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Hannibal Preproduction Begins

by Steve Johnson
webdate: 9/19/97

MANIA: Mr. Raspler described you -- he said that, "I have to talk to my partner" rather than my artist or my peon or my underling. So, how do you guys work together?
Dan Raspler: That's you Dev.
Dev Madan: No, Dan. That's for you.
Raspler: The way we work together is we'll talk about the stuff -- we'll have some fun with it, just babbling. It's pretty much my stories. Dev came up with the visuals for most of the characters. I started -- I initiated the series, but Dev really brought the characters to life. He's got such an amazing grasp on acting -- character gestural stuff -- that it really puts the words in their mouths a lot. Even though I work full script, I know their personalities a lot based on how Dev has rendered them.

So, in a sense, he's helping guide their direction, if not in fine, then in broad.
Raspler: Yes.
Madan: Usually Dan and I will have these conversations. Usually they're on Sundays. Sunday seems to be conversation day.
Raspler: Are they? I didn't notice that.
Madan: Sundays, usually in the afternoon or early evening, we'll sit down and just babble at each other for usually what amounts to a couple hours. Just talk about the characters and just bits and stuff like that. And that's kind of how it goes.

Am I correct in assuming that this is almost entirely a character-driven comic? You don't say, "Who should they fight this month?"
Raspler: For example, in issue #8, I think, Dev said, "I'm really psyched to do the Scarecrow." You know, the old Batman villain So, I was like -- Scarecrow -- all right. So I did the Scarecrow.

Do you consider that the characters come first and plot afterward? Not the plot -- but the external world's impact on them?
Madan: Oh, completely.
Raspler: Yes -- it's about the characters, although the DC Universe is very much a player in this book, if you know what I mean. It's very much a book about characters in the setting of the world where everyone loves superheroes.

Which is why Hard Drive is doing this all along? The world loves heroes. So, instead of forming a rock band, they form a superhero team.
Raspler: Right, exactly. You got it.
Madan: That's exactly it.

It looks like, at the end of issue #5, as though this group is going to go through some changes because that's where Bonfire is about to tell everybody what Hard Drive did. But, of course, that can't be the end of the series.
Raspler: Not necessarily the end...

But the end of this phase anyway.
Raspler: Right.

Well, it's just as well. Because if he was still manipulating them... I thought, actually, it would be kind of interesting to have him doing that for 5 years!
Raspler: It doesn't end quite the way it seems to end at the end of that. Although -- there are still some surprises. I don't stick specifically with the obvious. That's not my strength.
Madan: I think if anything about this series -- especially the way that Dan's been writing these stories -- everything is so subtle. That's probably the best way to put that.

It is kind of subtle. The giant mummies and their swords, those are the obvious things. Not a lot of gray area there. But even the mind control angle is handled subtly. The problem is that not a whole lot happens in any given issue. Unless you read the previous ones.
Raspler: Right. That's actually one of the things that I'm struggling with now is making it accessible to people who haven't read earlier issues. It's kind of tough.

How do the soap opera genre on television -- how do they do it? You don't want to do the sort of thing they did in the X-Men, where they have to mention in every issue that, "Wolverine has adamantium claws."
Raspler: There is some degree -- there is some angle -- "Well, Monstergirl, where should we eat? "

You have people mention them by name the first time.
Raspler: If you know what I mean, Steve.
Madan: Very well put comment there....

If I had the name 'Steve' on my shirt, we wouldn't have to do that. But one of the things about Young Heroes is that nobody has the whole picture. Even Hard Drive doesn't know all the stuff that's going on.
In a normal team book, you don't have anyone say, "Where's Iron Man?" because they're all moving around the maze in a big clump. In a soap opera, everyone goes off in their own direction, so... any one fact is known to only 2 or 3 people, instead of 8.

Raspler: It's very difficult to have that level of character interplay and secrets -- a soap opera is a lot about secrets. If you're all walking around in a group, you can't have anyone tell a secret to 8 people.

How do you plot a character driven book? I assume you plot it somewhat differently.
Raspler: I basically have a long line of character bits that I want to get done. I have a long line of over-arcing stories: the Hard Drive story; the Monstergirl story; the Bonfire, Frostbite, Thunderhead story. Those are all running concurrently. The Zip-Kid/Junior story. And I just move those up piece by piece. I also have gotten a sort of gratifying level of feedback about the conversation scenes where they kind of lounge around and talk about superheroes. So, that's something that we'll continue to do.

'Way more than you find in any other super hero book. Except maybe JLI, way back when.
Raspler: But even that was done almost as a parody. That was sort of done to mock the sort of stuff that heroes could talk about. These characters are affectionate and respectful of super heroes, with genuine appreciation for their world.

But they're still pretty much seeing the world of the established superheroes from the outside. Yes, they've got costumes. Yes, they've got powers. But they're still basically fans.
Raspler: They're a garage band.

