While the main selling point of DC Comics‘ current “Convergence” event is an opportunity for fans to revisit past worlds and characters that no longer fit in continuity, that doesn’t mean the tie-in series can’t break new ground.
That’s the idea writer Frank Tieri is carrying into his work on “Convergence: Justice League” and “Convergence: Suicide Squad” — the pair of two-part minis he’s crafting for the event with artists Vicente Cifuentes and Tom Mandrake. Though the “Justice League” series — which launched this week — takes place in an era immediately after James Robinson’s Pre-Flashpoint team held the Watchtower, the makeup of Tieri’s group represents the first all-female take on the powerhouse franchise. Similarly, the “Convergence” Suicide Squad is made up of villains who have never been a part of the team before, including ’90s archvillains like Bane and the Cyborg Superman.
Tieri explained to CBR News that while he didn’t come to both projects with an encyclopedic knowledge of those particular DC eras, he’s been able to craft stories that push the women of the DC Universe forward into some daring, dangerous battles with often deadly results.
CBR News: Frank, the two series you’re tackling as part of DC’s “Convergence” event seem well suited to your particular interests as a writer, and I wanted to explore each of them in their own turn. First up, you’ve got a two-issue “Justice League” series out now that involves a lot of fan favorite characters, including Jade and Jesse Quick who no longer exist in current continuity. This seems like a strong fit for your reputation as someone who likes to spin deep continuity connections into new stories, but what was it about this particular space in DC history that you enjoyed playing with?
Frank Tieri: I liked that the team had disbanded and then suddenly, they’re all stuck together again because of the dome. One might think that they’d be at each other’s throats as a result, but it’s actually the opposite. If anything, their situation — along with Jesse’s baby — actually brings them all closer together. At the end of the day, they’re kind of all each other has in this crazy new world — and they’re grateful for it.
It’s impossible to talk about this series without mentioning the fact that you’re working with an all-female superhero team. That kind of story has been long overdue for a while, and is now very big in the comics zeitgeist, so what attracted you to building this specific team of ladies from the roots of that James Robinson Justice League?
I’d love to take credit for the idea for the all-female team, but it was actually Dan Didio’s. When we were trying to come up with angle for the book, we realized a good portion of the prominent members were female, so Dan was like, “What the hell — let’s have an all-female squad.” And then all the editors — Marie Javins and Brittany Holzherr — and myself could do was look at each other and wonder how we didn’t think of that ourselves. It really fit the bill perfectly.
The twist this time out is that the ladies will collide with the Flashpoint Aquaman — a move that hits home for Mera in particular. Seeing as “Flashpoint” was the story that eventually eradicated this team’s timeline, what significance does Aquaman’s appearance hold?
His appearance affects Mera most of all. Yeah, the two worlds are set to fight, but once Aquaman-iac kidnaps Mera, all bets are off. Now, it involves their friend being in danger; now, it’s personal. Now, instead of just beating him, they want to kick his Aqua-ass.
Like I said, this seems like one of the stories in particular that plays with the overall “Convergence” theme of exploring the nature of DC history and continuity in the wake of the New 52. As someone who has had a hand in a number of New 52 titles, what did you want to do with your “Convergence” work that spoke to the nature of reboots and lost comics history in general?
For me, it was just fun to play with some of these characters and timelines that I never had a chance to work on — and most likely wasn’t going to get much of a chance to work on, either. Supergirl? Aquaman? It surprised me how much I enjoyed writing both.
It was cool to work with the Flashpoint U, which I didn’t get to do the first time around, and especially Kingdom Come. When they asked me who I wanted “Suicide Squad” to fight, I immediately picked them. I was a huge fan of that book when it came out, so getting to play in that universe with those characters was a real treat.
Speaking of “Suicide Squad,” that seems like a franchise you were made to write. What’s your connection with that book like in general, and given your shot to make a mark on it, what was the most important factor going into your story?
Well, let’s face it, based on my history and style — with me being known as something of a “villain’s guy” — most fans probably see “Suicide Squad” as the more natural fit for me. And in many ways it is. (I mean, come on — it’s “The Dirty Dozen” with DC bad guys. It’s practically got my name on it.) So really, I didn’t want to screw this up, and I certainly don’t think we have. I wanted to give fans of the book a bit of the old and a bit of the new when it came to the cast — all with a story that’s part superheroes beating the crap out of each other and part crime noir. And I think we’ve accomplished that pretty well, if I do say so myself.
