When Tom Peyer shared his idea for a new comic book called Captain Kid, Mark Waid was so enthusiastic about it that he wouldn't let the idea go, asking his friend about it every month for years.
“When I realized that Mark was psyched enough about this idea to want to work on it with me, then we had to do it," Peyer said. "I couldn't let it go any longer."
The idea of the Captain Kid is that a middle-aged man with an obsolete job gains the power to transform anytime he wants into the teenaged hero Captain Kid. It's what Waid describes as a wish fulfillment that begs the question — if an older man could go off and be a teenaged superhero anytime he wanted, why would he ever come back?
Illustrated by Wilfredo Torres, Captain Kid is one of several anticipated releases from AfterShock Comics, the company headed by Editor-in-Chief Mike Marts (who was cited by both Waid and Peyer as the reason they brought Captain Kid to the publisher). AfterShock announced earlier this year a distribution agreement with ComiXology and Amazon's Kindle Store.
Newsarama talked to Peyer and Waid about the comic book and why the two writers disagree about whether a middle-aged man would ever want to come back from the possibility of staying teenaged and superpowered.
Newsarama: Tom and Mark, where did the idea for this emerge? Have you been wanting to do this for awhile?
Mark Waid: Tom had the idea, like, 10 years ago. Maybe longer. And I've been asking Tom to do something with it, like, every month since he told me about it. The concept plus the name made it something I wanted to read.
Tom Peyer: This is an example of, you know, I feel like if I bring something special to comics, it's a lot of inertia. It can take me 10 years to just sit up and do the simplest thing.
Waid: [Laughs] Yeah!
Peyer: When I realized that Mark was psyched enough about this idea to want to work on it with me, then we had to do it. I couldn't let it go any longer.
Nrama: It sounds like a wish fulfillment for people my age, I think.
Peyer: In fact, for people younger than me, I'm afraid. But yeah, it's reflecting what I think has happened to the comic book audience the last 70 years, as it's gotten older.
The title character is a relatively older person, a man in his mid-40's, who gets his fondest wish fulfilled. He becomes a teenage superhero. And we explore his life as a 45-year-old, which remains ongoing, and his new experience as this teenage superhero. And why it's happening and what it all means.
Nrama: So is this someone who's a comic book fan?
Waid: No, he's not a comic book fan. He's hip to pop culture, as anybody in that age bracket sort of is. That's the language of the realm.
But it's less, "I want to be a superhero" than it is, "Oh my God! How did I turn into a teenager? And why would I ever want to turn back?"
Peyer: We kind of calibrated his civilian identity too as a model of decay.
He's working in an obsolete industry, doing an obsolete job, at the age of 45.
He's the music editor of a weekly alternative newspaper, which is a job that used to signify youth and now signifies pretty much decay, I think. He doesn't feel any different. He doesn't feel any older. But the world around his is telling him that he is. And his body's telling him he is. You know, he has aches and pains.
He recently lost his mother, and his father is old and fragile. Things aren't quite what they were in 1991.
Nrama: As Mark said, why would he go back? Is it not all fun and games to have these superpowers?
Peyer: Possibly, but I think more, it's really not all bad to keep living the life he's been living. I mean, he has people around him. What's he supposed to do? He can't go to his dying father and say, "Hey! I'm immortal!"
Waid: You know, it's funny. This has been the kind of back and forth between Tom and me that's made it energetic since the get-go. I do tend to lean more toward the category of, "Oh my God, why would you ever change back?" Whereas Tom has the much more grounded attitude of, "Yeah, but here's the reasons you would change back — because you have a life, because you have friends, because you have responsibilities, you have a family."
Just because you get a vacation as a teenage superhero doesn't mean you want to spend all your time there, although I think Tom believes that more than I do.
Peyer: That's well put. This is the disagreement that keeps the collaboration lively. I'm grateful for that. Mark would totally be Captain Kid forever, but I wouldn't.
Nrama: Are there threats for Captain Kid? Are there supervillains?
Peyer: I think you could say there are supervillains. In the first couple issues, we haven't really done, like, a costumed villain yet. There's no one going to dress up like a playing card. But we do have a centuries spanning conspiracy.
One of the things we've been playing with is that evil is as likely to be represented by mediocrity as greatness, if you know what I mean. Like, our first really wicked villain is the executive vice president of a lawn ornament company.
And the reason for that is I think a lot of times in the real world, while we worry about extremists and klansmen and stuff like that, the real harm is being done by, I'll say it, bank managers. People who just fit into normal life so comfortably.
Nrama: So this is a guy who's in a world very much like ours? Is he the only one that has superpowers?
Peyer: So far, he is the only one.
Waid: At this point, there's no Justice League to swoop in and save him. We might want to add to this world as we go along, but right now, there's no one he can turn to and say, "OK, so what's your advice?"
And one thing I'm proud of with this is that you don't have to wait for an origin to start reading him. On Page 1, Panel 1, he's already been Captain Kid for months, although we will find out everything important we need to know about his origin. But it's not one of these deals where we have to wait for the flipping spider to bite him.
Nrama: Tell me a little about the artist on this book, Wilfredo Torres.
Waid: I've known Wilfredo now for almost 10 years. I was giving him work at Boom Studios back in the day. I just saw something in his work right off the bat. It's been exciting to see him grow, and seeing his stuff on Mark Millar's Jupiter's Circle stuff recently has been really good.
His style was exactly the type of look we were talking about for this comic book. We were talking about a more classic, open, less hyper-detailed style.
Peyer: And less macho. We didn't want anything macho.
Nrama: You two have collaborated quite a bit over the years. Why do you think you works so well as a team?
Waid: Tom won't say this, but I will. Grant Morrson's famous quote about Tom is, every month that there's not a Tom Peyer book on the stands is a sad month. He really loves reading Tom Peyer work. I love reading Tom Peyer work. Tom is just so imaginative and funny and is willing to twist and turn the tropes that we know so well that it's just a joy to work with Tom.
Peyer: Thank you.
I think we really work well together because even when you don't see our bylines on each other's work and stuff, we talk a lot of our stories out with each other, even when we're writing alone. Mark's the first person I go to when I have a story problem. And I think the opposite is true too.
We've been doing this for over 20 years, and we've got like a language between us that makes it so easy. If want a particular effect, say, all we have to do is say, like, "Superman #142," and we know what we're talking about.