DC Comics’ New Age of DC Heroes initiative is now in full swing, with the goal of both introducing new characters to the DC Universe and giving the publisher’s artists top billing on the new series being launched. The rollout continued this week with Sideways, from artist Kenneth Rocafort and writer (and DC Co-Publisher) Dan DiDio (billed as “storytellers”), dialogue by DiDio and Image Comics regular Justin Jordan, colorist Daniel Brown and letterer Carlos M. Mangual.
Sideways stars new character Derek James in the title role, a new recipient of superpowers due to the events of Dark Nights: Metal — the ability to “rift” through space, effectively far-reaching teleportation. He’s a loner high-school student giving it a go as a superhero, and between the character’s visual design, affable nature, quips and “teenager with a secret identity’ status — Sideways has gotten the frequent comment of “Is this just DC’s answer to Spider-Man?”
According to DiDio in an interview with CBR, that’s not accurate — well, not exactly. He doesn’t deny that he’s a huge Spider-Man fan and that the overall spirit of the character has inspired his approach to Sideways, but makes it clear that the character and the series is very much its own thing, with the intent to have the type of resonance to today’s young readers that Lee & Ditko’s Spidey stories had back in the ’60s. “Honestly, it’s just ingrained in the things I love about comics, and what I want to see in comics.”
PREVIEW: Sideways #1
Read on for CBR’s full chat with DiDio on the recently released Sideways #1, including his thoughts on working with Rocafort and Jordan, the importance of tone, not being “that old guy writing young voices” and the looming presence of antagonists like Tempus Fuginaut, who appears in the last page of the debut issue.
CBR: Dan, the first thing that strikes me about Sideways #1 is the tone of it. It’s not completely lighthearted, but it has a breezy, fun tone, and a likable character. That all feels very deliberate. How important was tone to you when crafting this series, and the story you wanted to tell with this character?
Dan DiDio: That was my main goal for the series. That reflects a lot of my own personality. I enjoy when things are more fun and engaging. I like the sensibility and sense of discovery that comes along with this story, and as the character is figuring out his powers, he’s explaining it to the audience himself, in his own way. I wanted this book to have a different sensibility, a different tone than what might be seen in some of the other New Age of Heroes books.
This initiative is built on launching a host of new characters, and has been a long time in the works — was announced last April back at C2E2. What was the development for this character like? What were some of the aspects of Sideways that made this character come alive for you?
It’s interesting. I’ve always gravitated to the loner characters, and the characters that really try to find themselves and are looking for ways to really express themselves. I’ve always found that to be more interesting, and a character you want to really root for. So for me, the creation of Sideways really hearkened back to what I loved about comics when I first started reading them when I was a teenager. I tried to capture some of that ethos for this book.
I love the high adventure; I love the sense that even when you feel you’re in control, things are out of control. I think that’s something people will see with this character as the story starts to take form.
What was interesting for me in building this book is that, as you see in so many comics today, everybody tells stories in building arcs, really for collections. I love the periodical nature of comics, so what I really want to do is build a story that leaves you on a cliffhanger every issue. You have to pick up the next. But as you look at the creative whole, you get a sense of the full scope of who the character is, and what the challenges will be for him in the future.
Another striking element of Sideways is, he’s a teenager — a high school junior. That’s a fun setting, and a classic setting for pop culture general and a lot of famous comic book characters. What’s appealing to you about telling a story in that setting? Also, what are some of the challenges? It’s been a long time since high school of all of us. There’s a degree of authenticity you need to capture as well.
I have a chance to interact with a lot of teenagers these days, through my fiancée’s son. Because of that, I get a chance to observe how their interactions work, and how they communicate, which is really intriguing to me. While this might feel similar to what you’ve seen in other comics in regards to the lone teenager in high school, what I was hoping we could do is place it in high school today, and resonate with kids today. That’s one of my real goals.
So much of what the New Age of Heroes books are about, and why I wanted to participate in this fashion, is to come in with no preconceptions about who these characters are, or what they plan to do. My goal is that we find younger readers or new readers, or even existing readers, who can jump on board and follow these characters from the beginning, and hopefully stick with them for a long time to come.
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