My approach was also a bit different than “Suicide Squad” fans are used to in that we know from the get-go that Waller and her team have failed. That they were betrayed from within. Part of the fun with classic crime capers such as “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Usual Suspects” is to figure out who the traitor in the group is. And like those movies, it’s not necessarily who you’d expect.
This is a very different take on the Squad than we’ve ever seen before, perhaps because this story takes place in a time where there was no “Suicide Squad” comic being published. What led you to creating a mostly new team of villains for this story, and what were the qualifications you had that led to the addition of Cyborg Superman Hank Henshaw, Deathstroke, Bane, Poison Ivy and the rest?
Right off the bat, I knew I had to get the roster right. And for me, that was getting villains that I’ve always wanted to see on the Squad. So me and editor Brittany Holzherr (who deserves major props for getting me up to speed on my DCU continuity) compiled a list. Who were the real big bad-asses in those days? Bane is an all-time fav and had just “broke the Bat,” so he was definitely in. The “Return of Superman” stuff was big back then, so I knew I wanted Cyborg Superman (who really is the perfect dangerous wildcard in the group). And then Black Manta, Star Sapphire, Deathstroke — I just thought they were good all-around DCU villains that would be interesting in the mix.
But yeah, I had to have guys like Deadshot, Boomerang, Oracle and some of the “old guard” in there, too. To me, it’s just not Suicide Squad without ’em. Plus, it involves some nice tension with the new guys, and tension is always good when it comes to stuff like this. Particularly look for Deadshot and Deathstroke to be at each other’s throats. In fact, issue #2 opens with them beating the living crap out of each other.
And not to give too much away, but there is one final member that hasn’t been revealed yet — and it’s a doozy. He’s unveiled at the end of issue #1 and when he is, I’d say he immediately skyrockets to the top of the list as far as who screws the team over.
Maybe the biggest news in all this for longtime fans of the series is that you’ll be playing with the original version of Amanda Waller. While the Squad is often about stories of the team and their deadly missions, I get the impression that “the Wall” will be playing a critical role here. What’s her status as we step into this world, and how does she serve as the point of view character for this whole adventure?
When we open the series, we check in on Amanda and see that her and Oracle have ditched the covert ops thing, and Amanda’s actually a councilwoman now in this new Metropolis. Of course, that doesn’t last long because she’s immediately called into service when the dome comes down and tasked with heading up a new Squad.
But yeah, I’ll come right out and say it — more than anybody, this is Amanda Waller’s story. She’s our POV character — even right from the beginning when the book opens with her dying, having been betrayed from within and then seeing all this through her eyes in flashback. I mean, to me, Amanda’s always been the one constant in the SS, the one thing that’s really always held it all together. But now, the stakes are higher. This isn’t some banana republic she’s overthrowing, or the supervillain du jour they’re facing — this is the fate of her entire world we’re talking about. That really affects how she approaches this mission and some of the hard choices she ultimately has to make.
In the “Convergence” twist of the piece, the team is facing down with “Kingdom Come” here. What kind of threat does New Oa present for the story?
I’d say it’s probably the biggest threat as far as the Suicide Squad’s side and how their fight goes with Kingdom Come. The station hovers over KC’s Metropolis — so they’re not only using it as a base of operations, but it’s also impossible to attack the city without Green Lantern and Oa knowing about it. The bottom line is, if the Squad’s Metropolis has any chance of winning, it needs to go.
Easier said than done of course, which is where the Suicide Squad comes in. Because more than ever before, this really qualifies as a suicide mission. (SPOILER ALERT: Not everybody makes it out alive. But you probably kind of knew that already…)
Tom Mandrake is your artist on the book, and he definitely has the kind of darker style that’s a fit for the Squad. What’s been your impression of his take on this version of the team so far?
Remember, Tom and I have worked together before, as fans of my “Weapon X” series might recall. So I know what to expect. What I like about what Tom brings to the table and what he’s done here is that it’s not necessarily “super-hero-y”. Like you said, I’ve always found his style to be a bit darker, a bit grittier than what you normally see in superhero books — which totally fits what we’re trying to do here with this story.
“Convergence: Justice League” #1 is on sale now, and “Convergence: Suicide Squad” follow on
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