Creator Q&A Series Ep. 8: Dennis Culver!

Join Dennis Culver in Episode 8 of the DC Creator Q&A Series, as he answers DC Community questions about Unstoppable Doom Patrol Vol. 1!

Q&A Transcript

VPallerla12.58.319: Who was your favorite doom patrol member to write? And what was your favorite issue? I absolutely lived the issue with star-bro and the therapy issue.

DC: When I was first talking about this series with Editor, Ben Abernathy, my original idea was I just had an idea for a Robot Man story. He was probably my favorite character to write as well. But it was just this idean I really liked getting into what these characters do just besides being superheroes. Like when I wrote Justice League Incarnat, it was really interesting to me that President Superman is a politician instead of a reporter, and that was Flashpoint Batman in that and he’s a surgeon–those are really different occupations from what we normally know from his characters. The same with Cliff—he’s a racecar driver, he’s kind of a daredevil…so I kind of got this thing in my mind where it’s like, oh he’s probably the best driver in the DCU. So I kind of leaned into that, and I had this idea of like, it would be really fun to do like a road trip comic with Cliff. And through that conversation with Ben, I kind of started talking about was like, well there should be a Doom Patrol comic because there’s no TV show, and I wasn’t really thinking about it for myself, as much as I was just like, this should be a thing. And he’s like, “well why don’t you and Burnham do that?” And I was like, that’s a great idea because I think giving Burnham an opportunity to draw monsters or drawing like, you know, those kinds of visuals at any time is, is something you want to jump out. So it kind of evolved from there… so I had that idea for which, which is what ended up being Issue #3, where Cliff and Larry, they have this new meta-human in Starbro and they’re kind of on the run from the Green Lanterns who are kind of chasing them…I had that bad idea for the issue, and then it just kind of like the idea of doing some kind of done and one issues throughout the series really appealed to me because I wanted it to feel super expansive.

Bidoof33: If you continued with a Volume 2, where did you envision taking the Doom Patrol next?

DC: It’s a tricky question to answer…I’m in talks with DC about doing more Doom Patrol, so I’m just waiting for their approval so I can start writing. I don’t feel like I can get too deep into that, I do have a lot of ideas for these characters, I think it could go beyond just another volume–it could be multiple volumes. I do think that where the DC Universe tends to be a little Justice League centric, I do think that Doom Patrol’s kind of this whole other pillar that we could build in the DC universe. And that’s really, where my interest lies is like expanding the characters, there’s a bunch more characters we could get into…we introduced a whole bunch of new characters as well in the comic, and…it’s my dream to just build it all out and make it as big as possible.

StaticShocks: My question is, were there any parts of this series you were particularly proud of? Any moments of “oh yeah, I totally just WROTE that”?

DC: Really proud of Issue #3, like I mentioned before, like because that was something that was kind of living in my head altogether. Issue #2, which you have right here really stands out, I’m gonna grab it….Just because Burnham got to really shine in this, he did the cutaway view of the of the fortress. But also, there was another neat scene where we had this character, Velvet, who’s like this worm, meta-human crawling through the ducts spying on all the members of the Doom Patrol. And when I wrote that for Burnham, like, I envisioned it way differently, but the way he put this together, it’s so cool–so you get like all these little segments, like the characters and their little personal moments. And I think that’s super interesting. Any opportunity that I got for Burnham to do stuff like that, where he’d spread his artistic wings, like I was always looking for that–the him and I were in a studio together before the pandemic for a number of years. So, we always talked comics, DC Comics, in particular…I know where his like artistic strengths lie, so getting him to do these kinds of things. It was like, you know…it was super fun for both of us. Also like, we got to do a special bonus issue, which we put right in the middle of the series that was drawn by David LaFuente. And it was an opportunity to do like a therapy issue, which is kind of similar to what they did an X Factor back in the day, except it’s the Doom Patrol, so our therapist isn’t just going to be any therapists. It’s Dr. Syncho, and she has the ability to channel these five fith-dimensional beings through her and her body transforms, and they speak as one entity known as Jerry, who, you know is from the fifth dimension has all the answers. And so it’s like the perfect therapist. And so…when they’re talking about their issues, instead of it just being talk therapy, the whole reality warps around them and it starts to show, you know, all the things that they’re talking about. So, that issue’s a series of like double page spreads, and Dave LaFuente was the perfect person to draw like, it just came out so good. And I’m super proud of that issue, too. Like those are the big standouts for me.

