Interview: Keith Giffen Talks SUGAR AND SPIKE (and Everything Nice)

They’ve gone from DC’s most famous child stars to private detectives super-heroes call when things get a little too embarrassing for modern audiences. They’re Sugar and Spike, Metahuman Investigators, and surprise — they have veteran funnyman and DC Comics aficionado Keith Giffen at the helm.

With a newly collected six-chapter trade paperback — newly compiled from stories in the recent Legends of Tomorrow series — hitting comic stores this week, Giffen sat down again with Comicosity to share a bit about how the characters evolved over the course of the title and where you can find them next!

Matt Santori: When we first talked about the characters before the first issue, you had a lot to say about how they got from their original incarnation to now. But now I want to ask how you feel the characters evolved over the course of the series for you?

Keith Giffen: There wasn’t any major development. I knew who they were going in.

But I think it was about halfway through that I realized that Sugar and Spike are never going to be a couple. Whatever history they have is a history of good friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that so many times when a guy and a girl are working together in comics, they wind up a couple. And that’s not always the case.

But with Sugar and Spike, I kind of knew who they were going in. And as it progressed, they just settled into their own personalities.

I’d been thinking about this book for years. I’d been after Dan DiDio to let me do Sugar and Spike for a long time, so when I finally got this, it was almost all worked out.

MSG: Sugar is obviously a very closed off personality at the beginning of the series, and she’s certainly not gregarious by the end of the series, but you do get more of a sense of who she is and what she’s feeling by the end.

KG: Oh yeah. I know what I think Sugar’s backstory is. Why she is how she is and what happened. All these little things we hint at — what Spike mentions in regard to her past — I know what all those stories are.

If I ever get a chance, maybe I’ll tell those stories, if they’re interesting enough, in and of themselves. You know? Like, Sugar has a bad date may not be a really interesting story, because everyone on earth has had a bad date.

For the most part — and I do this deliberately, because I have a lot of reverence for the characters Sugar and Spike when they were babies — I don’t want to spend too much time in development of their early years. If you do that, eventually you start poking at what Sheldon Meyer did, and that’s not right to me.

In one of the issues, you see Sugar sorting through some old pictures and she comes across a shot of her and Spike as babies. I almost didn’t put that in there, because I was concerned about doing anything that would alter or capitalize on the memory of what Sheldon Meyer had done.

Yes, I took the characters Sugar and Spike, but I tried to take them as individuals. Yes, they were those babies way back when. What happened during their early years? How did they come to this point? Eventually maybe if I come up with a good enough story, maybe I’ll tell it. But in the meantime, I don’t think it’s necessary to enjoy the characters as they are.

MSG: So, tell me a little about developing Rebecca, the villain or antagonist for the series.

KG: Rebecca happened on the fly. I didn’t see her coming. I knew I needed a villain for the Superman Island story with the toys. My original idea was that Rebecca was the niece of the Toyman, trying to impress her uncle. But I thought that was kind of cannibalistic.

When I really started thinking about the character, I just said, “Let’s see what happens.” So, I wrote her like a wannabe, looking to make a name for herself — and obviously not really good at it.

That was one of the characters that I just sat back and watched how she developed. I think that’s why I didn’t make her a constant. She appeared in the Superman Island story, and then there was a story in-between where she didn’t show up. And then she returned as a major character for the Green Lantern Itty story.

If Sugar and Spike proves popular enough to continue, of course Rebecca will come back. She’s sort of like their Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom. She’s just not very good at it.

MSG: Speaking of Superman Island and Itty, how did you decide which cases or comics you were going to riff off of?

KG: To be honest, I chose them, and Dan and I would talk about it. They were just the ones I stories for.

Look, there are HUNDREDS of DC stories I could riff Sugar and Spike off of. Because one cool thing about Sugar and Spike is that no one — not ever — brought up continuity to me. Let’s face it, if you’re a continuity freak, these two characters stick out like a sore thumb. We’re saying, yes, Batman had all those stupid costumes. Yes, Wonder Woman almost married an alien.

Sugar and Spike are just fun comics for the sake of being fun. Relax, enjoy the story. If you get the story, great. If you don’t, hopefully you enjoy the characters. We don’t need to worry about where Superman was on July 4, 1986. It’s not a concern.

We’re just having fun with DC history. And I think that’s what was so attractive to me about the book. We could do a story that was about Superman Island. If you go by continuity, then Superman Island doesn’t exist.

But the fact is that there was a story told I could springboard off of and point to it. I don’t care if it was erased by Crisis or anything. It was story that was told by DC. It was a fun little story. Is there any way I can make it fun again?

Trust me, I had no idea that Lamplighter was going to come in. A lot of the things that ended up happening later in the volume were a surprise to me. It’s like that old saying that “The stories wrote themselves?” I’m not really fond of that saying, but it was just like that.

MSG: And how about working with Bilquis Evely? I mean, all I can really say in reading is simply one word: gorgeous. How was your experience?

KG: OH! She’s gold. I’d work with her on anything else again. ANYTHING. If DC came to me and said, “I want you to work on this with Bilquis.” I’m in.

She came into the project and I had no idea who she was. I had never heard of her and sure, when she was brought in on Sugar and Spike, I looked at some of her work. But as it turns out, I’ve never worked with anyone that came into it with storytelling that fully blown. The angles, the expressions on the faces, the acting — it was just all fully there.

I can’t think of anyone who could have done this book better, nor anyone I would be willing to continue doing this book with besides Bilquis.

MSG: I have to say, Keith, I was a little surprised to see you write the Legion of Super-Heroes into the last issue without taking the opportunity to kill Karate Kid one more time.

KG: Ha! I knew the kind of story I wanted to tell, but I figured since it was probably my last Legion of Super-Heroes story ever, let me have a little fun. Bringing in Karate Kid just to kill him would have probably stuck out like a sore thumb in the story we were trying to tell.

I found the Supergirl character more interesting than any other character in there — being able to put the more innocent character in there.

With the Legion of Super-Heroes, I don’t know if anyone has ever done a story about the three original members when they still had their names across their chest since they first appeared. Lightning Lad was even Lightning Boy! His name was even wrong.

It was a great way for me to wrap up the story, move the main characters forward, and have fun doing it.

The reason Supergirl was in there was because I had emailed Bilquis and asked her, “If you could draw any character at all, which one would you choose?” And she came back with Supergirl. So, we evolved around that. It was kind of a thank you for all the amazing work she did.

MSG: Awesome. Well, I tease about Karate Kid, but I do hope this isn’t your last Legion of Super-Heroes story ever.

KG: The weird thing is, whenever I think about the Legion, I probably think I’m better off not dealing with them right now. What I probably would want to do with the Legion of Super-Heroes would probably make the Five Years Later run very, very conventional.

MSG: OH WOW. Well, on that note, any future plans for Sugar and Spike beyond this volume or another potential series?

KG: I like to gather my children to me. Sugar and Spike are now regulars in Blue Beetle. I’ve brought them in as regular supporting cast, and I feel like the Blue Beetle book has the sort of light touch that they’ll work really well in.

A lot of it was basically me being selfish. I really like these characters. I want to play with them now. I’ll stick them in a book I’m doing.

But if DC came to me and said they wanted another Sugar and Spike book, I’ll do it. In fact, they don’t even need to ask me. Just send me the deadline.

It’s just pure joy from beginning to end. Characters I enjoyed doing. The kind of stories I like to tell. And an artist I could turn my back on and come back to find it was gorgeous. It’s just all there. An enjoyable experience, period. Over and out.


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