Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis are back together at DC — this time on Larfleeze, a new ongoing series set in deep space that launches in June.
The legendary co-writing team are best known for their Justice League International run in the '80s and '90s. In the past, DeMatteis has written the dialogue over Giffen's plots, and the creators have confirmed that Larfleeze will follow the same general pattern. But this time, Giffen will take that one step further by also handling breakdowns for the art as he plots. The interior art will be drawn by Scott Kolins, who also handles art in the Larfleeze back-up stories currently running in Threshold.
Giffen and DeMatteis have been hailed in the past for being "anti-grim-and-gritty," with action-packed yet heart-warming, humorous stories that were labeled by fans as "bwa-ha-ha." This time around, the focus in Larfleeze will still be on "fun," but the creators said they plan to feature serious threats and cosmic adventures — "with ample helpings of humor."
Larfleeze is the only current comic Giffen and DeMatteis are working on together, however both creators are involved in other DC projects. DeMatteis is co-writing Phantom Stranger, providing dialogue over the plots by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. Giffen is writing another cosmic book, Threshold, and the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic, which was just made into an ongoing.
However, Giffen is leaving one of his other DC projects: the penciling on Legion of Super-Heroes. As solicitations have revealed, his run on Legion with writer Paul Levitz was short-lived, only lasting an issue or two.
Newsarama talked to Giffen and DeMatteis about the new Larfleeze ongoing series, finding out more about Giffen's break-downs, the series' link to other Green Lantern comics, and whether this project influenced Giffen's departure from Legion.
Newsarama: Keith, this didn't take long! You just started writing Larfleeze in a few back-up stories.
Keith Giffen: He gets 10 pages in the back of Threshold and boom!, he launches his own book.
Nrama: Keith, you're taking a little different approach to the book than you are Threshold. How would you describe the way you guys are writing it?
Giffen: I'm doing something I haven't done in awhile. I'm going to plot and break it down like it did 52. So I'll be working with Scott Kolins on that end, and then on the other side of creating the comics, I'll be working with J.M. DeMatteis on dialogue again.
Larfleeze has that weird kind of sense of humor. And really, DeMatteis is the only guy I would trust with that.
J.M. DeMatteis: I think the longer we work together, the more we trust each other. Our collaboration is very free, very open. Keith, one of the single most creative humans I've ever known, crafts the amazing plots, but I know I can twist them, and the characters, into all manner of strange shapes via the dialogue and then Keith will build on what I do as the story grows.
As I've said before, it's like a game of tennis. We keep lobbing the story back and forth till it becomes something neither one of us could have done alone.
Nrama: When Keith asked you to help out with the comic, what attracted you to the project?
DeMatteis: Two things: the chance to work with Keith again and the chance to tell stories of massive, cosmic scope.
Keith and I have been talking for years about wanting to do a cosmic adventure project. We both love classic, mind-bending Kirbyesque adventure — and this is our chance to indulge that love. Done in patented Giffen-DeMatteis style, of course.
Nrama: Does that mean it's a humorous book?
Giffen: I wouldn't put that label on it. But the book, because of Larfleeze's M.O. and who he is, has an odd sense of humor about it. He's the living embodiment of greed and avarice.
And as we know from Uncle Scrooge, greed can be kind of funny.
But it's going to have a serious side to it. What he does is going to have consequence. His encounters with these villains and what they stand for will have consequences. If they accomplish their goals, it's not going to be vaudeville and bwa-ha-ha. But it will have a sense of humor.
DeMatteis: Larfleeze isn't a comedy book: it's a cosmic adventure with ample helpings of humor.
Nrama: Is there a team involved, or is it a solo book for the character?
Giffen: It's a solo book. The only characters I plan on taking from the DCU are Larfleeze and his beset-upon butler, Stargrave.
Nrama: How would you describe Larfleeze as a character?
DeMatteis: I'm just beginning to immerse myself in All Things Larfleeze...but he strikes me as being a distant — and extremely twisted — relative of our old JLI character G'nort. Part of the Green Lantern universe, for sure, but weirdly unique. Extremely idiosyncratic. A character we can milk for humor in our patented obnoxious style...but also for Big Cosmic Drama, as well.
Nrama: Is there a big, overall goal for what you're hoping to do with the Larfleeze book?
