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    Robert Venditti on Making a Kryptonian Hawkman and the Joys of an Alternate History

    By | January 15th, 2019
    Posted in Interviews | % Comments

    Robert Venditti is doing his best to make Hawkman a central part of the DC Universe. In tomorrow’s “Hawkman” #8, Venditti brings his concept of Hawkman being reincarnated across both time and space to its furthest DC conclusion, introducing us to the Hawkman of Krypton, Catar-Ol. Venditti has called Superman his favorite fictional character of all time, and cites seeing Superman II as a hugely important moment for him, so this is a bit of a dream come true for him. Read this interview with Venditti, and check out our exclusive preview of “Hawkman” #8 from yesterday.

    I think it’s fascinating to look at this character and the possibilities that you have set forth for this character. It is totally different to conceive of Hawkman in January of 2019 than it was in January of 2018. It’s a huge shift in the character, and a huge shift in how central he is in the DC Universe. So as you are going forward by introducing these past mythologies, and these past connections, what is it about Hawkman that is different on Krypton? Obviously, we know what Krypton does to Hawkman, but what does Hawkman do to Krypton?

    Robert Venditti: What does Hawkman do to Krypton? One of the things we reveal … I guess you’re talking about the wider Kryptonian mythology of Superman and all those types of things?

    Yeah.

    RV: One of the big things that we want to do playing into the idea that he’s an archeologist, and he’s somebody that has always been attracted to history, and to culture, and uncovering the past. I mean, that’s something that’s a common thread that runs across a lot of the iterations of the character, going back all the way to 1940s. It makes Carter Hall this living, historical document of the DCU, if that makes sense. He’s living history. He’s been everywhere. He’s witnessed all these things, so for him there, being on Krypton, seeing the death of Krypton and all of the flora and fauna, and the culture, and everything that was lost in a blink, the tremendous amount of pain that somebody would suffer having witnessed that … Not having been a visitor or just having seen it from afar, but having lived among it, and having been an archaeologist there, and have studied history there to see it all disappear in a blink, in a way that can never be recovered. It’s not just buried or the ship didn’t go down with the treasures. It’s gone. It’s forever gone. It is a culture and a history that they’ve erased from the book of the universe or whatever.

    So to have been there and to witness that really imprinted on him the stakes for what he’s pursuing, and what he’s trying to uncover about the Deathbringers. Because as we know reading the series, the Deathbringers are coming to earth now, and they’ve sworn to destroy every world that Hawkman has ever reincarnated on. So he’s been through that now.

    When Carter Hall goes and he has these events where he re-experiences the death of Krypton with Catar-Ol, if Catar-Ol has Kryptonian history at his side, it really hits home for him. All the memories, the flood of memories and the pain that he felt then, and what it means to earth now. It bolsters him to, you know, “I can’t let this happen again.” The circumstances are different. We’re not saying the Deathbringers are what destroyed Krypton or anything like that, but the end result will be the same if he doesn’t intervene. So that’s really what’s gonna drive him into that last arc, and even going beyond that, looking at wider sort of DC Universe type things. We establish some links to Kryptonian mythology, and Superman more directly in the issue, knowing that Catar-Ol knew Jor-El, and then he was a teacher of Supergirl, and all these kinds of things. These are all threads that we’re weaving into the series that anybody can pick up, and anybody can play with.

    My hope would be that going forward, whenever we see past versions of Krypton, Catar-Ol is there. We link Krypton into the DC Universe in ways beyond just the Superman anthology.

    Continued below

    Well that was sort of what I was going for with my question. How is this going to impact how we read these stories in the future. I really do appreciate that aspect of it, and that’s a very, very cool thing.

    RV: One of the other ways that this is going to be impactful is that there are still a couple of people who call that planet home walking around the DC Universe. How will Carter’s interaction with people like Superman, Supergirl, Zod, how will all of that go forward with this knowledge of Krypton’s destruction? Not this knowledge, this first hand witnessing of that, rather.

    Sure, yeah. Again, I guess what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to set the table for others to come up and determine those things for their own characters. I’m excited about the possibilities of what those mean. I have talked with other writers about some of those possibilities, but I certainly wouldn’t want to get into what others are going to be doing in their books.

    Right.

    RV: For me, though, it’s just the ability … It’s just the fun of being able to open that door. This is the best of what a shared universe can be. Rather than closing doors and limiting what others can do, you open doors and expand it. I think that that’s what we’re doing with Hawkman. It doesn’t just have to be Krypton. It could be Rann. He could have been a New God in a past life. He could have been anything.

    That’s a fun idea.

    RV: Yeah, I mean, it’s all on the table. What we’ve done by saying it’s not just time, it’s time and space, it’s all there. There could have been an evil version of on Earth-3. You know what I’m saying? Anything.

