Grab your decoder rings, because classic radio and pulp star Captain Midnight is returning this month. The fighter pilot turned crime fighter was a star of a radio series in the late '30s and early '40s, with a legion of fans in the U.S. Air Force (called the Army Air Corps before 1941), with Captain Midnight decoders, rings and telescope sent around to world to servicemen overseas and abroad.
Launching this week with a special #0 issue, Captain Midnight follows this wartime hero through a freak storm in the Bermuda Triangle, which transports him square into the 21st century. Like a man out of time, the decorated veteran finds a world at odds with his idea of the future — and the government at odds with his time travelling story. Writer Joshua Williamson (Masks & Mobsters, Deathstroke) is charting this “Man Out Of Time” story with Suicide Squad artist Fernando Dagnino joining him as series artist beginning with next month’s Captain Midnight #1. For more, we cornered Williamson for a debriefing.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about the new Captain Midnight series, Josh?
Joshua Williamson: Captain Midnight is a new ongoing series from Dark Horse that started as a feature in Dark Horse Presents. Our series stars the original Captain Midnight from the 1940s being pulled into present day my mysterious circumstances. Was it an accident or the act of a greater power?
Art for our first arc is being done by the awesome Fernando Dagnino with covers by Felipe Massafera! Fernando has done an amazing job of balancing the drama and action of the series with some incredible pages. Editor Jim Gibbons and I were just talking about great it’s been to work with an artist that was invested in the project who adds those little touches that really make the book sing.
Now that Captain Midnight is in present day he wants to know what happened while he was gone and why his absence affected the world in such a very negative way. “They stole his perfect vision of the future. He’s here to take it back.”
Nrama: The original Captain Midnight was a radio serial in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but has been off the radar pretty much since the end of World War II. How are you modernizing him without ruining the good, pulpy roots of the character?
Williamson: That’s been one of the biggest challenges of writing the book. Part of what we wanted to do was to grab that same character, Captain Midnight, and just bring him into present day and not change a thing about him. Show Midnight reacting to present day. Most “Man-out-of-time” stories involve the character being in awe of the future but Midnight is much less impressed. He sees our future as a downer and not at all what he was hoping for. One of the earliest things we kept saying as a joke was “Where is my jetpack?”
Getting Captain Midnight’s voice, making sure that he still felt like the original from the 1930s and '40s was something we spent a lot of time and we hope people can hear it.
Nrama: How would you describe Captain Midnight as a character and a hero, especially now contrasting the 21st century he’s been transported to?
Williamson: Too smart for his own good. He’s always thinking, and sometimes gets lost in his head and his own ways of doing things. He’s old school, y’know? A gentleman to fault. He believes in honor and doing the right thing. Black and white. There is no grey. But that isn’t how our world is now. And Captain Midnight is going to be forced to learn that the hard way.
Nrama: How can a man like Captain Midnight turn from being an American hero in the 1940s to being a fugitive from the government here in modern times?
Williamson: It’s starts off because no one trusts him. A time travelling man is, of course, seen as a security risk, but as the series goes on you see that the real reason he has been targeted is because he knows things. Certain facts and events have been buried over time and Captain Midnight knows where the graves are, so to speak.
Nrama: Now that Captain Midnight is here with seemingly no way back to his time, what are his goals?
Williamson: To find out why the future isn’t what he wanted it to be. Captain Midnight worked hard and made sacrifices for our world and sees that they have all been wasted. He sees our world and is disappointed, and wants to fix that.
It’s clear to Midnight that a lot of his technology that he invented in hopes of making the future a better place have been corrupted and he wants to find out how and put a stop to it.
Nrama: With him traveling to the future, he leaves a lot of great ancillary characters — friend and foe — behind. Might we perhaps see any older versions of his support characters or villains down the road in this series?
Williamson: Joyce Ryan, his original love interest and Chuck Ramsey, his old sidekick play very important parts in the current book. One of the future story arcs is even called “Where is Chuck?” Along with them we introduce Joyce Ryan’s grand-daughter, Charlotte, to be a new love interest. Then there is pilot Rick Marshall who is a Captain Midnight fanboy, I mean historian. And Agent Jones who is the government agent responsible for finding Captain Midnight.
But then the bad guys… ah man, Fury Shark, the daughter of Captain Midnight’s old nemesis Ivan Shark plays a very important role in the series. The narrative we’ve built with her over the first 3 issues is something I’m especially proud of.
Nrama: The one thing he did bring with him to modern times is the World War II dive-bomber he’s piloting. Is it still holding up? Will he still use it?
Williamson: The Skyrocket crashes in the first chapter of the zero issue, but we have plans for its resurrection. It’s a pretty fun scene in a future issue. That’s Captain Midnight’s hand made special plane that is full of wonderful tricks, and he’ll need it with some of his upcoming adventures.
Nrama: One of the most memorable aspects of the 1940s Captain Midnight stories was the use of decoder rings and such for fans to find out clues buried in the stories. Will you be doing any of that here with this series?
Williamson: Our story is one of conspiracy. There are small seeds planted throughout the issues that are building a bigger mystery that I hope people catch and enjoy. The series is full of high flying action, but the overall big picture is very much a mystery filled with clues. Dark Horse editor Jim Gibbons and I worked tirelessly on this series and trying to make sure that fans of the old pulp serials and new readers will love it as much as we do.