DC Comics is having a revolution in terms of horror and telling hugely original stories. You’ve seen it with the huge success of DCeased, and this year they launched their very own DC Horror imprint. More recently, they’ve also launched two horror comics in DC vs. Vampires and Task Force Z, both of which are overseen by writer Matthew Rosenberg.
In a recent press roundtable, Rosenberg revealed that both titles releasing in unison wasn’t on purpose but a happy accident. One (that’s DC vs. Vampire) involves an out-of-continuity tale with vampires taking over Earth and the other (Task Force Z) an in-continuity story using Lazarus Resin to resurrect once dead villains for a super team that is half dead and alive. DC Comics may be on a horror kick, but having two two horror-style books coming from Rosenberg doesn’t happen every day. (This interview is running as both issues land on shelves today, November 23.)
Add in the fact that Rosenberg is having the time of his life, and there’s a lot to be said about what DC Comics is doing right now. “As a creator, I think it’s the most thrilling thing you can do,” he says.” “I’m as happy making these books as I’ve ever been making comics, I’m having so much fun because I call my editors every day and I’m like, ‘Can we do this?’ And they go, ‘let’s find out.’ And that’s the best answer.”
Being the creator behind new ideas in the realm of superheroes is nothing new for Rosenberg, but he wears the originality well.
DC vs. Vampires is co-written by James Tynion IV, and it was also Tynion’s original idea when he originally pitched Batman, as Rosenberg told us. When it was time to develop the series proper, Tynion tapped Rosenberg to help write and plot the 12-issue series.
To detail the creative process and how we got here, Rosenberg tended to speak as if we were observing and recounting actual conversations in the room. Often, he’d detail what was said by him and other parties, which in a sense was like telling a story about the making of the stories themselves. Here, we see Tynion and editor Ben Abernathy’s conversation as told by Matthew Rosenberg just after Rosenberg accepted the gig immediately.
“Oh, you said yes too quickly.”
“I was not supposed to say yes?”
“Well, we have an ace up our sleeve on the on the pitch.”
“Well, we already have Otto Schmidt signed on to draw it. And I had just worked with Otto on Hawkeye over at Marvel, and love, love Otto and loved working with him.”
“Oh, well, then I’m, I’m doubly in I guess.”
However, it was a bit different when Rosenberg was pitched the idea for Task Force Z. Rosenberg explained that DC editor Paul Kaminski had the idea of a zombie team and decided to ask Rosenberg if he’d like to write it.
“What do you think about this?”
“Yeah, I don’t really like it. Like, it’s cool. It’s not for me.”
“Well, what would make it for you?”
“Well, I would like certain things”
Rosenberg explained they ended up talking for a long time about the concept and characters. So long, in fact, Rosenberg changed his mind entirely on the project.
“So what do you think?”
“Man, I really love this idea now.”
“It should be a sort of a Suicide Squad idea and sort of the idea that they’re fighting instead of the Suicide Squad who are fighting for their lives the task force are fighting to get their lives back, literally.”
When it came to forming the team, Rosenberg said it all started with the field leader, who he selected as one Jason Todd. Once it was give the go-ahead, everything clicked with Bane and Man-Bat being the next characters added to the team.
Coincidentally, Dan Watters was fleshing out Arkham City with characters who escaped Arkham as well, so choosing who lived and died came down to them and making sure they didn’t cross paths. “It was very funny, though, because Dan Watters has the Arkham City book that he’s working on and there were times where me and Dan were talking where he was like, ‘I want this character. Is that okay?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I want this character.'” It turned out both creators ended up gravitating towards certain characters which made fleshing out their stories with characters easier.
Meanwhile, with DC vs. Vampires being in its own continuity the development of which characters to use came down to which toys Tynion and Rosenberg wanted to play with the most. “James had an initial idea, which was very Justice League -centric, and very Bat-centric,” Rosenberg said that shifted once they started collaborating together. When it came to formulating the team for DC vs. Vampires, Rosenberg said Green Arrow was key. “I need Green Arrow. Green Arrow needs to be as big as Batman in this book, like, this is as much a Green Arrow story as a Batman story. And his family and the arrow, Black Canary and the Arrow family needed to be front and center.”
Rosenberg said part of the fun in using characters like the Wonder Twins in DC vs. Vampires was how the story revealed the characters in the narrative. “It’s that thing of like stripping things from them and seeing who they are in different scenarios.” But at the end of the day, “it was just me and James grabbing our favorites and pushing them together, as best we could, making it work.”
With any and all characters up for grabs, that meant playing against reader expectations. “I think folks are going to be really shocked at which characters we use because it’s just me and James chasing things we love and throwing them into the blender of the comic.”
At this point, it’s safe to say we’re in the thick of things of DC Comics’ new lease on storytelling and for however long it works, anything goes. Says Rosenberg, “This is an era of DC where if an idea is fun and cool, they want to chase it and do an enthusiastically. I think that means you can expect more horror, you can expect more comedy, you can expect more weird stuff.” It’s a time at DC Comics where editorial isn’t saying what can or can’t be done but are listening to writers and trying to make their story ideas work and get published.
Given the wildly different styles of art and story in both books, despite both tackling horror in their own ways, one can surmise that Rosenberg is at a place creatively that isn’t afforded all the time. In that, Rosenberg made it clear it’s something he hopes never changes.
“I hope that [this] becomes the status quo for a long time to come for sure.”
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