FelixLeter: When creating a character like Degenerate/Subject 99 in Unstoppable Doom Patrol, how much do you communicate what you think the character should look like and how much do you leave it up to the artist you’re working with – in this case, Chris Burnham?

DC: Like I said, Burnham and I were in a studio. So like, the cool thing about working with him, I draw too, and so sometimes it’s easier for me to communicate with him specifically, I can say, “well here’s a little doodle of what I’m thinking” and then Burnham will make it way better. But we did that, from, you know, the core level of the costumes, like we changed their core color from red to orange, because I wanted them to look like superhuman EMTs. So, it was like I would send sketches, like I sent a sketch of what I thought Beast Girl would look like, and then Burnham made her way cuter and cooler…But it was that back and forth that was really interesting. So with Degenerate, probably the hardest one for us to come up with because we knew we wanted it to have kind of like, you know, because he’s always changing and evolving and like the meaner he gets, the more messed up his body gets and stuff. We went back and forth with that, but the great thing about that kind of character is, because his body is always evolving or changing, he can look fairly different from panel to panel, but once Burnham kind of keyed in on the design of just having that A shirt, and then you know, jeans and kind of being barefoot, and I think that we really settled on that. But yeah, it’s probably one of the purest collaborative processes I’ve done in comics, just because Burnham and I were already so close going into it. So, we were already talking every day, and so this was an opportunity to just keep doing that and passing drawings back and forth, and really just kind of getting deep into the process. Beast Girl for instance, it ended up that character ended up being Burnham’s favorite and the more love Birnam poured into it, the more her story opened up in my mind, and it was like seeing that and you know, like…the origin that pops up for her in Issue #4 I hadn’t conceived that and actually wrote that Issue #4 after I wrote everything else. And it was just, you know, through Burnham’s drawings, and through our discussions and things like that, that her character evolved. So that is definitely the magic of comics.

IanLafferty120.56329: Since this run had a lot of reoccurring members and some new ones, who were you most excited to bring back, or is there someone else that you would have liked to bring but couldn’t? And who was your favorite new addition to the world of Doom Patrol?

DC: It was hard, because there’s a lot of characters that I didn’t get to, and it was like, you know, on a long enough timeline, they will I would have brought everybody back. You know, like I have ideas about all those characters. And once we’re able to get into Volume 2,I think there you’ll see that kind of manifest. I like just the kind of blue collar attitude of Cliff Steel, you know, like he shows up, he’s like, “point me in the direction I got a punch”, something’s kind of the same attitude is Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four, or Hellboy–they all kind of have that same kind of energy that I find really interesting. And he’s you know, he’s the kind of guy who’s like “everybody get behind me, because I essentially can’t be killed”. And so like, that kind of attitude is really interesting to me…As far as the newer characters, I was really not technically a new character, but I was really excited for the gestalt of General Immortus and the Candlemaker…I knew that was coming. And Burnham and I had these cool drawings of like, a skull with candles floating around it, and it was like, that’s, that’s just neat!..And then the way he’s dressed, I just it was like the normal General Immortus outfit, but it’s almost kind of like, it’s black nd the wax is melting on it…and has a little bit of vibes of like Gerard Way’s The Black Parade, but that was a character I was really excited about. Starbro, was a character that Burnham and I had cooked up a little bit before this series, we were pitching on another series, and he was one of the villains that we wanted to put in that and we were bumbed when that didn’t come together. But you know–it all gets used eventually! So, we got to bring Starbro in and that was that was a super fun issue to do that. And then you know, like I said about Beast Girl–as Burnham kind of fell in love with that character she opened up to me and she’s one of my favorites now. I’ll count The Chief because it’s like Jane’s new persona as the Chief and I think that’s…it’s a new character, we’ll count it! But having that new dynamic with her character felt logical and it felt interesting, and she’s very different from Jane. So I think that’s, that’s really fun, like, exploring the different alters, which we got to do with like Chainsaw Nun and some of those other characters–which is just other opportunities for Burnham to draw something really crazy at the end of the day.

