Exclusive: Mark Waid Ends IRREDEEMABLE

Irredeemable #34

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Fans of Mark Waid's Irredeemable and Incorruptible are learning today that the old adage is true: All good things must come to an end.

After three years of telling the critically acclaimed story of a superhero gone bad — and his former nemesis turned good — Waid is ending both series in May.

The final story arcs for the two series will take place in Irredeemable #34-#37 and Incorruptible #27-#30.

Incorruptible is a spin-off from Irredeemable, the Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated series that started in 2009. The two series, which have been lauded for their complex exploration of the path to villainy and redemption, just finished their first crossover in January 2012.

Writing the two series was a journey that started with Waid's decision to serve as the editor-in-chief at Boom! Studios back in 2007. The new position gave him the freedom to invent a new superhero universe, populating it with characters whose story could evolve and change and grow.

Of course that ability to "evolve" could spell doom for fan favorite characters as the ending looms near. The titles' lead characters, Plutonian and Max Damage, can actually die. And stay dead. And no one will bring them back to life — or write a prequel — unless Waid wants it.

"It's not like you're playing in another universe and you make changes to characters and build the mythos, and then the next guy comes along and just wipes it clean," Waid told Newsarama last year. "Incorruptible and Irredeemable may not have as broad an audience, being that it's not one of the bigger publishers, but at least I feel like it's a story that will stay intact, with a legacy that will stay intact. So yes, as a writer, that's very rewarding."

But the freedom he explored on the series doesn't mean Waid ever abandoned shared universe stories, continuing to work on titles like Amazing Spider-Man even while developing Irredeemable and Incorruptible. Waid stepped down as Boom's CCO a year ago and has more recently started a run on Marvel's Daredevil, for which he's been lauded by critics and fans.

As the writer finishes up his stories in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, Newsarama asked the series editor — and Boom's current editor-in-chief — Matt Gagnon to sit down with Waid to talk about the ending of the two series. 

And as the conversation continued, we found out more about the series' ending — and hints of a TV series, a digital project, and something else Waid will write for Boom!

Matt Gagnon: Okay, Mark, let’s start with the obvious question that’s on folks’ minds: Why end the series now?

Mark Waid: I’d love to say it’s because I’ve gotten all the darkness out of my system, but that would be a lie — as you well know having read the last page of Irredeemable #35. Honestly, both series continue to be successful, so it’s a hard decision to make, but it feels like the right time.

Gagnon: But surely there’s some kind of clandestine reason or secret beef that’s robbing the world of their Irredeemable and Incorruptible fix every month. Come on, level with me.

Waid: Okay, it’s all that editorial interference. I kid! You and Shannon Watters have been terrific, giving me my head and letting me spin these tales without ever butting in. It’s like neither of you is bothered anymore by the sight of a dead baby. God, what is wrong with you two?

Irredeemable #34

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Okay, really, truly — I’m just stretched thin right now both personally and professionally, and I live in mortal fear that I’m going to overstay my welcome on these books. Moreover, I feel that Max Damage’s character arc is reaching its end in Incorruptible. And in Irredeemable, I’ve long known what the end of that series is, and lately, it’s as if all the characters are moving into position for it whether I want them to or not. So let’s go out big and grand, I say.

Gagnon: Is there a possibility that we’ll see more stories in the Irredeemable universe in the future, or is this really the last we’ll see of these characters?

Waid: Time will tell. Honestly, there are other stories that could be told with some of them — not all, as you’ll soon see. First, let’s see how fans react to the big finale.

Gagnon: You’ve had a long and successful career that’s filled with some pretty epic achievements. Where does Irredeemable rank when you look back at your career?

Waid: In retrospect, astoundingly high. I’m really, truly grateful for the chance to go and create a world where I was able to, on a monthly basis, challenge some fans’ perception of me as some sort of Silver Age fetishist unable to break through into the 21st century. There is nothing in my 1000-comics-plus body of work that I’m prouder of than my work building this universe.

Gagnon: What gave you the most satisfaction writing Irredeemable/Incorruptible? Were there any regrets?

Waid: The satisfaction, particularly with Irredeemable, came in the way it gave me a mechanism to explore and work through some of my own issues and questions about the nature of heroism in a celebrity-culture world. It’s certainly allowed me to redefine some of the essential elements of the genre in my own head. Particularly revelatory was the insight, delivered by Plutonian’s personality as it developed sort of unbidden and unguided, on its own, about what a necessary element emotional solitude is for supermen. Not surprising, given how most of them hide their true identities and keep secrets, but still, that “aloneness factor” wasn’t as obvious to me three years ago as it’s now become.

I’m also incredibly proud of the fact that the series, bizarre as this sounds, really seems to help people in real life. I recently learned of Patrick O’Connor, a practicing psychologist in North Carolina who uses Irredeemable to connect with troubled patients who are experiencing some of the same issues — isolation, betrayal, the expectations put on them by others — that Plutonian gives voice to. [Note: Details on Patrick and his work can be found at http://www.comicspedia.net/]

Gagnon: Did you have a favorite moment in either Irredeemable or Incorruptible that stands out to you?

Waid: In Irredeemable, it’s hard to choose, but I think it’s the sequence where young Plutonian overhears a gunshot from his suicidal mother and races faster than a speeding bullet to save her. There’s also the behind the scenes moment when it occurred to me that the Plutonian/Modeus relationship was a lot less Superman/Luthor and a lot more Batman/Catwoman. That was a good day.

And in Incorruptible, the only thing that made me happier than inventing a sidekick named Jailbait was inventing a sidekick named Hate Crime because “she hates crime.”

Gagnon: The final arc of Irredeemable is issues #34 through #37, and Incorruptible is issues #27 through #30. What’s in store for readers in the final arcs?

