Creating 'Wednesday Comics' - Talking to Mark Chiarello

Thusday, Newsarama brought you the first official word about DC’s upcoming Wednesday Comics, a weekly, broadsheet-sized, 12-part series featuring 16 stories starring DC characters told in a “Sunday Comics” style.

DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio was pretty specific on who deserves the credit for the idea which has already intrigued and thrilled fans – DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello.

We sat down with Chiarello for his take on Wednesday Comics as well early word on more of the creator/character pairings.

Newsarama: To start off with Mark, when we spoke with him about it, Dan basically credits you with the whole plan for Wednesday Comics, so what got this rolling in the first place?

Mark Chairello: Being the Art Director at DC is a full-time job, and it’s a great job – it’s the best job in the whole comics business, but every now and then, Paul Levitz or Dan will come to me and say, “Hey, we really like when you edit something on the side – do you have any ideas?” That’s how it worked with Batman: Black and White, Solo and New Frontier.

Because of that odd formula, it’s not the “grind” that my fellow editors have. They’re monthly comics guys, and for some odd reason, I’m allowed to do limited series and the dream projects. I have very little time to edit, so when I do find a little bit of time, I try to make it count, and make it a really memorable project. That’s how this one got started.

NRAMA: So wrapped in all of this original idea was a nod to the old strips – not exactly the comics pages we know now, but the larger format, sort of grand storytelling style from the early days of comic strips?

MC: Exactly. I’m a fan of the old strips…I was really good friends with Alex Toth, and he would talk about Terry and the Pirates and Polly and Her Pals, and all these really cool strips that I think our generation just doesn’t have much knowledge of, or the great love for, simply because we don’t know this stuff very well. There’s something about that part of the medium – stories being told on these huge pages – that’s just really cool.

So that was really the kind of impetus to go ahead with this – DC’s got the greatest characters in the world, so wouldn’t it be cool if we did strips and we hired great writers and great artists, and really let them stretch out both with the story and the art, and give them a really big stage to work on.

NRAMA: What went into the selecting the characters and the creators from your side of things?

MC: It was something like what I did with Solo and Batman: Black and White - I just asked people if they could tell a story with anyone in the DC Universe in this format, would they be interested? Fortunately, with those two projects and with this, the creators I asked got it and understood what I was looking for.

NRAMA: Were the answers anything like what you were expecting?

MC: (laughs) Not always. When Neil Gaiman said Metamorpho, I kind of scratched my head, and said, “Whatever you want man – that’s cool.” When I asked Paul Pope, and was expecting Dr. Fate or something, but he said he wants to do a 1950s style sci-fi strip, so that’s cool, too.

There were a couple where I specifically asked the creator if they would handle a certain character –Adam Kubert is writing the Sgt. Rock story for his dad Joe to draw – that’s a no-brainer. Every fan wants to see that, and that’s one of the very few where I sought out creators for a certain character.

NRAMA: It seems that this type of project- where you were brought into it by being asked what you would like to do, and you in turn put that same question to your creators – is such a rarity in comics anymore, and that it almost taps into a different passion for the creators who would otherwise be writing or drawing a certain story that will get the character from point A to point B…

MC: I think that’s an astute observation. In comics, creators are often asked what they would want to do with a certain character within certain boundaries, but this is “what do you want to do?” from the very start.

That’s what I did when I did Solo, I picked the artists, like Tim Sale, for example, and just let him go. As an artist myself, I can tell you that you’re very rarely asked to do what you really want to do – historically, I think every comic book company could take a bit of a lesson from that. I don’t think someone called Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and said, “We’ve got this idea called Watchmen that we’d like you to take a go at.” That sprung from them.

NRAMA: And that, historically, is the way to get the absolute best out of creators, it seems…

MC: Yeah, it is, in many ways.

NRAMA: Let’s nail down the size of this for certain here…can you describe it’s size and how big each story page will be?

MC: The publication size is 14 inches wide by 20 inches tall, so it’s big. That’s the front page – so when you open it, it gets 28 inches wide, so it’s an enormous page. So for 12 weeks, that “cover” will be an installment of the Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso Batman story. Page 2 will be Sgt. Rock, and so on. So essentially, it’s 12 big-ass pages. Each story takes up one whole page, with no staples. It’ll be just like the Sunday funnies you read as a kid.

As an aside, it’s not just a comic book page that’s been blown up really large – it’s an average of sixteen panels per page.

NRAMA: So the original art is bigger on this?

MC: It’s enormous. The smallest that anyone is doing this is to the size of the actual page. Mike Allred sent me a picture of his drawing table with the board for Metamorpho taped to it, and the board was literally twice as big as his table. These guys will have a lot of really cool original art to sell.

NRAMA: Again, you tap into that passion and take down the boundaries, and it seems like everyone then finds their own way to approach it…

MC: Yeah, exactly.

NRAMA: As you mentioned, along with being the DC Art Director, you’re an artist yourself, but running through the list of creators, you’re not on it. Why not? Your work is rarely seen these days in comics, to the chagrin of your fans…

MC: (laughs) I’m always surprised when people notice my stuff. I’ve been asked that before, though, and I have an unwritten rule that I’ll never hire myself to do a job, because I think that’s unfair. Whether I’m good or not, whether I’m talented or not, or even the right guy for the job or not, I don’t think it’s fair to all the other great artists our there if someone on staff is giving themselves work instead.

As much as I would love to do one (laughs).

It’s really cool with the guys that have handed in pages so far – and it’s something that I kind of planned on. I knew that the talent would get really jazzed about the project, but then once the artists started drawing the stuff, they would totally be immersed in it. I got Lee Bermejo’s first Superman page the other day, and he told me that this was the most fun he’s ever had and thanked me for inviting him in. Then I sent the Superman page to the writer, and he was flipping out because it’s so beautiful. That’s what comic books are all about, from the creative side – when you get that jazzed to be working on the project.


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