NYCC '09 - Mark Waid Talks Irredeemable

Irredeemable #1, cover A

Is Mark Waid evil?

Well, on the Internet, no writer’s reputation goes unchallenged. But it seemed particularly suspect when the website www.markwaidisevil.com recently popped up online. After all, the veteran writer’s best-known for such upbeat superhero books as The Flash, Fantastic Four and his current work on such books as Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredibles.

But it seems that Waid is officially taking a long-term trip to the dark side with Irredeemable, the new creator-owned ongoing series from BOOM! Studios that launches in April. “The question it answers is, ‘What does it take to drive the world's greatest super-hero to become the world's greatest super-villain?’” says Waid, who’s also editor-in-chief at BOOM!.

Waid’s explored the dark side of superheroics before – his (arguably) best-known work is Kingdom Come, the 1996 limited series that pitted DC’s older heroes against the younger, darker heroes who had supplanted them. And in Empire, his creator-owned miniseries with Barry Kitson, he explored what would happen if a supervillain actually conquered the world (hint: he wouldn’t enjoy it).

According to Waid, Empire helped plant the seed for the Plutonian, Irredeemable’s hero-turned villain. “It's something I've been percolating on for years, probably ever since Empire was so well-received; a radically different angle on the idea of comic-book villainy,” Waid says. “I want to write about the journey.”

Irredeemable #1, cover B

Irredeemable takes place at the end of that journey, with the Plutonian already corrupted, as readers discover the events that led him down this dark path. “The thrust of the book is a dual narrative--present-day events contrasting with extended flashbacks that unspool the long story of how the Plutonian broke,” Waid says. “In present day, the last of his peers, those few remaining superheroes, are scrambling madly, searching through all space and time to try to find out the Plutonian's secrets so they can craft some defense against him before he attains his ultimate goals.”

Waid has already signed The Power of Shazam!’s Peter Krause (no relation to the actor) for the first year of the ongoing series, and plans for the series to continue for “quite a while.” “I know where to go with the Plutonian, and it's not a short arc,” Waid says. “Plus, each of the superheroes in his world has his or her own story, as well.”

And how does a nice guy like Mark Waid write someone as dark as the Plutonian? “Honestly? Years of having to filter the lessons I learned from comics as a child through the lens of the adult world,” Waid says. “There are certain truisms of comic book superheroes that are very valuable moral lessons for kids to be exposed to--lessons that, in the mind of someone like the Plutonian who's emotionally scarred from square one, can become perverted and darkened. Never let people know your ‘secret identity,’ even loved ones. Always prioritize your own well-being last. Never forgive yourself. And so forth.”

Irredeemable #1, page 1

Though he’s touched on darker themes in his previous work, Waid feels that Irredeemable takes a different track from other series he’s worked on, particularly his more upbeat books. “It certainly doesn't take heroism for granted the way a lot of my previous work has – and future work probably will,” Waid says. “As I said before, it's akin to the darkness of Empire, but I actually think there's a little more of a spark of hope in Irredeemable. It's not about being dark for darkness' sake. There's an edge to it, but I can't honestly believe I could fool anyone who knows my work into thinking that I could write something utterly cynical.”

That said, Waid feels the Plutonian could take Empire’s Emperor Golgoth in a fight: “Heat vision always wins.”

Waid says that doing this story outside of Marvel and DC lets him take chances that he couldn’t in an established universe. That said, it also poses its own unique challenges. “It's more daunting because there's nothing to fall back on outside your own craft,” Waid says. “There are no histories, no tropes, no previously established villains or relationships. It's scary. And, to be honest, I've rewritten the first two issues nine times because I keep making the mistake of taking the audience's familiarity with this world for granted--which you can do if you're writing Spider-Man, but not if you're offering up a fresh new world.

Irredeemable #1, page 2

“The biggest challenge? Honestly, sincerely? Coming up with new character names that haven't been used a gazillion times. Really, that's the biggest obstacle.”

Waid’s thrilled about the major launch Irredeemable’s getting from BOOM!, which includes an introduction to the first issue by friend and fellow superstar Grant Morrison (Final Crisis), covers by John Cassiday, Jeffrey Spokes, Barry Kitson, Gene Ha and many of his other former collaborators. He’s also excited about working with Krause (“his storytelling's terrific, he ‘gets it,’ and his character acting is stupendous”) and colorist Andrew Dallhouse, whom he calls “just about my favorite colorist going.” Waid also praises editor Matt Gangon, "who is keeping me on the straight and narrow and doing a phenomenal job in finding the artists of tomorrow--not just on Irredeemable but on all the BOOM! titles! He's someone any freelancer should be comfortable working with."

Irredeemable #1, page 3

He’s also amused by the response to the “Mark Waid is Evil” campaign, which he credits to BOOM!’s Chip Mosher and Dafna Pleban. “Thank God ‘Mark,’ ‘Waid,’ and ‘evil’ all have four letters, or else the slogan wouldn't have looked nearly as snappy, Waid says. “It was well-done, although I'm not sure if I can take total comfort in how eagerly received the campaign was.”

Along with his many writing projects, Waid’s also enjoying a new reputation for his writing advice columns at the Kung Fu Monkey blog and his new site, www.markwaid.com. “It's enjoyable because it's an extension of what I like most about the EIC job--the chance to pass along to a new generation what I've learned about craft,” Waid says.

“Not only do I feel that's a responsibility, but having to teach what you know forces you to articulate it in new ways and really think it through, making you better and sharper at the writing itself.”

Irredeemable #1, cover C

Waid’s interested in doing a compilation of his advice in the future, but he’s not sure how such a volume would come about. “I've been asked a lot about putting together a collection of some sort, and I may well, but I'm not sure what form it would take,” Waid says. “Are people still publishing these ‘book’ things?”

In the end, Waid says that with Irredeemable, his goals are “nothing lofty. I just want to entertain people,” Waid says. “I could be all pompous and say it's going to forever transform your notions of what a superhero is or change the face of villainy, whatever the hell that means, but at the end of the day...just read it and be entertained.”

Of course, while talking to Waid, we had to ask him: Is he evil? His response: “I regret nothing.”

Irredeemable does naughty, naughty things with superheroes this April.Checl back tomorrow for an interview with Peter Krause.

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