C2E2: Mark Waid is Still Evil - IRREDEEMABLE One Year In
Boom Preview: Irredeemable #1
At least he is according to the marketing team at BOOM! Studios, who have been spinning the phrase "Mark Waid is Evil" for the company's de facto flagship title Irredeemable, as the publisher celebrated the series anniversary with a panel at C2E2.
The series, written by the BOOM Editor-in-Chief, follows the Plutonian, a superhuman with the power of a god -- and a homicidal wrath that is suddenly directed on both his former heroic colleagues and the rest of the world. And with this portrait of evil in the pipeline, "they came up with a campaign that proves I am the best sport in the world," Waid recalled. "And then at Emerald City Con last year, [BOOM! Publisher Ross Richie] okayed the printing up of all these variant foil covers that say 'Mark Waid is Evil.'"
The only problem -- Waid didn't know about the gag. Hitting the convention, he was suddenly bombarded with dozens of foil variant covers all decrying Waid's alleged malevolence. "All I could think of was, 'I'm glad my mother isn't around to see this,'" he sighed.
Paired with BOOM! Managing Editor Matt Gagnon -- and with marketing team Chip Mosher and Ivan Salazar waiting in the wings with Richie -- Waid took a casual approach to the rest of the panel, dropping announcements and asking readers for their questions and input for the series and the Irredeemable universe.
One of the first items Waid discussed was that series artist Peter Krause would remain on the book in its second year, returning to the title with Issue #16. In the interim, Diego Barretto would fill in with the art duties from issues #13 through #15. Meanwhile, Incorruptible artist Jean Diaz will be succeeded by Horatio Dominguez beginning with next month's Issue #5. "[Dominguez] is less Image Comics-influenced, a little more expressive," Waid said. "Not cartoony, but a little more stylized, and I think it lends itself well to the book."
Additionally, Waid and Gagnon confirmed that Dan Panosian and Paul Azaceta would provide cover art for Irredeemable, while Rafael Albuquerque and Christian Nauck would draw covers for Incorruptible.
Waid also looked back at the creation of Irredeemable's sister title, Incorruptible, which follows the journey of invulnerable former villain Max Damage as he steps up to try to become Earth's next greatest hero. "It's not the most original idea in comics, but the take on it I'm pretty proud of as original," Waid said.
"[Max] doesn't know anything about being a superhero -- it's not played for comedy, but there is no rulebook. All he knows about being a superhero is, 'do the opposite of what a supervillain does' -- and that doesn't leave him with a lot of flexibility," he explained. "That proves to be his Achilles' Heel. He can't compromise for a bit... because he doesn't know where that slippery slope is ... he's like a recovering addict, once you take that first step, you fall into a world of evil and villainy."
The team also teased the upcoming Irredeemable #13, which focuses on Bette Noir -- the superheroine who cheated on her husband with the Plutonian, and possesses a key to depowering and defeating him.
"She's the only one who didn't get captured and put into military prison. So she's the one that got away and she has this horrible horrible guilt that she could have prevented all of this horror if she had just spoken up at the right time," Waid said. "I really understand why she wouldn't -- it's not that she's hiding that she slept with the Plutonian, I think you'll see it in Issue #13 is that the sin is not that you didn't tell the truth once, the sin is then in covering it up and trying to make up for it... it just snowballs into something much much worse." He added that everything is building towards the "final gigantic blow-out" between the Plutonian and the heroic team known as the Paradigm, but teased, "everything takes a huge left turn in that book at the end of [Issue] #15."
Meanwhile, Waid said, Incorruptible's Max Damage is continuing to deal with the fallout with his sidekick Jailbait, who felt he tried to betray her at the ending of the series' first arc. With Max's unsure footing as a newly reformed hero, Waid said "now what do you do? Do I go find her? Do I wait for her to find me? What do I do? And there are other things going on in the city."
He also revealed to the audience -- and to Gagnon -- that one of the characters from Irredeemable would become "a major supporting character" in Incorruptible. "It was a perfectly organic thing," Waid said. "Eventually we'll build up to a big fight between Max Damage and the Plutonian, but that won't happen for a while, so we wanted to remind people how [the two series] relate."
