Si Spurrier and Aaron Campbell are literally killing DC Comics darlings in Suicide Squad: Blaze. The DC Black Label series has reveled in horror and twisted violence in its first two issues, but with Suicide Squad: Blaze #3 (due out July 5), we decided to check in with the creators. Spoilers: things are about to get even crazier than ever.
The series introduced an alien threat that has cut through the likes of Superman and Batman with ease. All that stands in its way from killing humanity is a bunch of B-lister recruits. A lot is riding on the final third issue for the sake of the story — and also for the sake of readers!
After speaking with Spurrier before the first issue came out, we touched base with both Spurrier and Campbell just days before the final order cutoff (that’d be Sunday, June 5). We not only discussed the joy in killing off superheroes but we dug into where this series is ahead of its grand finale. That includes teases, some spoilers (like a critical character we thought was dead coming back), and even some never-before-seen uncolored pages from issue #3.
The interview below has been edited, but for an unedited and lengthier version, check out the AIPT Comics podcast this Sunday. In the longer version, Campbell also gives us great insights into his approach to art (like how he used 3D models to create the third issue’s cover). We also discuss the parasitic nature of the story, and Campbell and Spurrier tell us their must-have superpowers (Campbell’s answer just may surprise you!)
AIPT: How is the horror different between Hellblazer and Suicide Squad: Blaze for those who may not have picked up Suicide Squad: Blaze yet?
Aaron Campbell: It’s a lot different. First, it’s a big team book it’s obviously set in America, it’s bombastic, it has all the hallmarks of Si’s writing of course. It’s got the wit and humor. It’s got the emotional gravitas. It’s got the bombastic off-the-wall action and weirdness, which draws me so much to Si’s work and makes it such a joy to draw his words. <laugh>
Si Spurrier: Aaron’s a hundred percent, right. The thing that makes them similar is that it’s about voice. It’s about getting inside the head of somebody who was very flawed, somebody who’s imperfect and coming from Hellblazer, which I know we don’t need to say anything about, because it’s all been said, and everybody knows it was the dream gig for both of us. Shifting from that into something that was ostensibly going to be more commercial, more sort of mainstream. I couldn’t have taken the incredible work Aaron did, and just tried to bolt it into some dreary decompressed superhero bedlam. It felt like it would be a disservice to both of us if we didn’t try to infest a story that is at its core, a superhero story with some of what made us both love Hellblazer, which is the voice, the cynicism, the deconstruction, but yeah, there’s naturally going be a whole second tier to it. There’s gonna be an awful lot more action.
There’s gonna be an awful lot more characters running around on the page. These are all challenges to both of us. I think we both sort of come from places where our instinct is to lean into atmosphere and horror and shadow, and to therefore try to be doing this thing where there’s a team of people in bright clothes running around doing superhero stuff. That’s a real challenge to us. The way we’ve approached it is to sort of tear up that rule book a little bit, or at least to wipe our asses on some of the pages. <laugh>
Just to sort of, I think what drew us both to this idea is that you can, if you put yourself in the head of an ordinary person, living in a world where there are superheroes flying around, it’s not that big of a leap to treat the whole sub-genre of superheroes as if it were a horror, because it would be genuinely frightening to have these unmoderated uncontrolled people with often extremely infantile moral codes racing around punching holes in the planet and deciding who gets to live and die.
Without getting into recent events, we’re all extremely sensitive today to what people are able to do without proper moderation in their lives. And yet we’re all desperately in love with this weird little subgenre in which that’s the core principle. If you are nice enough, you get to decide who’s head to punch off and who’s head not to punch off. And we all celebrate that. It’s weird. And it would be extremely horrifying if we lived in that world.
AIPT: The second issue, in particular, a lot of death happens to the idols, so to speak of DC Comic, I mean, in a story where Superman can die, is there any hope at all? <laugh>
AC: Our story isn’t about offering hope, to anyone. The third issue definitely sees that out.
AIPT: There are a lot of heroes dying in the second issue. Is it freeing at all? Both of you, writing and drawing superheroes for so long now, to just murder them?
AC: It’s a joy.
SS: It’s wonderful. It’s what they deserve.
