SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “Brightest Day” #24
Peter Milligan, a major player during Vertigo’s now legendary British Invasion of the early 1990s, is set to unleash his oft-times surreal take on a superhero team book smack-dab in the middle of DC Comics’ upcoming maxiseries, “Flashpoint.”
Featuring art and covers by superstar artist George Perez and inks by Eisner-nominated Scott Koblish, the three-issue tie-in miniseries “Flashpoint: Secret Seven” follows Shade, the Changing Man as he re-assembles the superpowered septet at Cyborg’s behest in an effort to stop the war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, a central plot point of “Flashpoint” by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.
Milligan is no stranger to Shade, having written the entire 70-issue run of the character’s eponymous Vertigo series, which starred a re-imagined version of the Steve Ditko creation and ran from 1990 to 1996. As for his ties to DCU proper, earlier this year it was announced the British writer would launch a “Red Lantern Corps” ongoing series, spinning out of the Johns-helmed “Blackest Night.”
In an exclusive FLASHPOINT FACTS interview with CBR News, Milligan revealed one more member of the Secret Seven — previously known members included Shade, Enchantress, Amethyst and a new character named Mindwarp — and no it won’t be John Constantine, who Milligan writes about in “Hellblazer” each month for Vertigo.
The anti-hero was folded back into the DCU proper this week in the final page of “Brightest Day,” but Milligan confirmed it was not a move enabling him to include Constantine in his lineup for “Flashpoint: Secret Seven.”
Milligan also discussed whether or not he would be interested in writing Constantine for DC Comics while continuing his run on “Hellblazer” and what role Swamp Thing would have, if any, in either his Vertigo series or “Flashpoint: Secret Seven.”
CBR News: While you’re no stranger to writing classic superhero stories featuring the likes of Batman and the X-Men, you’re known primarily for your genre bending runs on “Shade, the Changing Man,” “Animal Man” and most recently on “Hellblazer.” Does the very makeup of “Flashpoint,” a maxiseries you called “more liberating than constraining” allow you to Vertigo-ize the DCU or are you playing “Flashpoint: Secret Seven” as a straight-up superhero team book?
Peter Milligan: I don’t know if I’m Vertigo-izing the Secret Seven, but it doesn’t feel like a straight up superhero team book, whatever the hell that is. There is some weirdness and strangeness in there, as you’d expect from a book featuring Shade, The Changing Man. It’s pretty dark and psychological, which I suppose suggests there are elements of Vertigo in it.
A superhero team book led by Shade… I love it, but the Changing Man doesn’t scream traditional leadership qualities like inspiration and forward thinking. First off, how did this project and your involvement in “Flashpoint” come about and, perhaps more importantly, how did you choose Shade as the team’s leader?
This is entirely the point. Shade doesn’t really have the obvious leadership qualities. Indeed, being a leader is the last bloody thing he wants to be. But some people kind of have leadership thrust upon them. That’s one of the central themes of this story. I’m not sure how my involvement came about. A while ago [DC Comics Co-Publishers] Dan DiDio and Jim Lee were in London and they were talking about “Flashpoint.” I said that sounded really interesting and I’d be up for something, particularly something off-beat. Geoff Johns is a huge fan of Shade and we’d been talking about other stuff, so I suppose the two came together.
Are we honestly going to learn more about Shade’s mysterious M-Vest, one of the best MacGuffins in the history of comics, because you’ve teased that the “M” could stand for meta, madness or even murderer?
We spend some time on Shade’s home planet of Meta and we do learn more about this strange contraption, the M-Vest. I also go some way to getting to grips with the different and sometimes contradictory incarnations that Shade’s had over the years.
Shade’s handle — the Changing Man — obviously works well as DCU will undergo a significant transformation during “Flashpoint.” You are no doubt sworn to secrecy on many of the core plot points behind the larger story, but where does “Flashpoint: Secret Seven” open and how did Shade and the rest of the team arrive at this nexus in their history? What’s Secret Seven’s secret origin, if you will?
Their secret origin is at the core of this book, as is the fate of their predecessors. You see, there was a spate of strange deaths or suicides and no one really knows why — except of course the person responsible for these mysteries. The story opens with Shade. He has a lot to deal with involving the Secret Seven. And Cyborg has asked him to gather the team to help stop the war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
Now Shade is being called home to Meta. But on Earth, there is another powerful being with their own designs on Shade. You’re perfectly correct that Shade is the perfect symbol of what’s going on in DCU here. And as a changing man, you’d think he’d be well suited to shifting realities. The problem is that Shade tends to be a little… unbalanced, so you can never be sure with him. I will say that this is potentially a darker Shade than we’ve generally seen before. This Shade has been through a lot. He’s not called the Changing Man for nothing.
