Telling the Middle of a Sci-fi Epic in MIRANDA MERCURY

Telling the Middle of a Sci-fi Epic

Archaia has become a publisher known for producing comics that don't fall under the normal superhero or sci-fi standards. Recently, they've brought forth a new story that has been winning over many fans: The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, written by Brandon Thomas and illustrated by Lee Ferguson.

 

The titular lead character of this story is an action-loving, space-faring adventurer who lives in the far future and loves defying the odds, aided by her friend and assistant Jack Warning. But there are a couple of twists with this debut story of this new hero. First, rather than beginning with Issue #1, Miranda's comic begins with Episode 295. Secondly, the opening premise is that Miranda has discovered she has about one year left to live, thanks to a microscopic toxin delivered by an enemy. Rather than wallow in doubt and grief, Miranda's decided she's just got to make her last year of life count more than ever and continues diving headfirst into adventure.

We chatted with writer Brandon Thomas about this exciting new character, how she came about and what her future really holds.

Newsarama: First, let's talk about the title. It's called The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury. Already an ironic statement, since the opening concept is that she's dying. Was that a gag imagined from the beginning or did it evolve later? 

 

Thomas
: Initially, we were going with The Adventures of Miranda Mercury and adding the word "many" seemed to go with the vibe of the entire series. This story is high adventure but very tongue-in-cheek. It's sort of our love letter to the comics medium.

Nrama: And along those same lines, you start the story with Episode 295.

Thomas: [laughs] That came out of a pretty early conversation. Initially, I was thinking of something more conservative like maybe we would start near Episode 24 or maybe up to 50. And Lee said well if we're going to do it, let's really do it, let's go to 600 or something. So we sort of landed in the middle. And I was able to write up little synopsis of stories from before, which is another homage to Star Wars.

Nrama: This definitely has that high-flying space opera/adventure feel. You've got kind of a combination of Jack Kirby concepts mixed with a Han Solo attitude. 

 

Thomas
: Right, one of the book's mandates is it doesn't stop moving. All of the stories are self-contained, so we're dealing with brand new planets and brand new threats in every single issue. The first couple of stories were slightly over-sized, they were 26 pages plus I used the cover as a page, but since then we've dialed it down to the normal 22 page issues. And there are moments I can always come back to in future stories.

Nrama: It's a nice change from some comics of the modern day where issues will feel like half a chapter of something that's really being written for a trade that will be published later on.

Thomas: Yeah, it was just one of those decisions we made early on that we wanted this to really be fun and exciting and action-packed. If we're allowed to continue, there are a couple of quieter issues coming up but we want people to get a full meal in every story even if there are some sub-plots weaving in and out and some characters that will make later appearances. You can enjoy it collectively but every story stands on its own merits. 

 

Nrama
: Aside from Star Wars, what other major influences guide this series?

Thomas: It's really a marriage of Star Wars and Saturday morning cartoons from the 1980s. Voltron, Thundercats, Transformers, those three were my holy trinity of '80s cartoons. I started writing by writing these little in-between episodes of shows I was watching. And I try to keep that same fast-pace of those cartoons, where each episode had a beginning, middle and end and then they moved on to something else at this fun, exciting break-neck pace.

Nrama: You've been talking about high-flying, tongue-in-cheek, fast-paced adventure and that's an interesting juxtaposition to the fact that your lead character is dying. Folks hear that and might expect that this will be a somber series about self-reflection.

Thomas: The more serious stuff comes from Jack Warning. As the series went on, it became interesting to see the relationship between Jack and Miranda and the strain it puts on them since she kept this secret and they have a difference of opinion. Miranda figures she has a year left to live and she's going to do what she can before the curtain closes and Jack thinks they should spend at least some of the time trying to find some exotic cure for her. I love writing the interpersonal dynamics of how Jack and Miranda's personal and professional relationship work. The more scripts I wrote, the more it focused in on this and that forms the crux of the book now. That wasn't the initial plan, it's just one of those things that evolves really naturally and I think it works. 

 

Nrama
: I do love that Jack's last name is Warning.

Thomas: You know, I was working at Barnes and Noble for several years and I was at the cash register one day and someone handed me a check and their last name was Warning. So I just put that in the note book and thought man, I have to use that last name somewhere down the line. Somewhere in volume three, if we get to do it, we get to meet Jack's family, like his father Strom Warning.

Nrama: One thing that some folks have noted is that this is a black female lead in a day where women and minorities in  comics have been coming under criticism in some big ways. Was it decided from the beginning that this would be the character or did it evolve later like other aspects of the series?

Thomas: I'm a black writer. So the portrayal of characters of color, the advancement of creators of colors and even the advancement of female creators, is all something I have a personal stake in. When I initially came up with the character, she was always a black woman. Sci-fi is a bit notorious for having a lack of representation. There's a joke that apparently black people never make it into space. So I made Miranda a third generation science hero, the product of a long line of black adventurers.

You know, comics struggle with introducing new white characters too, it's not an easy road if it's not a hero who's already been established for decades. But in the universe Miranda lives in, no one cares that she's black, it doesn't come up. There is prejudice and intolerance, but it's not always about skin color.

There's been a lot more talk about minority characters and women characters with Spider-Man and the DC Comics relaunch, so I think more people are taking notice of Miranda being a black woman than they might have four months ago. 

 

Nrama
: Back to the fact that you started off the story with Episode 295, this obviously gives you the chance to tell stories of her past in case you want to delay her death or if you feel like telling stories after her death. How much of that past have you planned out?

Thomas: This is gonna sound crazy, but I've basically plotted about six volumes of Miranda's future and then several critical stories of her past. Basically, the first issue would be a "reprint" of an older comic where it starred her family, as if they were the stars of the comic originally before it was hers. And every volume of Miranda Mercury will start off with a past story or a lost tale. Some definitely need to be told. The one that Lee and I are talking about the most right now is the story of when Miranda meets Jack Warning for the first time. If we're allowed to go forward with this series, that will be an important moment.

If fans really like Miranda Mercury now, they need to get other people to read and buy the book from Archaia so we can keep on doing more next year. It's a beautiful looking book too.

Nrama: You mentioned Voltron earlier. Along with Miranda Mercury, you're also writing a Voltron comic for Dynamite. What can you tell us about that? 

Thomas: It's been very exciting and very surreal to be contributing to the Voltron legacy. It'll deal with the Lion Force cast of characters, taking things in a few different directions but preserving the core.

Nrama: Is it taking place in the time period of the cartoon or some time later?

Thomas: It takes place a few years later, so for the most part it is on message but we've made a few modern tweaks here and there. I wanted to portray the Voltron Force as a very capable fighting unit so that when they get into the Lions and form Voltron they'll be even more dangerous. This whole idea of the space explorer, I wanted to take a different perspective on it. I don't want it to seem like they can only get something done if they have a giant robot to help them out. The mistakes and the threats they'll gave in this series are more heightened and they'll show they're tough without the robots too.

I've got a couple friends who are so young they don't know what Voltron is, so I think this series will let them plug into this universe just as much as old fans. I pitched 21 issues to Dynamite, so if we get past this first arc there are some fun adventures to get to. There are a few new faces and new roles for old faces. I'm also working on a Project Superpowers mini, so it should be a pretty exciting end of the year and beginning of next year for me.

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