“The new title was my suggestion,” revealed Garling, “and I wanted to do it to clearly signify, right from the logo on down, that this is a different approach, this is a break with what's been going on and a new direction, a new flavor. I'm glad to have seen so many people assuming that the title means more of a Hep & Hipster direction, because that means the title works -- that's exactly the impression we want to give."
The writer explained this new take on the Elongated Man will be more of a dark hipster adventure book … “with clove cigarettes, poets, murky coffee bars, jazz, beatniks, hepcats and more, all taking advantage of that Opal City setting that makes the “hipscape” practically an alien world, full of mystery and wonder,” Garling said.
”But it's not just Hep & Hipstery,” he continued. “There's also science, corporate skullduggery and the occasional superhero in the mix. Think of it as Hep & Hipster if the next city over is a fully-industrialized hi-tech planned community with gates and guards and worse ... schools of children.”
Before Garling goes too far, however, one thing he wanted to reveal upfront (“I should rip the rubber band off fast for longtime Ralph-fans), is that this Elongated Man stars a “new guy” … Jimmy Olsen.
”So in that sense, it's the start of something brand-new -- a new hero, setting out on new adventures. The sword is a metaphor for Jimmy’s pen, since he puts aside his camera and begins to cover the hip scene in Opal, stretching himself as a reporter – literally!” But Garling was also sure to point out at the same time, he and Sanders are not scrapping any of the past history of the Elongated Man, of Opal City, and of all the mythology that's built up around the stretchable sleuth’s world over the years.
”It all happened, it's all still out there,” Garling explained. “Sue’s charred corpse with the tiny footprints in its brain, Hamilton Drew, his brother Ken, Sonar, Catherine Colbert, Duke Donald ... we're not throwing anything away, even if we don't necessarily use it all right away. And we're not killing Ralph (the current Elongated Man), not making him a villain, not scrapping him -- in time, he'll turn up again, and his story is anything but over.”
As for the new series’ setting... ”Suffice it to say that Opal City is hit pretty hard in Infinite Crisis, and its status is anything but quo,” Garling revealed. “Huge upheavals on the Opal citycape, and a chaotic situation full of danger, opportunity, war, political maneuvering and more. Beatnik poets are coming out of the woodwork, the conceptual painters are on the march, performance artists have been disturbed, art theory abounds, and lots more.
”Into that, we drop our new Elongated Man -- an outsider to Opal City, a square from Metropolis, dropped into this rich and complex hipster setting. And he's going to have to figure out his path, find his place in this world as he goes. By the end of our first issue, he'll be traveling with two companions -- the Shoveler of the Scat, a mysterious and not-entirely-trustworthy bop musician who's essentially appointed himself our guy's guardian and guide on the hipster's path, and Knockout, the old Superboy villain -- a vicious lesbian who's the leader of the dyke avantgarde. Why the Shoveler is helping Jimmy, and why Knockout is partnered up with anybody are things we'll learn more about as time rolls on.”
In writing the series, Garling explained he’s using the kind of “zany hepcat muscles” he’s had fun with on the internet’s Absorbascon. ”It's hep-fantasy, but its own flavor,” he said of the new series. “But I do want this Elongated Man to be much more an adventuring coolcat, much less a conventional detective. But that's only part of it. The hipscape is rich in possibilities, rich in exploitable artists, and that means that corporate entertainment interests are looking the Opal’s way, too. The way I look at it, the hipscape is a fantasy realm in chaos, facing internal troubles, but also threats from both above and below -- from above in the form of corporate and other art-stifling interests like Warner Brothers that want to exploit or otherwise profit from recognizable commodities like say, Aquaman, and from below in the form of dark and dadaesque forces that have been confined to the coffee bars of Opal … until now.
”Think of it as a world trapped between the forces of Duchamps and Arp on one side, and Madonna and Will Smith on the other, with a few superheroes and supervillains thrown in for good measure. And Jimmy Olsen, the new Elongated Man -- a new hipster, unsure of his role and of just who the good and bad guys are in all this -- is stuck in the middle.”
Garling explained that it was a mixture of factors that led him to use Jimmy Olsen as opposed to continuing the adventures of Ralph. ”Mostly, it's to have a fresh start,” he responded, “and not to constantly be dealing with some of the narrative problems that have plagued Ralph over the years.”
”I think there's an inherent problem with detectives who are broken widowers,” Garling went on to explain. “Not an insurmountable problem, but it's there, and it's got to be dealt with. Widowers aren't supposed to go and have adventures -- they're supposed to stay home and talk to their dead wives’ pillows. The thing is, killing the wife is usually the end of the story -- the hero's punishment, at which point it's time for ‘sadly ever after’. But in serial adventure, you gotta keep going. And I don't think it's any coincidence that the Elongated Man, as a character, appeared regularly until the series that set him up as the widower of Opal, had him lose a beautiful wife,and start talking to himself, in general accomplished all the stuff a widower gets to do at the end of the story. That's not to say that it's impossible to write the adventures of a widower well. Some people have managed it nicely, like Geoff John’s run on Mr. Terrific. But I don't want to just do what they already did, so I want to try solving that problem a different way -- by starting out fresh, with a guy who hasn't already lost it all. The new Elongated Man gets to start out on top, and anything he loses will be an accomplishment, a new tragedies, new defeats-- not gaining something he enver used to have or fighting to improve the old status quo. Or at least, it'll work that way as long as the Shoveler doesn't -- ah, but that'd be telling. And hey, I haven't mentioned Viagra, or the Nights of the Rented Porno Flick, or the suburb of Coral City, or...”
Asked to explain how the idea of a new Elongated Man came together (did DC force Jimmy Olsen on him, like they did Jack Kirby?), Garling explained the secret origin of The Elongated Man: Sword of Opal City. Garling explained how he’s been “intrigued” how the Elongated has "slowly, slowly" been changed over time, until becoming what the writer feels is almost a “complete reversal” of the original idea. ”The original Elongated Man, back in the Silver Age, was a self-promoting dork, a human being chemically-augmented to be stretchable,” Garling explained. “I thought it'd be an interesting exploration to start with something more like that original idea, and plunge him into the world that's built up around the other guy over all these years, and see what happens. Jimmy Olsen was the obvious choice.”
”We start One Year Later, of course,” continued Garling. “And we start at the very moment our new Elongated Man is dropped into the hipster world. So you'll get to see his rise to prominence as it happens. As for Ralph, well, you'll see some hints of what's coming, but we won't tell you instantly where he is and what's going on with him. He will turn up in time, though, and we'll learn what happened, what it means and how it'll affect the book, the character and the hipscape over time. More than that, I cannot say.”