New Deathstroke Series is Like "The Sopranos With Supervillains"

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  1. News Bot

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    Deathstroke is a supervillain most heroes in the DC Universe don't want to mess with. Over the years, he's changed from a ruthless assassin to an unstoppable super-killing machine. He's faced massive threats and defeated impossible odds.

    With DC Comics' current Rebirth initiative, the focus has shifted to exploring who the characters are in their books. Creators are looking at what is the core essence of the characters that fans have grown to love over the years. Christopher Priest is known to readers for his takes on characters like Black Panther and Quantum and Woody. He's now taking a stab at Deathstroke in order to establish what exactly makes him tick. We talked to Priest to find out about the series and how Deathstroke will try to connect with his kids while still being a cold-blooded killer.

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    GameSpot: How are you approaching Deathstroke?

    Christopher Priest: Very cautiously. That's the only way to approach a guy like that. I see Deathstroke as being a multilayered and multifaceted character. A lot of time supervillains, in general, are portrayed as one-dimensional. There's almost a rule in literary fiction where your main protagonist has three dimensions, your secondary characters have two, and then other characters, who are often the villains, are just kind of flat so your main characters pop out. Back when Stan Lee and Gerry Conway were writing Spider-Man, we never really got into the nuances of Doctor Octopus or what his particular challenges were. You can't do that when the villain is the protagonist of the series. I can't write Deathstroke in one-dimension in his own comic book.

    Marv Wolfman brilliantly breathed so much life into this character. I've been trying to peel the onion and just explore who he is. There's a tagline I'm trying to sell, "Journey through the mind of a killer." I want to explain, not only his rational for being a supervillain but to really explore, thematically, the whole concept of villainy versus justice. In a way, justice enables villainy because justice requires due process and fairness. The only way to deal with a guy like Deathstroke is for Superman to lock him up, Guantanamo Bay-style and hold him without charge forever. That's not justice though. That's vigilantism.

    What will be Deathstroke's focus? Will he go on mercenary missions or fight other heroes?

    Yes. [laughs] He'll be doing all that. In the Rebirth issue 1, he has a contract to kill a supervillain who is under the protection of an African despot. He makes a deal to go get the villain. Then the villain wants to make a second deal with him. It's kind of this round robin of who's double crossing who? This is what he does for a living. Over the course of the series, sometimes the missions are foreground, and sometimes they're background. We're also obviously focusing on his struggle to form a reasonable relationship with his children and his ex-wife. Well, I don't think he really thinks too much about forming a relationship with her, but she's definitely in the mix there.

    The solicit info for the Rebirth issue mentions redemption. How might someone like Deathstroke go about seeking redemption?

    As I see him, Deathstroke is an emotionally tortured individual. He's a guy who desperately wants to love and be loved, but he's incapable of either. In other words, he's incapable of expressing his emotions and incapable of receiving familial love. For example, there's a line in, I think, issue 3 or 4 with Wintergreen where he says, "That's the rule, you can hug him. He can never hug you." It would not occur to Deathstroke to hug [his daughter] Rose. It may occur to him, but he's just not able to do it. The way we're looking at Deathstroke is he's like emotionally arrested. He's like House M.D. but with a machine gun. He's this tortured person who really wants to go to the party and be social, but he just doesn't know how.

    How big of a role will his kids have in the series?

    Rose is the virtual co-star. She's Robin to his Batman. We will not see her until about issue 3. The reason for that is I am writing the book as though the book has never existed before. People who have never read Deathstroke or don't know anything about him, they should arrive with no fear. We're rolling this out in a way that's like, "Once upon a time there was a man named Sladeā€¦" and moving forward from there. In the Rebirth issue and issue 1, we're really establishing who Slade is and getting that foundation in. In issue 2, we introduce Wintergreen. Issue 3 introduces Rose. Jericho will not appear until issue 6, I think. His ex-wife Adeline [Kane Wilson] will also be in issue 6. The series will kind of be like The Sopranos with supervillains. We have this family patriarch who makes his living running around killing people. We'll see the effect that has on the people he loves.

    Will he be working with someone like Wintergreen on his mercenary missions? Will he have someone to take care of the paperwork?

    Wintergreen doesn't do the paperwork. He's actually a field agent. Wintergreen is still his Barney Rubble to his Fred Flintstone. I'm mixing metaphors now. Marv Wolfman kind of created him to be his Alfred to Deathstroke's rough Batman. Wintergreen's more of a partner. He's not his butler. They have a sort of contentious relationship because when they were both in the military working as independent contractors, Wintergreen was alright with Slade running around wacking dictators or doing something in the name of national security.

    Over the years, Slade has evolved from Slade Wilson into Deathstroke. Deathstroke, as we currently know him, he is eeevil. He is a super-villain. He has some sets of morals. There are things that are extreme that Deathstroke will not go to, but they are few and far between. Wintergreen becomes his moral compass and has less comfort with some of the things Deathstroke does. He does not always agree with the choices Deathstroke makes. There's some interesting tension between these two friends.

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    How much violence and action can we expect?

    Less than before, if only in that the action, violence and bloodletting are no longer the focus of the book. The focus is the consequences of the action and violence and bloodletting. We'll also look at the impact it has on his family. It's not going to be wall-to-wall swordplay and machine guns. Although, that is in here. We'll eventually ratchet that up more than we see in the initial stage of the series. The first handful of issues are really dealing with character. We're trying to flesh them out so when we do put their lives in danger, someone actually cares. If we just focus on the action, then everyone's a cardboard character. Nobody really matters. If Rose gets stabbed or Jericho gets run over by a bread truck, who cares?

    We're focusing on character-driven stories. Then we'll eventually bring back more of the over-the-top stuff that the fans have come to love. My position on Deathstroke is he's a supervillain. He's an assassin. With all due respect to previous writers, they've evolved Deathstroke from being a pure assassin to being this uber-threat. We're bringing him back to being a corrupt dark mirror image of Batman. He's stealthier and doesn't carry all that gear he used to, unless he needs it. If we're dropping him into a war zone, you will see him suit up the way he has been currently. Our version of Deathstroke is silent and stealthy. He creeps out of the shadows, slits your throat, and vanishes back into the black.

    Deathstroke: Rebirth #1 is on sale August 8. The action continues in Deathstroke #1 on sale August 24.

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