Jurisdiction: Doom Patrol is often considered a small team of misfits and outcasts. How has their unfamiliar and – dare I say – inhuman nature affected the plot and characters within the series?

DC: They’re interesting, because they’re, they’re the underdogs of the DC Universe. You know, like at the end of every big crisis you always have that big double page spread of all the characters, and the Doom Patrol usually aren’t there–they’re not on anybody’s Christmas card list. They’re the characters that nobody thinks about because they’re kind of like the weirdos. Somebody once said like, if the Justice League is the varsity team, the Doom Patrol are like the weird kids under the bleachers. But at the end of the day, I think that’s what makes them super interesting. I think they have a unique perspective on what it means to be a meta human in the DC Universe. Mot all meta humans become superheroes. And I think that a lot of times, when somebody has their meta human, their meta gene activated and meta human abilities go crazy–bad things can happen, you know, like they can, they can be sent to a laboratory, where they become like a guinea pig for experiment, or worse, they can kind of end up in something like the Suicide Squad where they’ve got like a bomb in their head, and they’re working for the government. And they just like, you know, they’re pretty much a tool of the system. And so those are both, I think bad paths, ultimately. So, I feel like new meta humans that are more freakish, they kind of hide in the shadows–and that’s good for no one. You know, we all need community! Hiding off on your own where things fester and get bad, I think that just is a is a recipe for super-villains. And so that’s where that whole idea of like saving the world by saving the monsters came from, where it’s like, instead of showing up on the scene, and just punching someone, they start talking to them! And they start figuring out what’s going on–sometimes you gotta punch things, but ultimately, more often than not, they’re having conversations and finding ways and inviting those people to come, come to the Shelter, which is the base, and learn how to control their abilities. Learn how to integrate into society…it’s a metaphor for having a disability as much as anything because you know, if your arms are suddenly tentacles, you gotta learn how to tie your shoes again, you’ve got to learn how to do a lot of things. And that’s how I see the Doom Patrol. Helping the meta human community.

NYJT3: Hello, welcome back! Were there any ideas or things you wanted to do with Doom Patrol that you didn’t get the chance to?

DC: Well, it was interesting, because when we originally started doing it, we only had the six issues. And so we didn’t have that bonus issue, and I knew the Knight terrors crossover was coming, but we didn’t have enough information yet about the series to know if it would warrant Knight Terrors crossover. So it was like, fortunately, I was assigned the Zatanna story and talking with Josh, who was running that event–Josh Williamson–and he was like, well, you know…it basically came down to Zatanna would need help and these are the only people that are awake. One of them was Robot Man I was like, perfect! I got to include them in that event in a kind of stealthy way, you know where it’s like we get we get Robot Man in there, so that kind of check that off. But one of the things I was hoping to do with that Knight Terrors event was kind of get into the meaty emotional stuff. And so when we ended up getting this bonus issue, which also was convenient because it would give Burnham a breather, and allow him some space to you know, get ahead on the deadlines and everything…like I said before I had everything written and so kind of put it all up on the board, and I was like “what’s missing? What do I need?” And it was that those meaty emotional moments and it was like…the perfect way to do this is to kind of do that therapy issue. Just like I said earlier, there’s still a lot of stuff that I want to do with this theme. There’s a lot of extended Doom Patrol family and villains that I would love to get into. Plus, we left a couple lingering threads there in the first series, you know, technically Velvet’s is part of the team but he’s also he’s literally a mole for Peacemaker in General Blanche’s kind of, you know, mission to eradicate them. Plus the stuff with Danny The Street and Batwoman Who Laughs and all that stuff. So is like there’s, there’s all those things there, which I want to get to as well, But there’s some really neat stuff that we want to do too. I really think that Doom Patrol should be a big part of the DC Universe, so like anything I can do to help that manifest–I would love to.

