If you don’t know, a crossover is taking place in Suicide Squad and Teen Titans Academy right now. The “event” has thrown some of the most violent characters into the mix alongside some of the youngest and most green in the DC universe. Written by Robbie Thompson and Tim Sheridan, the three-part story recently capped off its second part, utilizing Amanda Waller, Peacemaker, and Red X to lethal effectiveness.
It’s a crossover that has been some time in the making, and I was lucky enough to chat with both creators to discuss their ongoing process. We dig into their creative process working across the entire story, how editor Mike Cotton proved instrumental in the project, and how they collaborated as a cohesive unit.
But, wait, there’s more! We also dig into their backgrounds in television, and how it’s not dissimilar from collaborating in comics. On top of all that, Thompson discusses working on Peacemaker, teases future plans for Talon, and how another crossover is in the works for his Suicide Squad. Meanwhile, Sheridan reveals which character he loves to write, the whole story and drama around revealing Red X’s identity, and even a bit on his 5G story about Nightwing. Much like both team books, the conversation below is filled with laughs galore and heaps of collaboration.
AIPT: What are your favorite crossovers of all time?
Tim Sheridan: The first one that comes to mind right now, which is the one that I’ve just started reading, which is X-Men and Teen Titans.
Robbie Thompson: That’s literally what I was going to go with.
TS: That’s the crossover of all crossovers, I think.
RT: I got to go with Tim on that one. I remember vividly getting that book and my brother and I read it to shreds. And I was just blown away by the art. But the story I mean, it’s not terribly long, but it’s a ton of story packed into a very tight package.
AIPT: What spurred on the idea to crossover these two titles? Was it one of your ideas specifically or an editor’s idea?
RT: I think it was [Mike] Cotton, wasn’t it?
TS: Yeah, we share an editor, Mike Cotton and…
RT: …and nothing else!
TS: Literally nothing else [laughs]. I think what happened was we realized we were going to get to introduce Red X into the main continuity. That started the wheels turning and trying to think how are we going to use Red X and are there other places where he might show up? And I think, you know, Cotton wisely thought, “Well, you know, the Suicide Squad and Red X have a lot in common. It makes a lot of sense to put those toys together and see what happens.” When did you hear about this? Robbie?
RT: I think it was, you know, it was kind of early on in the process. It wasn’t exactly sure when it was going to happen. But he had let me know, you know, what was going on with Red X and we had kind of talked about from the beginning, doing some like, sort of pseudo crossovers wherein like, we wanted to dip into different corners of the DC Universe.
TS: You know, what I love about it is it gave me an opportunity to tell a little bit more of the story of one of the new kids at the academy that we’ve introduced. And that’s Alinta, aka Bolt our speedster character who is integral to the crossover story. Early on in the Academy, I’m looking for opportunities to organically introduce everybody to these characters and give them some more information. Hopefully, you’ll fall in love with them.
RT: It was a similar thing on [Suicide] Squad too. With a character like Amanda Waller, she’s very dynamic and is very cunning and we wanted to give her an “L” early on in the run to show she’s human. When Mike cotton was filling me in on Red X, before we all kind of got on a group call, like, it just seemed like the perfect foil for her in a way that, you know, we wanted to see those characters go head to head, which they do.
TS: I’m gonna tease a little bit here because I’m not gonna spoil anything. I’m not gonna say anything. But I want to say, Robbie, I just read your issue four and I love it.
RT: I appreciate it. But it’s also all your hard work as well, my friend.
AIPT: I have to say, I’m impressed with the interconnectedness of the crossover, which made me wonder, is there a whiteboard somewhere with red string? How did that planning process work?
RT: We, we got on a video conference pretty early on and we just talked about it loosely. And then as scripts started to come together, we would reconnect, you know, again, and again, then, you know, I think, you know, on my end it’s Mike [Cotton] and Dixie, are the editors on the book, and they’re really great at coordinating with other offices within DC. The pitfalls of the crossover are that you end up just telling the crossover story. We wanted to tell stories that were obviously interconnected, but we’re having, you know, impacts on each of the individual books. And that’s what’s great about having great editors as they’re like your attorney and that includes protecting us. For me, it was a combination of everyone being open. And, you know, my background is a TV writer, and both Tim and I are screenwriters as well, and, collaboration is something we’re used to.
TS: It’s funny, as it was told to me, it’s one of the biggest reasons why I was brought in to DC at all was because of my background in TV. And because of the collaborative nature of you know, what we do in TV. I think that really excited some of the brass at DC and I think in many ways this crossover is one of the early tests of like, let’s throw some TV writers into a crucible and see if they can play nice and happy, I get to share writing duties on this with Robbie, who not only am I a fan of but also is just, you know, one of my favorite people that I’ve gotten to work with over DC. It’s something that has been so much more like what I’ve done in TV than anything else I’ve done in comics.
RT: Suicide Squad is gonna cross over with another DC book. And it was a very similar approach. And I think what was great for me again, just given my background is like, we got into the plot mechanics and we got into the specifics of what we needed to do but it all started with like, what do we need for these characters? You know, for example, like on Squad it was very much about [character]. How can this affect Waller? How can this affect Peacemaker? They are characters’ stories, versus pieces on a chessboard.
Tim had a really great take for Waller and how she would view Red X who is a character that I mean, I had never really… I just saw the artwork, you know, and I knew the character from before but it was great to be able to have the guy who was going to be bringing that character to life weighing in moment-to-moment reading through the scripts, reading through the lettering passes, making sure the voice was consistent. I think you even added a great line for Nocturna in issue three where she refers to them as “Dumb Justice.” The Teen Titans. That was you wasn’t it?
TS: I don’t even remember.
