In this series, we're delving into the lifelong fandom of your favorite DC Daily hosts. From their first comic book memory to their biggest comic book crush. If you want to ask a question for a future feature make sure you keep an eye on our Community. This week, we sat down with Harley Quinn and Dial H For Hero mastermind, writer Sam Humphries, whom you may also recognize as the double-denim wearing host with the most on the DC Daily couch...
When was the moment you fell in love with the DC Universe?
This is a great question. I love the way this is phrased because the first time I fell in love with a DC character was Batman '89. Seeing that on the big screen opening night I was like, "Oh my god, I love Batman." That's what got me into discovering DC Comics. But the thing that really made me fall in love with the DC Universe as a concept and as a whole was reading Justice League International. It's a series of books, including Justice League of America and Justice League of Europe. It was written by Keith Griffin and J.M. DeMatteis and had some fantastic art by Kevin Maguire, Ty Templeton, Adam Hughes, Bart Sears, and Colleen Doran. What I loved about Justice League International was that it was almost like a sitcom. It was it was funny but it wasn't just jokes and one liners, the humor really came from the characters, and they really took advantage of the deep roster of the DC Universe. Batman is in there, but I knew and loved Batman, and Wonder Woman was in there, but I knew and loved Wonder Woman. But then there was Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Mr. Miracle, Big Barda, and Guy Gardner, who became big in the pages of Justice League International. So it really showed off what an interconnected, deep bench of characters the DC Universe has. I think that sense of humor has really influenced my writing to this day.
If you had to pick, who's your favorite DC character?
I'm gonna go with Nightwing! I think he's the best of the heroes because he's a lifer. If the first Robin ended up in a really bad way, drunk on power or gone rogue in some way, well, then if you're Superman and Batman you have to take a really long look at what you're doing and say, "What we're doing isn't right and isn't good and we have good intentions but we miscalculated and we need to step back from this." But if Dick Grayson's doing okay, if he's flourishing, if he's thriving, then you're like, "You know what, there's something good and true at the heart of the sacrifice that we've chosen." And there's something I just love about that, about how Dick Grayson can be this guiding light for even Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman.
In your opinion what's the most underrated DC Comics run?
The most underrated DC comic book run? This one is a tough one because there's just such a deep bench and all the big favorites are there. But I'm a huge Legion of Super-Heroes fan, and I think all of the Legion are underrated. But I'm going to narrow down... I'll play fair and I'm going to go with Keith Giffen's "Five Years Late"r run. I think it's not only a great story with great art and really cool formal storytelling, with Giffen's nine panel grid, but it was also one of the first times that we ever saw a storyline jump forward into the future like that. The last issue of Legion, everything is bright and sunny and everything was great. And then they rebooted it with a new number one, and suddenly it was five years later and United Planets was in disarray and the Legion were scattered all around, and it was like an early form of comic book dystopian storytelling. I think it's telling that years later they did that with the entire DC Universe with One Year Later. Totally not the same, but I don't think that you could have the confidence to do that with an entire line if you haven't seen Giffen and all those co-creators do it with Legion years before.
Who do you think has the most iconic DC Comics costume?
I'm gonna go with Mr. Miracle. I mean everyone's gonna say Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. Those are all extremely iconic costumes. You'll find them on t-shirts around the world. But I think Mr. Miracle is one of the greatest superhero costumes of all-time. It's like simultaneously immediately familiar and recognizable, but it always has the power to surprise you on the page.
What's your definitive version of Batman?
Okay, so I have a two-part answer. One is that I think "Batman: Year One" is the definitive Batman story. I think that's the best Batman story, beyond the fact that it's an origin. I think it does the best of encapsulating Batman and Bruce Wayne, not to mention Gordon and Selena and all the rest. But for me I came into Batman, like I said, right around '89. And so when I think of iconic, definitive Batman in my head, I see the artwork of Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle. So I think that's a matter of when you grow up or when you fall in love with Batman, that becomes your definitive version. For a lot of people it's going to be Batman: The Animated Series or Kelly Jones or Jim Lee, but for me it's always Norm Breyfogle and I was heartbroken when he he died recently, and yeah Jim Aparo, he's just a classic Batman artist for me.
Which DC character (hero or villain) do you relate to the most?
