It’s Kirby: Genesis week here on the blog, with interviews with writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross, and today’s excellent interview with Sterling Gates, writer of Dynamite Entertainment’s upcoming Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory series. Based on the legendary Jack Kirby’s original creations, Captain Victory tells the story of a rebel captain determined to overthrow an evil overlord–who just happens to be his own grandfather!
Gates is a natural choice for a large-scale superhero epic: he’s been soaking in comics since he was young, first at his father’s comic shop, then as a comic shop employee, and later as Geoff Johns’ personal assistant and protegee. After well-received stints on Kid Flash and Supergirl, Gates is now heading up two high-profile superhero gigs: not only is he writing Captain Victory, but he’s also the pen behind DC’s new Hawk & Dove series.
We chatted Gates up as part of Dynamite Month and got the inside scoop on what it’s like to walk in Jack Kirby’s footsteps, the essential elements of a great superhero story, and what he’s tackling next! Plus, enjoy an exclusive five-page preview of Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory #1, out this November!
TFAW.com: Can you introduce us to Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory?
Sterling Gates: Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory is the first series spinning off of Dynamite’s hugely successful series Kirby: Genesis! Our series focuses on characters Jack Kirby actually wrote and drew in his own lifetime, a crew of Galactic Rangers that are lead by an enigmatic captain named Victory. Kirby’s book lasted for 13 issues in the early 1980s before he put it to bed, and we’re taking Victory’s story and reloading it for a modern audience while still retaining the characters and flavors of Kirby’s work.
TFAW.com: Who is Captain Victory? Where does he come from, and what does he want?
SG: Captain Victory is the grandson of the most malevolent and horrible character in the galaxy, a despot named Blackmass. Victory was raised to take over the family business, but–for reasons unknown–Victory opted to leave Blackmass and join the Galactic Rangers in an effort to train them to fight his grandfather.
Imagine if the grandson of Hitler decided to join the US Army to train them to fight the Nazis. Victory knows all of Blackmass’ tricks and tactics, and he’s been quietly showing them to the Galactic Rangers for years. Victory thinks of himself as the frontline against his grandfather, and it’s up to him to destroy Blackmass once and for all. So, lots of big action and family politics in this book!
TFAW.com: What’s it like bringing a Jack Kirby character to life?
SG: It’s pretty damn exciting, to be honest. Dynamite has been great in that they’ve let me sort of take my own approach to these characters, so I’m really working on fleshing out all of the characters in the book in new and exciting ways. Kirby was really great at presenting his characters on a large-scale canvas, but he left a lot of details wide open. We’re hoping to fill in those details even as we present a new, modern canvas. To stretch that analogy! [laughs]
TFAW.com: What do you think readers are going to be surprised by?
SG: I think they’re going to be surprised by just how far Victory is willing to go to stop Blackmass and his forces. Victory’s a hero, yes, but since he knows what his grandfather is capable of and he’s not bound by a personal moral code, he will oftentimes cross lines most heroes wouldn’t. Which usually gets him in trouble with Galactic Command. Think of Mal Reynolds from Firefly. He does his best to be a good man, but he’s willing to kick guys into the engines if it suits the greater good of his crew. Victory is similar, but he’s dealing with things on a much bigger scale. He’s willing to kill if it will save a planet, and he’s willing to kill a planet if it will save the galaxy.
TFAW.com: There are three Kirby: Genesis books in the works now–are they standalone series, or is it a crossover?
SG: They’re meant to be standalone. Victory certainly is, though at some point we’ll be picking up some threads from Kirby: Genesis and running with them. I haven’t had a chance to talk to editorial or Jai Nitz or Robert Rodi yet, but I wouldn’t rule an eventual big crossover out. It seems like if we’re going to be moving forward in this universe, a crossover would help get people interested in all of the books. I think it’d be fun to do one. When I wrote Supergirl for DC Comics, I was part of a mega-crossover called New Krypton. It was always a lot of fun figuring out how all the books intertwined and making everything in all of our stories relevant to the big picture across two years.
