10 Minutes with Brian Buccellato, Writer for Injustice: Gods Among Us
Alright, I have to apologize to everyone for how late I’m getting this to you. If you follow me on twitter, or if you’ve been reading the Upcoming Comics posts lately, then you know July has been a very trying month for me concerning anything that is remotely technical. That being said, I’ve finally transcribed my interview with Brian Buccellato from Comic Con.
I was a little unsure of this interview going into it. I’d heard great things about Fletcher, King, and Seeley, but I hadn’t really heard anything about Buccellato. I had hoped that I would’ve picked up a sense of his personality when I attended the Villains Panel that DC hosted, but he was so introverted that I didn’t get a good read… and I was ultimately left hoping that he was introverted because he’s a little quiet or shy, rather than being introverted because he’s an asshole. I’m not joking, I kept thinking, “Oh God… I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a bad interview…” I even mentioned to Andrew that I wasn’t sure what to expect at one point.
So the day of the interview came. I was supposed to interview Tom King and Tim Seeley, then interview Buccellato roughly thirty minutes after that. Well, I had literally just finished my interview with King and Seeley, sat down on a nearby couch to wait until my time with Buccellato, and started chomping on a dark chocolate granola bar because I hadn’t had lunch yet. Then, with my mouth full, the publicists says, “His first interview just called and said they’re running late. Do you want to go ahead and start your interview with him?” I openly admit that I was COMPLETELY caught off guard with this, and managed a, “Urm…” through a mouthful of food, then nodded yes, and threw in a “why not” type of shrug… except in that moment, I realized my water bottle was empty, and I suddenly became paranoid that I was going to have food and chocolate in my teeth. Classy… Thankfully, I was all clear, and sat down to see the Buccellato was wearing an Olaf shirt from Frozen. I knew, in that moment, that this guy was awesome!
McDonald: Hey. How’s it going? I’m Josh from Batman-News. And you’re Brian…
Buccellato: Give it a shot.
McDonald: (Attempting to pronounce his name correctly.) Buccellato?
Buccellato: Yes. Correct.
McDonald: Awesome! They kept butchering your name in the panel yesterday then.
Buccellato: Oh, yeah. Yeah… they butchered it.
McDonald: Well, I’m glad I was right. (Laughs) So… It’s nice to meet you.
McDonald: I enjoy your work.
Buccellato: Thank you.
McDonald: I’m going to start- I’m going to focus on Injustice for the interview.
McDonald: I sat in on the villains panel yesterday, and I want to start by saying that I found it very interesting that you described yourself as a “square.”
Buccellato: Yeah. (Laughs)
McDonald: I would not have expected that.
McDonald: Especially after seeing you in person, and hearing you talk about your books, and interacting with the other writers. But, if I’m being honest, I’m a total square as well.
Buccellato: Yeah, honestly, I didn’t even start drinking alcohol until I turned 30.
Buccellato: Yeah, I was pretty square. I guess I’m a control freak, but only of myself. Like, I want to be able to control my actions, and be responsible.
McDonald: I’m the same way, man. I hate not having control, especially of myself. Anyway, I thought it was interesting, and I connected with it, because you tied it to your writing. You said that you’re a square, but you write dark things, almost like it’s your outlet of darkness.
Buccellato: Yeah, I guess it’s the best way for me to say it.
McDonald: So, Injustice. Great freaking book!
Buccellato: Oh, thanks man!
McDonald: I think it’s the one book that I cuss the most with when reading it.
McDonald: There are definitely times that I’m – I’m going to cuss in a second – but there are definitely times that I’m flipping through – actually, I’m scrolling through on my iPad –
McDonald: And then something happens, and I just say, “Oh shit!”
McDonald: So kudos for getting that reaction out of me quite a bit.
Buccellato: Well, you know what? Tom Taylor really set up and amazing situation.
Buccellato: The things he put in motion, it was so easy to step in and take the baton from him. I mean, come on. It’s the whole universe! AND you get to kill people! What more can you ask for?
McDonald: You actually just mentioned two things I want to touch on. Tom Taylor. As you said, he did provide such a strong foundation, so did you have any reservations in filling his shoes?
