"Trinity" #26 arrives in comic book stores today, meaning DC Comics' third consecutive weekly series has hit the halfway mark.
Multiple Eisner Award-winner Kurt Busiek ("Astro City," "Marvels") writes the main 12-page story, drawn by superstar artist Mark Bagley, for each issue and frequently co-writes the 10-page backup feature with long-time pal Fabian Nicieza. A rotating team, consisting of Scott McDaniel, Tom Derenick and Mike Norton, provides the art for the backup portions.
The epic events unraveling in "Trinity" predominantly tell the tale of what the DC Universe would be like without its three greatest legends, after a spell cast by Morgaine le Fey, Enigma and Despero creates an alternate timeline void of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Trouble is, Despero was actually classic Justice League nemesis Kanjar Ro in disguise, so even the villains didn't get what they expected.
CBR's weekly TRINGENUITY feature spotlights and analyzes every issue of "Trinity," and with the series now and its halfway mark, we spoke with Busiek himself from his home in Vancouver, Washington about the incredible canvas DC has provided him with, and how the fan favorite writer plans to use every inch of the fabric, front and back, before May 27, 2009.
CBR: With "Trinity" #26 in stores this week, have you almost finished writing the series?
Kurt Busiek: No, no, no. Let me put it this way, we're not in danger of shipping late, but I fully expect that by the time we're done, we will get there. The idea was that we needed plenty of lead time so that we would have the time we needed to cover the fact that Mark Bagley really can't draw 12 pages a week. He can come close to it. Some weeks he can actually do it, depending on whether I've dumped a million characters fighting in the Parthenon on him this week [laughs]. But the expectation is that we are going to lose time on schedule as we go along. And I expect -- this series ends in May -- by late April I won't be doing anything but "Trinity." When a new page comes in, it's got to be scripted [laughs].
Have you enjoyed the experience so far? Is it what you were expecting?
It's varied. I have some medical issues. I have some fatigue problems that come and go. And when the fatigue problems are strong, it's difficult to get stuff done. And when they're not, that's when I try to get ahead. So they're have been times, and this is another thing that I fully expected when I went in, when it's like this is the greatest assignment in the world and times when it's like, I want to kill everybody who didn't stop me. [laughs]
Seriously, I keep talking to Mark Bagley and he keeps mentioning that he gets to draw everybody. And I think that I get to write everybody. And we get to go anywhere and do anything and we're not having to change this, that and the other thing because we have to tie-in to whatever series is going on. We're telling a big, big novel of the DC Universe that gets to stand on its own. It's not like it doesn't build on what came before and it's not like there won't be repercussions, but you don't have to go somewhere else to understand the story.
It sounds like the lack of editorial limitations is pretty liberating.
Having that kind of canvas is great. And apparently the series is doing well enough and people are happy enough with it - nobody at the office is messing with us. They're not telling us we have to change our plan. They're saying, 'Hey, every week another issue goes off to the printer. And we like it. Keep going.'
What issue are you scripting right now?
I don't want to say that. I just completed the outline for the third act to the series. We're wrapping up the second act and heading into the third - that's nicely non-specific.
Over the course of the project, have you developed a greater fondness for any characters? Or are there any you can't stand now?
I really like comics and like the big sprawl of the DC Universe, so I'm not going to say, 'I decided I hate this guy.' It's not how my mind works. But it has been fun, when we went into this, we figured these characters, Gangbuster, Tarot, Kovikt, these are our important secondary characters. And as we have gone along, we thought John Stewart was going to be important and he turned out to be even more important than we thought. But we didn't know Firestorm was going to be important. He just kind of appeared in the story because we needed somebody to go looking for John and we needed someone who would ask questions because he didn't know this stuff and that was Firestorm. And that sort of set up this relationship between Firestorm and John Stewart that ended up being important later and it's going to be important again later on.
So having things like that, we didn't know going into it that Hawkman was going to be as key a character. But, because we have this big sprawling, 1,000-plus page story, we have room for it. 'What this character is doing is valuable and interesting to the story so let's bring this up and devote a little space to it. And use him or her to build towards what we are doing in the third act.' That part of the experience has been great.
