Chance Peterson of our Chase Variant podcast and I got together for a discussion with The Flash co-writer Brian Buccellato. We talked a whole lot about The latest Flash series and Brian’s independent book “Foster“. Part of this interview is transcribed but go ahead and listen to the entire interview to get to all the juicy morsels which haven’t been transcribed below!
StashMyComics.com: (We) have been huge fans of the current Flash run and we’re hoping to convert more of our listeners to this run because it’s really quite excellent.
Brian Buccellato: I wanna say Thank you. We appreciate you guys’ support. We’ve been working really hard to make the best book that we can. It’s great to hear people responding to it.
SMC: I think you guys have been chomping at the bit for a little while. Am I right in assuming this?
Brian Buccellato: Yeah. I think Francis has been moving forward in that direction as a creative person. He wanted to tell his own stories. So I think it’s been a progression for him, from artist to writer-artist. It’s not as big a leap as people think it is. For me it’s a little different because I’ve been writing for 15 years it’s just nobody in comics knows it. So for me, it’s probably an opportunity to write something where people can see what I do. And for Francis it was a culmination for him.
SMC: I suspected as much because the writing in here, I’ve found it quite sophisticated and slick. Can you tell us a little bit about how the writing duties are doled out?
Brian Buccellato: There’s no specific division of labor. He lives in Toronto and I live in L.A. so we do spend an awful lot of time on skype. And what we do is we just talk about it. We talk through it together (…) He and I don’t disagree very often so for us it’s more abut building on top (of one another): “What if Captain Cold does this?”, “I see the reason why he does this is because of that”, and then one of us would go “Yeah! Yeah! And then because of that he can do this!” So it’s really organic and it’s really fluid in a way that maybe defies that it’s two people doing it. We don’t bring ego to the table (…). We just want to tell the best story that we can. I feel that because of our personal friendship, we’re able to sort of know what the other person will respond to and work that into our overall viewpoint. We haven’t had an impasse yet.
SMC: So getting more into the story specifically in these 4 issues. I noticed that in the New 52, several of the books have opted to start their first arc with a brand new villain. And as far as I know this is Manuel Lago’s first appearance. So what was behind this decision to start this new thing with a completely fresh foe for The Flash to tangle with? And how did you come up with this guy as opposed to someone else?
Brian Buccellato: I think there was sort of a DC-wide… it wasn’t like a directive: “You must make a new villain”, but I think overall they wanted to have new and fresh things happen. People were encouraged, in most cases, to create new villains starting out. In our case it was suggested “why don’t you guys think of a new villain”. That freed us up in some ways. Francis and I had an idea of where we wanted Barry to go. We have a younger Barry. A Barry who is obviously single. He doesn’t know as much about his powers as maybe his previous incarnation did. We were taking a step back in his evolution so we knew where he was going and where we wanted to end up so Francis and I decided “we need to do two things”. We need to give him a villain who can challenge his powers because let’s face it, The Flash is really really powerful. I would argue that short of Superman he’s probably the most powerful fellow in the DCU.
SMC: Yeah he’s up there in the pantheon. So how does Mob Rule enter the picture as a solution to that for you guys?
Brian Buccellato: Well the practical side is that, fast as Flash is, he can not be everywhere at once. What happens when you meet a villain who literally can because there’s so many of him? So there was that side of it. And then the other side – and I don’t consider myself the biggest expert, I did a lot of research and I think Francis had a greater understanding of the overall Flash lore than I did – but I don’t recall him having a villain that was invested in Barry Allen emotionally and that Barry also had some stake in. With Professor Zoom (…), you got guys who hate Flash and have a vendetta against him. But there was nobody who had a personal connection, at least as I saw it. So we wanted somebody who could do a couple things. Who could illuminate Barry’s past and had ties to Barry. So that’s kind of where he came from.
SMC: A lot of what the Flash is has to do with science because of his career. How much is involved in researching that aspect to make sure it’s factual?
Brian Buccellato: Let’s face it, we’re telling science fiction as part of Flash’s world. All we do is we go from story and character first and then we find ways to justify it with the science as best as we can. Francis is not a scientist and I’m not an expert in any of that stuff but we can research. I think any writer can inform themselves enough so they can write something without sounding like they don’t know what they’re talking about. All we did is we found things that fit our story and we found justifications that are based on real-world science on some level just so that it seems real and that it doesn’t ring false. (…) It’s just about building on top of the world and adding value, we don’t pretend to be super-brains that know it all.