Waid: In Incorruptible, Max’s newfound morals are put to the ultimate test as he has to stop a citywide anarchy spurred by the panic of the people of Coalville who now know certain nuclear death is on the horizon — literally on the horizon, as the radiation plague unleashed in Irredeemable sweeps North America.

Incorruptible #27

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And in Irredeemable, a character thought forever lost returns to recruit Plutonian into helping save the Earth from the plague — and to do so, he (or she) has to make a bargain with Plutonian that turns the entire series premise upside-down and changes everything. Literally, everything. All towards an ending I’ve been building towards for over three years, one that even you don’t know about, yet, Matt — because I love surprising you.

Gagnon: All right, I’m going to get sappy here for a second. It’s been an awesome experience for me doing Irredeemable for the last three years and Incorruptible for two and a half. And I can say with all honesty that you’re one of the most “complete” writers I’ve ever encountered. Not only are you one of the best in the business when it comes to writing company-owned characters, but you’ve also proven yourself to be just as successful when it comes to creating new, original material. For that matter, I’d put money down—if given the chance—that you could write a damn good screenplay, novel, stage play, whatever.

Did you at any point surprise yourself during the process of Irredeemable? Did you learn anything about yourself as a writer?

Waid: First off, thank you for the kind words. I’m not as good a prose writer as I’d like to be, but I never aspired to that. But I have learned a lot about myself and about my craft as I’ve gone along in these series.

Mostly, I’ve learned — write this down, aspiring writers — I’ve learned that all fiction is autobiographical. All of it. It all comes from some place deep inside you, and you cannot be afraid to look for the darkness. It sucks sometimes. There have been many days when I have had to work up to writing Irredeemable because I just didn’t feel like wallowing in that world, feeling those emotions... but that’s the process.

Know what your characters want, know what they need most, know what they fear most, and don’t be fearful of facing it, no matter how unpleasant it may be. And no one’s ever going to know how autobiographical Irredeemable is, ever.

As corny as this may sound, when I’m writing about, say, Plutonian’s pain at being rejected or isolated, I have to tap into my own. When I write about Bette’s horror and shame at having betrayed her friends, I have to swim in similar experiences in my own life to feel what she feels. Ghuh. Writing Irredeemable is, frankly, punishing. There are very few times when I get to feel good coming away from the keyboard. Mostly, I just have to go take a long, hot shower. Sometimes with a wire brush.

Gagnon: Okay, this is a loaded question. What’s more satisfying for you as a writer, creating your own stories or writing iconic characters at the Big Two?

Waid: Truthfully, both are equally satisfying. The fun of writing established characters is that there’s a rich mythology to draw from — you get to play with toys you loved as a kid. Conversely, the pleasure of writing your own creations is that you’re limited only by your own imagination and courage, not by any editorial fiats or merchandising concerns.

Gagnon: We’ve had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the talent we’ve worked with on Irredeemable/Incorruptible. From artists to colorists to letterers — and by letterers I mean “letterer” since the incomparable Ed Dukeshire lettered every single issue of both series. And of course, editor Shannon Watters has been instrumental to the success of both series.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the creators that we’ve worked with along the way?

Waid: Yeah. I owe you all huge in ways I can never repay. Every one of you. Peter Krause charted the way with Irredeemable and built that world with me and defined the look and tone of our universe. He’s brilliant. And Diego Barreto, his successor, is one of the finds of the 21st Century. I hope they both remember to mention me someday when they collect their Eisner Awards.

Incorruptible #27

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And on the Incorruptible front, we’ve been blessed with equally stunning artists starting with Jean Diaz, but with all respect to everyone else, our MVP has always been Marcio Takara, who was there for us month in and month out for nearly the entire run of the series. His work was expressive, dynamic, and clever--heartbreaking when called for, and hilarious when needed. He turned out to be Max Damage’s best friend, in a way.

And I also want to give a gargantuan salute to Andrew Dalhouse and Nolan Woodard, the two best colorists I’ve seen come along in years and years. And thanks to poor Ed. Poor, abused workhorse Ed Dukeshire, who may have at this point lettered more Mark Waid dialogue and captions than anyone else in comics history.

Everyone else has been great, too.  You and Shannon, Dafna Pleban and Bryce Carlson, our eight billion cover artists, who between them have by now drawn every possible variation on “superhero holding a giant symbolic Earth” imaginable, writers Tom Peyer and Mike Nelson, both of whom have been priceless confidants and sounding boards in the creative process... who am I leaving out, other than God and my mom?

Gagnon: What’s next for you, Mark? Knowing you like I do, I have a feeling a vacation is not on the agenda.

Waid: There’s time to rest when I’m dead. The year 2012 is the year I run headfirst into the digital realm — watch this space for announcements. And with another of my properties in active television development — another announcement to be made soon — and some fun non-comics work, I’d say that, on an average day, I have about nine different projects to work on that I can choose from. I don’t know who the patron saint of overwork is, but if his name is Ritalin, I worship at his feet.

Gagnon: I might have heard that we could be doing another project with you later this year. I might have even asked you to do it. Who is more important to you, Matt Murdock or Matt Gagnon?

Waid: Ha! I can always make time for Matt Gagnon, dude. And we do have a little something on the horizon. You set just the right bait for me, and whenever you want to pull the announcement out of your hat — your bowler hat —be my guest.

Gagnon: That’s a wrap, my friend. Thanks for all the great memories on these two series. I’ll always look back on being a part of Irredeemable/Incorruptible with fondness. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun.  

Waid: Likewise, pal. I hope your next BOOM! project you oversee has fewer dead babies in it, though. That’s probably for the best.

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