I’m not suggesting we do anything on that scale for the Kirby-verse, but I think it’d be fun to see what all of these different characters do when thrown back together after Kirby: Genesis is over!
TFAW.com: You literally grew up with comics, since your dad owned a comic shop. How does this affect your perspective of the comic book industry?
SG: Hm. I’m not entirely sure, actually. I’ve always been around comics or been a part of a comics “scene.” I honestly don’t know what it would be like for me to not be involved with comics in some way. We had the store when I was a kid, I was the weekend manager for a store called Speeding Bullet Books and Comics when I was in college, and my second job in Hollywood was as Geoff Johns’ personal assistant. So there’s always been a big connection to comics in my life one way or another. I think it helps a creator to have an idea what the retail side is like, and I think it helps a retailer to have some insight on what the creative side is like. The two sides support and feed one another in a (for the most part) perfect symbiosis.
TFAW.com: What were your favorite comics growing up?
SG: The Flash, Batman, Uncanny X-Men (or any book with Marvel character, Longshot), New Mutants/X-Force, Spider-Man, JLA, Starman, Pitt, Superman, New Teen Titans (which then became New Titans!), and D.P.7.
TFAW.com: You’ve exclusively written superhero comics thus far–what are your must-have elements for a great superhero series?
SG: Relatable characters readers can sympathize with that possess honest emotions. You can have all the superheroic, over-the-top action in the world, but the emotional core has to be true or else readers won’t care.
TFAW.com: With Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory and Hawk & Dove, you’re involved in the birth (or rebirth) of TWO superhero universes. How are they different for you?
SG: Well, the Kirby-verse was populated by Kirby, so it’s full of these crazy big ideas. Kirby was way, way ahead of his time, and we’re only just now catching up to him. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to look at the iPhone, which is essentially a Motherboxx. It just doesn’t have healing capabilities. Yet.
A lot of the ideas Kirby put down on paper haven’t been fleshed out, either, so we’re just now getting to fill in his worlds and present them to readers who might not have heard of Captain Victory or Silver Star. That’s one of the many things I really liked about this project, we’re getting a peek into Kirby’s unused concepts and ideas and bringing them out for modern audiences. That’s what sold me on getting involved with this book.
The DC Universe is still the same universe it’s been, more or less, but with some tweaks here and there. It’s still the same place Batman and Green Lantern have been living for all of these years, it’s just that some things are slightly different. The DC Universe has been around since before I was born, and it’ll be around long after I’m gone.
TFAW.com: This is your debut title for Dynamite Entertainment–how has the experience been, thus far?
SG: Fantastic! The guys at Dynamite–especially Nick Barrucci and Joe Rybandt–have been extremely supportive and helpful.
Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek have both been directly involved with the Kirby stuff, and getting notes and emails back from them has been really, really exciting for me. I admire their work so much, and it’s really gratifying to be able to work closely with them.
TFAW.com: What other projects are you excited about?
SG: Well I’m knee-deep in Hawk & Dove at DC right now, working with one of my childhood heroes, Rob Liefeld. I’m doing a couple little side-projects here and there, too. I wrote a story for an anthology called “The Gathering,” which is on sale on the Grayhaven Comics website, and it was drawn by this phenomenal artist named Cassandra James. I also did a story in the comic anthology Unite and Take Over, which is a bunch of stories inspired by the music of The Smiths. That’s debuting at Tucson Comic-Con in November, I believe. And then I’ve got a couple other projects that I can’t talk about just yet, so please stay tuned. 🙂
Our thanks to Sterling Gates for finding the time to answer all of our questions–while he was at NYCC, to boot! You can pre-order Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory comics right here at TFAW.com. Plus, remember that during October, you’ll save 35% on all of Dynamite’s October-catalog pre-order comics and graphic novels!
Were you a fan of Kirby’s original Captain Victory series? Are you looking forward to the update? Comment below!