SMC : You mentioned briefly that this is a younger Barry. So you can confirm that we are seeing some of the first adventures of Barry Allen in this arc?
Brian Buccellato: Yeah. The universe is 5 years old. That’s the directive we were given. In some ways it’s difficult to negotiate because Justice League takes place 5 years ago and there are events from old continuity that have transpired… there’s a time-line for Barry… it’s a little bit fluid. It’s not written in stone to be honest with you. But we made a conscious decision, for most people who would be using this as a (staring point), let’s show them a Flash who doesn’t know everything and who is learning so we can learn with him. That’s sort of how things work in story-telling. If you had a guy who knew everything, you jump in the story and (then) where do you go? So I think it makes more sense to do it that way (to tell stories of a younger Barry).
SMC : I wanted to touch on the love triangle between Barry, Patty and Iris. It would seem Patty and Barry are more in a relationship of convenience because they work together. Where as Iris is fairly new at her career and she’s kind of going for the sensationalistic headlines and may be in a bit more moral conflict with Barry. Now, we’re assuming the relationship between Barry and Iris will be restored but you’re keeping things ambiguous enough so that we don’t know which way you’re going to take it.
Brian Buccellato: You’re in the ball park. The way Francis and I see Barry is he hasn’t had a lot of time for that side of his world. He’s been Flash since he was pretty young. He’s not as developed in that part of his life as someone (else who is 27 years old) might be because he’s given so much of himself that he hasn’t really quite discovered what to do with the romantic part of his life. I think for Patty, I don’t see it as convenience. I feel like most inter-personal relationships are based on convenience because it’s people we see in our lives that we bond with. But I think (for Patty and Barry) it’s more to do with them being kindred spirits in the science, in the CSI, in the geeky side of life. That’s why they have gravitated towards each other. As far as Iris, there’s not much history there. Who knows if there’s enough to sustain some kind of spark? We haven’t decided. We have a lot of stuff that’s planned, but we’re kind of letting the relationship(s) sort of play out. I can’t tell you for sure that (Barry) will end up with one or the other.
SMC : One of the things that you mentioned earlier is that Barry isn’t familiar with all his powers. I really like this mental speed force that you guys are bringing forward and I was curious about how evolved that is currently. He does seem to know how to use this power. So is this something we’re going to see get stronger in The Flash?
Brian Buccellato: What I find interesting from watching people’s reaction to (this) is people thought it was really cool but (some fans) thought “oh you’re making him too powerful. Now he’s a god.” There were people who were worried we had opened up a can of worms. And then issue #3 hit. Then people were like “oh ok, these guys aren’t just winging it, they have a plan”. (…) The thing with the powers is that it’s not necessarily a great thing. Yeah, he can see it all (…) and it’s almost pre-cognitive but what it really is, is deductive reasoning that he’s using but the problem is that at the end of issue #3 is (Barry) literally thought he had beaten the bad guys. That’s why he got shot. He lost that attachment to reality because it’s such a phenomenal power that it almost transcends action.
SMC : When Iris West meets Captain Cold in prison, he refers to him and his friends having something in store. Can you tell us who Captain Cold’s friends are?
Brian Buccellato: I don’t think it’s a big secret. Are you asking which specific rogues?
SMC : Well, I know we’ve already seen Trickster…
Brian Buccellato: Well, there’s going to be a story where you see all of them together but we’re not introducing them together just yet. So you’re going to get to see some of the Rogues. You will see The Top. You’ll see Weather Wizard. You’ll see the classic Rogues and you may see some Rogues you never met before. But in terms of when and where, I don’t want to get into details of that.
SMC : So you probably can’t divulge if you’re writing an arc on the formation of the Rogues.
Brian Buccellato:Uhm… there’s definitely a story we’re working on that shows that. Where we’re going to plug it in, I can’t really say.
SMC : (laughs) fair enough. I gotta ask!
Brian Buccellato: That’s fine, that’s fine. I’ll throw one more for you. If all goes the way we have planned – (editorial) gets to say yes or no – you’ll get to see Gorilla Grodd!
