Friday, January 19, 2007


I'm 8 pages out from being finished with my commitment to WORLD WAR III and, if everything continues to go smoothly, I'll be able to move on from this project next week. It's been a remarkably easy ride--aside from the tighter-than-usual deadlines--and I'm increasingly anxious to move on to my next project.

Anyway, I'm waaaaaaaaaaaay late in linking to it so, instead, I'm just going to post the full text of the interview I did w/ Newsarama covering WWIII. If I wasn't tired and had something to actually say, I'd write more but I'm brain dead and I'm taking the easy way out. Some things have changed since this interview posted last week, mainly the amount of writing work and projects that I've got lined up. But I can't announce anything for a while so for now, here's the interview.

Every time Newsarama talks to Keith Champagne, the intro to the article talks about how he's an inker trying to break into the world of comics writing.

Time for that to stop.

With the announcement on Friday that DC is trusting two of its Week 50 "World War III" one shots to Keith Champagne -- pairing him up with veteran writer John Ostrander -- it's pretty safe to say he's done broken in. And this is no small project. Four 32-page issues of World War III will be released on the same Wednesday as the Week 50 issue of 52 on April 18 and will tell many of the stories of what happened during the "missing year" between Infinite Crisis and the One Year Later mark. Two of the issues -- titled Call to Arms and The Valiant -- will be written by Champagne, while the other two -- Hell is for Heroes and United We Stand -- will be penned by Ostrander.

Newsarama caught up with Champagne to talk about the story that will be told in the four issues, how he got the gig, and what he thinks about getting an opportunity to work on the story of 52.

Newsarama: You're part of the story being told in 52 - how does it feel?

Keith Champagne: Well, the 52 crew leave some pretty big footsteps to follow, and this has been a very reference heavy project -- there's been a lot of catching up on material I've only half read. Oh, and the amount of lead time is a little shorter than usual --which might be the biggest understatement ever. Plus, all four books are coming out the same day, coinciding with the release of 52 #50, which I don't think has ever been attempted before.

Aside from that, it's just another day at the office.

NRAMA: Oh, yeah. No biggie. How did you get this gig, Keith?

KC: I answered my phone to hear the deep growl of that svengali of all svengali's, Peter Tomasi, tell me he just got out of a meeting with Dan Didio and had an interesting project for me to write. After he explained the whole thing, he asked me if it was something I'd be interested in. I said yes. He asked me again, making sure I understood the tight deadlines and amount of reference involved. I said yes. He explained it again to make sure I knew what I was walking into but, since no one has ever accused me of being the sharpest knife in the drawer, I continued to say yes.

Now he's stuck with me.

NRAMA: Or you're stuck with him -- with the tight deadlines, it could be seen either way. So you're writing two of the four issues, with John Ostrander writing the other two. Are you coordinating the story between the two of you?

KC: Originally, I was slated to write all four issues. Then when we realized there just wasn't time for one person to write all four issues, John Ostrander came aboard with about a million ideas to take this project to the next level. As it stands now, I'm writing the first two and John is writing #3 and 4. John and I are working pretty close together to make sure the story flows seamlessly and with two editors watching our every move, we've got a good safety net in place to catch any balls we drop.

NRAMA: You mentioned the short lead time. I guess four 32-page one-shots is a lot of script and art to have done and ready to go for shipment on one day. How is that working from a timing standpoint?

KC: I'm going back and forth between scripts right now. All these books are being produced simultaneously so I'm basically writing half of #1 to get the penciller going, then half of #2 to get that artist working, back and forth that way. It's an interesting way to work but I've plotted everything pretty tightly so there shouldn't be any surprises or missed opportunities.

NRAMA: Does knowing that all four issues will, for many people, be read at one sitting influence the way you're writing the issues?

KC: There's a definite advantage to having all four issues being read in one sitting. Mainly that people won't forget what happened while waiting 30 days for the next issue to ship. I know if I read a comic, I only vaguely remember what was going on by the time I get the next one. But the fact that this is just BANGBANGBANGBANG one after another, it makes me feel like I can really lay in a ton of subtle touches and Easter eggs and not worry that people reading won't pick up on it.Aside from that, I'm following the same little set of guidelines I always try to. Character first!

NRAMA: What do you think of the idea of four one-shots that tie together with a fifth issue -- all being released at once?

KC: It's honestly the only way to do these books. Week 50 is World War III, and it doesn't make sense to have books shipping during weeks 51, 52, one, two, etc. -- after the fact. There's too much story here that is integral to the overall continuity.Personally, I like it. It's never been done before and it gives this project a whole different kind of event feel to it.

NRAMA: "Never been done before" seems to apply to a lot about 52. Have you gotten to talk to the writers involved in the 52 series, or are you mainly talking with the editor?

KC: I'm working with Peter Tomasi and Mike Siglain, who are co-editing. I guess Mike didn't have enough stress in his life with a weekly book so he decided to try something really challenging and ship four books in one day. Liz Gehrlein, their shiny new assistant, has been coordinating quite a bit and I've also been going back and forth with John Ostrander, who is writing the other two issues.

