By Hayden Mears
Joshua Williamson has spent enough time with the Rogues to know why they’re such important members of Flash’s rogues gallery. Until now, though, the comic scribe has had to work with these characters within the parameters of DC’s vast but commercially conscious continuity. But with Rogues, his first story published under DC’s Black Label imprint, he has more say in their playground.
The premise for Rogues is simple but compelling: Leonard Snart, known to most as Captain Cold, is a dejected has-been who for years has watched helplessly as the city he loved, along with his reputation as a super-criminal, began to fade. Unwilling to feign complacency for another second, Snart gathers the dispersed members of the Rogues for one last high-stakes heist: steal the riches from Gorilla City, the home of Gorilla Grodd.
We caught up with Williamson about his new series, which is brought to life by the incredible Basketful of Heads artist Leomacs. Check out our full chat with him below!
Hayden Mears: In the broadest terms possible, what is Rogues about?
Joshua Williamson: It’s about the Rogues getting back together to go on one last heist. That last heist is to go rob gold from Gorilla City. Rob it direct from Gorilla Grodd.
Back in 2016, when I was working on The Flash, we knew that the third arc was gonna be about the Rogues. I was pitching all these ideas and we were going back and forth about what we could do. One of the things I pitched was this Rogues story about them going to Gorilla City to steal from Gorilla Grodd. One of the things we had to keep an eye on was, “Where’s the Flash in this story? How is this a Flash story?” Doing a story like this was not going to work [in the main Flash title]. But every once in a while, this would come up in conversations with the editors at DC.
Back in the spring of 2020, one of the editors reached out and asked, “Do you ever want to do that story again?” At that point, I was like, “No,” because I was literally wrapping up Flash. Then a week later, I went back to them and I said “Here’s what I’d like to do with that book.” So once it got greenlit in 2020, I started working on it then.
I’m a continuity junkie, so I feel like if you are a fan of the Rogues and you are a fan of The Flash there is something there for you. But it was also important that somebody could read that book and not know anything about those characters and basically get what they need.
Mears: “Rogues go rob Gorilla City” is one hell of a logline.
Williamson: Yeah! I pitched this idea six years ago, so the idea that it kept floating around and people would talk about it and people at DC were like, “We still like that idea!” was part of why I was like, “Let’s do this.”
But yeah, I love DC and I love all of the DC characters. I do enjoy all of the cosmic stuff, obviously, and I like the big explosions. But really, it is about the characters.
Mears: Reading this first issue, it became very clear that Captain Cold is more dangerous than he’s ever been. Now he’s got something to prove and I’m having a hard time imagining there’s anything he wouldn’t do. I mean, his reentry into crime is a brutal murder, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended).
Williamson: Any time I get an opportunity to kind of boil things down like this I try to take it. And that was the thing about Snart here. Show more of who he is, more of his frustrations, and try to empathize with him. I think I understand his feelings of economic anxiety and this idea of being left behind. You know, the “Is this it?” Is that it for him? Is he just gonna be living in his trailer under the bridge forever? He used to be somebody and he wanted to be somebody. He’s like, “Alright, I’m gonna do whatever I can to get back to that.”
But we explore lots with him. We explore lots with his sister Lisa, and Tiger and Magenta. It’s definitely a Black Label book.
Mears: This is a two-pronged question: What about DC’s Black Label do you find most challenging? And what’s the greatest opportunity you see with doing a Black Label book?
Williamson: I think the format. There’s a certain expectation that comes with a Black Label book and that can be daunting. But you also have a little more freedom. You’re not connected to too much other continuity and that’s always one of the hardest parts of doing in-continuity stuff. You’re connected to a huge tapestry.
When you get to step outside that, and kind of tell your own little story over here, there’s power there. There’s the ability to breathe differently. After working on Flash for almost five years, I always really made an effort to reflect everything that was happening in the DC Universe at the time. And that was its own challenge. With Rogues, I got to let go of all that.
And also I got to work with Leomacs. He did Basketful of Heads and I remember reading it and going, “This book is awesome.” I remember reading that last page and going, “Who is this Leocmacs” person?” and following him on Instagram and Twitter. So when the editor asked if I wanted to work with Leomacs, I was like, “Hell yeah!”
Published by DC Comics, Rogues #1 is due out in stores and digitally on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022.