"Trinity" #25 came out last week, if this was a monthly comic, this would be the end of our second year. So in order to get this much stuff, we'd be working on this book for four-and-a-half years. But we're doing it all in one. It's great to be able to build that kind of structure and develop it and watch it grow and work with the stuff that comes up that's surprising on the kind of pacing schedule that we've got.
Instead of saying, 'That's a great bit. We could pay that off in a year.' We can say, 'That's a great bit. We could pay that off in 10 issues, which is only two-and-a-half months.'
Has the story of "Trinity" changed much since originally envisioned?
We're pretty well staying the course. We started out with an outline for the series, but it was a loose outline. We were going to hit these points; we were going to end here. It was the spine of the story and as long as we're serving that story spine, if we found out, 'Hey, we can use Hawkman to do this.' Then great, we're using Hawkman. We needed him to do that anyway, we just hadn't specifically decided on how that particular element was going to be brought through.
Each third of the book, each act of the story, we've done a tighter outline. And then worked our way through that and then done our next outline. And now, it's outlined tightly all the way to the end. But there's still room in it for inspiration. But we've got to the point where we know all of the dominoes we've set up. We knock them all down in a way so that they're useful. So that Character X over here, who I've introduced into the story doesn't disappear. He needs to fit into the conclusion. As I was going over the final bits of the outline with Fabian [Nicieza], we hit one bit that was just perfect. We needed to do something with one character by having them interact with these other characters. And it allowed them to do exactly what we needed but we hadn't figured out how to do it yet. They had to do something that showed X. That showed these emotions. And I laughed, 'It's almost liked we planned this thing out from the beginning.'
The fact is that's a real fun way to work. That's how I did "Avengers Forever." That was only 12 issues instead of 52, but even back then I told [editor] Tom Brevoort, 'Going into it this, I might need 13 issues.' I said, 'We have a lot of stuff to do and I think we'll get it done in 12 but we have at least enough outline going on that if we need the extra issue...' And he said, 'If you need the extra issue, you can probably have it.' [laughs]. I don't think Marvel would have complained about another issue that would have sold well. But it's nice to have that kind of freedom and latitude so that you can explore.
And in the case of 'Trinity,' there is no question that 52 issues is what we needed and as we get towards the end of it, I might be going, 'Oh, if we only had another 10 issues.' But I'm not looking at that right now.
You knew Mark Bagley and Fabian Nicieza before you started on this project. Have you enjoyed working with them again?
It's been a thrill. I spent three years working with Mark on "Thunderbolts," and with Fabian, we'd done a little co-writing before but I've mostly worked with him on an editorial basis. He was an editor at Marvel and I'd done a couple of things for him. And then he was Editor-in-Chief of Acclaim and I did "Ninjak" there. We've always got along and we have a similar enough sensibility so Fabian is the guy I call up on the weekends and go, 'I'm stuck. What do I do?'
And we're always talking out the plots for the back chapters, so Fabian is a terrific sounding board, he's a great collaborator on the backup stories and he's sort of serving as, I don't want to say story editor, because that's Mike Carlin. But he serves in that kind of role. Mike probably has 12 or 13 books going at any one time. Fabian and I are so deep into the "Trinity" story that if I have a problem with something thematic or a bit that could set up here and we were going to pay off here but if maybe we should do it this way instead -- I have to spend ten minutes explaining the setup to Mike.
And if I say to Fabian, 'Oh, you know that bit in Tel Aviv' and he goes, 'Yep.' Or, 'what if we...' 'Yeah, that would be good.' Or, 'I don't know. What if we did this?'
I work best when I work with somebody I can talk to a lot. Whether that's an artist like Alex Ross, or an editor like Tom Brevoort, or when I was doing 'Conan,' the guy I talked to with all the time was Scott Allie and that worked out great. With "Trinity," it's Fabian and that's worked out perfectly.