This was an easy one, because immediately my mind went to the main man Lobo! And I think even though Lobo is an extreme character and finely delineated character, he's very specific in the way that he's written and portrayed, and I think he has a very broad appeal. I think a lot of people can relate to him because all of us want to be that person who just fucks around all day and plays with his dolphins and decides whether or not he wants to take a job that day. If somebody you know pisses them off or like cuts them off in traffic, the most we can kind of do within reason is flip them off and you know, swallow our pride to get through the day. I think we all wish to certain degree that we're Lobo and we could just like stomp on the front of the car and smash their engine into the ground and lift the person out of their car and terrify them until they soil their underpants and leave them with an experience they'll never forget.
What's your single favorite DC issue of all-time?
This one was easy for me because my favorite single issue of DC Comics is "Who is Donna Troy?" which is a New Teen Titans issue by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. I love the whole run but that that one issue is fantastic because you really see Dick as a detective. That's one of the reasons why I love it, because it's a Dick Grayson story. It's not a Robin story, it's not a Nightwing story, it's from when as a character he was kind of in between phases. I love it because, in some ways, the stakes are small. He's not chasing down a villain with a bomb that could level of city or, you know, Darkseid or anything like that. But in other ways, the stakes cannot be bigger because he's trying to find the identity of one of his best friends. In this world, anybody's identity means so much to them, but Donna Troy has so little to go on. And he's not doing it because the clock is ticking, he's just doing it because he knows how much it would mean to his friend and he feels like he can do that. I love that issue so much, and when I did my brief Nightwing run I got to do an issue with Phil Jimenez, who's a great artist, great guy, and also a Wolfman-Perez New Teen Titans mega fan! We got to work together on one issue and I said I wanted to do an homage, but we couldn't do it justice if it was just a straight copy job. So I wanted to do a twist on it in the context of the untouchable story arc, and he was so down. So instead of "Who is Donna Troy?" we (and we never called it this officially) did "Uncovering the Identity of the New Villain, the Judge"! We got to show Dick at Hudson University and most of it is told in flashbacks, but he's not in costume and he's just being the detective, and that's just a great thing to have in a Nightwing story.
If you had an arch-nemesis in the DCU, who would it be?
I don't have a strong reason for this but I'm going to say Darkseid. I just think it's, like, go big or go home, right? A hero is defined by their antagonist and they don't get bigger or more epic and Shakespearean than Darkseid.
What's your proudest DC-related possession?
My proudest DC-related possession is a one of a kind Jessica Cruz pinata. It was sent to me by the host of Comadres y Comics, which is a Latinx focused comics podcast that centers on Latinx issues and creators and stories and so forth. It's a great podcast; they had me on as a guest talking about Jessica Cruz and I had a blast. But yes, the host made me a Jessica Cruz pinata and she's hanging from the ceiling of my office. So that is definitely my prized possession because it's very special and handmade.
Who is your go-to DC Comics cosplay?
It's gotta be Harley Quinn! I'm a huge fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, I've watched every episode and I'm obsessed with it. In fact, I'm going over to a friend's house to watch it tonight, we do it with each new episode, it's a weekly tradition! But just through that I came to appreciate the art of drag. So when we announced that I was taking over Harley Quinn, I have a friend who's really good with makeup so I asked her to do my makeup as Harley and take some photos to post with the announcement. It was a blast and I just had so much fun. So when we had the opportunity on the show to dress up for Halloween, I was like let's go all the way and do Harley properly!
Out of the entire DC Universe, who is your ultimate comic book crush?
I have to go with Jonni DC. She first appeared in Ambush Bug, and she's made appearances since, plus she's in my Harley Quinn run. But I have a crush on her just because she is essentially all-powerful. She's a continuity cop, so she has the power to regulate and rewrite DC continuity. But she's not drunk with power, it's just a job to her. She very much believes in the order of DC continuity and maintaining that, and there's something about that dichotomy that I just love.
What's your favorite DC movie/cartoon?
I gotta go with Batman: The Animated Series. I feel like it's gonna be a common answer but it's almost like Batman, Gotham, Gordon, and all the Bat-Family characters just distilled to their essences. The storytelling is amazing, the art is fantastic, and it's just the gift that keeps on giving. And here we are years later and not only has it inspired so many fans, but we now have it remastered and available on the DC Universe service and it looks so gorgeous that it almost feels like you're watching it for the first time. So because I feel like it's going to last forever, I'm going to go with that one.
