Dan Didio isn’t just the co-publisher of DC Comics, he’s also one of the company’s writers, working on monthly series The Outsiders, and having written the Metal Men strip in the just-released mammoth Wednesday Comics collection. I talked to him about his writing, why the Metal Men looked like they’ve just stepped out of the 1960s, and whether his day job sharpens writing skills.
I was re-reading your Metal Men strip in Wednesday Comics before talking to you, and it seems like a light, fun strip and then ends on such a downer. You kill them off! Even though the remaining characters talk about rebuilding them later, there’s this air of wistfulness, a “They were great, now they’re gone” thing.
That used to be the end of every Metal Men comic in the early days of the series. They’d always get blown up at the end, and they’d always be left with the question of whether or not Doc Magnus could rebuild them again just the way they were. That was one of the staples from the early stories that I remembered, I remembered it so well that when it came time to bring that story to an end, it seemed like a fun way to approach it.
Was this a very nostalgic thing for you? Have you always been dreaming of doing a Metal Men strip?
Well, it’s funny because, originally, I was not one of the first choices to do anything in Wednesday Comics. One of the teams had dropped out at the last minute, and the editor, Mark Chiarello, came up to me and goes, “I need some help here,” and I said, sure, what do you need? He says, “Well, I need one of these,” and I had already turned him down once before, but I said, okay, I know you’re in a crunch, I guess I’ll do one, what’s left? He gave me a list and I thought, I’ll try the Metal Men. I enjoy it, and when we had Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez as the artist, I jumped at the chance. He’s one of my favorite artists of all time, and it was just a great opportunity, I really wanted to do it to work with him. I was really nervous, because I’m a really big fan of the Metal Men, and the last thing I wanted to do was do a story that didn’t do the characters that I enjoyed so much justice, or give them the proper treatment.
There’s a couple of injokes in the thing. One of the first things I tried to do, and we sort of shook it off after the first three segments, was that we tried to identify every character by name in every strip. It seems ambitious and, unfortunately, it was a little more daunting than I’d expected to try and work that into the story in every single issue. And then, in the very first one, we actually introduce them in disguises, and the disguises are actually from the [original] series itself, when the series was running in the ’60s. If you look at it correctly, the very first line-up you look at has the characters in disguise underneath their faces in the logo.
I was wondering if the very retro disguises were intentional, they kind of stand out on that first page. It’s like a time-warp.
Yeah, that was a joke in the original series. In the ’60s, the Metal Men took on human identities and they were some of the most outlandish, ’60s clothing, I always remembered it fondly and we found a way to work it into the story, which was even more fun.
That’s something I love about 1960s comics, and especially 1960s DC, was that they tried to be contemporary and failed in the most over the top way possible.
Oh, they failed brilliantly, I think. [Laughs] Their failure is even more fun than a success would be. That’s the fun stuff.