SMC : (yells in delight) Oh sweet! He’s totally my favorite (villain)!
Brian Buccellato: And it’s a slightly different take on Grodd. He’s still a gorilla and he still has telepathic powers but… uhm … I wish I could tell you more because we came up with some really cool stuff…
SMC : I wish the same!
Brian Buccellato: (laughs) I gotta tell you. I have loved Planet of the Apes as a kid and Francis recently watched all the old ones so he had that on his consciousness.
SMC : Here’s a question I kibd of have to ask. Flashpoint ended an era of DC publishing and it was an event that came out of the Flash. Should we expect that to come into your story? Will we see Pandora, the hooded ladyfrom the ending of Flashpoint?
Brian Buccellato: Well, as you saw in the first issue (of Flashpoint) when he quotes his mother saying “Move forward”. That metaphor was for the book, it was for fans, it was for DC 52, and it was for us as creators. We have chosen to look forward and not look backward. I’m sure at some there will be more clarification but I wouldn’t go into it thinking that by issue #12 we’re going to find out about that.
SMC : I support that approach and would venture a guess that most fans do as well. Now, Animal Man and Swamp Thing are going to crossover and we’ve gotten a hint that Batman will also have a crossover of sorts. Are you guys doing this as well?
Brian Buccellato: We have talked about this but you won’t see any kind of cross over for the next 4 issues.
SMC : Is there anything that you wish I would’ve asked but didn’t?
Brian Buccellato: I am working on a creator owned book called Foster. It’s a departure from superhero stuff. It’s more a horror, noir, ode to 70s films. I am writing it, drawing it, coloring it and publishing it myself. I’ve already printed out 500 signed and numbered copies (…) and it’s got a sketch cover on the back. It’s 10 bucks and you can buy it on my website (brianbooch.com) as long as they last. It’s 23 pages of story. One of the main selling points is the sketch cover on the back and if your order it from my website you can tell me what (sketch) you want on the back I’ll do it before I ship it out to you. If you buy it from a store or you see me at a convention or at a signing or at a Chili’s, if I have my markers I’ll do a sketch on the back for free.
SMC : So would you consider this a pilot episode of a story you’re pitching?
Brian Buccellato: Yeah, I’m committed to doing the first 6 issues. I would love to do it as an on-going. I don’t know if it can sustain itself by selling enough copies for me to continue to do it. Probably the main reason why I decided not to take it to a publisher is so I could maintain complete creative control. (…) People who work in commercial art and commercial writing, you always have to make concessions because you’re getting paid and if you can’t handle that you shouldn’t do it for a living. So you accept that. But when I was presenting myself with the opportunity to write what I want to write I decided I don’t want to answer to anybody and I want to be judged by the choices I make and if you like it I’m happy and if you don’t like it that’s okay because I gave you the version that I wanted to give you.
SMC : Can you tell us about the story?
Brian Buccellato: Absolutely! It takes place in Vintage City which is like 1970 to 1974 New York, San Fransisco crime movies. If you think The French Connection or Dirty Harry or the Exorcist even, it takes place in that kind of world where it’s analog. There’s no cell phones, there’s no internet and the aesthetic is of that time period. But the wrinkle to that world is that there are these creatures called “Dwellers” that live on the fringes of society. They are primal creatures that some people might think are werewolves, some people might think are Jekyll and Hyde type creatures. They basically like to do three things: they like to eat, they like to have sex and they like to kill. And they don’t get along with anybody so they don’t form alliances. They just like living in the shadows and generally live in economically disadvantaged places so they can do what they do and not be bothered. Our hero is Foster who is a war veteran with a haunted past and is drinking himself to death. His next door neighbor goes missing and leaves her 6 year old boy unattended. (Foster) decides to take that child in and it turns out the Dwellers want to kill that child for a reason. So he has to dig deep within himself and become that hero that he doesn’t look like he should be to protect this boy. In doing so he’ll discover this is a redemptive tale for him. Also there’s a big twist at the end. There’s definitely a reason (the Dwellers) want this boy, Ben.
SMC : This sounds great Brian, I wish you luck with this!
You can purchase a copy of Foster #1 at Brian’s website: Brianbooch.com. Flash #5 is on sale this Wednesday at your local comic shop.