Opening the floor to questions from the audience, one reader asked Waid if he had a set ending in mind for the series, and how long it might go. "I've got some milestones I know we want to hit, and I've got a wrap-up in mind, but things are flexible with it," Waid responded. "I'll write it as long as you read it."
Answering another fan's questions of why they didn't synthesize more of the Plutonian's only known weakness -- a mystic candle that can negate his awesome powers -- Waid answered that "the one thing I wish in retrospect looking at the first year the thing I wish I had done differently is the events of this year are so breakneck paced, but I bet there hasn't been five days that has passed since the end of Issue #1, so everything is happening so fast... nobody's really had a chance to change their clothes or shower -- I'm gambling on the idea, I'm banking that people are moving so fast that they aren't putting the pieces together" like a reader would, as they have a month between each issue. Then he added, "you're smarter than Qubit, congratulations."
As Waid began discussing the gradations of evil in his writing -- explaining that "insidious" evil was far more interesting to him than large-scale violence -- another fan asked him if there were any more spin-off books in the works: "One more 'I' title in the works -- but I can't talk about it," Waid said, before adding, "It may be my favorite one so far."
One of the readers in the audience then asked Waid -- who had recently written a scene where the Plutonian kills a mentally retarded man's parents and leaves him to starve to death in his own home -- if there were any lines he wouldn't cross for this series. Waid said that "really dark sexual stuff" was where he drew the line -- but that that was a line that had shifted for him as the series progressed. Describing the first issue, "the original opening to that issue was much different it was Plutonian with ostensibly Bette Noir in the skies, among the clouds, making love. And then in his moment of climax he jerks and he snaps her spine, and fall, fall, fall to the earth." And that's when, Waid said, the reader would learn that that was just a costumed impersonator -- and not even the first. "He's done that a lot."
But this sequence was excised -- and replaced with perhaps an even more unsettling scene -- at the request of artist Peter Krause. "[He] called me, and said 'I can't draw this... I just feel bad about that.' And y'know what? He was right. It's not that it was too graphic, but it wouldn't get the message across." The finished scene, which had the Plutonian watching people have sex while dressed as him and Bette Noir, Waid said fit more into the general theme of the series.
"He really has a skewed, screwed up idea about sexual relations with women in general -- he doesn't really understand tenderness, he knows the concept, but he hasn't felt somebody hug him since he was a child," Waid said. "He's not able to relax around other people -- the lesson that he has learned over and over and over again as -- as he perceives it -- if you show people what you really are, they will leave you... if you relax and be yourself they will fear you and they will hate you and they will run away."
Yet one aspect of violence in the series -- the Plutonian literally sinking the island nation of Singapore -- ended up coming back to haunt Waid, as he was invited shortly thereafter to a literary fest in Singapore.
"I thought, 'Oh, is this one of those Roman Polanski things, where this is a trap? I'm going to get off the plane and they're going to get me in handcuffs?" Waid laughed. When he got there, "the second most frequently asked question was: 'Why did you destroy the island of Singapore?' I vamped shamelessly: 'Because we needed a country we really cared about, and knew would have a vast impact on the world economy for stories.'" As the audience chuckled, Waid shook his head with a grin: "I can never go back there."
Explaining the series' original genesis, Waid said there was no one idea, like the arachnid that inspired Stan Lee to create Spider-Man. "It has more to do with the fact in the 21st century, celebrity culture has come to a the point where everyone's life, especially if you're in the public eye, is under constant scrutiny 24/7," Waid said. "You're put under the microscope day in and day out and people are talking about you all the time on the internet and that's just weird."
"What if you're of that Plutonian mindset?" Waid continued. "You can't help but listen because you do care what people think -- even though you shouldn't -- because you're not emotionally ready for all this. The conceit is that we automatically assume that all superheroes are emotionally ready for the power -- and that wouldn't be the case. There would be some guys who would crack and not be able to mentally keep up with that."
As the panel began winding down, one fan asked Waid if there would be any "Evil" apparel. "I wish, we're working on it," Waid sighed. "July Previews!" Mosher shouted -- you guessed it, there will be some "Mark Waid is Evil" T-shirts available for the general public. "You're welcome!" Mosher laughed.
If Waid was hiding any malevolence or wrath for his team, however, he wasn't showing it. "Well," he said in resignation, "The good news is that all my ex-girlfriends will have something to wear."