An DCU:NG Email Interview
Sean: Tell us a little about the premise behind the Weinbergs.
Devin: Editor Jordan Gorfinkel approached me one afternoon and said that DC would like me to come up with a creator-owned super-teen team series, so it wasn't even my own impetus that got the ball rolling. I was terrified and intrigued by the idea, and loved the thought of working on a project with Jordan (affectionately known as Gorf in the halls of DC), so I set to work, albeit initially with great trepidation. About a week later I was so in love with the new characters that had graciously heeded my summons, I couldn't wait to get started, and Gorf matched my enthusiasm at every turn, as did the art crew we finally found to work with the cheerful nonconformity of the book. I am THRILLED with Yvel Guichet and Aaron Sowd's work, we've got Bill Oakley pouring his heart into the lettering, and we just recently snagged Rob Schwager for the color - I couldn't be any more pleased with this team!
In terms of the "type" of story it is: I'm not as interested in talking about evil super villains as I am in talking about evil people - the real human nastiness we see everyday. I wanted a team that could understand, validate, and address that kind of evil. Which is not to say that there are no super villains in Relative Heroes, because there certainly are, but rather that my approach to choosing their superpowers didn't start from "how do we make a really powerful team?" as much as "how do we make an interesting allegory?"
I actually talk about this more in an essay that's slotted to run in the second issue (in lieu of a letter column), but I finally realized that since their powers were my problem, their powers might as well be their problems, too. I remember feeling almost immortal in my adolescence, but also nearly crippled by social homogenization and existential angst. Teenagers face such a demoralizing array of problems - they're fighting the demands of their bodies, their hormones, their parents, and their peers, all while being simultaneously prodded towards independence and discouraged from truly meaningful engagement in society.it's a terrifically difficult time. You have so much energy, and nowhere to focus it - you're ready for a quest of epic proportions and what you're asked to do is sit still in a small desk all day. I decided that the Weinbergs could be heroes that the world would have to save, instead of the other way around. And that gave me an allegory I liked.
Sean: Who are they and what can you tell us about each of them?
Devin: The Weinys are: "Houston," (Joel Weinberg, fifteen, biological older brother to Aviva), "Temper," (Aviva Joby Weinberg, eleven), Blindside (Tyson Gilford, sixteen), and "Allure," (Damara Sinclaire, sixteen - actually Aviva's babysitter).
Joel actually isn't super-powered, but he's the comic book reader of the group, so when their parents are killed in a highway pile up on 580, it's Joel who concludes that they've obviously had "an origin" and need to jump in their dad's Winnebago and drive to Metropolis to get their official marching orders from Superman. The other kids think he's nuts, but they all have their own reasons for wanting to leave Berkeley, and so they set out together to try to fight crime and out run their grief.
Aviva (nickname "Vive," which is pronounced "Veev,") generates bio-electricity when she's mad - as a young American female, she's been socialized to believe that anger is unfeminine and repulsive, and yet as a young American female, she has plenty to be mad about. So instead of finding a healthy way of expressing herself, she just literally starts crackling with electricity - sort of like the Hulk meets Live Wire (in the body of a Power Puff).
Tyson (or "Ty"), a young African-American male adopted into a white, Jewish family in a semi-affluent Northern California neighborhood (the Weinys are from Berkeley), has such strong issues with feeling unrecognized and unseen by society that he literally disappears when he's upset.
And Damara ("Dami") is under a faerie-enchantment spell that causes her to emit high-levels of super pheromones that can attract and dominate the will of almost anyone. I don't know if male readers will relate to this as well, but I think a lot of women and girls can identify with feeling horribly uncomfortable with the "power" that female sexuality grants; all the unwanted advances and weird, sticky, heavy male attention. For a lot of teenage girls, it's experienced as a bizarre discomfort more than a gift; men continuously react to Dami in what she experiences to be startling and uncomfortable ways, and she's never sure that she's liked for who she truly is.
Cameron ("Cam") is a mimic - he can duplicate the powers of anyone within his immediate vicinity. His problem is twofold. First of all, he doesn't acknowledge the limitation of proximity, being quite convinced that he autonomously possesses any number of fantastic powers. Second, he's chronically co-dependent - it feels so good to Cam to absorb other people's powers, and as long as he's got powerful people around him, he's cheerful to a fault. But when he's alone he just spazzes out, he's a total mess - he literally feels weak and worthless. My friends were so important to me in high school - when they weren't with me, I hardly knew what to do with myself.
They're also eventually joined by Grandpa Nathan, Deborah Weinberg's father, and "Chloe," a mysterious plant always in Cameron's possession.
Sean: Apparently they'll be running into quite a few DC stalwarts. Who can we expect to see show up along the journey?
Devin: Ah, let's see. The DEO is all over this book, as are any number of new supervillains. In issue three, the Weinys run into Impulse and his stalwart guardian, Max Mercury. They spend issue four in Blüdhaven, so who knows who they might run into there. ;-) And of course, they're headed to Metropolis in search of Superman, so I'll let you take your own guesses as to whether or not they actually ever meet Big Blue.
There's also a sort of "supplementary" Weinys story in THE BATMAN CHRONICLES # 20, in which they run into none other than Catwoman!
Sean: From the earlier e-view, it's pretty evident that this project is near and dear to you. What makes it so special for you?
