For some time, American comic companies have looked eastward to England
for talent. It was a trip out to England in the early 80s by DC that
led to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and others to write for them. Later
names include Dave Gibbons, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Peter Milligan,
and a host of others. Although England itself has a rich history of
homegrown comics such as 2000AD, the creators of the British
Isles have in some ways eclipsed that with their work overseas. One of
the newest is writer Paul Cornell.
British author Paul Cornell came to comics by way of an over-eager fan.
Cornell wrote an episode of the then-recently relaunched Doctor Who
television series which prompted this fan to email him to tell them
that he should do comics. But this fan was no ordinary fan – it was
Mark Millar. Idle conversation quickly turned into tactile comics with
Cornell's debut Marvel work, Wisdom, in 2006. Since then, Cornell has launched the ongoing series Captain Britain & The MI-13 and was just announced as the scribe for the upcoming Dark Reign: Young Avengers miniseries. Cornell balances this with his regular BBC television work and a fertile career as a novelist.
In light of his recent and upcoming work, Newsarama named Cornell one of our 9 Creators To Watch in '09
and we wanted to talk to him to find out more about what's in store for
2009. Some email back and forth and an international phone call was
made on a Sunday morning. Here's the results.
Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us today Paul. Let's start with an easy one – what are you working on today?
Paul Cornell: I'm three issues into the current Captain Britain & The MI-13
arc against Dracula called "Vampire State". It's been a dream to write
– as its turned into a big chess game with Dracula, the greatest
general of his generation. It's just plot and counter-plot back and
NRAMA: This interview is a follow-up of sorts to our recently
naming you one of our "9 Creators To Watch in '09". So can you tell us
what you have planned for 2009, comic-wise?
PC: The recently announced Dark Reign: Young Avengers miniseries from NYCC, and continuing on with Captain Britain & MI:13. I'm really excited about what's on the slate in terms of comics. I'm in a really good spot.
NRAMA: You're not limited to comics – what else have you got going on?
PC: Well, on the top of that list is a television show I can't
really talk about. What I can say is that it's a horror-fantasy show
that may or not happen at BBC3. In March I've got a Radio 4 program
with Joseph Patterson, which is turning out well.
And I keep trying to get back to a fantasy novel I've been working on –
half my life is trying to put aside stuff to work on the novels.
NRAMA: Your main comics assignment right now has been the Marvel
series Captain Britain & The MI: 13. How has this been going for
PC: I've been really satisfied – it's one of the most satisfying
works I do. We're a tiny gang – me, the editor and the artist – and we
can make things happen really swiftly. In television you're dealing
with nineteen people over the course of six months,and everything has
to go through approvals from an enormous amount of people. With this
comic, it's just 3 people egging each other on to make a great book.
We've never just said "this is good enough" and moved on. It's always
our best work, and it's good to have those two on my side.
The characters are ones I've loved, and I enjoyed the opportunity to pick out the line-up and be able to run with them.
NRAMA: The cast of this book relies heavily on some British
heroes, from Captain Britain to an unlikely Blade. Would you say this
is a Brit comic?
PC: No, it's better classified as a supernatural spy comic;
espionage adventures against the supernatural. We don't want to be
British exclusively – we might take the team to the States eventually,
but in this upcoming arc we're going to the moon. I do want to
represent Britain well however, but change the nature of what Captain
Britain is – a more national icon and central superhero for the county.
I'm also working with Pete Wisdom – giving him a shave, a nice suit,
and being a more realistic intelligence officer.
NRAMA: With Marvel's history with UK comics, including a Marvel
UK imprint at one point, do you see yourself tapping more into those
older comics for future issues?
PC: Just wait two issues, my friend.
NRAMA: Maybe my favorite Marvel UK title, Knights of the Pendragon?
PC: Of course. The Green Knight already popped up, and we're
also thinking about using Tangerine. And there's also an upcoming
appearance by Motormouth and Killpower; do you remember them?
NRAMA: Yes, of course. Some early great artwork by Gary Frank on those books.
PC: Yes, well they're going to be coming up soon. The way I see
it, all of the British superheroes work for MI:13 in a defacto way so
there's a way we can have them all pop up. In this upcoming story,
Motormouth and Killpower are on duty when something terrible happens
and the team is brought it.
I love being free to do this kind of stuff.
NRAMA: You've ventured outside of British heroes with the recent Fantastic Four: True Story miniseries and you also have the Dark Reign: Young Avengers miniseries in your future. Are you eyeing any other Marvel heroes to pen sometday?
PC: Yes, very much so. There's a lot of Marvel characters I'd
like to get my hands on. I'd love to do the Defenders, but there's
nothing now in the Defenders that would sell. I've fancied them in
every single incarnation.
NRAMA: So far in comics you've stuck with company-owned
characters from Doctor Who, 2000AD and now Marvel. In your other
writings you've done both that and your own novels – will we see you do
any creator-owned work in comics anytime soon?
PC: Yeah, I'd love to. The first thing to do is build up a big
enough "name" then it'd be a doable thing. It's hard in this market to
launch a new series without a well-known name attached. Once I get a
bigger presence, it's in the plans.