Take the twisted humor of Larfleeze, add in Keith Giffen, then give the writer all the other DC space-based characters to play with.
DC has mixed all those ingredients to come up with Threshold, a new ongoing series that will debut in January. Written by Keith Giffen, the new comic will star DC's sci-fi heroes and villains, combining them with new characters and concepts —along with the writer's special brand of humor.
The concept behind Threshold will be introduced in Giffen's Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1 in January, then will spin into the new title.
When it launches, Threshold will feature two stories: A main story drawn by Tom Raney titled "The Hunted," then a back-up feature titled "Larfleeze."
"The Hunted" will incorporate space-based characters like the Omega Men, Blue Beetle, Star Hawkins, and a new Green Lantern named Jediah Caul. "Larfleeze," the back-up drawn by Scott Kolins, will allow Giffen to play around with the title character, one of the most popular Lanterns introduced in recent years.
Readers may remember that just prior to signing an exclusive with DC, Giffen launched a successful space-based event at Marvel called Annihilation, which revamped their space characters and spawned more than one ongoing series. Among those new series was Guardians of the Galaxy, a franchise whose treatment by Giffen is now inspiring a live action film.
With Threshold, DC seems ready to turn their attention to the type of sci-fi stories that made Giffen so popular at Marvel. And while they do it, they're also returning Giffen to the concepts he created in the Blue Beetle franchise.
Giffen is also currently working on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a title he took over with issue #2 after the series launched this past summer. And although he's recently been known for his writing, he's also returned to penciling over the last couple years, last year drawing the newly launched O.M.A.C. comic. Although O.M.A.C. is now canceled, Giffen has hinted to Newsarama that he'll be drawing something else for DC soon, although the project hasn't been announced.
Newsarama talked with Giffen to find out more about Threshold and found out there's plenty of "rethinking" going on in the writer's new series.
Newsarama: Keith, you created a very successful sci-fi event for Marvel with Annihilation, which spawned some ongoing series and subsequent events. Is that your hope for this series? Are you approaching it the same way?
Keith Giffen: I'm approaching it with the same mindset that I approached Annihilation, in that I'm saying, "Look at the all these great characters out there, and nobody's doing anything interesting with them. Let's see how much we can shake things up and have fun with this."
Of course, instead of doing it with Marvel's space characters, now I've got the fantastic DC characters to work with, like the Omega Men, Star Hawkins, Blue Beetle, Space Ranger, the original Starfire and a whole lot more great characters to mess around with.
And people can look for appearances by almost any DC science fiction character.
Nrama: It's spinning out of Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1. How does it relate to the Green Lantern mythos?
Giffen: Our main character is a Green Lantern. Jediah Caul was a deep undercover Green Lantern operating out of the Tenedrian Dominion, until he got exposed. His back-story is told in the New Guardians Annual.
And I'll tell you right now, as Green Lanterns go, Jediah Caul makes Guy Gardner look like a really nice guy, an upstanding citizen.
So yeah, these characters and concepts will bump up against the New Guardians characters in the Annual. So it's a New Guardians story, but it will introduce readers to this concept. And then it spins out of the Annual and the last issue of Blue Beetle. We're trying to make Threshold a success and get as many eyes on this new ongoing series as possible.
Nrama: I've been told the book has a co-feature. What does that focus upon?
Giffen: The book's 30 pages long. The lead feature will be called "The Hunted" and is 20 pages. But the other 10 pages are going to focus on Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern. Geoff Johns was more than happy to see Larfleeze get some solo adventures. And we've got Scott Kolins on the art, which has been terrific.
Nrama: You're well known for your humor, Keith, and with a character like Larfleeze...
Giffen: Yeah, there's always going to be humor in everything I do, but with Larfleeze, he's just such an outrageous character that you can do a lot with him. His first adventure is going to be dark humor, because he is, of course, greedy and self-centered and mean. So if you find that funny, then you're going to find this story hilarious.
Nrama: But Keith, will there also be humor in the lead feature, "The Hunted?" Is it like Guardians of the Galaxy? You're the writer behind that group, aren't you?
Giffen: Yep. I'm the one who put Rocket Raccoon and that group together. The Guardians of the Galaxy movie they're making? That's the team I put together. But Threshold is not Annihilation or Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a different animal.
However, this book does have a healthy sense of humor. Much of my own sensibility is going to come through. But it's a sense of humor that grows organically. Don't expect, like, Ambush Bug, which is meant to be a funny book. Lobo was a funny book, because to a certain extent, it went for the gag. But Threshold is going to be based more on story. But there will be plenty of funny stories and odd things happening.
