Who’s Who At DC Comics-The New 52: Sterling Gates
Today on THE SOURCE, we’ll be talking to some of the people behind the YOUNG JUSTICE books. Keep checking the site throughout the day for more exclusive insights into the stories and quirks of these writers and artists.
THE SOURCE: How do you write the first line of a new series?
STERLING GATES: The first line of a series can be any number of things: a line that sets up your theme, a non-sequitur, a statement about the characters, or even asking the question that you hope to answer by the end of the story. My favorite first line in comics (favorite right now, mind you. It changes all the time!) is from Geoff Johns’ Superman: Secret Origin. A young Clark Kent looks up at the yellow sun, blinded by its brilliance, and a voice asks “Why are you here?” It’s sets up both Clark’s journey through the story and helps lead us to where Clark is in his life.
To me, though, first lines are very important. Hamlet starts with “Who’s there?” as two men meet in the darkness of the stage. Your audience is asking the same thing as they walk into any story. “Who’s there?” KRSSH! Surprise! It’s Hawk & Dove!
How do you introduce a new hero?
Usually I try to introduce a hero in my stories with a scene that really sets up who they are and their basic problems. That way any reader will have the basics they need going forward from that initial scene. For example, Hawk and Dove begins with them arguing over how they should handle the problem in front of them, establishing that Hawk is always comparing Dove to his first partner. We’re going to delve more into that conflict as time goes on, but I really think it makes sense to get it in front of the reader right away. I like to give superheroes a nice big action beat when they first enter the story so we know they’re the hero and that they’re always going to try and succeed and save the day!
Now, whether they succeed or not is a different matter altogether…
How do you introduce characters?
One of the rules that I learned early on when introducing characters in any type of story is make sure you give the readers their name (or make it clear you’re purposefully withholding it) and give readers an idea of what characters “do” right up front. Otherwise, you’ll have people wondering who characters are for the rest of the scene!
What was the first comic you ever worked on?
When I was in sixth grade, my English teacher gave us the option of doing another book report or writing and drawing a ten-page comic! Me and two other girls in my class created a team of superheroes that fought against eco-terrorists. Eco-terrorists, mind you, that lived in Oklahoma. And were supervillains. Eco-terrorist supervillains. Yes, we basically ripped off the set-up for Captain Planet.
Each of us created our own characters, and mine was a trenchcoat-wearing, enigmatic vigilante who smoked and wore a kickass Stetson. He could charge up stuff with kinetic energy and throw them. When they hit various surfaces, they’d explode!
…yep. I created the X-Men’s Gambit, but he wore a cowboy hat. The hat made him totally different!
Oh, and he wasn’t from New Orleans, he was from somewhere else. He was from New Mexico.
I drew seven pages of that amazing story before we had to turn it in. Hopefully someday I’ll find the artwork…so that I can burn it and no one will ever see it!
I did a bunch of self-published books through college and did a stint as an editorial cartoonist for my school’s newspaper, but my first pro writing work was at DC Comics. It was a back-up story in Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime called “Fear is a Baby’s Cry!” It fleshed out the Sinestro Corps member named Kryb, who goes around kidnapping the children of the Green Lantern Corps. Fun, spooky stuff! Nary a trenchcoat OR a Stetson to be found, unfortunately.
Who was the first character you followed?
The Flash! Or Batman. Or Marvel’s Longshot.
What was the first series you collected?
WOW. That’s a tough question. Maybe something with Spider-Man or Superman. I was so young, I don’t know that I could actually just say, “This is what I first collected.”
Mark Waid. I fell out of comics some in my teenage years, and when I came back into comics, Mark was writing The Flash. I think Kingdom Come had just hit the market, too. As a result, I sought out everything he ever wrote, including those random issues of Archie he did!
Who was the first artist you followed?
There were three: Jim Lee, Todd MacFarlane, and Rob Liefeld. Those guys produced the most dynamic comic art of the 90’s, and their art galvanized an entire generation of readers and changed the industry. Every kid I knew LOVED their books, and we all bought every book they put out without fail. Their work set the tone for comic art for the next decade, and looking back on that stuff, it’s easy to see why. Brilliant work from three artists who still reign as modern masters in my book.
What was the first convention you attended as a fan?
Wizard World Chicago: 1999! I met Frank Miller outside the convention center and he signed my Dark Knight Returns trade. Frank Miller! I talked about running into him for months afterwards.
What was the first convention you attended as a professional?
Wizard World L.A., March 2008. That was my first convention after my professional work started coming out, at least, and it was the first convention where I signed at the DC booth.
What was the first comic book you read?
The first comic I distinctly remember reading was Fantastic Four #279. I’m sure I read some issues of DC Comics Presents before that, but the cover remains in my memory as the first comic I owned.
What was the first piece of original art you bought?
An Oscar Jimenez page from Flash #100. I loved that issue so, so much, and when I discovered eBay, I started looking for Flash pages all the time. I’ve actually put together a pretty sizable collection of Flash artwork the last fifteen years!
What was the first digital comic book you downloaded?
This is probably lame, but it was one that I wrote! I wanted to see what War of the Supermen #0 looked like on an iPad, so I downloaded it the day it went up. I’m a little ashamed that it was one of my own books, but I assure you it was for completely academic purposes.