Headlining “Secret Seven” with Shade is Enchantress, a character I know Geoff Johns loves with his inclusion of her in “Day of Judgment.” What is it about the Switcheroo-Witcheroo’s alter ego, June Moone, that makes her not only a compelling hero, but a love interest for Shade?
I think it’s a bit more than a “love interest.” And she is so interesting. She’s actually a perfect partner for Shade. I was going to say “foil” but then changed my mind. I don’t know how much of a contrast she really is. Enchantress is a witch and as such, a kind of changing woman. And she has June Moone inside her. If that’s not a kind of madness then what is? I find her, and her alter-ego, fascinating. I feel there’s a lot more there I’d like to explore.
Amethyst, a real blast from the past, is another featured member of the Secret Seven. One FLASH QUESTION from DC’s The Source blog asks, “Who killed the first Seven? And can Amethyst stop them from killing the new Secret Seven?” Does the teenage princess have what it takes to be a major player in the DCU? Or is this an older, wiser version of Amy Winston?
I’ll be honest. I didn’t know too much about this character but one of the amusing things about this story for me is researching and recruiting suitable candidates for the team. I’m playing Amethyst a certain way, and you certainly couldn’t call it older or wiser.
Something I’m sure you must love to do is introduce new characters to the expanded DCU. “Flashpoint: Secret Seven” allows you to unleash Mindwarp on tens of thousands of comic book readers. What can you tell us about this new character?
Mindwarp is a character that’s very close to my heart. In fact I’ve been thinking about him for a while now and I’m really excited to be able to debut him in this series. What I can say about Mindwarp is that he enjoys life to the full. He’s a man whose gift is his curse. Something of a playboy, he lives every day as though it might be his last, because if you’re Mindwarp — if you possess the ability that he does — everyday really might be your last. He’s a bit like Brad Pitt with an unexploded bomb up his arse.
Shade, Enchantress, Amethyst and Mindwarp. That’s four. Who makes up the rest of the Secret Seven? John Constantine returned to DCU proper this week in the final panel of the year-long “Brightest Day.” Might DC’s original hellblazer play a part in “Flashpoint: Secret Seven?”
Let’s keep some mystery here. I will say that Constantine doesn’t make it into the team, but there will be a magician, a female one. There’s another character that makes out as if he’s a magician but in fact uses other means to pull off his tricks.
That’s too bad about Constantine. I just lost a bet. Swamp Thing is also back in play, so any chance we’ll see DCU’s newly appointed protector in “Flashpoint: Secret Seven?”
And if not, what about in the pages of “Hellblazer?” Dan DiDio told CBR earlier this week: “It’s hard to say whether or not there will be DCU characters because [“Hellblazer”] stands so well without them. It doesn’t need those types of characters in there. But that’s not to say that down the road you might not see Swamp Thing appear back in there.” So is Swamp Thing a character you’d love to fold back into Constantine’s mythology in the pages of “Hellblazer”?
No plans for Swampy to be in “Secret Seven.” Of course, Swamp Thing has appeared in “Hellblazer” before and Constantine obviously appeared in “Saga of the Swamp Thing,” so these two characters have history. Indeed I think that Swamp Thing is one of the DCU characters who could seamlessly appear in “Hellblazer” without it seeming to destroy the tone of what “Hellblazer” is about. In fact, when I recently got John Constantine married I asked about having Swamp Thing at the wedding. Imagine that monster throwing confetti over the newlyweds. But that couldn’t happen, because of things that were going on elsewhere. Who knows, maybe he’ll come to the divorce hearing.
One more question about Constantine. As it stands now, it appears there will be two versions of John Constantine moving forward, your version in the long-running Vertigo series and the reborn one in the DCU. Are you cool with that? And would you have any interest in writing the character for DC Comics while maintaining your writing duties on “Hellblazer” for Vertigo?
I think if we’re going to have Constantine in both Vertigo and DCU it’s wise to change the DCU version a bit. This just helps to keep a bit of distance, to make it clear that the DCU Constantine — while essentially the same character, with the same attitude, etc. — is not wound up in any continuity bollocks. And yes, I would want to write Constantine for DCU, if the right opportunity came up. The idea of writing a slightly less bashed up John — with all of his fingers, none of the wives but most of the cynicism — sounds great to me.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your collaborator on “Flashpoint: Secret Seven,” fan-favorite artist George Perez. I believe this is your first time working with George. Are you a fan of his work and what does his talent level bring to a project?
What can I say? George is an absolute legend. I was really excited when I heard that he’d be working on this. He brings a kind of premier-league superhero authenticity to my pretty strange, dark and unusual tale of a very unusual team.
“Flashpoint: Secret Seven” #1 is scheduled for release on June 1.
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