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DC unleashes its next weekly comic event, and head writer Paul Dini gives Wizard the exclusive scoop!

By Rickey Purdin

Posted February 20, 2007  3:15 PM

Toss out your stopwatches, people—DC Comics takes control of counting down from now on.

Beginning May 9, the week after the final issue of 52 hits shelves, DC unleashes Countdown, a massive, yearlong weekly series with writer Paul Dini sitting at the steering wheel. The series literally counts down as it starts with issue #51 and screeches to a deafening halt with issue #0. Along for the rip-roaring ride will be a slew of backup writers, the entire DCU and enough action to melt your face.

“This is the ‘sh-- blows up’ book,” deadpans the series’ Associate Editor Jeanine Schaefer about Countdown’s mammoth tone. And Senior VP-Executive Editor Dan DiDio couldn’t agree more.

“[Countdown] takes the best of Infinite Crisis and best of 52 and gives an even broader look at the DCU,” says DiDio. “It is going to be a fast-paced action story that really ties in and plays through all of the DC Universe on multiple levels. Paul Dini is the head writer, and he’ll be bringing consistency in tone and voice to all the characters. [It’s] something he did so well on ‘Batman: the Animated Series’ and all the TV shows he’s worked on.”

We tackled the Countdown chief, Dini himself, to tell us why he’s doing the book, how much “Lost” influences the title and what surprising characters will find themselves in the spotlight.


WIZARD: What’s the easiest way to describe Countdown?

DINI: We envisioned this as the ultimate tentpole movie. When they make superhero movies there’s a “Superman” movie or a “Batman” movie. But the movie that every comic fan wants is a “Spider-Man Meets Daredevil” movie or a “Justice League” movie. They want to see kind of all their favorites together doing cool stuff. So a part of our desire was “What if we could do the world’s coolest DC Universe movie and bring in every character that we wanted and put them through all these great character beats and action sequences?” It would be a movie you’d have to sit through for four days—a huge epic.

What’s your role in the whole process?

DINI: Sort of an executive story editor and head writer. What we’re doing is something not unlike the way a lot of television shows are written, where there will be one head writer who is charting the direction of the series with a writer team handling the creation of the episodes. I am writing a couple of scripts. My job is more working with the other writers to do the weekly books, and then coming in once the script is completed to make sure that the voices of the characters are the same, that the storyline is working and that we’re all on the same page. I brought a lot of myself to that main story, and now I’m imparting that to the other writers. They’re bringing their own takes and their own creativity and their own imagination to work on the characters, and I’m trying to make sure that it all fits together. I’m sure if I looked at the whole thing I would scream, but day-to-day it’s a lot of fun.

Who are the other writers?

DINI: It’s Sean McKeever, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, working as a team, Adam Beechen and Tony Bedard. That’s about it at this point. And I think that we’re going to put in some wiggle room where we can bring in other writers and try them out so if the teams are finding themselves getting burned out, or I’ve kind of like blocked about four or five scripts that I’m going to write for myself, and if I find I’m not able to do those, we want to bring in a couple of creative choices to be pinch-hitters on this.

Will writers script different scenes in each issue like it was done on 52?

DINI: No, everybody gets their own script. What usually happens is that we have a big breakdown of the yearlong event with every character’s beats charted week by week.

And this is how it is on most TV shows?

DINI: It’s very much like what they do on a primetime show like “Lost” where you’ve got 14 to 20 main characters, and you have to get a beat from each of them in there. You introduce the story thread, let that play out, bring in another story thread, and then let your dominant plot for that issue shine through.

If you said that the core writing team was a TV family from any television show in history, what family would you be?

DINI: I think we’d all be Stewie from “Family Guy,” a bunch of mad geniuses. Or maybe the Cartwrights from “Bonanza.” It would be an old-style show like “Wagon Train” or “Rawhide.” You’ve got this long destination and we’re just trying to keep the cattle alive long enough to make it back to the corral.

How did DC approach you to corral Countdown?

DINI: Dan and I had been talking about doing a big project for a while, and we had gone back and forth on what it was going to be. I’ve been writing Detective Comics, and that’s been a lot of fun. Dan had been talking to me about something big for 2007/2008, and that’s what this turned into being. So when he called me, at first I was thinking, “Boy, the guys on 52 are losing their minds. How do you do this much work?” And then the more we started discussing it, the more fun it sounded, and the more it sounded kind of like not unlike the way I would develop a DC property for television, such as I did with Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett on “Superman” and “Batman” and “Batman Beyond.” And I also looked at what Bruce had done with Dwayne McDuffie and Stan Berkowitz and their writers on “Justice League” and I thought, “That’s a good way to incorporate a lot of stories with a lot of characters,” and I used a little bit of that as my template also.

Is it hard to change your focus from a book like Detective, where you’re writing focused stories, to Countdown, which will have a huge interwoven atmosphere?

DINI: It is to a degree, but I just try to budget my time. You know, shift gears from one to the other. It’s the same universe. To some degree it’s the same characters, and even as I’m working on Countdown, Detective is getting a little more interwoven.

What birthed the Countdown plot?

DINI: Dan had bounced ideas off a lot of writers—I think Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and a few others. Then I got involved firsthand with it last October. And we sat in a room jamming with Dan and the writers about the direction the overall story was going to take.

Are you having creative summits like the 52 writers did so you’re all on the same page story-wise?

DINI: I work with the writers on a weekly basis. We have a week’s rotation for each writer. It goes over a period of about a month. Keith Giffen’s kind of the behind-the-scenes mastermind of all this, trying to keep all the elements straight. We talk to each other constantly.

Will you have a rotating cast of main characters like 52 utilized?

DINI: The characters are broken up into several different groups. In some cases they’re surprising choices. I’d say our everyman character in the story is Jimmy Olsen, who to a great degree fits that bill within the DC Universe anyway. He has links to the Justice League, the Legion of Super-Heroes and the New Gods. And he is in the unique role of being not only a traveler through the mainstream DC Universe, but also becomes increasingly aware that he might have a bigger part to play in all this than he’s ever suspected. His quest to find out his role is one of the major driving points of Countdown.

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