Greg Rucka Talks Action Comics

Fan favorite writer Greg Rucka ("Final Crisis: Revelations") is taking over "Action Comics" from his pal Geoff Johns in March (Johns is leaving to write "Superman: Secret Origin"), but there will be some different heroes headlining the book in 2009 other than Superman. Beginning with March's "Action Comics" #875, Rucka and penciler Eddy Barrows will be left to safeguard Metropolis with the likes of Mon-El, the Guardian, Krypto, Supergirl, Nightwing and Flamebird.

"Action Comics," nearly synonymous with the Man of Steel since its debut 1938, will follow the adventures of the Kryptonian legends Nightwing and Flamebird, with a story spinning out of the just completed "New Krypton" story arc being told in the pages of "Action Comics," "Superman" and "Supergirl."

Originally used as costumed identities by Superman and Jimmy Olsen in an adventure in the bottled City of Kandor, Nightwing and Flamebird grew to mythic proportions in Kryptonian lore. The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later took on the mantle of Nightwing on Earth after hearing stories told by Superman. Post-"Crisis." A version of Bette Kane, the first Bat-Girl, was reintroduced as Flamebird. Grayson's Nightwing is now battling for the cowl in Gotham while Flamebird, following "Infinite Crisis," exists in an alternate future timeline of the DC Universe.

So who are the new Nightwing and Flamebird? Well, Greg Rucka's not ready to yank the masks off his protagonists just yet, but he did tell CBR News that readers wouldn't have to wait long to find out what two established DCU characters are playing dress up in the pages of "Action Comics."

CBR: What can you tell us about the new Nightwing and Flamebird?

Greg Rucka: First off, the Flamebird and Nightwing look you've seen in the solicitations is going to be different when you open "Action Comics" #875. You'll see those costumes at the beginning. But they're not using those costumes. And I'll put this out there, the mystery of who they are, you'll have that by page #3 of the first issue. These are characters you have seen before and not just meandering around in panel 3, page #21 in the background of some obscure issue. I think the response on one of them is going to be, "Huh." And the response to the other one is going to be, "Oh yeah, right."

It's a mistake to think "Action Comics" is about the mystery. It's not. It's not about "who are they?" That would be really dull. So for that reason, I wanted to give that to the reader up front. I wanted to say, "These are the heroes we're dealing with. These are the heroes who are bringing this battle forward. And this is what the battle is specifically and this is what they have to do to win it. And this is Superman's influence on them."

Why not keep us guessing for 12 issues?

There is a piece of me who looks at that as a reader and I don't want to be told that I have to buy all these books to buy the book I just read. That's fireworks. That's just a fireworks display. That's not what the story is about. It's a great piece of copy, and I have no problem with people wondering who they are, but you'll have that answer pretty early on. And by the end of those first 22 pages, ideally, you'll be going, "Okay, I want to follow them." That first issue is going to be a pretty wild ride.

I was talking to [editor] Matt Idelson, and to get them to where they are at the beginning of that first issue, it's going to require a 30-page special. We're going to go through that first arc and you're going to see clearly how they got to the point they were at. Geoff [Johns] made a comment to me about Nightwing when we in the early stages of planning and I just sunk my teeth into that like a bone. And I'm really looking forward to playing with that idea.

Are there any characters that will play heavily in "Action Comics" besides Nightwing and Flamebird?

You're going to see a lot more of Ursa. And I think I'll leave it there because I don't want to give anything away. Geoff and I have been talking a lot about Ursa, Zod, Non and there's stuff like that I'm going to have fun with. We'll see some other names but I'm playing my cards pretty close to my chest.

When DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio asked you about writing Nightwing, did you think you were writing a Batman book?

No, because that's not what he called about. He very specifically said, "Action." And I said, "Okay." And then he said it's with Nightwing and Flamebird. And I said, "Okay." And then he said, "No, really. There's a plan, listen." And I said, "Okay." And then I talked to Geoff. And I went, "Oh, Okay."