So yes, humor will be part of "The Hunted" as well.
Plus we've got Tom Raney on the art for "The Hunted." So it'll look great too.
Nrama: OK, where does "The Hunted" take place? Out in DCU space somewhere?
Giffen: We're setting it in a brand new section of the cosmos called the Tenedrian Dominion, an area ruled by Lady Styx. And Lady Styx is not that insect thing from 52. We're completely rethinking her.
Nrama: Are all of these characters getting a Keith Giffen "rethinking?"
Giffen: There will be quite a bit of that going on. Like when I say we're using the original Starfire, we're not using her name, and we're changing her look a bit. We're just using that basic back-story she had and the environment that she might have come from.
Another example: We've got Star Hawkins and his "gal Friday" Ilda, except in our case, Star Hawkins is a little bit of a shadier kind of street informant, and Ilda has been programmed with his ex-wife's memories, and they hate one another.
My favorite so far is Space Cabbie as Travis Bickle [from Taxi Driver]. He's a crazed, paranoid street source for helping Hunted contestants stay clear, but he's a maniacal conspiracy nut like Travis Bickle.
There's a character in the second issue that I don't want to say anything about, because I'm hoping it will be a total surprise to people. I've already told DiDio, that's our breakaway character. And you'll be introduced to him in the second issue of Threshold.
Nrama: A brand new character?
Giffen: A brand new character with a familiar name.
Nrama: How is the story in Threshold related to Blue Beetle?
Giffen: Lady Styx has been involved in wars and conquests, and the two wars we know of are both stalled. Way back in the days when the Guardians had the Manhunters, the Guardians and Lady Styx signed a mutual non-aggression pact because they realized, if we go to war, we'll destroy one another. So they've just been snarling at one another. The other front is a stalled front with The Reach, from Blue Beetle. Lady Styx's space bumps right up against The Reach's space, which means a lot of the Blue Beetle's mythos will be coming into Threshold as well.
But most of the story will surround the No. 1 form of entertainment in the Tenedrian Cosmos. In "The Hunted," our main Green Lantern character is dropped into a game that is NFL popular throughout this entire star system. Basically, you are released and given a grace period to do what you can. And then anyone that wants to hunt you by any means possible can. It's like being dropped into the middle of Central Park and being told, in 24 hours, anybody in New York that wants to hunt you can.
And the winner gets the bounty.
Nrama: Is it a punishment or something?
Giffen: It's a punishment the way being in jail in Cuba is a punishment. So most people who are dropped into the game are people Lady Styx pretty much wants to get rid of. Dissidents, problem-makers, people who are too good, and people who she just doesn't like.
Just like the NFL, in this section of the galaxy, they'll be wearing T-shirts that root for one of the hunters or the hunted. They have fans, they have a following, and they even have "hunt clubs" of people who go out and hunt for these contestants. And some of them are extraordinarily popular.
I'm treating it as if it were an entertainment that is NFL popular all the time. It's part of their culture. And the money they make out of merchandising and exploiting everyone who's dropped into the game and everything that's involved in the game goes a long way toward funding Lady Styx's wars and conquests.
I know a lot of people will look at "The Hunted" and say, "Oh, you're just doing a science fiction version of The Hunger Games." But I'm going even farther. I'm doing a science fiction version of Battle Royale and giving everyone a gun. That's the basic structure of "The Hunted."
It's about the people who are being hunted, the people who are hunting them, and one man's grand idea to use this so-called entertainment, the horrible gladiatorial show, as a reverse propaganda vehicle.
Nrama: It sounds like you're pretty excited about this book. What is it about the chance to write Threshold that excites you the most?
Giffen: The world-building. The chance to do something new. I just want to make sure we're hitting with all cylinders. I'm even making lists of possible signs that can go in the background, and what the culture is like. I told Tom Raney and Scott Kolins, let's get past this faux Buck Rogers, quasi-manga science fiction world that has been so prominent in science fiction comics for years. No more of that spandex look. Let's try something new. What do these people wear? How would it look? How can it be somewhat consistent? We've been given this whole section of the galaxy here, so let's try something new, something edgier, something with meaning behind it.
We're going to get to have a lot of fun out there with these characters, because we're basically working in a section of the cosmos that I've carved out and said, "OK guys. This is mine."