Michael Alan Nelson Explores Teen Team Dynamics In "The Ravagers"

"The Ravagers," DC Comics' monthly ongoing comic following a team of super-powered teenagers on the run, receives a new creative team and a new look on life this month as Michael Alan Nelson makes his DC debut as the series' new writer. Featuring art by Ig Guara, Nelson takes over as the troubled super-teens' new writer with issue #8, launching a new arc featuring Rose and Warblade's attempt to capture a rogue Ravager with a dangerous disease.

Though new to the DC Universe, Nelson is a seasoned comics pro, having written several sereis for BOOM! Studios, including "Hexed" and the "28 Days Later" ongoing.

Emphasizing his plans to concentrate on developing te series' characters, Nelson spoke with CBR about his approach to comics writing, the influence his horror-tinged pre-DC work has had on his new gig in the DCU and the surprising joys of writing Warblade!

CBR News: Before tackling "The Ravagers," you were over at BOOM! working on things like the "28 Days Later" comic and "Fall of Cthulhu." What made you want to head to the DCU?

Michael Alan Nelson: I've been writing comics for almost ten years, yet I've never really written a "super-hero" story before. It's a genre that looked like so much fun to work in, when I had an opportunity to work on "The Ravagers," I jumped at the chance.

I also think, as a creator, it's good to go outside your comfort zone. I've written a lot of horror, fantasy and sci-fi. That's where I'm most comfortable, and even though the super-hero genre could easily fall under the larger umbrella of any of those, it's still different enough to provide unique challenges -- and what better challenge than to play in the DC sandbox? Not only has it been a great learning experience for me as a writer, but it's also been a hell of a lot of fun.

As you said, through those aforementioned projects, readers have gotten to know you as a horror guy. For your run on "The Ravagers," are you planning to take a darker, horror-infused approach to the stories and characters?

Like I mentioned, that's where I'm most comfortable. Probably because it's (I think) where I'm strongest. It's just where my mind goes, and when you're writing characters like Warblade, it's hard not to go in a darker direction.

That said, I'm still trying to approach the stories in a way that it isn't all burning ash and sackcloth. These characters are rich and diverse, with emotions and wants and needs. The fun is watching them grow, together or apart, and seeing how that growth informs the story. Sometimes that means seeing them happy, or at the very least seeing what would give them happiness.

Your first arc begins with Rose and Warblade chasing down a rogue Ravager who's infecting a community -- what can you tell us about your story beyond that?

I wanted to explore what it would be like for regular people to experience the chaos in the wake of these characters, as well as how our characters react to those people. When Rose and Warblade chase a rogue Ravager into your town, things are going to get broken. People are going to be angry, defiant and scared. This little story is about how Rose and Warblade deal with that when forced to acknowledge them as more than background fodder. Everyone has the same goal: save the town. But they all have very different reasons for doing so, and some of those reasons aren't necessarily benevolent ones.

Thematically, how would you describe your first arc? Is the thrust of your take a slightly more realistic approach to the super-teens and their troubles?

Well, I don't know if it's necessarily more realistic; I'm just trying to make them as relatable as I can. The idea is that actions have consequences, and some of those consequences may not necessarily be the obvious ones. They're all trying to find their place in the world -- I want to see how those consequences inform them of just where that place is. Their response to how their actions affect others is a big part of that. I think that's how it is for most people, especially at that age. Being a teenager isn't easy. You're discovering who you are as a person (or who you are going to be). To couple that exciting and volatile part of adolescence with the horrors the Ravagers have endured, makes for some very interesting characters.  Making it as personal and grounded as I can helps me bring those characters to life in a way that I hope readers will enjoy.   

While they have been dealing with the Colony and Harvest and that legacy, a lot of the series' drama has stemmed from the team's internal dynamics. How would you describe your take on the team's relationship to each other?

Their relationships are much like those between soldiers who have experienced war together. The bond that's forged on the battlefield is unique and one that can only be shared by those who have also experienced combat. The Ravagers have been subjected to some of the most heinous and monstrous deeds one person has ever inflicted upon another. This experience binds them in a way no outsider could understand. Their innocence may have been corrupted, but they're still trying to find their place in the world, if they even have a place. They're trying to discover, quite literally, who they are (or were). And the only ones who understand their struggles of Self are each other.

But they're still individuals, still kids. Personalities are going to clash and approaches to the world are going to differ. Just because they understand what each other is going through, doesn't mean they always agree. They're about as dysfunctional a family as it gets.

There's been a lot of attention paid to it already, but do you see the Caitlin/Superboy dynamic as one of the team's driving emotional forces?

In a small way. Like I said, they're all individuals with their own needs and wants. I think those personal desires really drive them. Can you imagine what it would be like to know nothing of who you were before you were kidnapped and tortured? Seriously, think about it. Erase everything about yourself before a year ago. No friends, no parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, boyfriends, girlfriends, enemies, no nothing. But the horrible catch is that they had all of those things. Right now, there's someone missing them, wondering where they are, or even worse. Given them up for dead. Chances are, someone out there loves them but they have no idea who they are. If all you know is pain and suffering and death, what would you be willing to do to find a person who cares about you? We all have a visceral need to be loved, to be needed, to be wanted. It may not always be on the surface, but I think it's that desire that drives them.

Since Tom DeFalco is working on the "Superboy" solo title, how do you two go about balancing the Superboy that appears in your comic and the one that appears in his?

As of right now, I'm trying to keep Superboy's appearances at a minimum. The last thing I want to do is step on Tom's toes. Also, I really want to focus on the core group and their relationships with each other. There's so much rich potential there that I want to explore what they have to offer before spreading it out too far.

Along those lines, "The Ravagers" has been a book heavily involved in crossovers with other titles like "Legion Lost" and "Teen Titans." Do you plan to continue to tie the Ravagers deeply into the teen DCU, or are you looking to develop the team more on their own?

I want to try and develop the team independent of the rest of the DCU for a while. They're Ravagers, and only fellow Ravagers understand what they're going through. While interacting with outside characters would be beneficial, I think their growth as characters will come from the experiences they share among themselves, so that when they do crossover into other titles, they have a better understanding of who they are and their place in the world. I think it would really help shape those stories in fun and interesting ways.

Then who is your favorite "Ravager" character thus far? Is there one that stands out or is more complicated or enticing for you to tackle?

This one is tough, but if I have to be completely honest, I love writing Warblade. The things I get to make him say are so much fun, but I also like him because he's the toughest nut to crack. He's a killing machine, beginning, middle and end of story. The fun is in discovering how he got that way and if there is anything there that connects him with the rest of humanity. I believe there is, otherwise he'd be kind of boring. But what that is and just how tenuous that connection may be is at the center of his character. Finding that, as a writer, is about as much fun as it gets.   

Finally, turning to the art side of the book, how has working with artist Ig Guara differed from working with artists on your previous comics?

Wow, what can I say? Ig's work is just stunning. I've never worked with him before, so it was such a pleasant surprise to see what he has been bringing to the table. But I've been fortunate that way; I've always been paired with amazing artists. As a writer, that is one of my most enjoyable moments of writing comics, when those first pages come in and you see how the artist has brought the story to life.

And Ig has been bringing the business! That first two page spread, the one with the brains? Oh yeah -- that's what I'm talking about. Just beautiful. I couldn't be happier.

Michael Alan Nelson and Ig Guara's run begins in "The Ravagers" issue #8, on sale January 16.

Animorphs Creators Confirm Graphic Novels Are in the Works

More in Comics