Exclusive Interview with Greg Rucka!
During Oz Comic-Con we were fortunate enough to chat with comic legend Greg Rucka. With many, many iconic titles and a plethora of awards under his belt Rucka is one of the most acclaimed comic writers working today. Enjoy the audio or skip down for the transcript!
G-Funk: This is the House of Geekery at Oz Comic-Con Perth, and we are here with Greg Rucka…hello sir!
Greg Rucka: Hello.
GF: Can you fill in our readers and listeners on what you’re best known for?
GR: I…don’t know what I’m best known for, it depends on who you ask! I have been writing comics consistently since 1998. I started with ‘White Out’, which was co-created with Steve Lieber and published by Oni Press. I was part of the the ‘No Man’s Land’ event at DC comics, with Batman, which brought us into this bright new millennium of horrible, horrible darkness. I wrote ‘Detective Comics’ for several years, I’ve written ‘Superman’, I’ve written ‘Wonder Woman’, I’m currently writing the the ‘Wonder Woman’ series at DC under the ‘Rebirth’ banner. I am known for the creator owned series ‘Lazarus’, published by Image comics, created by Michael Lark and myself. I am known for the Image series ‘Black Magick’, co-created with Nicola Scott, and most recently ‘The Old Guard’ from Image comics with the story of immortal soldiers who get into all sorts of whacky trouble.
GF: So a few things…
GR: I wrote novels. I’ve written some twenty-six odd novels including some work for hire ones. Most recently what is called in the United States a ‘middle reader’…
GF: That would be ‘young adult’?
GR: Yeah, that would be young adult. It’s called ‘The Guardians of the Whills’. It’s about Baze and Chirrut from Rogue One.
GF: So you don’t sleep, you just write 24 hours a day, essentially.
GR: I’ve been doing it a while, so there’s a backlog of material at this point.
GF: I’ve got a few questions about your recent ‘Wonder Woman’ stuff, but missing from your rundown was ‘Gotham Central’.
GR: That’s not an intentional omission, it’s just one of the many things I’ve done.
GF: ‘Gotham Central’ feels like it got cancelled very abruptly…
GR: It didn’t, actually, it didn’t get cancelled. It ended. But I’m interrupting, go ahead.
GF: For those who are unaware: it was a look into the microcosm of the police force in Gotham. Less superhero antics, more procedural.
GR: The series was built on two premises. As with every superhero you have to take certain truths. The great, great Batman editor Denny O’Neil used to say “we don’t ask why the Batmobile doesn’t get stuck in traffic. There’s certain questions you don’t ask, there are certain truths you accept.
GF: Now you said it: why doesn’t the Batmobile get stuck in traffic?!
GR: Because it doesn’t. Gotham City is always going to have a corrupt police force and is always going to be rampant with crime. It has to otherwise you’re not going to have a Batman story. ‘Gotham Central’ was a series that asked the fundamental question: what is it like trying to be a good cop in Gotham City? That’s what ‘Gotham Central’ was. It was told from the point of view of a handful of detectives who worked in the quote-unquote Major Crimes Unit. Major Crimes covered ‘major crimes’ but also anything superhero related.
GF: So if someone saw Catwoman breaking out of their house…
GR: Exactly, and one of the gags that comes up in the course of the story that they are apparently some detectives down in in Robbery who can’t get something solved, so they’ve leaned on an informant to say that Catwoman did it. So this guy can pass the crime up to Major Crimes. “Oh, this guy said Catwoman did it, so you’re going to have to go after Catwoman”.
GF: And Crispus Allen flips out on him! I really like that panel.
GR: Yeah! And then says that he’s going to close it anyway, which is what’s great about Cris. You’re going to drop this on me? Well I’m going to solve it. Because I’m a better police than you.
GF: Crispus Allen was one of the really, really strong characters in a book of really strong characters. Renee Montoya got a new lease on life in that series.
