‘Gotham Changes A Man': Francis Manapul And Brian Buccellato Discuss Tying ‘The Flash’ Into ‘Zero Year’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Matt D. Wilson

Wednesday, we brought you the news that DC Comics would be publishing tie-ins to the “Zero Year” origin story going on in “Batman” in 11 of its books come October. Over the next couple days, we’ll be bringing you interviews with the creators of two of those titles to see what they’re going to be adding to the “Zero Year” story. Today, we’re talking to Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato of “The Flash” to see what Barry Allen will be doing in his “Zero Year” tie-in story.

MTV Geek: From the solicit, it looks like this will entirely be a pre-Flash Barry story. Am I reading that right?

Brian Buccellato: One hundred percent! This is another chance for Francis and I to delve back into Barry’s pre-Flash world. We’ve previously touched on his past through flashbacks and in greater detail in “Flash” #0, but this is our first chance to dedicate ane entire, extra big-size issue to the man before the powers. I live for this kind of stuff!

Francis Manapul: It’s creatively rewarding when we get to expand Barry’s world, specially his connection with the rest of the DCU. It’s a great opportunity to get to know Barry on an even deeper level.

Geek: “Zero Year” is so distinctly about Gotham City that I can’t imagine a story that ties into it taking place elsewhere. So does Barry travel to Gotham for this issue, or is he still in Central City?

Manapul: Without revealing too much, an event of a catastrophic nature will occur in Gotham, pulling in certain key players in the DCU. The contrast of Barry’s personality against the backdrop of the dark alleys of Gotham is going to be fun to play with.

Buccellato: To offer a minor spoiler, [Barry’s] not going to be the only Central City citizen heading over there.

Geek: Barry apparently plays a really important role in the “Zero Year” story. What hints can you give as to what that role might be?

Manapul: Barry’s trip to Gotham will help solidify his choice of being a forensic scientist. When he arrives in Gotham, he will have just recently graduated from the academy. This story not only shows his career trajectory, but also lays the seeds for personal relationships. We will delve into the beginnings of his personal relationship with Iris.

Buccellato: There is so much going on in Gotham at this time that Barry is going to have a hard enough time taking care of his own business, let alone changing the trajectory of Gotham. At its core, this story is about Barry and sheds some light on a key experience in his life that helps shapes the man he becomes. I’m probably just making this expression up, but they say Gotham changes a man. Just don’t ask me who “they” is. [laughs]

Geek: Did you guys feel like you needed to change your tone a bit for this issue, to be more in line with the tone of “Zero Year”? Is that part of why Chris Sprouse and Karl Story are doing the art in this one?

Buccellato: Francis and I don’t ever feel the need to “change tone” to match anyone else’s. We are free to write the stories we want to tell and have DC’s full support. The decision to bring in Chris and Karl is a welcomed, logistical one. I’d love for Francis to draw every Flash book that ever was, but because of all of the labor it takes for him to co-write, pencil, ink and ink wash an issue, it’s just not possible.

Manapul: Of course the aesthetics and tone of the book will feel different since it will be set in a different location, but our identity as creators will still be quite apparent. It’s not so much a conscious effort to write differently, it’s just a different sandbox we’ll be playing in.

The [art] decision came more from a practical [consideration]. I more or less have three jobs on this title, which is quite physically and mentally taxing. Every now and then, we need to bring in some help. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some very talented artists to come in and draw an issue or two. I love Chris and Karl, so I’m humbled to be able to work with such great talents. That said, I will be drawing the closing scene of this special, extra-sized issue.

Geek: What sorts of planning went into these tie-in issues? Did you meet up with Snyder and Capullo?

Buccellato: That’s privileged information. I can’t tell you.

Manapul: We could, but then we’d have to kill you. [laughs] We have extremely talented editors that help us coordinate our stories. Can’t thank them enough for their hard work.

Geek: Not completely related, but I have to ask: How psyched are you guys about the Flash TV show news?

Manapul: Stoked! The original TV show was one of my first exposures to super-heroes. It will be exciting to see a modern take on the character. And with [DC Comics Creative Director] Geoff [Johns] being one of the key figures crossing him over to another media makes the anticipation for the series even higher!

Buccellato: I’m so so so so psyched to see Barry come alive on the small screen. My love for Barry is well documented and I’m thrilled to death to see him return to TV. I loved the old John Wesley Shipp “Flash” show in the ’90s. I really think his costume was ahead of its time. And Mark Hamill as the Trickster? Don’t get me started. [laughs] I can’t wait to see who they cast, how he looks, and how much of Barry is culled from our New 52 run.