Are you a fan of the original Nightwing and Flamebird? Did you have to go back and read the old issues? Or are they even relevant?

Actually, the Kryptonian myth of who they are actually plays quite strongly into what we're doing in "Action." It is part of it. We have a Flamebird and Nightwing running around on Earth, so there may be subsequent confusion. It's interesting that the human response will be, "It's a different Nightwing and a different Flamebird. Well, we assume that they're going to assume that." It's an interesting expectation to play with.

The myth was Flamebird was Superman and Nightwing was Jimmy Olsen, so the origin of those two characters is so convoluted anyway. I love the idea. It's that sort of "Back to the Future" thing. "I went back so my parents could meet so I could be alive."

This is Superman creates Nightwing and Flamebird with Jimmy Olsen so that Flamebird and Nightwing can be around later. But I'm not saying I am delving into the time travel aspects.

We're also going to be talking a lot about Kryptonian society and the different guilds. And one of the things that hasn't been mined heavily is the issue of Kryptonian spiritualism. Everyone says, "Great Rao." But I'm not sure everyone knows what they mean when they say it.

Spirituality plays very much into "Final Crisis: Revelations," as well. Do you enjoy writing about spirituality?

It's weird. At least for me, I think I get into zones where certain things interest me and I keep playing with those ideas thematically. "Revelations" very naturally is about spirituality. But that's by requirement. Not by choice. But I think there's some interesting stuff with the concept of Flamebird and Nightwing as mythic characters. To Kryptonians, these are people from myth. It would be like saying, "Oh look. There's Jason and the Argonauts." If someone starts, for lack of a better phrase, dressing up as Jason with a bunch of Argonauts, you are going to have some questions for them.

Or if say, Superman flew by your window right now?

But it's further complicated than that. You have a human population that's used to superheroes. And on top of that, you can argue that there is a human population that is even familiar with heroes named Nightwing and Flamebird, never knowing that Nightwing [Dick Grayson] specifically takes his name from a Kryptonian story about heroes named Nightwing and Flamebird. And Bette Kane [the Post-"Crisis" ret-conned Bat-Girl of the 1960s] didn't actually reach out for Flamebird just 'cause. She reaches out because of her fascination with Robin at that time.

So I'm actually not sure that the names, in and of themselves, mean anything to anybody on Earth. I think there is a couple of people who know the mythology enough to go, "Hey wait a minute. What's going on there?" Meanwhile, over at the "Battle for the Cowl" stuff, there's a moment where Dick says, "He's calling himself what?" But "Battle for the Cowl" is existing in its own bubble right now.

Are you enjoying working with writers Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates and Andrew Kreisberg in the Superman corner of the DCU, especially with the storylines building off one another to tell a bigger story?

You know, we all bitched about it during "52," how much work it was and how exhausting it was. But one of things that was wonderful about the "52" experience was the collaboration and that ability, for better or for worse, to set a foundation for a story and build on that. Geoff and James and Sterling and Andrew Kreisberg are all tremendous collaborators and the exchange of ideas is very dynamic and very energizing.

We had a conference call yesterday. And it turned into a melee and not in the "I'm going to kill you" kind of way. But in the "wait, wait, wait, we can do this" kind of way. There is a great foundation and it's a very well structured one. What I have been doing for the last several weeks is making sure that all of the Flamebird and Nightwing stuff fits into the parameters that have already been established. Part of the problem is that Flamebird and Nightwing have appeared prior to me really getting a handle on them. And consequently, moving forward, trying not to contradict what's gone on in the past and also that there is an explanation for everything.

While DC is dropping the triangles following the "New Krypton" arc, the Super-books are still very much aligned in 2009. Is it safe to say, to really enjoy all of Superman's story over the next year, you really should pick up all the Superman titles?