Which is cool because we're all fans. Are they going to run into some of the more established regulars?
Raspler: They met Superman. They meet The Scarecrow. We can't meet lots of super heroes because then they would be players. And I don't want them to be players.

There are probably dozens of groups like this -- groups of superpowered friends hanging out that we never hear about because they don't save the world....
Raspler: What issues have you read?
1, 2, 5 -- and I think 3. We have them all, but somebody snagged 3.
Raspler: Were you able to follow what was going on?

Coming back in issue #5 after missing 2 issues? Absolutely.
Raspler: Good! Yay!

It wasn't like a soap opera where you come back 6 months later and it's the same. It's obvious that something is going on off-screen.
Now, maybe 3-4 years down the line...

Raspler: Your lips to God's ears -- three or four years down the line? I'm not thinking about it. I'm not expecting... well, who knows, what I'm expecting. It's just that, we're in a tough market. So I'm writing a year; I've got a year down. And I have plans for the second year -- a lot of really great stuff. But it's a tight market. People are into the book -- but who knows?

Well, it's a tight market, but you're not doing the same thing everybody else is doing.
Raspler: Right, so you'd think that retailers would be leaping at the chance to sell something like this and to talk to all their readers about it -- but they're not.

Really? Sounds to me like the retailer reaction at the cons was pretty favorable.
Raspler: You'd hope!
Madan: The way I saw it, it's a fanboy's nightmare. Super heroes with the word "Love" in the title --just, you know what I mean?
Raspler: It's a little intimidating, I guess.

But the Young Heroes in Love -- taking off from Young Doctors in Love -- you think, this is being played for fun and it is. But not as silly as JLI. You do have more fun with this than some comic book creators seem to ... more humor.
Madan: I'll tell you the truth. When I get the scripts, to be honest with you -- the dialogue is hilarious with the characters -- but to be honest with you, Dan's scripts are even funnier. The panel descriptions -- I'm sitting there penciling with a big goofy grin on my face. I'm not slaving away, Dan! I'm a happy guy!

So your initial sales figures are starting to come in, and you're not happy with them, is that it?
Raspler: No. It just that it continues to drop. I want the sales to up. And it continues incrementally creep south.

Well, there is that first issue phenomenon. There's lots of stuff out there. But you don't really look -- maybe it's just the covers. You look more like -- you almost have the Superman/Batman animated look. Is that deliberate?
Raspler: Yup!
Madan: It's evolving.

What will it look like when it's evolved?
Madan: Ask me when we get there! (Laughs) Basically, I'm getting a lot more comfortable with the characters myself. The personalities are starting to dictate a lot of that. Like how would this character stand... what would this person look like when they're saying that.

Are we going to see them out of costume?
Raspler: Issue #7 is Young Heroes Unplugged. And it's all...
Madan: It's like their day off. A day in the life.
Raspler: We say they take a week off.
Madan: And they all go off to their private lives.

I don't know anything about their private lives. I mean, we know Off-Ramp was kind of a creep before Hard Drive mentally altered him, but we only have Hard Drive's word for that. We know Hard Drive basically has no life...
Raspler: That's pretty cool that you picked all that up from those 3 issues that you read.

Did you plan to show us about the ultimate limits to their powers with the Genesis thing?
Raspler: I wanted to have Thunderhead's powers develop anyway. And Genesis was an opportunity to have it done easily. So I did it that way. It worked out well that way.

I was thinking of Monstergirl, who turns out to have not just 2 forms, but a whole bunch.
Raspler: We don't get to see her other forms until issue #8. And Issue #9, you get to see yet another form, which is actually pretty cool. I'm pretty psyched about that. We get to see what -- still waiting on Dev's design on that.

But in issue #5, we discover that Hard Drive can basically make her any shape he wants. Which implies that she's a real shape changer and not a werewolf-type creature. And has been misinformed... hmm.
So, with Hard Drive built in, and also Monstergirl, you sort of already have your own villains. Are you going to have any Young Heroes in Love villains? The way the Scarecrow's a Batman villain?

Raspler: We have Totenjaeger. He'll be back.

Raspler: The giant mummy.
Madan: In issue #9, we meet Ricky, right?
Raspler: Issue 10. The smartest boy in the world is established. Ricky Renquest. And he creates the beast, K'domo, who's the giant, underground, sort of, lizard-mole. Sort of -- mole, lizard, tentacles; kind of -- short, fat, giant, monster.

And the reason they keep fighting him is that nobody else believes that he exists?
Raspler: It's just that Ricky Renquist is going to be the -- hopefully people will pick up on this -- he's going to be THE smartest boy in the DC Universe.

So he'll be their 8-year-old Dr. Doom.
Raspler: Exactly.
Madan: There you go.