NRAMA: Dan Didio addressed this a bit, but from what you've seen in the stories -- what is the real purpose of doing one-shots outside the main 52 series? Is this something that further fleshes out the content of Week 50, or is it something they just couldn't fit in there? And most importantly, do you have to read these four issues to understand Week 50 of the 52 series?

KC: You know, I've read the WWIII issue of 52, and it's great. It's a homerun story, and it stands quite nicely on its own.Having said that, this is WORLD WAR III. For the past year, everything has been building up to this week. It's an event, and Dan Didio wants to make sure that the people who have been following all along are treated to just that -- a comics event. It's a bang, not a whimper.What our series is doing is weaving a story in between the events of 52 #50, both fleshing out certain elements and also introducing a lot of new content, showing much more of what's going on around the world during the war. It turns out that week 50 is one of the most pivotal seven day periods in the history of the DCU. You want to talk about ramifications, about characters living, changing, and dying ... much of what we're doing here answers the questions that were posed about the DCU when One Year Later began.So, if 52 #50 is the entree, then World War III is the bread, drinks, salad, appetizer, desert, and midnight snack.

NRAMA: You're just trying to make everyone hungry. But let's talk about that "52 entree" a little. Have you been reading 52?

KC: I'm usually behind on the issues because my comps arrive three or four weeks later, but I've been reading pretty consistently.

NRAMA: What did you think of it before you got involved?

KC: I think the book is exactly what you'd expect it to be, considering the talent involved, and I honestly think it's a legitimate achievement. When the last page is turned, they should all take a bow because they're pulling off something that no one really believed they could.

NRAMA: It sounds like you weren't really knowledgeable about the secrets of the mysteries in 52 before. Did they have to bring you up to speed?

KC: I was brought up to speed so fast, my head is still smoking.

NRAMA: Okay fanboy - does it suck to have the end of 52 spoiled now?

KC: Nah - it doesn't suck, but I'm happy to say the ending more than lives up to the hype.

NRAMA: To get to that ending, you're having to cover a lot of ground. We've been told, at least loosely, in the solicitations about some "secrets" that are contained in each one-shot. But they're called "Part One" through "Part Four" because you are tying them together with an overall story, right? I know you can't give details, but in general terms, what is the story that runs through them?

KC: Set against the backdrop of World War III, one hero goes on a journey of self-discovery to learn who he is and what role he should play -- if any -- in the DCU.

NRAMA: You call World War III a "backdrop," but the words "world war" implies a pretty battle. Is this really the big one? Or as the folks in World War I liked to say: "The war to end all wars?"

KC: This is the mother of all wars, at least until World War IV someday comes down the pike.

NRAMA: [laughs] OK, that's a safe description. But you know this is frustrating not to really know any of the answers for what you're writng. How's this: Tell us the last thing you wrote -- the last panel or page -- and what it was about.

KC: The last thing I wrote was the first ever, in continuity, appearance of Jason Todd as Nightwing. The scene I'm writing tonight concerns Supergirl and how she ends up in the 31st century -- if it is indeed her in the 31st century.

NRAMA: "If?" Argh! You're a horrible tease. OK, since you're sticking to general terms, let's talk theme. The writers of 52 have said one of the main themes of the series is "what it means to be a hero." What's the theme of these four issues?

KC: Wow, I hate these types of questions. I think the theme to these books is "how many giant changes can we make to DC continuity while still making those changes organic to the story."In terms of the characters, like I mentioned before, the theme is one of self-exploration and finding one's role in a sometimes brutal and dangerous world.

NRAMA: It seems like I've interviewed you a lot lately about your writing. Miss inking yet?KC: Inking is still my bread and butter, I inked two Jamal Igle pages today. I'd like to miss it someday but right now, it's still a big part of my daily life -- and yearly income.

NRAMA: But it does seem like doors are finally opening for you as a writer. Are you ready to switch your career entirely to writing? Or do you see yourself dabbling in a little writing while still being an artist?

KC: You know, I think about this a lot and it's hard to plan ahead like that. Doors are starting to really open for me as a writer, largely thanks to Tomasi who really champions me in the DC offices. At the same time, I equate it to David Caruso, who left his hit TV show to make movies and then fell flat on his face for a while. I don't want to be that guy, the one who ends up screwing himself over by going for too much, too fast. Ideally, and I've said this before, I'd like to ease into writing full-time. I have the chops to do it and more opportunities are popping up. On the flip side, with most of my income still coming from inking, I don't have to take every writing gig in front of me. I can be more selective and choose the ones I feel fit me better. I don't foresee leaving inking completely until someone offers me the security of a contract to write full time. I have a family to support and that's the bottom line.

NRAMA: More opportunities are popping up, huh? Can you tell us what else is coming for Keith Champagne?

KC: I'll be taking over the writing chores for my first monthly book later this year. I just wrote a 12-page Two Face story for this year's Batman Annual. And we're talking about doing a follow up to my Green Lantern Corps story when I finish World War III.

Plus, I'm inking Nightwing over the great Jamal Igle every month. So there's going to be plenty of me going around for fans to get sick of.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

I thought this was a very nice interview. Oh, and I noticed a great review of Xena over on Line Of Fire Reviews.

You ARE getting around!