Emily Bett Rickards, Stephen Amell
Between the Dark Knight films, Teen Titans Go!, and the Amell-icousness of Arrow, DC Comics and DC Entertainment have given us a lot to be happy about lately. Now they're giving fans the chance to score some sweet, once-in-a-lifetime goodies and do some serious good with "We Can Be Heroes," the comic-book empire's ongoing charity-giving campaign benefiting hunger-relief groups in the Horn of Africa. Built around members of the Justice League, each week in this latest leg of the WCBH push features perks like set visits, signed books and other awesome swag, all up for grabs to goodhearted folks who donate to the cause. Here, DC Comics creative chief officer Geoff Johns, and Arrow executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg explain the campaign and how TV's hottest hooded vigilante factors in to the philanthropy this week.
TV Guide Magazine: Where did the "We Can Be Heroes" concept come from, and why focus on the hunger crisis in Africa?
Geoff Johns: The world's greatest super heroes form the Justice League — and the values these iconic heroes hold have always been aspirational and inspirational. That's why we love super heroes: They provide a powerful message of hope, optimism and action to people. And because of that, the Justice League is helping us shine a light on the "We Can Be Heroes" campaign and asking people to go into action with them. The campaign's been rallying fans to join forces with the creators who bring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg to life across film, television, video games, animation and comic books.
The focus of this phase of the campaign is on fighting the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Although 13 million men, women and children in the region were suffering the effects of the worst drought and famine seen by the region in over 60 years, the humanitarian crisis was under-reported and underfunded. DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. stepped up to become the first corporation to commit funds and support for the cause — something that makes me incredibly proud to be a part of this company.
TV Guide Magazine: What are the funds raised by WCBH used for?
Johns: All net proceeds from funds raised go to our three humanitarian-aid partners: Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, and Mercy Corps. Each of these organizations has been working on the ground since the hunger crisis started.
TV Guide Magazine: How can fans contribute? Is it as easy as just donating on Indiegogo?
Johns: Yes. Our fans are already using Indiegogo to support a variety of projects, so we decided to meet them where they are. We also knew that we had the incentives or "perks," as they're known on Indiegogo, that fans wanted, and that they could help encourage them to make multiple donations to support the campaign. We believed that things like signed DVDs, popular comic books with variant covers, limited edition lithographs and unique fan experiences with talent would help raise a lot of money to bring help and hope to the Horn of Africa.
TV Guide Magazine: Is it DC's plan to incorporate any of this philanthropy into the comics?
Johns: We took popular comic book titles and created unique artwork like variant covers or lithographs specifically for "We Can Be Heroes." Our creators donated their time and signed, numbered and customized a variety of items, not just comic books, but also e-readers. They've also volunteered to hang out with fans at big events like San Diego Comic-Con. We treated fans who supported the campaign like VIPs and gave them behind-the-scenes access. Anything we can do to return the favor of being part of "We Can Be Heroes" we are trying to do.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you decide which perks would come with each member of the Justice League?
Johns: We want the perks to appeal not only to our core fans, but to other audiences that come to know our superheroes outside of comic books, like the Arrow television series on The CW, and through movies like Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. So we worked with our friends within Warner Bros. to bring items like advance screenings and experiences like set visits to the mix to help bring in large donations for the campaign. For example, we just finished the Wonder Woman-themed week and those perks included a Lynda Carter experience and various signed Wonder Woman comics. I was hoping to win that one myself!
TV Guide Magazine: This week's hero theme includes Green Arrow, and the perk a contributor could win is an advance screening party of an upcoming Arrow episode...do you know which one?
Johns: The advance screening will definitely take place during the upcoming season, although the specific episode is TBD. But trust me, you do not want to miss this season. #BlackCanary
TV Guide Magazine: On the topic of Arrow, Season 2 starts soon and you have a flood of DC characters coming in. What is the process of getting the OK from DC to use characters like Black Canary and the Flash, who are both heading to the show?
Marc Guggenheim: For the most part, it's a simple matter of calling or emailing our friends at DC, like Geoff or [editor] Pornsak Pichetshote. Depending on the profile or recognizability of the character, it's as simple as an email exchange. Some characters require a longer discussion. But DC is always incredibly supportive and encouraging. And at the beginning of each season, they actually make suggestions as to which characters we might want to use. For example, they suggested Bronze Tiger, who appears in Episode 2 of the season.
TV Guide Magazine: Will there be any on-air tie-ins with "We Can Be Heroes" and Arrow?
Johns: The CW has been very supportive of the campaign, and while you won't see anything specific on the show, they are reaching out to fans on TheCW.com with this great video at http://causes.cwtv.com/causes/arrow/
TV Guide Magazine: This season is dubbed "City of Heroes," so should we expect more than Ollie, Canary, Roy, and the Flash?
Guggenheim: You're really greedy, aren't you? [Laughs] Part of that title refers to the characters you mentioned, while part of it also refers to several of our other characters — Laurel, Felicity, Diggle and Lance — who will all be called upon to step up and help the city, though not necessarily by busting the heads of criminals.
TV Guide Magazine: So what can you tell us about Barry Allen now that Grant Gustin has been cast?
Andrew Kreisberg: When we first meet Barry, he is an assistant forensic technician with the Central City Police Dept. He's a fan boy at heart. He follows the exploits of The Arrow like a groupie and Grant brings such enthusiasm and humor to the part. Barry also has a tragic backstory and Grant captures the heartache and pathos of the character beautifully, as well. All that and he hasn't even been struck by lightning... yet!
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