Lighting His Fire: Alex Ross on The Torch

Alex Ross on The Torch

Last week, we brought you word that Alex Ross and Mike Carey would team on The Torch, a September-debuting eight issue miniseries co-plotted by Ross and Carey, scripted by Carey, and featuring covers by Ross. The miniseries, will star Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch who first appeared in 1939’s Marvel Comics #1. According to the original news, the miniseries’ story will return the Torch to a place of prominence in the Marvel Universe.

We spoke with Ross for more on the coming miniseries, the Torch, and got a possible hint of what’s next.

Newsarama: Alex, what can you tell us about the genesis of this story? How long has it been brewing?

Alex Ross: Believe it or not, this was a basic series concept intended for the sixtieth anniversary of the character in 1999. It was a completely different shape then and didn’t go over quite the way we wanted, so it more or less remained an unfulfilled ambition. Ironically now, it just fell into the conversations between Dynamite and Marvel on the Avengers/Invaders series. That project leading right into a complete revival of Marvel’s first hero at the time of his and their seventieth anniversary seemed perfect.

NRAMA: As we mentioned in our initial report, you've run into the original Human Torch a couple of times, first in Marvels #0 and #1, and of course, lately in Avengers/Invaders. To put it simply, does the character have a special place in your either creator's or fan's heart?

AR: I’ve always been drawn to characters that were the beginnings of the superhero genre. What intrigues me so much about the Torch is how bizarrely unique he is as a creative response to DC’s sparking off the superhero wave with the simple everything-in-one lead character concept of Superman. With the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner embracing the idea of a company’s first and foremost lead players as elemental forces and somewhat as anti-heroes, it seemed an incredibly inventive approach. Despite the fact that the more famous Human Torch today is the one who is part of the Fantastic Four, it always seemed a missed opportunity to not have the flagship cover hero who launched Marvel Comics #1 be both physically active himself today, as well as being a lead feature as he was successfully then.

NRAMA: That said, how do you see Jim Hammond? Yours and Kurt Busiek's exploration in Marvels #0 & #1cast him as something of a modern-day Frankenstein along the lines of a stranger in a strange land...is that roughly speaking, the base that you're building off of with the character?

AR: You have to take the approach of investigating his parallel to the Frankenstein monster just to truly understand where he comes from, but ultimately take him to a place where he is the very human characterization that he was always supplied with. I think that in the ‘40s they threw out a quick origin for this hero and quickly forgot (largely) that he was anything but human. His and Toro’s interaction in the ‘40s was nothing different from the standard hero/sidekick relationship, and he was never characterized with a limitation of your standard artificial man.

NRAMA: How did Mike Carey become involved with this, and what's the working relationship like?

AR: Mike is someone I’ve been hearing about and reading the work of for years. We’ve never met, but his accomplishments and ambitious writing style were something that definitely attracted all of us. So far we’ve had a few conversations directly by phone, but mostly very, very extensive emails writing out a lengthy examination of how to break down the ambitions applied to this character and series. We can both be quite wordy, so that seems to have worked between us so far.

NRAMA: It's been made clear that you're not doing the interior art on this - come on man - what are we going to have to do to see you working on interiors again?

AR: I’m fortunate that you’re even asking. I can only hope that people will care enough for the next time I’m doing a big project illustrating every page. As one can imagine, I’m enjoying working on a great many different things currently, doing covers and designing characters as well as elements of story. I will contribute some interior art over the next year to some projects, but it will take me a while to make that commitment like I did with Justice and even the stuff I did for Justice Society of America.

NRAMA: Fair enough. Now, as the original information said, this miniseries will put the Torch in a place of prominence in the Marvel Universe. Will this all fit with his West Coast Avengers return and what has happened after (including his "death") or will the slate be wiped somewhat clean?

AR: There’s no retconning necessary for the approach we’re taking. Everything that has happened, happened. Although having said that, given the redefinition by John Byrne in 1989, we’re keeping with the idea that the original Human Torch never was reworked into the body of the Vision. It’s up to the people handling the current day Vision to care whether the reintegration of that concept by my old pal Kurt Busiek in Avengers Forever should stand.

NRAMA: So tease us a bit - what can we expect to see in the story? This will be set in the modern-day Marvel Universe, right?

AR: Absolutely. We will be crossing over with a great many elements of modern Marvel, and I can guarantee from what Mike has already accomplished in the story thus far, it will seem an appropriate fit to the level of intelligent writing that we find in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and that corner of the Marvel Universe.

NRAMA: What would you say is the theme of the story you and Mike are telling? Is this all about Jim's search for identity and a place?

AR: Yeah, that’s basically it. For me, it’s about putting all of Marvel’s classic toys back on stage in a position that I feel, and hopefully they and the fans feel, these characters deserve.

NRAMA: Finally Alex, you've handled the original Invaders, and now the Torch in the present day...it seems that there's a theme here. Are you building towards an Invaders revival in the present day in the Marvel U?

AR: See my last answer.

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