What's he want? Does he want to join the super heroes?
Raspler: No, no -- he's a bad guy.

He's just playing with them? Or... he wants to rule the world?
Raspler: He want to prove that humanity is not the last step in evolution.

That's pretty ambitious
Raspler: He's tired of people posing as superior. It makes him mad.

"The only way I can find somebody intelligent enough to talk to is to make one." Didn't Brainiac 5 ? Computo ate Metropolis?
Raspler: Right! Obviously going to be some kind of comparisons with Brainiac 5, but I'm not too worried about it.

So Young Heroes in Love are sort of in their own pocket of the DC Universe, in The City.
Raspler: Where ever that is.

Are you going to make up a name for the city?
Raspler: Well, we haven't...
Madan: The City in The State
Raspler: It might be Connecticut.
Madan: Down the road...
Raspler: There's definitely something that has to take place in Connecticut. but they might not be from Connecticut.

What's going to happen in Connecticut?
Raspler: Something big is going to happen in Connecticut.

Besides people work in New York live there? What is that has to happen in Connecticut?
Raspler: It's a secret.
(off record)
Raspler: We definitely have some cool plans in mind and cool stuff going on. Nothing too hairy. But we're pretty proud of what we got.

You've got basically the whole cast is introduced now.
Raspler: Yes. Pretty much. Although...
Madan: There are a couple left.
Raspler: Some characters will come. Some characters will go.
Madan: That also depends on, pretty much, upon a lot of feedback that we get. Because -- remember Dan? -- we were in Oakland for WonderCon, and #1 had come out. And just the way people reacted to certain characters really dictated a lot.
Raspler: Yes, we got some cool ideas from some people. It was pretty satisfying.
Madan: A lot of people came by the booth. They had read the first issue, and we got their feedback and stuff. So we actually got a chance to go in there and, "Well, wow. This reaction was, like, totally different that what we expected." So, we're going with a lot of that stuff.

And your probably starting to get letters by now.
Raspler: Oh yes. We've gotten lots of them.

What's the predominant trend on those? Who's the favorite character so far?
Raspler: That's one of the more satisfying things, is that everyone has a different favorite character. Everyone's into something different, which is really nice.

There are even Junior fans?
Raspler: Oh yes.
Madan: Yes, it's pretty cool. When I was in San Diego doing sketches for people, when they'd come up to the booth and stuff. Nobody had one particular favorite -- it was pretty cool. Everybody related to a different character, and we thought that was really neat.
Raspler: Yup. Very satisfying.

Now, do you guys have favorites? To write or to draw?
Madan: For me, to draw, I bounce around a lot. But I really enjoy drawing Off Ramp. Just 'cause he's got that really goofy chin. And then Hard Drive. I'm really into drawing Hard Drive. That big cheesy -- he's got that big goofy grin on his face. But I vary. Sometimes I totally get into drawing Monstergirl or Junior. But it really depends on what the script is calling for.

If you get tired of drawing Monstergirl, you can always draw her differently!
Madan: Shape-shifting. Yeah -- right. How about you, Dan?
Raspler: I like them all. I jump around a lot.

We may assume, therefore, they're going to be around awhile. You're not going to have somebody blown away in Issue #6?
Raspler: Nobody's going to get gunned down. But not everyone's necessarily going to stay around forever either.

I think it's a reader's book. I like to look at it too. But after sitting and reading it, it's like, "Oh! This random comment on page 7 illustrates something that happened 5 issues ago."
Raspler: That's kind of neat. I'm working on issue #10 right now. I'm actually really late on my deadline for the first time. I have them -- it takes place in the Amazon. And I was going to have a 2-page scene where they were walking around talking about cross-overs. You know, they were gong to be talking about Genesis -- Genesis was worked up because Thunderhead got a new power. And "Zero Hour was OK, but, I like invading..." They were just talking about it like that. Not quite talking about them as crossovers, but...

No, as media events.... because everyone knows about the Invasion. Everyone has heard about it at some point.
Raspler: But, you know, they were in the Amazon, so it just seemed kind of artificial to have them talking about that. So instead, I'm going to have them talking about gorillas in the DC Universe. Just this long conversation about gorillas. Which goes on and on and on. And talk about all the millions of gorillas in the DC Universe. While they're walking through the jungle. 'Cause there's lots of Gorillas.

In Africa.
Raspler: Well, so? Nobody's got to know about ecosystems.

In South America? What the heck, challenge their assumptions....
Raspler: And they wouldn't be surprised either. Other than that, I don't have a lot of crazy motivation to do stuff weird. You know -- I'm having fun with it. Being able to write 3 pages where they talk about gorillas. You know? I can't complain.