    It’s way more ideas and way more content than you would ever be able to write as a single writer in one lifetime, you’d never be able to tell the story of every one of the characters on that double page spread from Issue One. But that’s not to say that each one of those characters doesn’t have a story. So my hope would be that next month, next year, ten years from now, other writers are pulling on these threads and seeing an opportunity to leave some other part of the DC Cosmic mythology into Hawkman and vice versa.

    Yeah, you actually kind of set up an interesting place here. There’s every change that there’s an Earth-X Hawkman out there, and you’re currently writing “Freedom Fighters,” taking place on Earth-X.

    Are you laying seeds for a crossover here?

    RV: Wouldn’t that be awesome? Obviously, we’ve thought about that. Gosh, what should I say? To be determined, I would say. To be determined, yes. But, very much so something we’ve talked about, and it would be extremely fun to do.

    Let’s talk about Freedom Fighters for a second. You’re taking a classic Concept, and you’re giving it a really interesting, modern twist. You’re doing so in a time where, I think, politically the Freedom Fighters feel more relevant than ever before. It’s a really interesting time to be telling this Freedom Fighters story. So when you were looking to begin this book, begin this new chapter, what were some of the touchstones for you that you felt needed to be there in a 2019 version of the Freedom Fighters?

    RV: Yeah for me, you know, my attraction to the property, and wanting to do the story was when DC first spoke to me about the Freedom Fighters, which wasn’t a team that I was overly familiar with. I was already working on another book called “Six Days,” which is a non-fiction graphic novel I’m doing with another writer named Kevin Maurer, and Andrea Mutti on art. It’ll be coming out from Vertigo next year, and it’s a book about a battle that an uncle of mine took part in as part of D Day, and he died in that battle. I was already sort of in that headspace of examining the sacrifices of World War II, and what the world would be like without them. So when the opportunity to do Freedom Fighters came along, knowing that it would be published when it was going to be published, and that my Issue Six will be on the stands, “Six Days,” the same time as the 75th anniversary of D Day next year in 2019, it was an opportunity to look at the same content from another angle, sort of two sides of the same coin.

    Continued below

    In “Six Days,” I’m looking at it from the perspective of I live in the world now that is the world we have because of the sacrifices that were made in World War II. But if those sacrifices hadn’t been made, what would that world be like? So it’s kind of another way of looking at the same content. Really, that was what was driving me throughout the story, and it’s been incredibly fun to work on, just to be able to be on another Earth for the entirety of your story. Eddie Barrows and I, we’re literally doing world building in the truest sense of the term. We’re establishing culture. We’re establishing how society functions. We’re creating new heroes. We’re creating new villains.

    We have a lot of surprises coming up. In the first issue we reveal Plastic Man, which is sort of the Nazi regime’s version of Plastic Man. They took Plastic Man and reengineered him into SS Secret Police agents that can be anything, and be everywhere. They’re always listening. It’s a very horrifying take on what is usually sort of a comedic character in Plastic Man. We’re gonna continue to do those things, creating some villains that are entirely new to Freedom Fighters, but also, taking things that are established in the DC Universe and spinning them in pretty horrifying ways.

    Yeah, that first issue also brings in a really … I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but a really important historical figure in the book. It was a pretty shocking appearance, at least for me, and I was really intrigued by it. So when you’re putting together a book like this, there is an alternate history. There is something that is slightly different … Not slightly, very different than what we’ve had in the real world. How much of a tether do you want there to be to that real world? Do you want there to be things that people recognize, or is it more important to create a cohesive world that doesn’t necessarily have those obvious connections.

    RV: Yeah, then I’ll spoil it for you. The easy answer to the question is yeah, you definitely want to have that tether, because what makes the alternate history so appealing is what’s recognizable in it. Once you see what’s recognizable, you’re drawn to all the things that are different about it. So what we did in the first issue, and it was one of the very first thoughts that came to me in the very first conversation I had about Freedom Fighters, five minutes into the conversation I said, “If Hitler really had won World War II, one of the first things he would have done was find Jesse Owens and punish him for the way that Jesse Owens had embarrassed the Nazi regime in Berlin at the 1936 Olympics.

    That’s a character, Jesse Owens is a person that everybody … We all know who that is. He’s a part of American lore. He was also, in a sense, peak human, right? I mean, he was the fastest person on the planet in that era, so we turned him into the leader of the Freedom Fighters, sort of a cultural figure who was the leader, not from a super power sense, but from the planning, and the strategy, and all those kinds of things. That’s how we open our series. For me, it was about establishing that entry point, giving the reader things that are familiar on this alternate universe Earth, but then spinning them in a way that it’s different. It’s the 1960s and Jesse Owens is leader of a team of Freedom Fighter revolutionaries fighting against the Nazi controlled government ruling America.

    It’s an easy entry point to the series to give the readers something to anchor onto that’s familiar, but to also show them how we’re spinning things in a different way in this alternate history.


    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).

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