Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke returns to comics in a new ongoing series Deathstroke Inc. in September.
Following Christopher Priest's 'Rebirth' Deathstroke series (opens in new tab), 'Rebirth''s Flash creative team of writer Joshua Williamson and artist Howard Porter reunite for a whole new take on the long-time DC villain.(opens in new tab)
Deathstroke Inc. features the most unlikely duo of the sometimes-anti-hero Slade Wilson and full-on superhero and current Justice League member Black Canary as they uncover the motives behind a secret organization called TRUST.
The mismatched, antagonistic odd couple will encounter new allies and new villains as Slade will undertake an internal journey exploring his ever-changing moral compass.
Before Deathstroke Inc. #1 hits comic book stores (and of course digital devices) on September 28, Newsarama had the chance to chat with Joshua Williamson about the series. We discuss the title's recent prelude story in Batman Urban Legends #6 (opens in new tab) (which includes a clue about the new series Williamsons says Google sleuths haven't picked up on yet), what direction that spinning moral compass is pointing in these days, how Deathstroke Inc. and Williamson's Robin series relate to one another, and along the way we check out seven preview pages from the debut issue.
Newsarama: Joshua, let's jump right in, how did you come up with the concept for Deathstroke Inc.?
Joshua Williamson: I'm friends with Ben Abernathy, the Bat Group editor, and he and I were talking about what I was going to be working on post-Flash last year. Just bouncing around some different ideas and characters that we thought would be interesting. Deathstroke came up on that list, but I needed to find my own way into the story and into the character. I do enjoy writing villains and I haven't really done a full-on villain book at DC before. I was always interested in writing one.(opens in new tab)
Then we started talking more and more about Deathstroke. We were also talking about Robin and some other things that haven't been announced. We started talking more and more about what Deathstroke could be and how to do it differently than what we've seen in the past from him.
I'm a big fan of Christopher Priest, and I think the run that he did was amazing and there was no way I was going to try to top Christopher Priest. So, I definitely wanted to try and take it in a different direction. We started talking about, well what if it's kind of a team book. I got really excited about that. Then the idea of making Deathstroke confront the fact that he's a bad person. For lack of a better phrase, forgive me, but he's a piece of shit, right?
Being able to explore those ideas with him and make him realize that in his life he's only really been happy when he's been hurting people and what that means to him, especially after the stuff that happened to him in the Priest run. I got excited about getting a chance to explore that stuff.
That's why we started doing Deathstroke, and that's why it's Deathstroke Inc. because it became this idea of a team revolving around him and some of the mysteries we're building. It really worked out with a lot of the stuff we're doing in Robin (opens in new tab) and plans I have in other books. You'll see gradually how Robin and Deathstroke are eventually going to connect with the stuff we're doing in Infinite Frontier and some of the stuff with Justice League Incarnate down the line.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: Why Slade and Black Canary?
Williamson: Black Canary came up a few different times last year. Originally, she was presented to me as a character that they wanted to do something with and, at first, she came up as a character in Robin. DC was like, would you want to put Black Canary in Robin? When I explored those ideas and we talked a little bit about some of the stuff that Bendis was planning to do with Justice League (opens in new tab) - I decided not to use Black Canary there. I thought that Ravager was going to be a better fit for what I wanted for that book.
I still love Black Canary. I think she's a great character. So, I was like, where else can I use her? Then I started thinking about how she has worked with Slade in the past and has known Slade. Then I started forming this idea. If you read the Batman Urban Legends story that came out. She's put on this mission where she's investigating TRUST and she's trying to figure out what TRUST really is. She's basically having to go undercover. Part of the cost of that is working with someone like Slade, who she downright hates and has an antagonistic relationship with.
This was really appealing to me. An opportunity to write her and write some of her world. I'm a big fan of the Green Arrow family. You can tell by every book I work on has some member of the Green Arrow family - except for Oliver. That was part of why we brought Black Canary in. It was an interesting opportunity to show her in a different light.
I really like Birds of Prey in general. So, getting to show her back in those spy roots we hadn't seen in a while was definitely fun.(opens in new tab)
Without getting too into spoilers, obviously Dinah and Deathstroke are not going to get along and it's going to lead to a conflict between the two of them. Once they really start learning what's going on with TRUST They're going to have very different views on how to deal with it.
Nrama: Since you mentioned the Deathstroke Inc. prelude in Batman Urban Legends, why did you want to tell that story in that particular anthology series.
Williamson: You were asking a question about Black Canary. Why is Black Canary there? I wanted to really give her own space to explain why she would join up with someone like Deathstroke and something like TRUST We started talking about that, like what was a way to do that, to make sure we can really explain that and flesh out how she got there before the book started.
Then it was suggested, why not a prelude story? We started talking about doing a zero issue. Then Ben Abernathy suggested that we do it as a Batman Urban Legends story. And I was like, great. Like that sounds super cool. So, I get to write a Black Canary story for 22 pages. Let's do it! It was definitely really fun for me.