Devin: It's a very personal piece of fiction, and these kids have managed to utilize a lot of my humor and a lot of my pain. The Weinys have powers the way we all have powers - these weird things we can do that we're not always comfortable with, like manipulating people (Damara), or bullying them (Aviva). Instead of having to learn to be better superheroes, these kids really need to learn to be better people. Fighting super villains may be the easiest part of their day.
There's this one small scene in book one, for instance, where Vive gets really upset and runs outside, and Joel follows her and holds her without even saying anything, and she eventually falls asleep in his lap and he just sits there with her until the sun comes up. And you know, this is just a small moment in between big battle scenes and everything, but I imagined it a certain way in my head, and to see it there now in print - thanks in no small part to Yvel and Aaron and Rob -- there really is just this charge you get from seeing characters you invented come to life. I've been living and working on this story for so long - when the first issue comps got here I was actually a little disappointed, because it's been over a year since I wrote that script, and there are things I'd do differently now. So I put it down and walked away, and when I caught a glimpse of it again - these five characters crowding the cover - it hit me that those kids CAME OUT OF MY HEAD. As used to them as I already am, they're new to all of you, and they couldn't exist without me and Yvel. And I felt this tremendous rush of excitement. It's a genuine thrill.
Sean: Anything else we should be expecting in the near future to save our pennies for?
Devin: Actually, the other project coming down the pike which I'm really excited about is USER, a three-part Prestige format (i.e. save LOT S of pennies!) creator-owned project for Vertigo. It's about cyber-role-playing (among other things) and the art is split between Sean Phillips, who's doing the "real world" scenes, and John Bolton, who's doing these incredible "virtual world' paintings. It's another story very close to my heart, and the art is phenomenal. I really think it will surprise some people who have gotten used to seeing me do superheroes, which is not the material I was raised on and is therefore exciting but always somewhat unnatural to me. This story is more my "thing," or, as one friend recently gushed, "dude, I didn't know you had Terry Gilliam living in your head!"
It was originally scheduled for January, and then got moved back to April - but April solicits just came out and I didn't see it, so maybe it's been pushed back even further yet. In any rate, it's worth keeping your eyes open for, I promise!
Sean: Tell us about your involvement in No Man's Land? What was it like being part of such a HUGE Batman event?
Devin: I think everyone in the Bat-office feels really proud of No Man's Land. It was a tremendous risk to take, and to have it turn out to be such a huge artistic and commercial success - that's very gratifying. I don't think most people really understand how much work and worry went into it, and of course not every single piece of it worked, but overall I feel very proud to have been a part of Batman's history in that way. I also think it helped bring all of the Bat-creators and editors closer together - it's like we were really there in No Man's Land together, we've survived this huge ordeal, and we survived it as a team. I feel this heightened camaraderie with everyone involved, which makes me feel even better than I already did about the work I'm doing for this office.
Of course, as good as we feel about it, we're not resting on our laurels! Everyone's energized and pumped and ready to move Batman into the 21rst century (which, he'd be quick to point out, doesn't really start until next year, but hey, we're too excited to wait!). I've had a great time working on BATMAN: Gotham Knights so far and couldn't be more excited about the assignment.
I also want to give a shout out to three people who frequently get overlooked in all this NML hoopla: NML was actually the brain child of Jordan Gorfinkel, my Weinys editor. Gorf's a genius, and you guys need to know that! Hats also must go off to Dennis O'Neil, our fearless leader - every risk, every stumble, and every doubt about No Man's Land fell square on his shoulders, and it's because he believed in us and defended our right to take chances that we were able to do the work that become NML.
Last but not least, come on, give it up for the man himself: Batman. This all works because he and his supporting cast are such amazingly cool characters, and we, as the "creators," are merely his humble servants.
Sean: Your Titans run is giving a little something for every Titans fan. Which characters have become your fave to write?
Devin: ::laughing:: Why doesn't anyone believe me when I say the magic is in the dynamic of having all of them together? Titans is very much a team book, and it's the interactions that make it come to life.
I suppose if I had to choose one character whose potential surprised me, I'd say Lian. I knew I wanted her to be part of the book from the get-go, but I didn't realize when I started just how valuable she could be in terms of making the characters come to life and feel "real." You see a superhero respond to a child, and you instantly have a whole new side of that hero. Every time one of the Titans has squatted to be at her eye level or bent down to pick her up, I feel like they've instantly become more than "just another cape."
Plus, Lian very may well be the smartest one of the group. ;-)
Sean: I hear big changes are in store. Any hints as to what's happening? It obviously plays out of the personality conflicts that rose to the boiling point in #12, right?
Devin: In the first year of this series, I was trying to explore some of the really nice ways in which the Titans are a family. In the second year of the book, we're gonna take some time to look at some of the problems over-familiarity can breed.
Actually, one of the small changes I can tell you about now is that, speaking of friends and family, I've dragged two of my best friends in to do some co-writing with me. Brian Vaughan, who's developing the new Swamp Thing series for Vertigo, bailed me out on issue fourteen, and Jay Faerber, of New Warriors and Gen X fame, is all over issue thirteen, and then issues seventeen through nineteen. The Titans are so energetic that it's hard to keep up with them sometimes, and having these friends co-write with me has really helped keep the book vigorous and fresh. We meet over at Jay's apartment sometimes and drink beers and talk about the Titans like they're close friend of ours - even arguing about how they'd react to something or what they'd say in much the same way that they themselves might -- and it makes the process of writing so much more fun that I can't imagine that the stories won't be more fun to read, too. I hope you enjoy them!