DeMatteis: Really, our primary goal is to have fun. That's always the bottom line when I'm working with Keith.
Giffen: Larfleeze is a chance to do a fun comic book, surrounding him with new characters, new villains, new ideas, new sections of the galaxy. New, new, new, new, new, new, new.
I guarantee six major, new, cosmic villains in the first 12 issues, as well as alien worlds and all kinds of craziness with Larfleeze.
And fun. No deep thoughts, no misdirection or trickery. You just come in, there's Larfleeze and look! He's having an adventure, with a bunch of exciting new characters and concepts. At the end of the book, you say, "Yeah, I had a good time reading that book."
DeMatteis: If it's not fun, we shouldn't be doing it.
These are comic books!
Nrama: Keith, what happens with the back-ups in Threshold? Is Larfleeze no longer starring in those?
Giffen: His back-up story will end issue #5. And we'll go into his monthly book directly from there.
That doesn't mean you have to read Threshold to read Larfleeze. The first issue of Larfleeze will start like a #1 should. You don't have to have any prior knowledge of the character to get hooked.
Nrama: Will there be any tie-in to the Green Lantern universe at all?
Giffen: No, we're not even going to try, at least not for awhile. I want the character to stand on his own. So in this story, it's Larfleeze out in a new section of the galaxy.
That said, he is the Orange Lantern, and so there's history, there's a connection. It's nice to have a fully integrated universe where Batman can meet Superman, and Blue Beetle can wind up in Threshold. So maybe somewhere down the line, maybe after the first year, or whenever DC decides, another DC character will show up.
Until then, we'll be trying to tell an interesting enough story with an interesting enough character that it doesn't have to be propped up with another character. The Green Lanterns have their own books. And they're good books. So if you want to read about them, go read those books. But if you want to read about Larfleeze, then we're over here.
Nrama: Does it tie into Threshold, since you're dealing with space in that series?
Giffen: Nope. It's just Larfleeze, his butler, and a lot of new stuff. We'll be introducing a supporting cast of new characters and new villains and new concepts.
Look, I'm going to move him so far from anything -- the literal edge of the known universe -- and start the adventure there. That way, we've got to world build. We have to fill in the gaps as we go along. But that also gives us the freedom to tell an interesting story that doesn't get bogged down in everything else going on in the DCU.
Nrama: Keith, what's your motivation for doing the breakdowns for the comic?
Giffen: I just want to get back to the way I think I tell the story best. And Scott has no problem with that.
I'm not doing it because Scott can't tell a story. Scott's one of the few artists in the business, whom I've worked with, where I know I'll get my story told. He's got a great approach to the page, draws like nobody's business — and if you look at the detail he puts in his work sometimes, he's a maniac!
I really enjoy working with Scott. I'm glad he's going to be coming on board, onto the monthly book. And I can relax knowing that he's there drawing the book. If I do the breakdowns and he looks at the page and goes, "Oh, if I tweak this here...." No problem! Do it! I'm just doing the breakdowns as a way of telling the story.
And J.M. can dialogue it while he's penciling it.
Nrama: You're doing the He-Man ongoing, the Larfleeze ongoing, and Threshold. Is that busy schedule the reason you're backing away from Legion of Super-Heroes?
Giffen: Yeah, it was just an unfortunate series of circumstances, and right now I've got a pretty full docket. I've got my He-Man series coming along, with She-Ra coming into the fold, and I've got Larfleeze, and Threshold. And I've got one or two other things I'm not at liberty to talk about right now.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell people about the Larfleeze project?
DeMatteis: I hope that anyone who's enjoyed our work — on the various Justice League titles, Hero Squared, Metal Men, Defenders, Booster Gold — will give Larfleeze a chance. (Wasn't that an old John Lennon song? "Give Larfleeze A Chance?") As noted, our intention, first and foremost, is to have fun. I hope that sense of free-spirited cosmic play will be communicated to the readers.
Giffen: You'll see the same kind of humor you're seeing in the back-up special of Threshold, but these stories will be told on a much bigger canvas. It's going to be somewhat like Threshold, but with Larfleeze, I want to go much bigger, much more cosmic. I want a much bigger canvas and massive, major threats and villains. And our goal, like I said, is to make a comic book where you put down the comic and say, "That was a fun book!" One that you can recommend to your friends. That's what we want Larfleeze to be.