The Traveler, the Mark Waid-written, Chad Hardin-illustrated, time-traveling title in the BOOM! Studios Stan Lee line — joined by Soldier Zero and Starborn — reaches the start of its second arc this week with issue #5 (which also has former Hourman writer Tom Peyer, no stranger to the concept of time travel, on board as a co-writer). Newsarama talked with Waid via email about what's happened thus far and what's coming up, including a trip to a place called "Anachronopolis" — just as scary as it sounds — and discussion on Ronald Lessik, the main character of the title who Waid describes as "one part Albert Brooks, one part Matt Smith, and one part my addled uncle." (For a five-page preview of The Traveler #5, click here.) Newsarama: Mark, I was in attendance at the press conference where The Traveler and the rest of BOOM!'s Stan Lee titles were announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego last July. It was clear how excited you were about the comic and the opportunity to work closely with Stan Lee, and with one arc down, has the series followed through on your expectations?
Mark Waid: More than I could have dreamed. The characters and the plotline fell together with a richness that surprised me, in no small part thanks to artist Chad Hardin’s amazing work. That guy is phenomenal, and his storytelling and dynamic drawing spurred me on. Plus, the notion that there’s room in comics for a lead hero with a fairly unique voice makes me happy. To me, Traveler sounds like one part Albert Brooks, one part Matt Smith, and one part my addled uncle.
Nrama: An important bit of the previous issue of The Traveler was that the title character's objective — finding Julia in the "somewhen" in the timestream — was revealed. With a mission statement that discrete, does that mean the series has a clear endpoint in mind that we're working towards?Waid: I wouldn’t count on it. I mean, I’m all for true love and all, but I can’t promise you that if and when Traveler is ever reunited with Julia that that’ll actually be the end of the story. In fact, I can all but swear that it won’t be, not with the curves we have in mind.
Nrama: Structurally, the first four issues of The Traveler were very tightly plotted and interconnected; reading almost as if it could have stood as a separate four-issue miniseries. Can we expect that kind of pattern to continue with the second arc?
Waid: Yep. Because Stan’s looking over our collective shoulder and is great at story, we’re taking pains to plot out each arc a little more concretely ahead of time. Also, if you’re writing a story about time travel and all its paradoxes, you really don’t want to “wing it.”
Nrama: Speaking of the second arc, what hints can you share about it at this point? Solicitations reveal that the Traveler will be visiting a place called Anachronopolis, and it sounds like that may not be great news for him.
Waid: It’s not great news for anyone (except for readers who like bizarre new thrills and exciting challenges). Does “Anachronopolis” sound like a happy place? No. “Disneyland.” “Six Flags.” “Mark Waid’s Miniature Batmobile Garage.” Those sound like fun places. “Anachronopolis” sounds like a dark, brooding prison-city filled with beings from all times and places, trapped under the reign of a mad god. Spoilers!
Nrama: Time travel is obviously at the forefront here, and something you've explored to great effect before in your comics (Cobalt Blue, y'all!) and an endless fascination for genre writers of several generations dating back to H.G. Wells. For you personally, what makes this such fertile storytelling ground?
Waid: I love the twists and turns a great time-travel saga can take. I love the paradoxes and the bizarre storytelling tricks you can play. And mostly I guess that I figure if I tell enough time travel stories, some chrononaut from the future will eventually take heed and come back to today so he can lend me his gear and I can finally, finally go back and apologize to Linda Shoemaker for calling her a buttface in front of the entire second grade.Nrama: The first arc of The Traveler has made it clear that Ron is driven by his love for Julia, which reminded me in a way of how Flash's love for Linda brought him back from the Speed Force (sorry for all the Flash allusions, but those comics had a pretty sizable impact on me). Was that strong emotional core always part of the plans for Traveler, or something that developed along the way?
Waid: No, it was always the core, and that’s not me — that’s Stan. That was Stan’s insistence – that these characters only matter to us if what’s at stake for them is something that touches our hearts. Boy, Stan’s really sharp. I sure hope he makes it in this crazy industry.
Nrama: Another element of The Traveler is humor — more prominent in the beginning of the first arc, and then seemed to fade a little bit as situations got correspondingly more dire. Will that be the trend going forward, or are some more lighthearted moments along the lines of "I think I peed a little."/"Understandable." coming up?
Waid: I think the best of all possible storytelling worlds is one in which the writer’s free to change tone on a dime. That way, the moments of horror can be expunged with a joke to cut the tension, or the really funny sequences can screech to a terrifying halt all the more shockingly and with greater impact. Trust me, we’ll continue to bat readers around like that.
Nrama: Last thing before we go — you were just announced as the new writer on Daredevil over at Marvel. Since some fans may be wondering, will this added workload affect your output of three ongoing titles at BOOM!?
Waid: What, and leave my babies behind? Fat chance. Just means I need to cut down on my Angry Birds addiction a bit.