What happens when the world's greatest hero becomes its greatest villain?
The greatest villain steps up.
That's the premise of Incorruptible, the upcoming series from BOOM! Studios written by Irredeemable creator Mark Waid. Whereas Irredeemable followed the nigh-omnipotent hero-gone-bad known as the Plutonian as he shakes the world to its foundations, Incorruptible takes the up-is-down, black-is-white world and goes one step further, by looking at one of the worst villains the Plutonian has ever faced: Max Danger.
But with morality being as topsy-turvy as the Plutonian's path of destruction, does this one-time bad boy have what it takes to save the world? Mark Waid was kind enough to sit down with Newsarama, and talk about street-level heroism, the perils of being a good guy, and the future of the Incorruptible and Irredeemable franchises.
Newsarama: To start off with, this series is spinning off of Irredeemable, which hit its sixth issue last month. We've had the Plutonian cut loose, tearing apart Singapore and his former heroic contemporaries with equal abandon, as well as seen clones of arch-nemesis Modeus attempt to go rogue. With all that being said... what made this the right time to launch Incorruptible?
Mark Waid: That’s easy. There’s so much tumult happening in the Plutonian’s world--fallout from his destructive rampages that’s taking a major toll on the world’s economy, its psyche, its very concept of God--that Incorruptible gives us a chance to look at the street-level view of what’s going on. I’d hoped to touch more on that with Irredeemable, but as it’s progressed, it’s become a sort of rarified stage with its own internal story. Incorruptible is a broader view of the damage left in Plutonian’s wake.
Nrama: It seems like the message you've been getting out with Irredeemable is unlimited potential that's twisted and misused by an all-too-human psyche. Without giving too much away, could you give us a little bit of the high concept, or the message that's going into Incorruptible?
Waid: The central question is, “At what point does utter hopelessness motivate a man to step up and take action?” The central character of Incorruptible, Max Damage, was the world’s greatest villain, the only guy who could ever go toe-to-toe with Plutonian--but even he respected that when the chips were down and tsunamis raged and earthquakes struck that the Plutonian would be there to save us all. Now that this is no longer true, Max knows someone has to step up to save the world from Plutonian--and it may as well be him.
Nrama: Based on the release that was sent out this week, you've introduced a new protagonist to the mix -- Max Daring, or the supercriminal formerly known as Max Danger. Could you tell us a little bit about his personality or power set?
Waid: Max is everything Plutonian isn’t. He’s invulnerable inside and outside, or at least he seems to be. He couldn’t care less what the world thinks of him. He just wants to do his job. He’s untouchable (which is what makes him incorruptible) both figuratively and literally--because he’s also the toughest human being alive. Unlike Plutonian, Max doesn’t say much, he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he really doesn’t give much thought to emotions of others outside of caring about their overall welfare. In his own way, he’s probably as screwed up as Plutonian is--but I wouldn’t tell him that.
Nrama: Without giving too much away, is Max's turn to heroism based on something the Plutonian did to him directly? Or is this simply looking at the state of things, and realizing that hijacking bank cars and creating super-lasers just isn't feasible in this broken new world?
Waid: It’s more the latter, though Max definitely had a moment of epiphany during Plutonian’s destruction of Sky City--which, as it turns out, Max was there for.
Nrama: One thing that's been discussed a lot in looking at Irredeemable is the fact that you know heroic archetypes so well, based on the fact that you're sort of this legendary human repository of Superman trivia. Could you describe how you've approached creating this sort of "Tarnished Silver Age," and is that changing any with the new standard of hero, Max Daring?
Waid: It really isn’t about trying to create or re-create an era of comics, I promise. It’s about trying to twist and turn the familiar tropes and get some 21st century perspective on the parts of superheroing that have become so familiar that we take them for granted--like how anyone can juggle the distance a secret identity creates around them with the basic human need to be seen and recognized, or how to cope with the fact that the public’s every bit as eager to tear its heroes down as it is to build them up.
Nrama: And speaking of the heroes (and villains) from Irredeemable, will Max be crossing over with anyone from that series? Will he have his own independent supporting cast? If the former is true, will the heroes be wary of his past as a criminal?
Waid: Oh, no one will ever believe that Max has gone straight. They’ll always assume this is some master plot of his. So if the other heroes weren’t so focused on the Plutonian, they might come after Max regardless. But he does have a few chosen allies who believe in him. One is his seventeen-year-old female sidekick, Jailbait, who is exasperated by Max’s new life mission and misses the good life but has nowhere else to go. Another is Lieutenant Armadale, the one cop on the force who trusts Max when he says he’s reformed--not so much because Max is trustworthy, but because Armadale has his own skeletons in various closets and needs to believe that a man like Max COULD turn over a new leaf--because if Max can, maybe Armadale can, too.
And there will be crossovers, eventually.
Nrama: Let's talk about your artist, as well as your look at this series from an editor's perspective as well as a writer's. Farscape's Neil Edwards is your artistic collaborator on this book -- how'd you guys decide that he was the best fit for the project? What do you feel his strengths are as an artist? And how would you say working with him is different than your Irredeemable collaborator, Peter Krause?
Waid: Editor Matt Gagnon found Neil, and the work he’s doing is top-notch. There’s a real modern feel to it, a lot of power. Peter Krause, who I couldn’t be happier with on Irredeemable, is deliberately trying to evoke a classic superhero style because it suits the material; Neil’s been encouraged to reach more for a gritty noir style.
Nrama: Wrapping this up -- have there been any moments writing Incorruptible or Irredeemable that have particularly surprised you? And could you tease us any moments coming up for Max and company that you're really excited about?
Waid: Surprised me? Yeah, the ending to Irredeemable #8 is about the creepiest, most skin-crawlingest thing I’ve ever written, and that shocked the hell out of me when it popped into my head. And with Incorruptible, Jailbait has really stunned me with how perverse she can be. Wait until you see her introduce Max to her parents in issue three. That will not go well.