The following interview by Newsarama with Bill Willingham took place in 2007. However, since its publication it was removed from their website. We’re delighted that we’ve managed to locate a saved copy of the interview:
Salvation Run; a seven issue miniseries by Bill Willingham and Sean Chen, kicking off in November, and announced today at the San Diego Comic-Con. We spoke with Willingham during a quiet moment that DC bo0th.
Newsarama: Bill, big picture-wise, what is Salvation Run?
Bill Willingham: In the comics, even as we speak, you’ll notice that villains are being captured and disappearing. What you probably haven’t noticed yet is that they’re not going to be showing up again for a while. So where the hell are they?
Newsarama: I give up.
Bill Willingham: Just like England decided that, “Hey, we have this great little place called Australia that we own (they didn’t care about the inhabitants) – let’s use it as a prison. Let’s ship all of our ne’er do wells there.”
Salvation Run takes that idea and applies it to the DC Universe. The skies are full of planets that can support life in the DCU, and they finally decide to pick one, and to just get rid of the super villain problems for good. We’re not judging them anymore, we’re not going to go through the song and dance and find them guilty, we’re just saying that we’re tried of them – tired of them committing crimes, and tired of them not being able to stay locked up or reforming. So they wash their hands of them – wish them good luck in the new place, and…boot ’em.
All of them want to conquer the world and rule the planet. They’re just given a planet to rule and conquer. And there’s no doorway to come back. The technology is controlled earthside, and there’s no way for anyone on the planet to access it. Buh-bye.
Newsarama: So who gets the boot?
Bill Willingham: We’re not talking about a few C and D level villains here and there, we’re talking about the big guns. The majority of the DC villains list will be gone from the DC Universe as of issue #1 of Salvation Run.
NRAMA: Just to try and point out an example of this in action, would it be safe to say that Piper and Trickster would have found themselves on this world had they not escaped capture in Countdown?
Bill Willingham: That’s a fairly safe guess.
Newsarama: You referred a lot to “they” when you were talking about the course of action that’s being taken here. Who’s doing the capturing and the hunting? Not to mention the decision-making here?
Bill Willingham: It’s probably best to ask who isn’t. As far as we know, it’s certain elements of the government and extra-government agencies that have put this plan into motion, along with the help of certain super-hero elements.
Newsarama: When you say this involves the “big guns,” any names you can drop?
Bill Willingham: Well, without giving a whole cast list, it’s a safe bet that we wouldn’t do this without characters like Joker and/or Luthor showing up. We’ve got the second runs and the third runs and the also-rans, but we’ve got the major players in the DC villain universe as well, and we’re going to see what they’re really made of when it comes down to all the have to lie to, backstab or betray are each other.
Newsarama: Okay – all that’s well and good, but the name of the book is “Salvation Run” not “Prison Planet” or “Offworld Caged Heat.” What does the title refer to?
Bill Willingham: Well, let’s divide it up. If you put all the villains in the world into one group, there are basically two attitudes: the Joker’s attitude and the Luthor attitude. The Joker looks around this pristine wilderness and kinda freaks – he needs a city, with skyscrapers, take-out and taxis. From there, he’s gathering people to build him a city that he can terrorize.
Luthor on the other hand looks at his new world and its population and thinks, “Who do I have to kill to make sure everyone knows I’m in charge here? Because I am in charge here. And I don’t care how glorious this planet is, we are not going to allow the Sons of bitches who did this to us to get away with it.”
Of course, someone makes the play at, “Why do we want to leave? We own this world, and we can create our own civilization and someday they will name cities and countries and high schools after us.” But Luthor doesn’t care how good the deal is, because to embrace it would mean that the people who did it to them would get away with it, and that’s just not going to happen.
So right away, he’s got the attitude of, “Screw the people who feel this is inescapable, we’re going back. Now, who’s with me?” That’s the “salvation run” of the title – those who join with Luthor.
Newsarama: It also seems that, with these villains, there will be some…well, a lot of fighting between the factions…
Bill Willingham: Oh, of course. These are not “get along guys.” It’s not like all of one football team gets on the planet, and they feel that they have no one to fight. By their nature, they’re going to backstab someone.
But there will be some factions, and some groups a la Lord of the Flies, but let me put it this way, in the last face to face meeting I had with Dan DiDio, he said, “Every single issue, someone backstabs someone else, or you’re fired. I don’t want civilization starting, I want backstabbing and betrayals.”
Newsarama: And Sean Chen is drawing it?
Bill Willingham: Sean Chen is drawing it – it’s some pretty, pretty stuff.
Newsarama: So, wrapping up, can you tease some villains who’ll be making this move to a new world?
Bill Willingham: Well, there are the A-listers, obviously – the ones everyone knows; thre are also ones that I know, and I think I’m the only one who knows them, like Tapeworm, who appeared during my run on Robin. He looks like a tapeworm, and is just a dumb villain with a dumb power, but I’ve always had a fondness for him. So I’ve decided that he gets to be in it.
Newsarama: Anyone else?
Bill Willingham: Oh, they gave me a huge list – just huge. Four pages, single-spaced. And also, in my Shadowpact series, we have a villain called Kid Karnevil, who’s just a Mister little psychopath. The rumor is that he died and was kicked out of hell because he scared the staff.
In the first issue of Salvation Run, we find out that he looks up to the Joker as his role model, and hat’s not a good thing. Sort of the way that the Kathy Bates was James Caan’s greatest fan in Misery? Kid Karnevil is the Joker’s greatest fan. So yeah – I’m finding, or re-finding favorites.
But yeah – with a cast this big, we’ll be focusing on some.
Newsarama: What criteria gets villains picked up and sent here?
Bill Willingham: Anyone who falls under the category of “we’re tired of judging you, we’re tried of cleaning up after you, and we just want to be done with you.” The thing is – this isn’t a place of punishment or reward, those who are sending them away just don’t want to deal with them any more. If they become the coolest civilization in the galaxy, great – just never come back.
Newsarama: What kicked off this whole change in feeling and approach towards how super villains are dealt with?
Bill Willingham: That’s a great question, but I really couldn’t reveal that without showing who was really behind it all. But – pay really close attention to the books that are on the shelves now, and you will find hints to who’s really pulling the stings. I can tell you that we’ll reveal who’s behind it, and maybe a little bit later, we’ll reveal who’s really behind it.