GR: I think ‘Gotham Central’ is probably as responsible for defining Renee in what she became in the late first decade…and I wrote the Renee stories, and I wrote the Cris stories. The series was co-written with Ed Brubaker for the majority of it and it was drawn by Michael Lark for the majority of it. Around three years of all of us working together…Ed and Michael both ended up going over to Marvel. DC said they’d keep doing the book for as long as I want to do it, but I think once Michael left, in particular…it was a series that when Ed departed I was going to look around to see who I could get to co-write with me. One of the things about ‘Gotham Central’ is that Ed and I alternated, sometimes we would write together. The when Michael left it didn’t really feel to me like that was…I had always known how I wanted to end Renee’s story…
GF: With a question mark? Because she became The Question! (I’m funny, shut up.)
GR: THAT was not the plan. That came up as a result of ‘Gotham Central’ ending and, again, another project came up – me being part of The New 52. When he approached The New 52 we were looking at it thematically. Characters were chosen to follow certain thematic stories. One of the things we wanted to talk about was death in the DCU, and how for some people it’s a revolving door and for others it’s not.
GF: If you’re too human, you stay dead.
GF: Except for Jason Todd. What was the saying, the three people who stay dead were Uncle Ben and Jason Todd and…and…
GR: And Bucky.
GF: And Bucky. And they all came back, except Uncle Ben.
GR: There are no absolutes.
GF: Moving on to what you’re doing now – you’re working on ‘Wonder Woman’ with Nicola Scott…
GR: Actually Nicola is no longer on it. She did six issues, she did the ‘Year One’ story. This is part of Rebirth, a lot of the Rebirth titles were shipping twice a month.
GF: It was going back and forth, wasn’t it?
GR: Yeah. One of the solutions…because asking an artist to do forty pages of comic books a month is going to kill them. So my attempt to allow the two artists I was going to be working with all the agency that they could have on their stories. Because that’s the other thing, when you are rotating artists…you can have the same writer but when you are changing artists you’re putting the artist in a position where it isn’t theirs, they don’t have that sense of ownership. It may not ultimately be a make or break point, but that sense of ownership is very important to the quality of work they’re doing. I made the decision very early on: how do we make this work so that Liam Sharp, the lead artist on ‘Wonder Woman’ has his books and the way to do that was to split the books. So Nicola did six issues that was essentially our pipe-dream of doing this ‘Wonder Woman: Year One’ and Liam was responsible for the main storyline over the course of this year that seeks to address a lot of the inconsistencies with the character. Right now Bilquis Everly has come on as the second artist and is again dealing with the history stuff.
GF: We’ve spoken to Nicola a number of times, being local (as local as you can get in Australia)…
GR: Being Australian, basically.
GF: Yeah, she’s on the other side but we see her occasionally. We asked her what her dream job was and she said “drawing Greg Rucka’s ‘Wonder Woman”. What is Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman, what’s your unique take on the character?
GR: My unique take on the character is go read ‘Wonder Woman Year One’. I’m not going to answer that (laughs)! My unique take on the character isn’t something that can be distilled. Every writer has a unique take on the character. Nicola and I very much in line about how we see Diana, so are Liam and I. For Nicola and I, and we’ve known one another for a while, doing ‘Wonder Woman’ is something we’ve always wanted to do together. I lot of our sensibilities are shared. Our vision about what the Themyscira are shared. Our visions of Diana’s power set are shared, although we do diverge in certain places.
GF: Oh yeah?
GR: Yeah. She thinks she’s bullet proof, I just proved she isn’t.
GF: It’s just the bracers, right?
GR: Yeah, I think that if she’s bullet proof she doesn’t need to do that (mimics Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her bracers).
GF: But it looks cool!
GR: It does look cool, but if you’re a trained warrior why would you go for cool over efficient? If I was going to save your life, why would I risk missing the bullet with this rather than put myself in front of it?
GF: I got no argument against that.
GR: So is she always bullet proof? I should rephrase: is she always susceptible to bullets? No. But if you get her by surprise you can hit her with a bullet. Is it going to kill her? Probably not.
GF: She has to tense up first. So we have Wonder Woman coming to the big screen, a very long time coming…have you seen Dawn of Justice?
GR: I have not.