AIPT: Tim in Teen Titans Academy #3 you call them Baby Titans, I think.
RT: We go to Tim for the insults.
TS: It does sound like me.
RT: That’s the level of collaboration to feel comfortable and so best idea wins. That’s our TV backgrounds coming to head.
AIPT: Robbie, I love how you write Peacemaker. I hang on every word, I don’t know if he’s gonna like, kill somebody or give them flowers. You know what I mean?
RT: He’s a blast to write and I have to admit I’m definitely channeling my inner John Cena whenever I write that character. But like, there’s a lot of different incarnations of Peacemaker through the years but for a guy who is so focused on peace, he’s willing to kill for it. It’s such a great place to start. And he’s again, he’s much like Red X as he’s kind of a great foil for Waller. I think Peacemaker, as you’ll see, as the story goes on, is definitely, they’re not a good pairing. It’s like the worst 80s buddy cop movie or something like that, you know?
AIPT: I want to get a Peacemaker/Waller cop TV show.
TS: Oh my god.
RT: I would write 200 issues of that. That would be a blast.
AIPT: Since the main conceit of the crossover is “who is Red X” is there anxiety about when to reveal the identity? Should we reveal it later? How long can you get away with it? Are these questions running through your mind?
TS: Let me just explain to you how you have invaded my brain right now. Which, you know, the entirety of my career at DC Comics right now is, “who is Red X?” And “should I upend the plan and tell you who Red X is now?” Again, speaking of good editing, I literally went to Cotton last week and said, “Maybe I should just do it now.” And he’s like, “Stay the course. We know what we’re doing. This is the way the story is supposed to play out. Calm down.” So, so yeah, this is a constant battle I’m fighting with myself.
AIPT: You’ve also just kicked off these two series. And I want to know when you were approaching the book when you’re just getting started planning it. Did you have a favorite character in mind? And then when you started writing, did another character end up becoming your favorite, and which character in your books is the trickiest to write? It’s a three-parter.
RT: I was the most excited to write Amanda Waller because as you said, she’s such a unique character. It’s like getting to channel your inner authoritarian spirit. But the character that surprised me was Peacemaker. I didn’t know as much about the character and then I started digging in, that’s like, one of the best parts of the job is, you know, digging into old issues, and I was really taken with what a weird North Star he follows. Peace at any cost. And he just became a lot of fun to write.
And as far as the challenging character? That’s a good question. For me, it’s been Superboy. Superboy is a beloved character, and I’m a leather jacket, sunglasses, Superboy fan.
RT: But I have found that character challenging because there’s also a mystery element to what’s going on with him and finding that balance between teasing that mystery and also making sure that he’s present in scenes. But, fortunately, you know, as Tim was saying, we have great editors, and they’re really able to say like, “Hey, this feels a little too cryptic.” Or “maybe we can spend a little bit more time with him here.” And then, you know, it’s one of those things where it kind of surprises you that like, he’s kind of bonded to different characters. And then he represents that kind of classic Suicide Squad blend where you have a good guy trying to do bad things and the push-pull that comes, as you’ll see pretty quickly in issue three, he’s definitely not a bad guy. And so, getting to write that dynamic was where I think I kind of found it, but it’s definitely been the trickier of all the characters.
AIPT: Was there any characters that you were entering the fray going, “I can’t wait to write them?”
TS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, they told me I got the keys to the new Teen Titans. You know, they said, “Here go have fun.” I thought I was going to write Nightwing. My whole life has led to this moment. And then, um, I started writing the book and realized that the most fun I was having was in one-liners here between Cyborg and Beast Boy. Just little things between the two of them. And I thought, “Oh, this is interesting. I wasn’t expecting this.” And then thankfully, then Tom’s [Taylor] book was announced, and I felt the pressure come off. Now I get to just be a fan and read Nightwing.
AIPT: Oh, that’s a good point. If no one else is writing a character, there’s like an extra pressure because, you know, fans of that character have higher expectations, I suppose.
TS: This is the problem of coming to it as a fan is you feel a weight of responsibility. You know, when I first came into DC, I was brought in for the 5g initiative. And there was an idea about a book with an older Nightwing and Batgirl in their 40s. That was sort of where I was going to take off here. All of that stuff all went away. But I really got my head early on thinking about what is life like for these characters who we’ve grown up with, we’ve seen growing up, but what does it look like in their 40s? When there’s a little bit a bit of time behind them. That stuff got me really excited. But it also terrified me.
TS: On one level writing Red X is challenging because there’s a lot of mystery elements involved. And I want to make sure that we tell the story correctly. But in terms of crossover, the most difficult character to write is Talon. We have Robbie to thank for that.
RT: Yeah, he’s, he’s a really easy character for me to write. So when I got called into work on the Suicide Squad. We kind of had like a cheat sheet of characters we had access to and then also characters that they wanted to sort of feature and he was one of them. And then when I found out what had gone on with him, there’s a longer form plan for him that will kind of come to a head at the end of our annual which I think comes out after issue six. I was just like, well, if he’s in Arkham Asylum and he doesn’t know who he is and he’s lost his mind. And we sort of settled into him just saying “who,” and obviously, it’s a little bit of wordplay as well.
AIPT: So one last question. If you’re to describe this crossover in one word, what would it be and it can’t be “who” or maybe it can.
TS: I don’t know. I’m not good with words. [laughs]
RT: Another would be continuity. Titanic. No, wait, that’s bad. That’s the bad connotation. Titans. That’s a good one.
AIPT: Titans together.
TS: Sheridan said it’s the Titanic. That’s the headline.
AIPT: Since the Teen Titans have “Titans Together,” what is the Suicide Squad battle cry?
RT: “Oh, God, don’t let us die.”
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