I really hate that when it's done to me. I really hate it when they pull that one. Right now, at least for now, the goal is for every book to have its own independent story. And then you can see how they all interrelate, if you wish. Now there will be crossover stories, but I would resent like hell if I was a fan and I had to read every Superman book. Ideally, you're going to pick it up and enjoy what you are reading and say, "Wow, they're talking about Allura, who is Kara's mother. Maybe, I should pick up 'Supergirl?' There is something going on with the Science Police, I wonder what James is doing in 'Superman?'"

I am really delighted about the interaction between the writers and the editors so far. I think everybody is doing a really tremendous job of making sure everybody is going to have their own patch of garden to till, but it's all one garden that we're working in. And you're naturally going to cross-pollinate when you're busy gardening, which is taking a metaphor to an extreme.

I think you get better writing that way because what tends to happen is the better ideas tend to survive. I want internal logic in my stories as best as I can manage. But I screw up. Everybody does. But ideally, there is an internal consistency to what's going on. And that is really going to be evident here. It's going to be really, really clear.

Does "Adventure Comics" play into this Super-verse, as well?

I have to kind of take the fifth, honestly. I know very little about the arc plan there. And the problem with announcing stuff, advance of it coming out, is I don't want to give anything away. I hate when people spoil stories for me. So, I don't want to spoil it for anyone else.

Does what's happening in Final Crisis and the Batman books affect what's going on in the Superman books?

We're talking about stuff that's launches "post-Final Crisis." The Bat-books are their own corner of the universe. I do not see us being able to take the story to its logical conclusion without touching on those characters. But that's much further down the road. We're in early days yet on this story, consider Geoff and James have been doing this for a while already. I am aware that this is a world post-Final Crisis. And that may manifest when people see how the world responds. Because the world, post-Final Crisis, has come through a pretty traumatic event [laughs]. But by the same token, this isn't about Final Crisis. We're not moving backwards, we're moving forwards.

And who is this Eddy Barrows guy you have as an artist? We hear he's pretty good!

You know, you take what you can get [laughs]. And you try not to complain. And by the same token, when somebody calls and says, "We're thinking Eddy Barrows," you have to try not to scream like a girl at a rock concert into your editor's ear. Let's just say, I am in this lovely zone where I am working with artists who are just fantastic across the board on books I can't even talk about. I am not suffering on the art front. You look what Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion have been doing on "Final Crisis: Revelations" and just go down the line. And there's other stuff that will be announced in February, and when it is announced, you'll understand more. You'll be like, "He's not lying. He's doing pretty well on the artist front."

Do have more books coming in 2009?

Oh, yeah. It's nice to know my kids are going to be fed. But it's fun.

Can you reveal which characters you'll be writing? Or even which corner of the DCU you'll be in?

I'll actually be all over the place. And that's an answer, too. We've going to announce at least two other things in February. And then there's going to be at least one other thing after that but I'm not sure when that will be announced. And two of them are sort of related, but there's a lot more coming. I took a big chunk of 2008 off. I needed to recharge my batteries. And they have been recharged quite well and I'm really psyched to be getting into this stuff.

And as I said before, it's so easy to go to work when you like the office. And everybody in the office, metaphorical as it is, is fantastic. I'm in an office with Sterling and James and Geoff and Andrew and Matt and the list goes on. That's a great environment. It's an inspiring environment to be in. And at the same time, everybody's got their own strengths. So I think we are going to complement each other very, very well.

Is Geoff Johns very involved despite the fact he's writing "Superman: Secret Origin?"

Yes, for me certainly because a lot of what I'm using is stuff that Geoff has thoughts on and, this is going to sound sappy, but he's a great friend. But on top of that, I think he's an exceptionally talented comic book storyteller. His understanding of the DC Universe, his take on the characters -- let's just say there's not a conversation that I have with him that I don't come out if it with more than I went in. I think I'm good on character work but I'm not great with high concept ideas. I do not tend to go real big budget. I have been struggling to do that. And Geoff is very good at reminding me to raise the bar.

Greg Rucka begins his run on "Action Comics" with issue #875, scheduled in stores March 11 from DC Comics.

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