Nrama: Can readers expect to see some Birds of Prey moments in Deathstroke Inc.?
Williamson: Oracle plays a role in the Urban Legends story. Part of the problem is Black Canary is so deep undercover, she can't really communicate with Oracle but we'll get there. Without getting too deep into spoilers, there will definitely be some Birds of Prey stuff down the line.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: Black Canary is also a member of the Justice League as you mention. Brian Bendis has been teasing some big things for Green Arrow in particular. Will those events bleed into this book?
Williamson: It's all going to line up. I actually talked to Brian the other night. We had a really long conversation about my plans and his plans. We had like a three-hour conversation going late into the midnight hour to talk about some of this stuff. It's all going to come together.
You'll definitely see how the stuff that happens in this book will definitely lead into some of the stuff that's happening in Justice League and things that are happening in Justice League are going to connect to the stuff I'm doing with Infinite Frontier (opens in new tab) and the events we have planned for next year.
I was actually working on some of it today, and it's really interesting to see how I think by the time we get to the start of next year, and you start to see how all these pieces we've been building since the Infinite Frontier #0 (opens in new tab) - how they're all coming together.
Nrama: As you mentioned, Rose Wilson/Ravager (Deathstroke's daughter) is a supporting character in your Robin run, will these two titles tie into each other in any way? Will the family members cross paths?
Williamson: Very much so. They're almost running parallel to each other. That's why Talia was in the Urban Legends story and that's why Ravager is in Deathstroke. You're going to see how the two stories that I'm telling, the ones that are in Robin and the stories in Deathstroke, they're going to collide at some point. And when they do collide with each other, it's going to be extremely explosive and it's going to involve other books beyond just Robin and Deathstroke.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: Can we expect any other familiar Slade Wilson supporting characters to show up?
Williamson: Rose and some other members of Slade's family will definitely be important to some of the stuff we have planned. I think if you're involving Slade you kind of have to involve the rest of the family. It's important to his character. That's part of what this first arc is about is him rejecting that idea.
If you look at the end of Priest's run where he decides to walk away from his family at the end, he has that moment where he could stay with them and be happy and he chooses to leave. I wanted to explore some ramifications of that, but then eventually when his family comes back around, Slade is going to be offered a lot of choices throughout this series.
There's going to come a moment where he is given the opportunity to choose essentially good or evil, and we'll see which side he picks. I think it will be obvious what side he's going to pick and how that impacts the rest of the DC universe moving forward. His family playing a part of that, particularly Rose, will be important.
Nrama: On that note, Slade Wilson is one of comics' most famous anti-heroes. You say when he makes a choice it will be obvious. So what side of good and evil does he lean towards here?(opens in new tab)
Williamson: That's what he says in issue #1, he's tried walking this line between, and it never works. He has to choose a lane. He needs to figure it out. That's part of what this book is about, is Slade realizing that. How can you live with yourself when you realize how awful you are? He has finally put together that he's a bad person.
I was asked this in another interview – do you root for Slade? And I was like, no, I don't consider him to be a good person. In issue #1 we talk about this. I don't think he's deserving of a second chance and neither does he. I wanted to explore what you do on the other side of figuring out you're a bad person.
It'll get pretty obvious. There's a lot of clues, even in that Urban Legend story about what's coming for Deathstroke and what's coming for that story. There's a really big clue that no one picked up on. I was kind of surprised. It's one Google search away from someone figuring out a bunch of stuff about what we have planned for Deathstroke and how it's connected to some of the bigger stories we're doing.
Nrama: Since your Robin series will be so closely connected to Deathstroke Inc., let's talk about Damian for a second.
There's a new Robins title that has been announced from DC's Round Robin contest. Will this title affect your title at all?
Williamson: I'm a big fan of Tim Seeley and I'm very excited for that book, but our book is not really connected with the story they're doing. I think the story they're doing is sort of just centered around the idea of those Robins being together. I think it's more of a self-contained story. I'm not going to be connecting with it at all. We're keeping the new Robin costume and you can tell with that one that they're using the older one. Partially because it was part of the Round Robin stuff, it ended up becoming its own standalone thing.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: To wrap things up Joshua, we know you are good friends with James Tynion IV, will his recently-announced departure from Batman affect any of your current projects?
Williamson: It's too early to really talk about that. I'm very close with James. I talk to James every day. It was interesting because I feel like I knew for a long time that he was leaving, or at least many weeks. I think people thought that was a surprise for people that Monday. It wasn't a surprise to me or DC that day. We knew before he made the official announcement. I've known James' plans for Batman and I've known some of the stuff he was doing and I was already operating around that and it doesn't necessarily impact what I have planned for Robin and other things that I'm doing right now, but I think it's a little too early to get into that.
Deathstroke without a doubt qualified for Newsarama's list of the best DC supervillains of all time.