What's your most controversial DC Comics opinion?
I think that anybody who has an opinion on this is automatically controversial. So it's got to be stanning Dick and Kori. I refused to comment publicly on it whilst I was the writer of Nightwing even though the second I was announced I got a million people asking me exactly that: whether I thought Dick should be with Kori or Babs. I held out for the duration of my run, but now that I'm off Nightwing and on Harley Quinn, I have the freedom to say that Dick should be with Koriand'r/Starfire. I stan them forever, they're my OTP, final answer.
What are your favorite things streaming on DC Universe?
I was very excited hearing about all the classic material on DC Universe. But I gotta say that the original series have been so consistently great that I've just been in love with watching each new episode every week. It's actually tough to pick a favorite because I really love them all, but I think Doom Patrol is really knocking it out of the park right now. And I can't wait for Swamp Thing because it just looks incredible.
What’s been your favorite moment on DC Daily so far?
It's so hard to say because there's been so many amazing moments and also so many amazing things that have happened behind the scenes. We have so much fun in between segments just hanging out with each other on the couch or backstage and talking smack on each other or coming up with recurring jokes. So I know it's too broad but really my favorite part of the show is getting to hang with my co-hosts and the crew because we all have so much fun together.
If I had to pick one moment on the show, though, I would have to say was interviewing Brian Michael Bendis. He's a great friend and we know each other really well and I went in with the goal of trying to surprise him, shock him, and kind of knock him off his game a little bit, which I achieved a couple times but then unexpectedly he did that to me a couple times too! I think we talked for three hours, and it was it was just fun to be able to do that with a great creator and a great friend.
@RollingThunder06 asked: I love your work in Harley Quinn and Nightwing!! But am curious... what are your shipping preferences for those two characters?
Whatup to Rolling Thunder, thank you for the question! Nightwing, I stan Dick x Kori, that's my OTP, I ship them all day and all night! Now for Harley I have a secret ship, I don't think this is a ship that anybody is talking about, and definitely not a ship that we've ever seen before. I don't think it's a ship that anybody has particularly considered or stanned in any way, shape, or form online. It actually started off as this off-hand thing that I said, and the more I thought about it, the more that I realized how much sense it made and how much it didn't make sense! Now I really want to write it and I can't guarantee that's going to happen but we have talked about it, so I'm not gonna say it or spoil it here, but I can say it's a Harley ship never seen before and never really considered before. So it's not going to be any of the obvious answers.
@Yazov asked: Sam, as a longtime viewer of DC Daily, your insights on comics and comic history have always fascinated me. What are your favorite aspects about comics as a medium?
Thank you for this question, it's a great question that I could go on at length about. I'm going to do double duty here, though, and plug my book. I'm talking about Dial H For Hero, which I'm doing with artist Joe Quinones, colorist Jordan Gibson, and letterer Dave Sharpe. Dial H For Hero is about a mysterious dial that when you Dial H for Hero you're turned into a seemingly random superhero. We wanted to take that to the next level and extend that experience to the reader. So in our version of this book, whenever somebody dials the H dial, when they transform into a superhero, the reading experience transforms as well, the entire comic transforms. Joe's art style is transformed and Jordan's coloring style is transformed and Dave's lettering style is transformed and I change the dialogue style and I create a new narration for this new character. We mix up the storytelling techniques. So we really wanted this to feel like the the H Dial is transforming the comic in your hands.
That, to me, has been so much fun and I really love playing with the fundamental building blocks of comic books when we do this--storytelling, art, coloring, and lettering--and realizing how, with those building blocks, you can create an infinite array of reading experiences. We know this to be true because we see it all around the world. We see what Japanese culture has done with comic books and they've made something that has has stood alongside and even towered, in some ways, over their American counterparts. Look at what they do in Brazil and what they do in Europe and what they do online with webcomics all over the world. So I guess that's my favorite part of the medium is the the unlimited potential.You know, whenever we feel like maybe we've seen it all before, comics find some way to show us something that we've never seen before. It's inspiring to think Superman isn't even 100 years old yet, like he just hit 1000 issues of Action Comics. There's so much work left to be done and so much to discover. It's really it's just inspiring.