Buccellato: Not really. No, not at all. I mean, mostly because I had read the first trade, and you know, you’re a busy dude, I’m a busy dude. Sometimes you get behind. But I read the first trade, and I loved it. And then when I was offered the gig, I went back, and before I said yes, I read every single issue. At that point, I was like, “Hell yeah! I’m on board! This is awesome!”
McDonald: I was in the same boat. We do reviews on our website, and we have someone else covering the book, but I, personally, had not been reading Injustice. And as terrible as it is, my thought process was, “I’d rather read other things. Books that pull from video games aren’t always the best.” And one of our readers called me out for not reading it. So at that point, I was like, “Yeah, you’re right. I can’t have reservations until I read it.” So I read it, and since then I’ve just been adamant that people need to read this book.
Buccellato: Honestly, that’s all on his (Tom Taylor) shoulders. He took something that could’ve been terrible, or could’ve been mediocre, and he made it… I can’t say enough good things about him.
McDonald: But you’re running with it. You’re keeping it going. You’re pushing it, and driving it. And I still can’t wait to turn the next page. But I hate the fact that I read it digitally, because right as I’m getting pumped about the issue, it cuts off. Each week it gets me!
Buccellato: Well, I mean, the good thing is that every ten pages you get an “Oh shit!” moment.
McDonald: Very true!
McDonald: You mentioned that you have the freedom to kill people. I wanted to know what that’s like from a writing standpoint. In the respect that you have a little more freedom to do what you want.
Buccellato: Yeah, I mean, I say that in jest. I’m not actively saying, “Who can I kill?” And there are still some rules. The story takes place within the parameters of the video game. And in the video game, the deciding incident takes place, and then the video game itself takes place five years later. We’re filling the blanks. But we know where it ends up. So I can’t kill Superman, or people who are in the game. So, there are rules that you have to work within, but within that, there are things you can do. It’s always hard to service the huge cast of this story, but you find moments where you can give everyone their due. Like Montoya. I killed Montoya. Spoiler! This year I killed Montoya, but I wanted to give her, her own spotlight for a couple of chapters, and let us understand how she feels about it. Her death was something that to me, was an interesting death. It’s not like she was punched in the face and died. She made a choice, and there were consequences.
Buccellato: So for me, it’s about thoughtfully figuring out where all of these characters fit, and sometimes they have tragic endings.
McDonald: They do. And I love that you mentioned consequences. Just throwing that out there. Our readers know, but I preach about it in my reviews quite a bit.
McDonald: How is your writing approach with this book different than writing Detective Comics since you’re not in a world where you have the continuity of fifty other books to consider and work around and with.
Buccellato: Functionally, writing, and the process of writing, is the same no matter what. Whether I’m doing my own creator owned stuff, or writing for DC. Writing is writing. Writing to me, is creative problem solving. Whether you’re the one who is creating the situations and solving for “X,” or DC is saying, these are the characters, and these are the situations… You have to solve all of these problems. You have to find an interesting way to tell a story and explore the character. But every time you do, you have all of these other things you have to contend with. So if you make a choice, it affects something else. So to me, it’s just creative problem solving. To me, there’s no difference in doing DC You/ New 52 Bruce, and Bruce from Injustice. It’s fun. It’s challenging. And it’s just part of the job.
McDonald: So, recently in Injustice, you had Superman and Wonder Woman going at it, and I have to ask, how do you top that? How do you – I guess – build on the brutality of this book?
Buccellato: Well, speaking to Wonder Woman and Superman first, that’s something that I felt like had to happen. Because in the video game, you can face off against anybody. That’s just part of the game. You fight and see who is better. So to me, the greatest challenge he could possibly face – in terms of a fight – is Wonder Woman. She’s just about as strong as he is, but she’s a better fighter. So, I hope that I justified why she kicks his ass. I know some people would say, “No, there’s no way,” but I believe that Superman would hedge his bets. He would hold back, you know? He wouldn’t be able to go full throttle against her. And with her being the amazing fighter that she is, she beat his ass. (Laughs.)
Buccellato: But moving forward, the gods come into play. So you’ve got Hercules. There’s a big battle between Superman and Hercules, and then Hercules and Shazam. Shazam comes back, and he’s got some blows to throw with Hercules.
Buccellato: Shazzy! And then there’s other gods as well, like Zeus, so I think the stakes will continue to be raised. And there’s going to be some surprise people returning that you maybe didn’t think would come back.
