for the DC Universe, we asked Raab if events in "The Human Race" play into that series or possible spin-offs. "You'll just have to wait and see," said a very coy Raab.

Raab noted that some DCU characters will make an appearance within the pages of "The Human Race" and there are references to DCU locales, but that the series really focuses on these new characters and their battle to keep the world oblivious to the impending doom facing the universe foreseen by the last oracle. As for the inspirations for this series, Raab noted a number of very popular team-books from the past played into the birth of "The Human Race."

"'The Human Race' is an unabashed, contemporary mix of the 'team books' I loved growing up," said Raab. "Comics like Wolfman & Perez's 'New Teen Titans,' Claremont & Byrne's 'X-Men,' the Roy Thomas, Dave Micheline and Roger Stern runs on 'Avengers' and Byrne's 'Alpha Flight.' The storylines in those series were always so out there and over the top, but there was always a very human heart beating in each of them. Characters whose lives are radically affected by the larger than life situations they suddenly find themselves in. It was important to me that 'The Human Race' be infused with that 'ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances' philosophy.

"This series is also a hybrid of some of the Science Fiction literature and anime I grew up reading and watching. Books like Theodore Sturgeon's 'More Than Human' and Arthur C. Clarke's 'Childhood's End' as well as cartoons like 'Battle of the Planets.' You'll find that sort of Sci Fi-meets-Super Hero vibe prevalent throughout. I'd even go so far as to describe a few of the characters as a cross between G-Force and Sturgeon. If you're into that, then you'll dig this."

Raab first pitched "The Human Race" to his editor Joey Cavalieri back in 2002 when he and artist Justiniano were finishing up on the Elseworld's title "JLA: Shogun of Steel."

"From the get-go, we decided to pace ourselves so [Justiniano] could work his magic without the crush of monthly deadline pressure," said Raab. "And considering the amazing job he's done bringing these characters and this series to life, it's been well worth the wait. I'm psyched for everyone to see the beautiful art that only a select few of us have been privy to in the interim.

"The impetus was to introduce a new team of super powered beings that isn't in the limelight like the JLA, JSA or the Teen Titans. An unsung group of heroes with a singular mission and a secret charge to protect the DCU by any means necessary."

Raab and artist Justiniano have worked together a number of times before. They first collaborated on a Beast Boy 10-pager in the second "Legends of the DCU 80-Page Giant" which led in to a "Beast Boy" miniseries. Following that they worked on the "Teen Titants Annual" in 2000 which led to "JLA: Shogun of Steel." The duo have been reunited for "The Human Race," along with inks by Walden Wong, and Raab wouldn't have it any other way.

"When I pitched 'The Human Race' to DC, Josue was the guy I wanted drawing it. He's got an amazing style I know is going to blow a lot of people away. Walden's inking was the perfect fit for that style. They're a formidable art team, and I'm thankful to have had the good fortune of working with them."

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