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Tangled Titans Allow For Dirt On Deathstroke

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Titans #11 (MAR170338)

by Vince Brusio

Writer Christopher Priest is part of an epic crossover at DC Comics where Deathstroke and the Teen Titans are at each other’s throats, and this storyline stretches across several DC titles. Priest has the wheel when it comes to driving the action behind Deathstroke, and we were fortunate enough to talk to the writer about the machinations for his latest plot line. In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, Christopher Priest elaborates on The Lazarus Contract, and how it helps him to tell an origin story that was previously twisted and tangled.

It all kicks off with Titans #11 (MAR170338) arriving in shops May 10.


Vince Brusio: So let’s get the lay of the land here. Wally West’s return has made Deathstroke hold all calls and put all business on the back burner. He sees Wally as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, correct? Take us inside the mind of Deathstroke. What math is now the focus of his attention?

Christopher Priest: The assessment is not quite accurate. Deathstroke certainly makes note of this “new” Flash but that awareness is more or less background noise until the events of Deathstroke #18, where Deathstroke’s relationship with his surviving children hits an all-time low. Rather than take responsibility for having destroyed those relationships, Deathstroke does what he always does — deflect blame and accountability. The notion of a “second” Flash apparently emerging from the timestream inspires an oblique route toward reconciliation with his family: a journey through time to change the past.

Vince Brusio: You’re part of what looks to be The Three Musketeers for an epic crossover story that ranges across Titans #11, Teen Titans #8, Deathstroke #19, and Titans: The Lazarus Contract Special #1. Did you, Dan Abnett, and Benjamin Percy hole up in a hotel room for a weekend to bang out the plot Ocean’s 11 style? How did the collaboration break down as to who did what?

Christopher Priest: The crossover was my idea ostensibly because, as a result of all the changes to the Teen Titans continuity, I could not tell Deathstroke’s origin. So I went to our editor, Alex Antone, and asked if there was some way to clean up Titans continuity so I could tell my guy’s origin.

We did most of the back and forth via email and a few telephone conferences.

Vince Brusio: Core themes of betrayal and love beyond the grave seem to be underlying currents dragging our heroes into deep murky water. Add to that some punch-in-the-face visuals like Robin interrogating Nightwing about his history with Deathstroke. Now we’re mixing allegiances, tension, and teeth-grinding emotion you’d expect in a Nicholas Sparks novel. If we hold the Geiger counter over someone’s head, who’s registering as the hottest head in the room?

Christopher Priest: I’d have to guess Damian. He’s really the only character involved who holds a personal grudge against Deathstroke. They’ve had at least two one-on-one confrontations and they are both League of Assassins alumni.

Vince Brusio: What makes this series fun for you? What brings a smile to your face? What would you like to brag about overall when it comes to story of “The Lazarus Contract”?

Christopher Priest: I’m just happy to be able to tell my guy’s origin. I feel continuity exists to serve the story, not the other way around. There is just been too many continuity issues in the foreground of stories these days and too many scenes of heroes and villains standing around explaining why this guy now wears a red hat. Seriously, enough already. Let’s get back to creating good stories well told. I respect fans enough to have faith the fans themselves will figure out where all of the continuity puzzle pieces fit.

Vince Brusio: Ok. You’re not a writer. You’re a psychotherapist. If you were able to sit down in a room with the actors for this theater of pain, what questions would you ask them? Or would you offer them advice? How would Christopher Priest interact directly with Deathstroke, or Wally West, or Robin? If notes were taken during the sit-down, what would we read in the transcript?

Christopher Priest: Well, that’s a much bigger proposal than either of us would have time for. Deathstroke, as I see him, and as Marv Wolfman and Geoff Johns wrote him, is a human being once removed from his humanity, in the same sense of a first cousin once-removed. There is a barrier between Slade Wilson and the human condition that Wilson is either afraid to traverse or barred from traversing. As powerful a man as he is, he simply cannot hug his children. And that’s basically what this entire storyline is about: the world, if not the universe, threatened with extinction because this man can’t hug his kids.

The difference between the Wolfman or Johns’ Deathstroke is I’ve taken their interpretations of the character and made them more internal. Deathstroke no longer brags about how great he is, he simply goes and does. You define character by action —  by what they do, rather than having characters standing around yawn talking for 20 pages. They go, they do. We stop writing down to fans but allow them to interpret character and draw their own conclusions —  Deathstroke is an arrogant, emotionally crippled person. I don’t have anyone telling the fans that, I don’t have any captions saying that. Fans are not stupid and they don’t like being condescended to. Most fans I know tend to read analytically and enjoy writing on both the narrative and subtextual level.

As a psychotherapist, I would say there are many conclusions to be drawn from the several character arcs involved in this crossover; things we, as writers, hopefully won’t tell you, but you will learn through the qualities of these characters revealed through our writing, and through new resonances (and dissonance) discovered as these characters go, and as these characters do.

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Teen Titans #8 (MAR170340)
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Deathstroke #19 (MAR170342)
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Titans: The Lazarus Contract Special #1 (MAR170344)

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Click to see all four connecting covers!


Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.


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