It’s not quite Q&A Friday, but I thought I’d go ahead and jump ahead of schedule because this week’s question is just so darned interesting I couldn’t wait.
If you had free reign to write a current comic book superhero 5 issue arc as you wanted to, would you & which character would it be?
Great question. One I get asked (in some variation) every now and then. While I have grown dissatisfied with the general direction of modern mainstream superhero comic books of late, I still love the medium of comic books and the genre of superheroes. I suppose it’s because I love the Anything Goes nature of the genre. Aliens? Vigilantes? Mole people? Deathrays? Giant monsters? Guys robbing banks with heat rays and evil geniuses seizing the eastern seaboard? What’s not to love?
Speaking of which, I never miss an opportunity to mention Red 5 Comics excellent Atomic Robo series. It isn’t technically the superhero genre, but close enough for my tastes. It really is the last ongoing series (or, in this case, ongoing regularly released miniseries) that keeps me invested in comic book adventures. If you like my stuff, odds are pretty solid you’ll love Atomic Robo, and you really can’t go wrong with any of the mini-series, all released in collected volumes. Well, I wouldn’t recommend Real Science Adventures because it’s not so much an adventure as a series of vignettes by various artists and writers. Fun, but not really what I love about Robo’s adventures. But otherwise, you can’t go wrong. And while there is a continuity at work in the series, each collected volume stands pretty much on its own, allowing you to jump in wherever you like.
Buy it already. Thank me later.
But enough of other people’s stuff. Let’s talk about me again.
First, I’d obviously love the chance to write a mainstream comic book superhero. It would be a chance to try something new and to reach out to a new audience. Two things I always enjoy. I’ve said some unkind things about the comic book industry now and then. Some I stand by. Some I see as hyperbole now. And others were just pure nerd rage. Regardless, if I haven’t offended anyone too important, and they chose to come to me with an offer, I wouldn’t be averse to taking them up on it.
It’s always struck me as a peculiar that anyone would want to write a character they didn’t create. To clarify, I see that it might be fun, but I never understood anyone who held it as their highest ambition. Maybe I get bored too easy. Maybe it just smacks too much of professional fanfiction to me. Or maybe I’m just too egotistical to invest in a character I didn’t create myself. Who knows? It would certainly be fun to dip my toes in that pool, and sure, I’d love to write a Superman story, even knowing I’m merely playing with someone else’s toys.
The second part of the question: which character would I pick?
This isn’t an easy one. I love Howard the Duck, for instance, and while technically, he isn’t a superhero, he does live in a superhero universe. He also fought Dracula once, and that’s just awesome. But Howard is a tricky character. As much as I love him, I’ve read an awful lot of dreadfully “clever” Howard the Duck stories that soured me to the possibility of writing him. When Howard is done right, he’s fantastic. When he’s not . . . well, let’s not get into that.
Stever Gerber created Howard, and really, he was the only one who could consistently make great Howard stories. Gerber passed in 2008, and I’ve had a Howard-shaped hole in my heart ever since.
Speaking of Gerber, he also wrote a lot of Man-Thing stories, a character I love very much as well. Man-Thing isn’t a superhero either, but the same thing applies to Manny as to Howard. Superhero universe = Superhero character. But Man-Thing is a difficult character to write for, and I haven’t read many great Man-Thing stories outside of Gerber either, so the same dangers as Howard compel me to keep my distance.
Over at DC, I think I’d love the opportunity to write a fun Batman comic, to take the character away from his maudlin, grimdark “realism” and unpleasant noir enslavement. But then The Brave and the Bold beat me to it, so anything I do will be only a pale imitation of that genius of that show.
Superman is a favorite of mine, but, like Batman, I’m just not sure there’s room in the post-Watchmen world for comics that are unashamedly heroic. If I did write a Superman story, you can bet your ass that General Zod or Krypton would have nothing to do with it. Seriously, am I the only one who is sick of that guy? But Krypto the superdog, yeah, he’d be there.
(I can’t remember the issue or who wrote it, but the last great Superman story I read was actually a Krypto story, where the superdog fought a bad guy so that Superman could find the time to figure out how to beat the guy. It ended with a fantastic splash page of Superman and his loyal superdog that I would kill to have as a poster. Get on that, DC.)
Returning to Marvel, I’d love to write something with Slapstick, the obscure cartoon superhero, or Gravity, the up-and-coming character who deserves more attention but will never get it as long as high sales are guaranteed just by slapping Wolverine or Spider-Man on the cover. There’s the Great Lake Avengers (or whatever they’re calling themselves now), Squirrel Girl, Thunderstrike, and probably a dozen other characters most people have never heard of. All very tempting, but in the end, I find one stands out above all.
That character is DEVIL DINOSAUR.
Once again, I refer you to the superhero universe = superhero character, and Devil is kind of a superhero among dinosaurs. He even has a plucky sidekick (a hairy caveboy named Moonboy) and has fought aliens. And that’s pretty sweet, I’m sure we can all agree. I think the biggest reason I’d choose Devil though would be to return him to his badass roots.
Right now, nearly all Devil Dinosaur stories are designed to make fun of the character. At the very least, they tend not to take the character seriously. And, yes, a red space dinosaur who lives in a secret primordial jungle hidden in Antarctica sounds dumb, but no more dumb to me than a guy being bitten by a radioactive spider or a mutant with the primary power to stab people with claws that come out his fists.
I recently read a Marvel Team-Up comic where Spider-Man teamed with Devil, and it was pretty good. So the character has potential, and I think mainstream superhero comics could benefit from more dinosaur action in general. Also, Devil is a great character to avoid the “conflicted hero” and / or “louse with superpowers” cliches that dominate mainstream superheroics. Devil kicks butt, and he doesn’t apologize for it.
As for the possible story I would want to write, well, that’s probably the biggest question of all. I would want something suitably epic, something involving lots of action and adventure. Given Devil’s limitations (he can’t exactly blend into most settings), I still think there could be some great potential, even if he remained in the Savage Land he currently calls home. Basically, Devil and Moonboy would fight a bunch of dinosaurs and aliens, save the world, all the usual stuff. Don’t ask me the details. I don’t know them all yet. But one thing I do know.
It would be awesome.
So, hey, if someone at Marvel in charge of such things should come across this, you know where to find me. (Hipstercthulhu@hotmail.com.) E-mail me. We’ll talk.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,