Day one of the NC Comicon in Durham, Robert Venditti held a panel to discuss his current work for DC Comics’ Hawkman. Venditti began with some comments about his own personal experience with the character. He explained that he didn’t grow up reading comics and his only real knowledge of the character was that Hawkman was confusing.
Venditti was approached by DC to pitch on the character. Venditti said that when he read up on the character the thing that struck him was Hawkman’s reincarnation from Prince Khufu of Egypt as first introduced in Flash Comics #1, January, 1940. He says that the idea of the character reincarnating over space as well as time came immediately, and became the central idea of his pitch. He likened it to Scott Bakula’s character in the Quantum Leap television show. Bakula jumped randomly through time, not linearly, Hawkman is doing the same with the added element of space.
Subsequent preparation led him to reading past versions of the character and he was drawn particularly to Tim Truman’s Hawkworld mini-series from 1989. Venditti went on to talk about how much he enjoyed doing Hawkman #4 which featured the Hawkworld version of Katar Hol, especially its resonance with the movie Blade Runner.
He also talked about how recent events with Hawkman in Hawkman Found and Metal affected his approach. Nth metal has been an amorphous thing and this as well as the problem of Hawkman’s confusing history appealed to him because he likes solving puzzles and Hawkman’s past seemed like a puzzle to decipher. When Bryan Hitch was assigned to the project as artist, Venditti reached out to him and found Hitch was immediately supportive of the space/time concept of Carter’s reincarnation ability. In turn Venditti spoke of Hitch’s collaboration on the series and said that he’s tried to give Hitch a different type of setting to illustrate in each issue, the Hawkworld environment of issue #4, the Microverse in #5 and #6 as well as Krypton in an upcoming issue. This led to the writer revealing that Superman was his favorite character, something that began as a child through the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
In addition to the space/time concept of reincarnation, Venditti has injected some Indiana Jones into Carter’s character. As an archaeologist, Carter Hall is himself an artifact of sorts that he has to research as well as the physical clues he’s left for himself that he has to uncover.
Venditti then teased the audience with a brief sales pitch for Hawkman #7 coming out in December. In it, he reveals Hawkman’s origin, including his first life and how he gained the power to reincarnate. Venditti then took some questions from the audience.
Coming back to the theme of Superman, he was able to share that he is most excited for the upcoming Krypton issue because of its relationship to Superman. He also answered a question that confirmed Carter Hall’s 1940’s history is still intact, but that he was not exploring it, rather just suggesting it as was seen in the first couple issue’s of the series when showing his time as Prince Khufu.
When asked about Hawkgirl/ Hawkwoman he commented that she’s currently in Justice League and she will eventually be addressed. They will each have some time independently before they are brought together. As the crowd pondered what may or may not have happened in Hawkman’s past lives, Venditti was unable to answer whether Hawkman had ever reincarnated into Hawkgirl/woman!
At the end of the panel Venditti had a special print for all attendees by Bryan Hitch. Venditti signed them all as he passed them out!
After the panel I was able to sit down with Mr. Venditti for a short interview with some questions about not only Hawkman, but also Green Lantern and his upcoming Freedom Fighters Series.
I first asked what has been his favorite DC character to write. He responded, stating that choosing one is too tough, but he followed it up pretty quickly with a spirited “Hawkman and Guy Gardner.” Having been on Green Lantern for over 80 issues, I asked if he was read to move on from Hal Jordan or if he felt he still had more stories to tell, or both? He said he was ready, but not that he was not tired or bored of the characters, just that he was ready for other opportunities. Reminding me of his comments in the panel about Superman, he noted he would love to write Superman.
After commenting on the strength of his character work in on Green Lantern to be one of the strongest aspects of his writing, I queried if that’s how he likes to approach storytelling. Does character dictate the story or does he know where he wants to end up and then find a way to get there?
He told me it’s some of both. He’s a big planner, but things develop organically and sometimes things change as you go. Adding, characters can surprise you even though you are writing them. You have to be open to change.
Along the same lines, I asked how he was able to top himself arc after arc in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and how far out he plans. From the beginning for a long tenure on a title, or figure it out as he goes along?
He explained that even though he plans in year long chunks, he does some figuring it as he goes. Once he finds out how a title is doing and gets an extension he is able to start planning the next big chunk of story.
I then dove into a question about his reworking of Hawkman’s origin and status quo and if he thought it would solidify the character’s place in the DCU. Venditti said he hoped it would stick, but that the next creative team is free to do their own approach, but he hopes the reincarnation through time and space is permanent.
This led to a question about his thoughts on why a character with such appeal is unable to maintain a long running series. He stated the usual continuity issues as a barrier, but also reasoned that it’s not uncommon for second tier characters.
I then switched to his upcoming Freedom Fighters series and asked what he finds most exciting about it. He responded that building the entire mythology, the world building- everything from scratch, heroes, villains- is an exceedingly rare opportunity.
I then inquired if he was a fan of the original Quality Comics characters. He replied with a resounding yes, stating specifically that he thought the idea of Uncle Sam as a superhero is a super-cool idea. He also mentioned Plastic Man and that he remembered him from when he was a kid indicating the Saturday morning cartoon.
Going deeper into the world of the Freedom Fighters and Earth-X, I asked about the history of the characters and the history of this Earth-X. He explained that the story opens in the ‘60’s and the goes to the present day. He won’t be delving into all the history or do stories that took place in the past.
I finished up with a lengthy question about the nature of this Earth-X. Knowing that you are drawing on the Master Men one-shot from Grant Morrison’s Multiversity series, is this Earth-X that exact Earth-X? The original Earth-X? The one from Convergence? Or is this totally new? And how does this affect your approach?
He confirmed that this is the Earth-X from Multiversity and that it did not change his approach. Morrison’s issue inspired a lot of ideas.
Thank you, Robert Venditti for a fun panel and interview! Everyone should check out these comics if you haven’t already!