Ink to Paper: Eric Wallace on Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink
Wallace on Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink
Starring Mark Richards, also known as the Tattooed Man (hence “Ink”), the six issue miniseries picks up after the events of Final Crisis and more specifically Final Crisis: Submit where the one-time villain played the role of reluctant hero, and was ultimately made an honorary member of the Justice League.
But can the “heroing” stick? Especially when Mark’s tattoos appear to have a mind of their own when it comes to him doing good rather than evil?
We spoke with Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink writer Eric Wallace for more on the May-debuting series.
Newsarama: Being new to the comics industry, can you tell us a little bit about your
background, both in writing and in life?
Eric Wallace: I grew up as an Army brat, living both in the U.S. and Europe. My family moved constantly and it was pretty intense at times. But one thing that was consistent for me was sci-fi/horror movies and comic books. I started reading Justice League of America and Spider-Man when I was a kid, and I’ve never stopped.
It’s no surprise then that when started to make a living as a writer, the TV shows and movies I gravitated towards were those with elements of the fantastic. Working on Eureka gives me the chance to use all the crazy stuff I learned reading comics on a daily basis. That’s because comic books are so imaginative. I truly believe that they train the mind at a very young age to expand its boundaries beyond that of the ordinary. Why do you think comic book fans are usually such interesting people?
NRAMA: What was it about comics that got you hooked?
EW: As I mentioned, I started reading comics very young… like five or six years old. My first love was Superman; I had glasses as a very young kid, so I would pretend to be Clark Kent. Then when someone needed saving, I would dramatically fling them off and change into my Superman costume. Actually it was really just a piece of red fabric I used as a cape. Not much, but it did the trick. After getting hooked on Superman and JLA comics, I started reading a lot of Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men. The Dark Phoenix storyline was a big deal for me growing up; it was just the coolest thing ever, and soon I started pretending to be Cyclops instead of Superman. I would pretend my glasses were a visor that I could raise and lower to release my optic beams.
Yeah, I was a total nerd…
NRAMA: So how did you get involved with DC Comics?
EW: I was introduced to editor Eddie Berganza through a mutual writer friend. Eddie was familiar with Eureka and I mentioned how much I’d love to write for comic books. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the right project to open up, so that DC could give me a shot. That project was the DC Universe Halloween Special 2008. I worked with Eddie on a short Vixen story and had a blast! I’ve been itching to do more ever since.
NRAMA: What can you tell us about Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink?
EW: Ink is about this great character, Mark Richards, who is a villain that desperately wants to be a hero. He won’t admit it to anyone, but his wife knows this and sees the great man he can be. In Final Crisis #6, as a result of helping save the Earth, Mark becomes an honorary member of the JLA. Ink picks up pretty soon at this. The Final Crisis is over, and he’s been
kicking ass as a superhero and loving it. But at the heart of Ink is this fact: it’s really hard to be a hero. Superman might make it look easy, but it’s not. It’s hard to do the right thing all the time, especially when the entire world is watching every move you make. Why? Because let’s face it, in the DC Universe, superheroes are rock stars. They’re celebrities. Which means they’re held to a different standard than normal people. Mark is about to find this out, and as he struggles to be good… his dark side comes out in a very unexpected, but hopefully exciting way.
NRAMA: Were you familiar with the character of the Tattooed Man before you got this project?
EW: I was not familiar with the Tattooed Man before getting this project, and I think that was a very good thing. It’s allowed me to come at the character in what will hopefully be a fresh way. As I’ve been writing him, I’ve discovered that he sees the world in a very cut-and-dry, black-and-white manner. But that can be very dangerous in a world full of so many grays.
NRAMA: What defines him as a character in your eyes?
EW: If I could put a finger on what I’d call his defining characteristic, I’d say that Mark is a person who does the wrong things for the right reasons. That’s what is going to get him into trouble in b>Ink. Not only will his family life never be the same, but the community he protects—Liberty Hill, a ghetto outside of the metro Washington, D.C. area—is changed forever. Coming out of Final Crisis, Mark was willing to learn what it takes to be a hero. As Ink begins, he thinks he knows the ropes - that he’s got this whole hero thing down now. Needless to say, he’s wrong. That’s because he keeps slipping back into his old villainous ways. It’s this constant struggle between his evil past and good present that was so great in Final Crisis (especially Final Crisis: Submit) which continues to haunt Mark in Ink.
NRAMA: Going back to touch upon your short Vixen story in DC's Halloween Special, there was a strong sense of racial identity and community, despite being only a few pages. Is this something you plan to explore in Ink?