McDonald: Nice! I do want to touch on – you mentioned Superman and him pulling back with Diana – what is it like writing an evil Superman? I feel like that’s a huge responsibility, and very complex, because you have to look at who he is as a character, and then look at the decisions he’s making. At what point does he, or would he, realize he’s crossing a line or losing it.
Buccellato: Well, I mean… I think the questions you’re posing, and how you phrased them shows that – to me – you’re thinking about this as a writer does. Right?
McDonald: I do.
Buccellato: Which is awesome!
McDonald: Thank you.
Buccellato: The thing is, I don’t believe he’s evil. That’s the only way you can write it. He’s not hatching some evil plan. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. And, I didn’t make up this expression, but “We’re all the heroes of our own story.” Even Lex Luthor or the Joker, they’re the hero of their story. They’re the author of their story, and they have to believe that what they’re doing is the right thing for them. For Superman, it’s just… we’ve moved the line. There was this strict line of code of conduct that he would never cross, and in Injustice, this is the version of Superman where he is driven to- And you can’t blame him. I mean, look at what happened! His city. His unborn child. And his wife… If that doesn’t push you to the edge…
McDonald: Then what will?
Buccellato: Yeah! Then what will? And for him, he’s thinking about the old Vulcan needs of the many, and he’s willing to do what it takes. If that means killing Green Lantern, or knocking out the whole Green Lantern Corps… Those are things that he’s willing to do, and he thinks he’s doing it for the right reason.
McDonald: This is based on a video game, and in the Villains Panel, you brought up how excited you were to have Hercules punch someone into space, since it’s featured in the game.
Buccellato: Right. Absolutely!
McDonald: Can you possible give a teaser of anything else you’re pulling from the game that hasn’t been used yet in the book… or maybe just tease the character? You know, get a little speculation going.
Buccellato: Hmmm… Honestly… I’ll just flat out tell you. I want to figure out how to punch somebody really far into the ground! I haven’t figured that out yet, but –
McDonald: Well, you’ve got a roster of characters that would enable you to do that.
Buccellato: (Laughs.) Yeah! But I want to make it right. For me, that’s one of the more iconic things. I’m not going to have Flash run around the Earth seventy times, but it’s nice to try and throw in these nods. I think it was Year Three, I had Green Lantern use his cannon gun that he uses in the video game. It’s a small thing, but I think those things tie it back to the original content.
McDonald: It’s a great payoff.
McDonald: Ok, final question to wrap up. For people that play the game and love the game, that aren’t reading the book… what would you want to say about this book to get them to read it?
Buccellato: Well, first of all, they’re missing out on a great story!
McDonald: They are!
Buccellato: I mean, go back to the beginning. Start from the beginning… and I guarantee you’ll keep reading. There’s just so many nuances, so many characters. A lot happens, and it’s unpredictable. And that’s one of the great things about it – the level of unpredictability. You know when you pick up a New 52 Superman, he’s going to be alive at the end. You know that Green Arrow is going to be alive at the end of his book. Well guess what, that’s not necessarily so in Injustice.
McDonald: I completely agree. And it’s not cheap. It feels like its-
Buccellato: Oh no. It feels real. Real stakes.
McDonald: Yeah, everything has a weight.
Buccellato: Real consequences.
McDonald: Definitely! Well, my time is up. Thank you very much, sir.
McDonald: I appreciate it.
Buccellato: You got it.
McDonald: Thanks for taking ten minutes, and keep up the good work!
Buccellato: I appreciate it. Thank you!
McDonald: And if you don’t mind, I’m going to get a picture of you. Oh no, you can’t cross your arms. You have to show off that awesome Frozen shirt!
Buccellato: (Laughs) How’s this?
Buccellato ended up being a great surprise, and I felt like I connected with him as a writer. I found he had quite a bit of humility, and loved how much praise he gave Tom Taylor. To me, that’s a solid sign of someone’s character, as well as their love of what they do. If you’re active on twitter, give Brian a follow. His handle is @BrianBooch.
I also, strongly recommend that you read Injustice: Gods Among Us if you haven’t been doing so. But as Buccellato said in the interview, start from the beginning. Do it! Do it now!