HubCityQuestion: Hi, Dennis! The Doom Patrol has often been used as an allegory for the queer experience, especially through Morrison and Pollack’s runs on the series. Was that something you had in mind on your own Doom Patrol run?

DC: Yeah, 100%. I think, you know, even Robot Man who like we kind of consider this meat and potato character is still also asexual because, you know, they’re a brain and robot body…and that was something that Rachel Pollack got into in her run and having her great date the trans character Coagula. It was a it was not a typical relationship and, you know, very clearly a queer relationship. One of the things we did in the therapy issue was kind of thread in the additional wrinkles about Larry’s character from the TV series, we made that pretty clear that that’s his same origin now where he you know…I guess he was initially a bisexual character, but I think he identifies as gay now but it’s the you know, having the affair with his co-pilot and kind of keeping that secret–that’s all in there. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s Larry’s character like it was such a defined way of showing him on that TV show that I don’t I don’t think there’s any other way to do Larry. I think it’s as much an allegory for like, disability as we were talking earlier, it’s an allegory for the queer experience. Also just othering in general, I think all those things, you can’t really do Doom Patrol unless you’re thinking about that.

Storyteller91: Is there any other book you’d like to work on in DC?

DC: All of them! I really love the DC Universe. I was as a kid, I was probably like, X-Men was probably my first love and I still have a big love for the X-Men…but the DC Universe was something that excited me my first ever comic book when I was four years old…SeaWorld used to do–I lived in Florida—SeaWorld used to do these like waterski shows. And you come out of the show and they were handing out comics…it was like Batman #316, like Batman and Catwoman on the cover, but it was like–I was hooked. They were just handing out comics to kids, like, you know, first ones free. And they got me! I was a fan of all the cartoons back in the day. The big characters, I would love to get into them, but I love the smaller characters too–I just did a Metamorpho story in the World’s Finest Annual. And the cool thing about that is I’ve got to find a detail that hasn’t ever really been explored about Metamorpho, which is like, we always hear about his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s family, and Simon Stagg, and all that but we’ve never met more Metamorpho’s dad! His dad was like this archaeologist, but he wasn’t into fame and fortune, like Rex Mason was, and so we got to dig into that and kind of find those details. And it’s like–that’s amazing to me when a character like Metamorpho has been around for so long, and you’re still able to find these like new little details and these new little veins to mine about those characters. And I believe that’s true about nearly all the characters in the DC Universe, there’s so much stuff that’s still left to be explored, and that that excites the hell out of me.

Jitsu: I know you love karaoke. If you had to pick a Doom Patrol member to sing with you in Karaoke, who would it be and why?

DC: We did a variant cover actually, that was the team doing karaoke! On the TV show, Larry had a karaoke–more of a vision, and he didn’t actually follow through with it–but it was like a dream of doing karaoke. So…I mean Cliff on that cover, that variant, cover Cliff is very unhappy to be at karaoke and that tracks, interesting. I think Rita Farr being a former actress would be fun to watch just because you know, it’s going to be really dramatic. I mean, man, the whole team I feel like with with the Chief, or Jane, you know, it’s an opportunity to get a different a different alter to do karaoke every time. I feel like the Larry that’s in our book now is probably comfortable enough with himself that he would feel comfortable doing karaoke. I think Larry’s my final answer.

This is Dennis Culver–I’m going to pick the winner of the signed copy of Unstoppable Doom Patrol from the community. This is this is the one–it’s @NYJt3. They’re the winner!!

Congrats to @NYJt3 for winning a signed copy of Unstoppable Doom Patrol Vol. 1! :clap:

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Congrats @NYJt3!

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Thanks :+1:

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Congratulations @NYJt3! :partying_face: :tada:

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Thanks :+1:

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These are always my favorite things on DC Community - hearing from the artists and creators themselves and getting to ask them questions! Love this.

Congratulations to @NYJt3 for winning the autographed copy!

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Congratulations @NYJt3

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Congrats! :smiley: That’s super cool!

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Thanks all​:+1:
Looking forward to when it comes.

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