Raspler: Do you have any requests or suggestions or anything?
Well, Junior's love life seems horribly doomed. Give him a break. I assume you have something in mind for that?
Raspler: It's kind of built in. It's not a huge surprise.
Madan: He'll be getting an action figure.
Raspler: Somebody's going to give him a Barbie doll just piss him off. But, ultimately, the Junior/Zip-Kid story line should be a good one. I'm a romantic at heart, so we're not going to be too mean to Junior for too long. He actually gets his own adventure -- assuming -- he's going to get his own adventure around issue #13, I think he gets his own little special. Not a special comic, but he's the focus character.

I guess I'd like to see more of Thunderhead too. He's sort of standing around in the background being a nice guy.
Raspler: Yup. He gets a nice scene in issue #8. And you kind of find out what his deal is a bit. And then Thunderhead kind of gets boned a bit in #9. I just wrote the beginning of #10, where he and Zip-Kid go out for a beer At the end of #9, he says, "Do you want to go out for a beer?" So at the beginning of #10, they're about to go out for a beer. They're in the locker room and they're talking across the bank of lockers. And as they're talking, they realize if they go out drinking, they're going to have to take their masks off, so they can't go out. So they're all bummed out.

That's right. Superheroes don't do that.
Raspler: They'll go drinking, but they won't take their masks off. So there's definitely a lot of funny ideas in here, I don't know if I'm pulling them off, but I'm enjoying it. All I'm doing this weekend is sitting and writing. That's the problem -- that's my problem. I got to sit and write. I think I might ask Frank to be more active, Dev.
Madan: You think so?
Raspler: Yeah, I might ask him to co-write.

Frank Pittarese?
Raspler: Frank Pittarese, the original editor. Because, at least I'll get the dashed thing done in front of me before I -- you know, it'll just get me going. I'll have more fun with it if ... Like, I'm an editor because I like to fix stuff. If he just write crappy dialogue, it'll motivate me to write good dialogue.

There are worse problems than having to spend the weekend writing, I suppose....
Raspler: Right. Exactly.

This is the only book you're writing right now. But it's not the first book you've written
Raspler: No.

How did this come up? How did the Young Heroes in Love project come to be?
Raspler: I made it up. I basically always wanted to have the idea of a telekinetic -- no, two telepaths having sex. That's where I got the idea. That's the concept. Seriously.

Where's the other one?
Raspler: Oh no, this has nothing to do with Young Heroes in Love. It was just, the original idea was two telepaths making love. And what you could do with that. You can do a lot of cool stuff with that. But that's not very visual, so instead I switched it to 2 characters -- you know, fire power and ice power having sex. And what can we do with that? And this is what you see.

That is likely to happen eventually, is it not?
Raspler: Keep reading, OK?

You've certainly piqued my interest (Steve goes on) suicide squad -- internal dynamics...
I wonder if a compilation of the first 6 or the first 12 issues would be a good idea.
Raspler: It'd be a great idea. I would love it. It would be amazing. But they only do that -- they don't do that for every series in the world. It'd be really cool if we could.

This one sounds ?because each issue rests to an even greater ?
on the one that came before. Are you planning to do any stand-alone, all-in-one issue stories? Or is everything one episode of one big continuing thing?

Raspler: Well, #2 and #10 and #11 are going to tie in. But everything else is going to be pretty much...
Madan: And our season cliff-hanger -- #12. That's a two-part story.

What can you tell me about what's coming up in Year One?
Madan: More sex, more lies, more super powers...
Raspler: Issue #9 is the big sex issue. Which will be really great.

What else?
Raspler: You find out a lot more about Monstergirl in that issue. And also see how Hard Drive ? gets around a bit. You find out why Hard Drive has been so adamant to keep those two apart. And issue #10, we have characters leave the book. The team tries to figure out what's going on with itself. Madan: We were talking about headquarters, changing the locale.
Raspler: That's issue #12. The conflict with Hard Drive is going to come to a head in the not- too-distant future. So, that should be a lot of fun.
Madan: The other thing is, like I was saying earlier -- a lot of it depends on the feedback situation. Because -- I'm not saying it changes the course of a lot of...
Raspler: You know, Dev, I have to say, I don't think that's the case.
Madan: You don't think so?
Raspler: No, I don't think so at all. Every so often. Like what we do with Off-Ramp. But other than that, I don't really... You know, this is going to be what we want it to be. I'm not really too worried about that. So we're not going to...

You've got secret stuff coming up....
Raspler: I'm not sure how much to talk about to tell you or what?

Well, fair enough. I'll be reading along like everybody else.
Raspler: Issue #9 is, basically, 2 characters that you've wanted to get together for awhile finally do get together. And it should be -- it's pretty epic. And hopefully, the company will let us get a way with the level of erotica that we're going for, because it's pretty extreme.

Do you have any doubts about that? About whether they'll let you get away with it?
Raspler: I wouldn't say doubts, but... suspicions. You gotta be cool.

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