GF: You have not? I was going to ask what you thought of Gal Gadot’s take…
GR: I’ve seen enough of Wonder Woman to tell you exactly what I thought of Gal Gadot’s portray, which I think is marvellous. But I’m lucky right now, I’ve seen some of the film, some of the Wonder Woman film.
GF: How’s it shaping up?
GR: I think it’s marvellous.
GF: Great, because we are really hoping to enjoy this one.
GR: I think it’s marvellous, I think Gadot is wonderful in it, I think Jenkins (Patty Jenkins, director), I think the chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine (as Steve Trevor) is great. They make choses they have to make to make a feature film, it’s not going to be the same origin, it can’t be. There are things that are unfilmable in the origin, you would not be able to do it in a two hour movie. But I was delighted, I’m looking forward to the final cut.
GF: That’s the first we’ve heard from anyone who’s seen any part of it. That’s good, that’s lifting my spirits, because so far…
GR: Oh, I think there’s been something of an international pastime to bash Warner Bros./DC movies. NOT without merit. There has been reason for the affirmation. But I think a lot of people were jumping on a bandwagon and saying it’s in trouble, they’re doing reshoots, it’s horrible…what I saw…I will be there opening night and I will see it again.
GF: Here’s hoping we all enjoy it and Wonder Woman gets her due. So: about ‘Black Magick’. ‘Black Magick’ is Paganism and police procedural work?
GR: ‘Black Magick’ is the story of a police detective in the fictional city of Portsmith…
GF: Wait, Portsmith isn’t real?
GR: This Portsmith isn’t. This Portsmith is somewhere in the Pacific Northwest of America. It’s basically a magical version of Portland, basically a version of my home town. Rowan is the latest inheritor in a long tradition of witchcraft. It’s a story about the weight of her past, it’s a story about balancing the spiritual with the material and it’s a story about love and destiny and human frailty. You know: easy.
GF: It wasn’t complicated at all. And it is really good.
GR: Well, it benefits from some outstanding art work.
GF: Yes, from Nicola Scott. Her take on the magic and how it manifested was really impressive. That’s a five issue mini-series…
GR: It’s hard to describe. It is an ongoing series that will run between 33 and 36 issues overall. Nicola and I had reached the halfway point in the first large arc when the ‘Wonder Woman’ job came along, and that was the appropiate time to put that book on hiatus. So we put ‘Black Magick’ on pause to go do ‘Wonder Woman: Year One’, now that Nicola’s finished with the ‘Wonder Woman’ work she’s back to work on ‘Black Magick’. Issue 6 with be out this June, we skip July because the June issue is a stand alone to bring things together, and then beginning with issue 7 in August we’ll be 7 through 11 which will take us through the first big arc, then we’ll be off for about 2 or 3 months and then we’ll be back with the rest.
GF: I’m going to look forward to that. Now I have two questions to wrap up: as a comic creator do you have a dream project you haven’t had the chance to work on yet?
GR: Oh God, you know you’re talking to guy who…I’ve been remarkably fortunate. I have at one point or another I’ve put words into the mouth of almost every pop culture icon in comics. And now I’ve done it with Star Wars! I wrote stuff that Han Solo said! There’s not a whole lot more after that. I am thoroughly enjoying the stage at my career that I’m at where I get to do creator owned work that I find very fulfilling, that I have complete ownership of, and an almost dilettante delight at occasionally getting invited to play with someone else’s toys. If there’s any one thing…I’ll tell you what I really want to do: a really good Luke Skywalker story. I was to do a really good Luke Skywalker story set after Jedi but not to deep into that 30 year gap before The Force Awakens.
GF: I’m not a huge Star Wars person but that’s story I’d be into.
GR: That’s my religion.
GF: Star Wars, Empire, Jedi…that was my childhood but since then I haven’t been to into it.
GR: I can understand that.
GF: I found that they got a bit…cheap.
GR: It’s interesting – I had a conversation with a friend…and I understand people who hate the prequels. I get them. I do. My son was 3 when they came out. So the prequel movies, I view with his eyes. I don’t view them with the eyes of the guy who saw Star Wars in the theatre in ’77. And who then says “YOU RUINED MY CHILDHOOD, GEORGE LUCAS WAAAAH”. I look at the prequels and go “you know what: there’s a lot of flaws. But two out the three movies are better than people give them credit for”.
