Teenage superheroes on the run from a shadowy company out to abduct and subvert their powers -- it's a classic staple of superhero fiction, but Noel Clarke has a new spin on it.
The actor-turned writer best known as Mickey Smith from Doctor Who is segueing from film to comic books with a new series titled The Troop. Scheduled to debut December 9 from Titan Comics, The Troop is described by Clarke as "the Game of Thrones of comic books."
Although best known as an actor, Clarke has done considerable work behind-the-scenes writing films and television shows. Now he's taking that writing and partnering up with artist Joshua Cassara to come to comic books.
Newsarama: Noel, what led you to creating a story like The Troop?
Noel Clarke: I’ve always loved comics, I don’t think that’s suddenly come out. Anyone who follows me on social media will know that. I’m always all over the superhero films and TV shows. Marvel, DC, image and other brands were big part of me growing up.
Doing my previous series Girl1 was the start, and then connecting that to The Troop, which was an idea that had been floating around my head for 20 years. They made a connected universe and teen teams, in my opinion, have never been done in a way that reflected what teens really go through. This won’t be 100% right either as it’s different for everyone, but like Kidulthood and Adulthood I wanted to show things that happen to teens in the way I saw, in a way people could relate to.
Nrama: And The Troop is about teens. Can you tell us about Hotshot, Terrain and the other members of the group?
Clarke: Terrain is an Australian girl who turns to rock. She’s the leader and most mature as she is an older sister to six before this happened. She is a very strong woman, who knows what she wants and when. Overall she’s well balanced and had a perfectly normal, mum and dad together upbringing. The book is not all doom and gloom.
Virus is the youngest, and can give any other living thing any virus she knows the mechanics of. Her father used to beat her mother. She will provide the innocence and simplicity, which sometimes you need. The eyes of a child and all that.
Hotshot’s hands and feet can engulf in flame, with help he can blast things and fly. He was an orphan raised in care and foster homes, he is a real troubled kid with a temper.
Wish can turn any inorganic material into anything else by willing it, including himself. He’s a black teen raised in a white family and all the issues that come with that.
Torrent can turn herself into water and control all moisture. Raised in a loving family then went off to university. I won’t tell you what happens to her and her friend but it’s not good. It happens to a lot of young women, she seemingly bounces back and handles it her way.
Rush is an invulnerable kid; no super strength, just invulnerable. He lives with his sister and caused something bad to happen in high school, which affects him badly. He can’t hurt himself physically so finds other ways.
Lastly, the triplets are quite well off and but their parents have seemingly abandoned them. They are pretty grounded until this all starts, then changes happen rapidly for them.
Jade emits radiation blasts from her hands.
Trace is blind until she takes over someone else’s body then can see and move through them.
Element controls elements by frequency of his shouting.
The whole team is big and I promise you not all of them will be there at the end but you’ll have to read and find out why.
Then of course there is Chalice, a beautiful black woman. There are greats like Storm, but generally there are not enough black women in comics. She’s not part of the team but is a major character in the book and it soon becomes clear how they fit together. But then, they’re all connected through Girl1.
Nrama: And who is hunting this group of super-powered teens?
Clarke: Well that’s a complex question and an even more complex answer. There are different factions for different reasons and with different agendas. Typically they are a shady agency, but they are a lot more advanced than they should be and we’re not sure why.
Nrama: Comic books have a long history of super-powered teenage superteams. Were you influenced at all by any of that, or do your influences come from somewhere else?
Clarke: I loved all of the teen teams. It’s 2015, there are not many things people can do in film, TV and comics that hasn’t already been seen in some way, shape or form. But this comic is original as I can and will do things that the other can’t do. Not for shock value or to exploit or glamorize anything, but to show what I really needed to read as a teen and what some may need to read now. Will it have all the answers? No, but if a character dealing with an issue ends up helping someone in real life, I’ll be happy.
Nrama: You've really shown yourself to be adept at writing teenage ensembles, from Kidulthood to 188.8.131.52. What made you interested in this kind of story?
Clarke: I just always have been. As a fan, a teen myself, an adult working with teens and now a father, who will go on to have teens.
Nrama: How'd you connect with Joshua Cassara to do this series?
Clarke: Was just looking for the right artist with Titan. Josh has been amazing, he’s awesome. One of the best and hardest working artists I’ve ever seen, and trust me we’re not getting rich off this. He has great ideas and instincts and lays out the pages in ways better than you could even think, especially when you’ve written too much and he has to re-organize it. I met him face to face in Los Angeles recently and we were sitting with UFC fighter Michael Bisping, we showed him the art and he said this would probably be the first comic he’s going to read because obviously he knows me but he liked the way it looked as well.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with The Troop?
Clarke: For it to come out and be an alternative for people. It’s violent, but not super violent. It’s sexual but not in a porn way, just in a teens living together way. I want to ground it as much as possible. If you die in this book you are not coming back. That’s lost now, it means nothing any more. And not all the kids will kill or want to harm. It should be a big deal about who can do things and who can’t, like it is in life. All my life I knew that I couldn’t/wouldn’t kill anyone, wouldn’t even cross my mind, but now if someone put my children’s life in immediate danger, I could do it without a second thought, to save my children. Life is complex and I guess my goal is to show that.
Nrama: And could you see yourself doing more comic books in the future -- and if so, what kind?
Clarke: Hopefully. If there is time and people enjoy it. I’d love Titan to one day have a title that was popular enough to continue as a monthly. Hopefully it would be one of mine.