'We're Going Out With a Bang, And I Mean That In Every Sense.': Robert Rodi on Wrapping Up 'Codename: Knockout'

[Codename Knockout #21]There's a girl who leads a life of danger. To everyone she meets, she stays a stranger. With every move she makes, just another chance she takes. Odds are, she won't live to see tomorrow.

Or, in the case of Angela St. Grace (or Angela Devlin, depending on how she feels about her parents, the leaders of international espionage agencies G.O.O.D. and E.V.I.L. at any particular moment), her comic book series won't. "Codename: Knockout," the hybrid of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and Bad Girl comics from, yes, DC/Vertigo, is going to be hanging up its g-string in the spring.

The series will end with issue 23, on sale in April. As for what happened to the series, it's a case of good news, bad news.

"We were selling about average for a Vertigo title," series writer Robert Rodi told CBR News on Thursday. "But then Vertigo suddenly found itself with a couple big new hits -- 'Fables' and 'Y: The Last Man' -- and naturally that raised the bar for the rest of us. But they were very agreeable in letting me complete the book's second year before pulling the plug."

Rodi doesn't have any regrets about what and how he did on the series.

"I can't think of anything I personally would've done differently; I wrote the book I wanted to write. But I might've worked harder to get a single, solid penciller for the series. We played musical chairs a lot, and though all the artists have been fantastic, their styles ranged pretty far and wide -- which, in a visual medium, might've made it hard for people to get a handle on us."

Some series manage to wrap all the plots up into a neat little bow, others just end. "Codename: Knockout" is splitting the difference.

"As I said, Vertigo did give me about six months' worth of issues before ending the book. Alas, ever the overachiever, I'd already written all six issues. But I rewrote the end of #23 to provide a little bit of closure.

"I had plans for the book through #40, so there was no way I could've resolve everything even if I'd tried. However, #23 was always scheduled to contain one of two massive climaxes I had in store for the series, so it'll be an appropriately big finish."

Will Angela be making a final choice between G.O.O.D. and E.V.I.L.? Will Go-Go sleep with lots more people (well, probably)? What's the deal with Angela's killer clone? Or with the British counterparts to her and Go-Go? Rodi knows all the answers, but is staying mum.

[Codename Knockout #20]"I don't want to get into too much detail here, because some of these plot threads will be woven into the last few issues. Also, Vertigo isn't completely averse to a one-shot or mini-series down the road. Though the sales on the final issues will determine whether that happens or not."

As Rodi said, "Codename: Knockout" has gone through a number of artists, and the final story arc will be done by yet another.

"The completely amazing John Lucas will be doing #21-23. When my editor, Will Dennis, sent me the first of John's pages, I almost levitated out of my chair. I called Will and said, 'You're canceling the book NOW?' Because John's work is just mind-bogglingly funny and witty and sexy. I've worked with a lot of great artists on 'Knockout,' but John made me want to go back and redo the whole series just with him. He's now my penciller of choice, and I hope to be doing a whole truckload of projects with him."

At various times in the life of "Codename: Knockout," a great deal of attention has been paid to the sex lives of series stars Angela and Go-Go Fiasco, and to Rodi's own sexual preference (although he's hardly the first gay creator in the business). Rodi doesn't see either of these two issues as overshadowing the series itself.

"This was actually [editor] Axel Alonso's intention from the start. It was his idea to do a Bad Girl book, back when he was at Vertigo; and he thought it'd be truly subversive (in the best Vertigo fashion) if he had a gay guy write it. He approached me with the idea, and I ran with it."

And since DC can't exactly cancel a book more, look for the final issues of "Codename: Knockout" to turn the frisky sexuality way, way up.

"Oh, my, yes. In John's hands, 'frisky' graduates to fullblown 'filthy.' We're going out with a bang, and I mean that in every sense."

After April, readers needing their Rodi fix will still be able to get it -- the writer has a number of projects that will be out by then, or will be hitting shelves soon thereafter.

"I have a new series coming out in January from Code 6, which is sort of Crossgen's version of the Vertigo imprint (in that it's partially creator owned). 'The Crossovers' is a multi-genre satire, about an otherwise normal suburban family in which the father is a superhero, the mother a vampire slayer, the daughter a warrior princess, and the kid brother an alien collaborator. It's being drawn by the wonderfully gifted Belgian cartoonist Mauricet, and we're both having a great time with it. It's leagues away from Knockout -- more Frank Capra than Russ Meyer.

"I'm also handling the relaunch of a high-profile Marvel book, but it's just a hair too early to announce yet. Look for it in April or May. Also for Marvel, I'm working on a big prestige project that's being fully painted by Essad Ribic. Don't know when to tell you to watch for that one, though.

"I'm also doing a Batman Black & White story for 'Gotham Knights' and ideally that'll lead to more DC work.

"And of course, my novels remain available at most fine bookstores (as well as Amazon.com). I particularly recommend the latest, 'Bitch Goddess,' a show-biz satire about a John Collinsesque actress whose tanking career makes the Titanic look like a capsized canoe."

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