SS: I mean the funny thing is, there’s a ratcheting of stakes thing going on here. We first came to the idea that sort of the core principle was everybody’s been reading Suicide Squad for so long the sense that these core characters are truly in any peril has long since left the building. All these big characters who we are used to as part of the Squad, they’re not really gonna die. So decision one was to introduce a bunch of characters for whom those stakes were very much built in. New characters, which is why our whole conceit is that the core Suicide Squad characters that readers are familiar with are now in a mentor role, looking after a bunch of rookies who are doomed to die, they are told that they can accept this devil’s deal, where they gain incredible power, but it’s gonna kill ’em after a set number of months.
So that sort of made sense in that we were making our readers fall in love with these characters, but knowing that there was a ticking clock, knowing that they were in true peril, that that’s all just sensible narrative stakes creation. And then that being the case, we were like, “well, it is a Black Label book. So it would be kind of fun if not only that, but we then revealed nobody is safe in this world. Even the Justice League, these untouchable icons of American comics, they’re all just as likely to perish in this book as anybody else. So it was quite freeing that whole process of sort of starting from a very pure notion of how do we make our readers care about these characters? How do we make them feel scared for these characters, but then to take it a couple of steps further and say, now we can start killing people. You already recognize who you’d never expect us to kill. And, and we just sort of keep going with that right up to the end of issue three.
In fact, somebody that everybody assumes is dead isn’t dead and makes a genuinely wonderful, extremely funny comeback halfway through episode three only to be unceremonious re murdered.
AIPT: FOC is Sunday, June 5 — what should readers expect in the next chapter?
SS: What was your favorite page, Aaron? That’s what I want to know.
AC: My favorite page is that return, that hilarious return. I mean, the psychedelia gets ramped up, you know, to 11, the turmoil gets ramped up to 11, everything. I mean, it’s absolute Bedlam. <laugh> by the end.
SS: We take a trip to Hawaii. King Shark finally gets to place that call to his mom. And in fact gets to have a very touching reunion with his mom, which does not go very well for anybody. And then as Aaron says, it just gets darker and stranger and more psychedelic. And we sort of enter that realm of godlike reality. To people who don’t know, one of the conceits is that the special virus which has infected these rookies, which gives them their powers and which will kill them. It’s actually one thing, one entity, which has been split into multiple bodies so each time somebody dies or gets burned out. The other ones power up a little bit.
It’s like the dose is getting stronger each time. So by the time, we are down to just the last three and then the last two, and then eventually the last one, things are getting proper universe twisting and strange and fiery and incredible. All the twisted emotional core, especially the stuff that happened at the end of issue two becomes totally synonymous with the reality of what’s happening because we’re entering this world of pure mind and pure power where the heart and the soul and the mind, and the reality are all the same thing. So it gets proper trippy, but in a way that I think feels quite honest and recognizable to superhero readers. That’s my hope anyway.
AIPT: With issue two on Iceland then you just mentioned issue three is on Hawaii. What’s the deal with islands?
SS: That’s a good question. Iceland, uh, there is in fact a really good reason that Iceland is picked. Secondly, as, as a separate issue, I had just been doing a bunch of research into Iceland for some other reason. But to give you a little teaser tidbit, Iceland is one of, if not the highest rating nation in the world, when you look at the satisfaction level of its residents, and its population. It’s usually in the top two or three, some years, it’s the number one place. The people who live there are genuinely happy people. Without going too far into spoiler territory, that’s the reason that the killer chose to make his nest.
AIPT: Drawn to happiness.
SS: Or something like it.
AIPT: Aaron, what was your favorite thing drawing in those first two issues?
AC: The sequence where we kill or, turn Superman into a vegetable.
AIPT: That was disturbed.
AC: It was definitely my favorite moment. That was mainly because that was the one moment in the entire run that I painted. I actually painted traditionally. That four or five pages. I mean, they’re fully painted pages. Jordie [Bellaire] obviously went in and added some flourishes and added some color correction, but for the most part like that original, like those are painted pages and I absolutely love doing it.
AIPT: You’re clearly working on all cylinders right now. Might you work with each other again soon?
AC: We will.
AIPT: Is that a guarantee?
AC: I’m not sure we can really say at this point.
SS: There are things in the works is probably what we’re allowed to say.
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