This is a good read even if you haven't read the series just to get some insight on how editorial mandates differ from the writers' vision.
Newsarama: Scott, the eight-page sneak peek of this book felt like a buddy movie to me. Do you think that's an accurate description of the book? How would you describe its overall style?
Lobdell: Drat! I was hoping it came off as more of a romcom with some action elements, like Speed!
In a way, Jason and Roy are the best thing that ever happened to one another — even if they can't always admit it to each other.
Before they met, Jason was a violent, angry vigilante with only revenge on his mind. Roy was a directionless action junkie who took ridiculous self-destructive risks. When they finally wound up in each others orbit something pretty spectacular happened to both guys.
After a long time being judged by everyone wearing a bat or an "R" on their chest, Jason finally had someone who believed in him unconditionally. Roy started hanging out with someone who didn't expect anything from him — who didn't want a sidekick or a partner or a weapon — just a friend.
So... if the two of them joke a lot and rag on each other and goad one another into being the best version of themselves? If they're having a great time doing it? If they are enjoying their lives together in ways they hadn't before this? I guess I can see that a "buddy movie," sure!
I think Roy could admit it easier than Jason as he's been pulling for them all to be friends and a team in RHATO. He wears his heart on his sleeve more. I wouldn't say Jason was quite that bad since it was revealed that he was willing to swap information with Tim and opened up to Kori prior to meeting Roy. Unless of course it's shown that he met/worked with Roy before those events. RHATO#1 hinted at them having a meeting where Jason said Roy would be on his own if he became a solider of fortune. Likewise Roy was a recovering alcoholic when the last series started and drug use was never mentioned. That said I realize Lobdell is probably just summing everything up.
He's on point about everything else though.
Nrama: What does the new #1 offer you as you craft the story of these two characters?
Lobdell: When I got up around #4 or #5 of Red Hood and the Outlaws, I wanted to shift gears away from the Untitled and the All-Caste stories I'd been telling. As a writer, I come from a place where issue-to-issue it is okay to tell one story after the next after the next — to throw characters from one adventure, one "world" from issue to issue.
But when I was in away in Hollywood, something strange happened in mainstream comics. Suddenly "the arc" became the Holy Grail. The only way, it seems to me, for a book to be taken seriously today is if they take place over six or eight or 12 issues — formats that lend themselves to easily marketed trade paperbacks or animated movies.
That's great for the writers and readers that enjoy that... but for people that enjoy the roller-coaster — seat-of-your-pants, who-the-hell-knows-what-is-going-to happen-next-issue fans like me — we're left out in the cold.
I was told I couldn't "just jettison!" the story I was telling — that it "wasn't right to just drop the story and race onto another one!" which, I admit I found kind of odd. I was raised in comics at a time when, aside from the random two- or three-parter, you didn't know what was going to happen in the next issue! How exciting was that?!
So, over the length of Red Hood and the Outlaws — even during my sabbatical — there was this constant push to "go back and finish the story about the Untitled and the All-Caste! Go back an finish the Tamaran storyline!" While it was always my intention to use these story elements from time to time over the course of the series, I never had an interest in wrapping up the story, mostly because I don't think that is how life works. For example, I used to write for Marvel. I don't any longer but I still get royalties, characters I created still wind up in the movies, my name winds up in the credits: The story of my life at Marvel doesn't end because I'm not writing for them anymore.
So now, with Red Hood/Arsenal #1, I get to tell a new set of stories that aren't beholden to the Untitled, the All-Caste, Suzie Su, ye Little Town of Assassins, etcetera. Readers can pick up the first issue of Red Hood/Arsenal and enjoy it and the series without feeling like they missed out on 40 issues' worth of "unresolved" stories. It is a fresh start for these two great characters!
Interesting stuff on how writing for trade is encouraged, I have noticed that and it can be tedious. I did figure it was odd that Tynion was trying to end Lobdells' work especially since no one else tries to do final stories to anyone else's rogues. Apparently it depends on what editor you get since the new one is more laid back. I did know about the royalties as Lobdell and I think Fabian N. talked about this ages ago. I'm sad to see he's not planning on going back to the Untitled/All Caste plots but I can understand why he wouldn't want to touch them.
Nrama: OK, so you were talking about writing for the trade earlier. To play devil's advocate a little here, did you learn anything from your first run on the series? Have you relented to writing more trade-type arcs?
Lobdell: Nope! Not a thing! The first six issues sees the boys going up against all new-challenges every issue!
Palette, Les Mime, Underbelly, Sera Fina and even the new Batman — the only thing they have in common with each other is that they are mixing it up with Red Hood and Arsenal!
Each new threat opens up a whole new "world" to the series that can be explored.
Now, are the first six issues about Roy trying to convince Jason it is time to go "legit?" To print up some business cards and start using their special set of skills to help people instead of necessarily killing the bad guys unfortunate enough to cross their paths? Does every new story work as a building block to the next? Absolutely. Guilty!
But month-to-month, for the readers that like to be surprised by the adventure and the tone and the focus from issue to issue... Red Hood/Arsenal is our book!
I'm glad Lobdell isn't going to do all 6 issue arcs. If that's the way it goes with all series it means you focus on two arcs a year. And if you hate the arc, the bad guys, tie ins, etc. it's very frustrating.
I knew Roy would be the one who wanted to start a "legit" business. I also figured it would still be building up the plotline each issue despite them handling other threats. Just because each issue handles different threats doesn't mean that a story isn't building. It sounds great. Still while it's expected I almost wish they wouldn't deal with Mecha Batman. I have no interest in him.
Nrama: So you mentioned a few villains and other characters that they are going to challenge them or guest star. Can you describe the threats they come up against?
Lobdell: Palette is an international terrorist who is only interested in whatever cause will pay him the most money.
Battleworth is a Washington power broker who sees a lot of potential in Arsenal and Red Hood and makes the mistake of hiring them more than once — she's not a "threat," but she is a catalyst who gets Roy and Jason thinking there is a future in this.
Les Mimes is a heartbroken sod who winds up using his awe-inspiring self-duplicating powers for something as mundane as stalking his ex.
Underbelly is a thought (yes, a thought) who is also a crime lord that exists in every major city in America and parts of Europe.
Sera Fina is a superheroine in her own eyes and a super villain as far as the rest of the world is concerned — who wants to take Roy's new business model and take it global.
And finally, the all-new Batman is a city-sanctioned crime fighter who looks at Red Hood and Arsenal and only sees a rap sheet and not their best intentions.
And that is only the first five issues. So tighten that seat belt!
I like the range of ideas here and motivating the guys into thinking of their future. We saw that Roy was suicidal after things ended badly with Ollie and it's been hinted at Jason trending that line too. We haven't seen Jason considering his future just trying to focus on the now or obsessed with his past. I'm curious what he wants beyond crime fighting since has this new leash on life and hasn't really lived it. Underbelly is something I need to see before I can fully comment on it. I figured Gordon would only look at the trouble they had with the law. Something he never bothered to address when Batman worked with Red Hood.
Nrama: OK, one-sentence answers on each of the main characters: How would you describe Jason's mindset now?
Lobdell: He's cracking skulls, helping people, and hanging out with his bestie.
Nrama: And Roy?
Lobdell: He's the "big thinker" of the two — always trying to figure out a way to maximize their potential as crime-fighting outlaws with business cards. And Jason makes him laugh.
RHATO didn't have a leader per se although Roy and Kori usually did tag along Jasons' mission. It's kind of odd that the bat kid isn't the planner but then again he's probably feeling a little lost while Roy knows what he wants.