Grant Morrison. Geoff Johns. Greg Rucka.
CBR News spoke with Greg Rucka ("The Question: The Five Books of Blood") about his upcoming five-issue, Philip Tan-illustrated tie-in miniseries, "Final Crisis: Revelations," as we finish off a four-day look at the space and time-spanning story that kicked off May 28 with Grant Morrison's "Final Crisis" #1.
"'Revelations' actually started out as something very different," Rucka told CBR News. "It started out as Grant [Morrison] wanting Geoff [Johns] and I writing the companion minis to 'Final Crisis.' And as it was initially proposed, Geoff was going to do 'Legion of Three Worlds' and I would do, as it was being called in-house, 'Street Crisis,' which would show the effect of 'Final Crisis' on a ground level.
"After some discussion, I went back to [DCU Executive Editor] Dan DiDio and said that's not going to work," Rucka continued. "That's a single issue but it's not a plot. So we had been talking about wanting to use The Question and putting her opposite The Spectre and the more we talked about that the more we came around to the fact that you can't really have a 'Crisis' in the DC Universe without The Spectre playing a fairly substantial part and the more we talked about that, the more we realized ever since 'Infinite Crisis,' there really hasn't been any development in what The Spectre had become now that [murdered Gotham City cop] Crispus Allen was hosting him. And the more we talked about that, we realized that's the centerpiece of the mini. Now you have a story. This will allow us to talk about the character and fill in those blanks that have yet to be addressed."
In speaking of the relationship between Crispus Allen and The Spectre, Rucka explained, "There is this prevailing theory that one is the host for the other, but once they are joined they are the same. And we are not talking about a split personality. That's certainly not my approach to writing him. The Spectre is Crispus Allen and Crispus Allen is a dead guy who is made host to the angel of vengeance. His job is to kick ass on God's behalf. But only when God says so. He is sort of God's pit bull."
Rucka actually created the character of Gotham City Police Department Detective Allen with artist Shawn Martinbrough during his run on "Detective Comics" in the early 2000s. Allen's first appearance was in issue #742, and the character was later featured as a main character in Rucka's Eisner Award-winning series "Gotham Central."
One of the things that has been pretty clear about Crispus Allen since he became host to The Spectre in "Infinite Crisis" is that while he may hold the powers of The Spectre, Allen himself is in crisis. "That's part of the fun," said Rucka. "And that gives us a lot of room to move. The last we saw of him, really significantly, where any element of the character was at work, was in ['Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre'] and, it ends with him killing his son. So how can you not pick up that ball and run with it? You know what I mean?"
Rucka said the best way to explain the starting point of "Final Crisis: Revelations" is to imagine a guy who has taken a job and is working for a boss he hates. "That's the best way to look at it," said the writer . "[Cirspus] hates God. The first thing God had him do when he took the gig was kill his son."
Indeed, that's a bad first day at the office.
"I would say so," quipped Rucka. "That kind of puts you in a bad place. And from there, you are impaired."
Rucka said it's hard to explain The Spectre's role in the DCU because "the second you start entertaining stories with The Spectre, you start talking about religion in the DCU." For obvious reasons, religion is something writers have handled with a very light touch over the years. Interestingly, theologian and comics scribe John Ostrander wrote a Spectre series for more than sixty issues. "You look at some of the classic Spectre stuff and you look what Ostrander did in particular, and things like that and what you end up with are stories that are kind of like DC does EC Comics! And yet at the same time, The Spectre is always reared up as this all-powerful, all-mighty force that is sometimes dropped into the middle of a story and can literally look at somebody and say, 'You are a soap bubble' and pop, you are.
"It becomes tricky to negotiate if you start inviting real religion into it and we're not going to do that," Rucka added. "But the sort of unspoken rule in the DCU is that the Judeo-Christian God sits above all others. And then below that you can have your New Gods and your Greek gods and whoever else you want."
While The Spectre is not one of DC's top five or even top ten known entities, Rucka said the character is strong enough to hold his own and support a solo miniseries. "It's not a question of marquee, it's a question of -- like all the stuff I have done -- character," stated Rucka. "And since I knew Cris as a character and I felt there was some pretty important stuff that needed to be discussed about the character and some things that I wanted to do with him coming out of 'Infinite Crisis' that I couldn't do because I on '52,' this was an opportunity to do that."
Rucka believes the big problem in telling a story like "Final Crisis: Revelations," featuring The Spectre as the protagonist, is that it's like trying to tell a good Superman story. "You've got to come up with a conflict that isn't a conflict that can simply be solved by the judicious application of superpowers," explained Rucka. "There are limits to The Spectre's power because The Spectre's power is bestowed by The Almighty. And The Almighty's plan is unknowable. The reasons behind it are not to be known. Even the agents of The Almighty don't get to be privy, so The Spectre starts out being pretty frustrated.
"The other thing is for the longest time The Spectre has existed in a vacuum. When Jim Corrigan was The Spectre, those stories allowed Corrigan to interact with people and then he would become The Spectre and the further you get away from that, the more trouble you get into."
Jim Corrigan was a murdered police detective whom the Spectre inhabited for most of the character's history, going back to the Golden Age of superhero comics. A second Jim Corrigan, a corrupt cop featured in "Gotham Central," killed Crispus Allen and was later killed himself by Allen's son, Mal. In turn, Allen had to kill Mal on God's order. Another major player in storyline was Renee Montoya, who was once Allen's partner at the Gotham City Police Department. Montoya became the new Question in the pages of "52."
"One of the things that we've got here is as often as it is Crispus interacting with Renee, we also have The Spectre interacting with other people," Rucka continued. "That's the other thing that will give this series legs."
Rucka confirmed both The Spectre and The Question figure into Morrison's "Final Crisis" but couldn't share many details on that front. The Question was already seen in #1. "The Question is actually very prominent in 'Final Crisis.' Grant's using her pretty extensively," Rucka teased. "Geoff [Johns] and I have talked about how to use The Spectre following this, There are some plans in development. I think both The Question and The Spectre come out of all the 'Final Crisis' stuff in very strong position as far as character visibility goes."
And while he confirmed no specific plans, Rucka said an ongoing series featuring The Spectre could be done. "It's one thing to show The Spectre with the giant pinking shears and it's another to talk about the conflict of the guy who is hosting that power," said Rucka. "If you were going to do an ongoing series with him then that would have to be at issue of what's going on."
The 40-page "Final Crisis: Revelations" #1, with art by new DC exclusive Philip Tan, is scheduled to go on sale August 13.
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