GF: I will respectfully disagree, I didn’t get into them.
GR: Yeah, well…THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER! (laughs)
GF: I like what they’re doing right now.
GR: Yeah, The Force Awakens was lovely.
GF: And Rogue One. I liked Rogue One.
GR: Rogue One was not without it’s flaws. Some very significant flaws that people who were very quick to point out the flaws in the prequels were happy to overlook in Rogue One!
GF: It’s funny that!
Jules the Awesome Photographer/Interrogator: You just hate on the Skywalkers!
GF: What, the Skywalkers?
Jules: You just hate the family.
GF: I like Luke. Leia’s cool. Leia’s very cool. Got to meet Carrie Fisher a few years back, she was awesome. I like The Force Awakens, I like the originals, I just don’t go nuts about it. (To Greg) She’s been at me all day about this. (To Jules) And what Greg was saying about three year old eyes, this is what I’ve been saying about Teen Titans Go! I watch it with my little kids!
GR: And I hear Teen Titans Go! is terrific. Haven’t watched it.
GF: If you’re a four year old, it’s great.
GR: We come to everything with our biases and our prejudices and our expectations. It takes a hell of an effort to set those things down.
GF: For my four year daughter old Teen Titans Go! has been her entry point into the DC world.
GR: There you go. Now keep feeding it to her and eventually she’s going to be here!
GF: Oh, she’s been here. Was coming today but will come tomorrow. Now, my final question.
GR: Yes! The final question!
GF: You’re very well known for your ‘Wonder Woman’ and your ‘Batman’ work…is there a piece of work you would like to have more attention on.
GR: I would like to see Lazarus get more attention. I think that’s because Lazarus is, to me, very important…oh, that’s always dangerous. Scratch that, it’s not important at all. (Long pause) You know…if I’m brutally honest that’s a very hard thing to answer.
GF: I have made the professional writer speechless.
GR: You know, I do ‘Stumptown’ at Oni? Oni is a small publisher, I would like that one to get more attention because I would like to see Oni get more attention across the board instead of every going “didn’t they do Scott Pilgrim?” Yeah, and a lot of other things.
GF: I was not going to say that (obvious lie).
GR: They’re going to have ‘The Coldest City’ – which is now going to be…people are going to ask how this is related to Atomic Blonde. Well, Atomic Blonde was based off it. Antony Johnston wrote the graphic novel they based the movie off of. So…my own work? I’m old enough to know that the quality of the work has almost no bearing on its success. This is a sad truth I’ve had to come to realise. But I still like to believe that if the work is good people will find it.
GF: (Long pause) But ‘Lazarus’ I should read.
GR: You haven’t read ‘Lazarus’?
GF: No, but I feel like I should.
GR: Maybe you ought to pick it up then. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE NEXT TIME YOU SIT DOWN FOR AN INTERVIEW! I MEAN, REALLY?!?! I’m very fond of ‘Lazarus’, I think ‘Lazarus’ is really, really good. I think it’s some of the best work Michael Lark and I have ever done. I think it’s sadly apropos in the current political climate.
GF: I’ll check it out, I’ve had some amazing recommendations asking this question. Billy Boyd put me on to this little indie sci-fi he made called Space Milkshake. I thought he’d made up the title to mess with me but it turned out to be super fun and had George Takei as a rubber duck.
GR: Alright, now I want to check it out.
GF: You’ve seen Red Dwarf? It’s in that vein of comedy. Thanks for taking the time…quite a bit of time, that was a long interview!
GR: It was my pleasure. I’m an easy interview, as you can see it’s not hard to get me talking.
GF: Unless we ask you what work you want more attention on. Then zip.
GR: Then I’ll think about it before I answer.
GF: That’s reasonable. Thanks for talking with us, it’s been a real pleasure. I’ll bring in all my books to be signed tomorrow!
GR: Ok, cheers.