First of all, thank you for saying that. It’s greatly appreciated. Well… to a certain extent, yes, they’ll be some of the same exploration. But not in quite as overt a manner. To clarify, let me go back a few months. I’m an African-American writer, and I recently became a father. I wrote that Vixen story for my daughter, because I wanted her to know that she would grow up in a world where anything was possible. Now everybody talks about this a lot, but for many minorities or those in critical economic situations, this isn’t always the case. Many folks are born into a world with nothing but limitations, but they overcome those trials. They rise up. And when they do, there’s nothing more inspiring or powerful. And often, there’s a mentor or parent or preachers or community leader that helps them find the way. Someone who makes a difference in their lives, that points the way and says, “You can do this.” Vixen was that person in that story. I want to be that person to my daughter, it’s my challenge as a parent. That story was specifically written to give her that sense of hope. Hopefully, it also spoke to others, too.
Ink is different in the sense that a theme like the continuing breakdown of minority communities and the families that reside within them is (hopefully!) just part of the background; the world in which the main story takes place. It’s funny; I hadn’t thought of this, but in Ink, Mark faces a similar situation with his son Leon (as the Vixen/little girl plot). Leon is falling into the world of gangs and drugs, things that continue to devastate urban and ghetto communities. How he reacts to this challenge, how he uses the mantle of “hero” to point out a direction for his son informs the inner spine of Ink. It’s as if you will see Leon’s future being played out in Mark’s present, andthe present isn’t so good!
So in this sense, yes, there’s an exploration of community and racial identity like that earlier story. But there’s much more in this series, mainly because of the scope. There’s action and sex and violence and betrayal. And isn’t that what every good story needs?
NRAMA: Given your strong background in science fiction (having written for Eureka for a
number of years now), will any of that sensibility come out in Ink, or are you exploring something different?
EW: I’m trying to stretch new muscles here. There is humor in Ink, but not nearly to the extent of Eureka. Also, the urban nature of this story is the complete opposite of an idyllic haven in the Pacific Northwest. And there’s not a big “sci-fi” element to Ink beyond the obvious fact that Mark has these incredibly cool powers. I will say that we will get to learn a little more about where these powers came from and how they actually work.
NRAMA: What can you tell us about your artistic collaborator on the miniseries, Fabrizio Fiorentino?
EW: I’ve seen Fabrizio’s early sketches and they’re just kick ass. Fabrizio has such a great sense of how to bring out the inner power within a character, externalizing their emotional strengths and weakenesses. It’s just fantastic. I think people are really going to be wowed by his work on this book.
NRAMA: Having a few issues under your belt now, what do you feel are the biggest advantages and disadvantages to writing comics, in comparison to the other forms in which you've creatively expressed yourself?
EW: I’ve written TV shows, plays, movies, short stories… you name it. Comic books are, by far, the most creatively limitless medium out there today. Seriously, you can do anything!
In TV, when you write something crazy like “… and then a million space ships emerge from the dimensional gateway just as it explodes with the force of a thousand suns going supernova,” they look at you funny, then tell you to scale it back to something affordable. You could do this scene in a $200 million dollar movie, but then it costs $200 million dollars… and the people
writing those kinds of movies and getting them made can be listed on two or three hands. You could write this in a novel, but the reader would still have to use his imagination. In a play, two characters would talk about seeing the explosion and how cool it was, but it’s still not the same. But in a comic book? It’s a two-page splash page with brilliant art that just blows you away. What sane writer wouldn’t want to write in this medium? It’s just liberating.
NRAMAWhat are you reading right now? Who are your favorite writers and what are your favorite books?
EW: Right now I’m alternating between current issues and catching up on great stuff I’ve missed via trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Current wise, I’m loving Supergirl, Green Lantern, New & Dark Avengers, The Goon, Justice League Of America, Air, Thor, Echo, Buffy Season Eight, and Amazing Spider-Man. Graphic novel wise, I’ve become obsessed with Fables. I’m also catching up on Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men and Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets series.
As for writers, man… there are so many great, brilliant, insanely-cool writers out there now it’s humbling. Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, J. Michael Stracynzski, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Jeph Loeb are some of my all-time favorites. There’s also a new writer named G. Willow Wilson
who writes Air who is just fantastic.
NRAMA: What characters, at either DC or Marvel, would you like to work on in the future?
EW: There are so many characters out there that I love, but right now I’m most obsessed with Supergirl, Cyclops, and Red Arrow. Writing any of them would be a dream come true! I’d also love to write stories for the Swamp Thing, Luke Cage, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, The Beast, and Blade. I just can’t get enough of Blade, especially in those original Tomb of Dracula comics. He’s just sooooo damn cool.
NRAMA: That said, do you have any future projects, beyond Ink, coming up?
EW: As far as comics go, I’m talking with several companies about new projects, but unfortunately I can’t mention what they are just yet. TV wise, Eureka Season Four premieres this summer, so tune in! I also have several Dark Shadows Audio Dramas coming out this year from Big Finish Productions.
NRAMA: Finally, what would you say to convince readers who are on the fence about this book to pick it up?
EW: The Tattooed Man isn’t your ordinary hero. He’s an anti-hero, and if you like moral ambiguity, gritty crime dramas, and big surprises… you’re gonna dig this miniseries.Related: Matt Sturges on the Human Flame and FC: Aftermath: Run