And Mark can draw anything. And I am making him prove it. He went into this knowing he was going to be drawing Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and a bunch of other guys. I don't know if he expected just how many "other guys." But he shows no signs of not liking it. He keeps telling me that this is a great way to enter the DC Universe. He gets to do everybody.
I was just thinking, off the top of my head, we haven't had him to the Metal Men yet. But yeah, we did, the evil Metal Men. [laughs]
And then there's the other guys working on the backups, Scott McDaniel, Tom Derenick and Mike Norton. Mike Carlin brought them in because they're fast, they're dependable and they're good. But put that aside - and those are all good things that you need on a book like "Trinity" - Scott McDaniel is great at gritty crime action and spooky mood stuff. Mike Norton is great at clean, straight-forward storytelling and sort of sunny day, superhero stuff and ordinary people drama. And Tom Derenick is great at big, bold super action and cosmic spacey stuff and science fiction. And we've got all of that in the backup. So it's really easy to say, "Oh, this chapter here should go to Mike Norton because it's a Mike Norton type of story. Oh these two issues are going to be back-to-back and they have to be Tom Derenick because they're that kind of story and here's a story that has to be Scott McDaniel."
Having that variety and having those guys available is a terrific advantage. I am trying to think, I hadn't worked with Norton, I never worked with Derenick and I have been spending the last three years telling editors that I want to work Derenick, "Can we have him do a Superman fill-in?" And McDaniel, I've never worked with him and it's been a revelation working with all three of them. It's been wonderful and I'd be happy to work with any one of them again.
Do you know what project you'll be doing next? We spoke with Mark Bagley at Fan Expo in Toronto back in August and he said he already knew his next project.
No, I don't what I am doing next. See, Mark has an advantage in that he's an artist. So he sits there drawing all day and that takes a lot of mental work but it also means you are drawing fire hydrants and curbs in the background and you've got lots of time to think. [laughs]
Maybe only two or three weeks ago, Mike Carlin called me up and said, "When you are done with 'Trinity,' what are you going to do next? We should talk about that if you going to do something here. If you are going to do something for another editor or if you are going to do something that we have to set up with [Executive Editor] Dan [DiDio]. But you should start thinking about it."
So I've started thinking about it and we've talked about a few things - nothing is actually set but then that's that other advantage of being an artist is while Mark Bagley and Fabian and I and the other guys are finishing "Trinity," whoever the writer is on Mark's new project can already be working on scripts, so when Mark turns in my last page, I'm sure he's going to want to sleep for a week but when that week is done, he has work waiting for him.
In my case, I am going to want to sleep for a week, maybe two weeks, then I'll start thinking about my next project. And that won't be until next May or June.
What's coming up in "Trinity" in the months and weeks ahead?
We'll see who and why Tarot is the way she is. It's a big important thing. We've dropped the hints of where we are going several times and this one, answers that question in a big way - although not without managing to get some obscure DC continuity in there that a few people will recognize. There are a couple of bits in there that I don't expect anybody to recognize. But that's just the way I am.
What we've been seeing in the second act is the spell that was supposed to change the world went wrong. It changed the world but in the way people thought it was going to. So we are now dealing with the changed world as people find out. We've got several stories happening on one side. Carter Hall and the Justice Society have brought the Justice League in to team up with them and deal with the reality changing around them in a direct and super-heroic way. Alfred Pennyworth has put together a team, for lack of a better term, Fabian and I call the Supporting Cast Squad, to pursue things in a different way and Tarot and Charity in Opal City are trying to deal with the roots of it from Tarot's experience.
Meanwhile, Morgaine le Fey and the villains are off to Europe taking their own steps. You're going to see more reality changes; you are going to see people figuring out how the reality changes work and why.
For good or for ill, Konvikt returns and gets a name. Dreambound returns in some odd ways and you'll see the motivational secrets of pickled herring.
You'll also see Lex Luthor, Tomorrow Woman, Dark Arcana and the creation of a universe.
And you're going to find out where the Trinity is. [laughs] That's going to be a big part of what's going on.
"Trinity" #26 is on sale now from DC Comics.