Marvel's Shatterstar is one of those characters that instigates strong opinions among comic book fans: either you love him or you hate him. In the new Shatterstar limited series debuting October 3, Marvel has found a writer who has an unabashed love for the character - with a pitch to get more readers to share his opinion.
In the upcoming Shatterstar, this Mojoworld gladiator returns through the lens of "hardboiled noir" according to writer Tim Seeley. Working with artists Carlos Villa and Gerardo Sandoval, Seeley tells Newsarama that he's out to show that "the X-Men are punk as f***."
Seeley was able to talk to Newsarama about the upcoming series, show off some designs for new characters, and what he feels like his top priority is going in for this new series.
Newsarama: Okay, so... Tim... Shatterstar?
Tim Seeley: Shatterstar!
Nrama: What makes Shatterstar interesting? He last had a limited series over a decade ago, but why is it time Shatterstar to get his own spotlight again?
Seeley: Was it a decade ago already?
Nrama: Well, in 2005 so over a decade at this point.
Seeley: Jesus, man. I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. Okay. Yes. Well I think the initial emphasis at Marvel was, “Hey he’s in a Deadpool movie and we should you know do something with him!” And then (spoilers for Deadpool 2) they realized what terrible thing happened to him in that movie immediately and that we needed to go establish how cool he can be since people seemed to have forgotten.
So I think Marvel has this sense of having some characters that some people don't realize what treasures they are, but if you wait long enough, you can come in and do something cool with them. With Shatterstar, it was 13 years ago that he had his last series, like you said. But, I think there are new readers out there who are looking for a leading man that’s cool and badass.
Nrama: How much of this will take place at New Tian?
Seeley: Oh, I’m not touching that at all.
Nrama: What from his past will you be touching on, especially in regards to his lovelife? Will Rictor be around? Will Shatterstar have other partners involved since he’s identified himself as polyamorous?
Seeley: Yeah, I mean to me, I was approaching this as a story that had nothing to do with the larger Marvel Universe. Like, what would be the things I would boil this character and his history down to? And to me it’s “alien gladiator becomes a detective,” right? That's amazing! That's the perfect, simple hook I can work with.
Our story begins with him in this new life where he’s moved on from all the other experiences and continuity, I guess. He now has a building where he has people like himself who are refugees and cast outs from other timelines. So he’s a landlord trying to just move on with his life and enjoy it but has trouble keeping relationships working.
And when we start the story he’s distanced himself from Rictor. We find out why as the story goes on. He’s trying to get his life back together. It's very easy for him to be pulled back into the dark stuff. I think he's a guy who grew up being taught to fight and kill for people’s entertainment.
And I think that’s the only way he knows how to handle most things. So, when that’s taken away, you get a cold, hard revenge story out of Shatterstar.
Nrama: How are you going to handle his origin story if at all? I mean this guy has one of the most convoluted backstories of all time. He talked about being raised in test tubes, but then it’s revealed he’s Longshot and Dazzler’s son... so are you going to go into any of this down the line?
Seeley: No. [laughs] You’re right. It’s super convoluted and it basically come down to he’s his own grandfather, and honestly, that’s too much for me to deal with! I mean it's interesting and I'm glad they learned from it and closed the loop, but that is so purely “X-Men” to have a character who is his own grandfather. That could not be more of an X-Men story! But yeah, I’m not going to deal with that at all. I like it, and maybe we will have him say it at some point like “HI, I’m my own grandpa-son!” and move on.
Nrama: Are you bringing back any old school X-Men characters or will this more self-contained within Shatterstar’s bubble?
Seeley: I definitely will. I've been playing in the other pond at DC for five years and so I've built up a lot of toys I want to play with at Marvel, so of course I’m going to dive into the toybox. Right off the bat, I’m going to tie in some of the stuff when he first debuted back in the 90’s. There was a story called “Shattershot” that had Shatterstar and Longshot. There were some really cool characters in there. We’ll use these guys called the Death Sponsors. And the tenants of Shatterstar’s building all tie into the Marvel Universe in their own ways.
Nrama: What were you going for with Rictor's new look? Is that that "punk AF" mentality we were talking about?
Seeley: Carlos and I wanted Ric to have a life of his own, outside of both X-Men and Shatterstar. So, as we'll see, he runs a punk club called the Shakedown, and the look goes with the lifestyle!
Nrama: Nice! When you take a character like Shatterstar, maybe somebody who is C-List at best, and then push them in the spotlight in their own solo series, what’s the first thing you want to accomplish in that first issue?
Seeley: I mean you have to set up the reasons and say this is why this character is cool. This is why the character has a cult following and still around after 25 years. But you know I think going into this thing not everyone knows all the history. Not everyone knows all the complications. They may understand he's a cool alien bounty hunter former gladiator that they might be interested in hearing stories about. So I’ll focus on the “slick veneer” and tell deep, complicated emotional stories around that.
Nrama: By the way, real quick here, it was 27 years. He debuted in New Mutants #99, which was in March of 1991.
Seeley: Yeah that's, whew, a long time.
Nrama: Tell us about working with Carlos Villa on the series and what made you go with him for the primary artist on Shatterstar.
Seeley: On Lockjaw, he was doing a cartoony, lighter style and with Shatterstar he’s doing something a little grittier. More shadowy stuff, less open lines. He’s an awesome draftsman and great storyteller and that’s what appealed to me. I know he can do great panel-to-panel work really well.
I mean, look at Tom King’s Vision and the artists he worked with. It’s so clean and simple and reliant on expression and action. I liked the idea of working with somebody who would do that. Almost like a Dave Gibbon’s style of draftsmanship. Somebody that comes in and draws really clean, readable panels. That’s what I wanted and Carlos was that guy.
Nrama: This Shatterstar series marks your return to Marvel after an 'exclusive' stint at DC Comics. Do you have a different creative approach to somebody like Shatterstar than the Green Lanterns or Nightwing? Take into the fact that Shatterstar might not be as well-known than some of the DC characters you’ve worked on as well.
Seeley: I mean, I know the DC universe backwards and forward and the Bat-stuff probably more than almost my own history. I’ve kept up with Marvel but I admit I missed some things. I remember trying to pitch this one character to X-Men group editor Jordan D. White and he told me; “Congrats, you just pitched me Gwenpool. That’s Gwenpool.” I was like, “What, I had no idea!” So I’m reacquainting myself with some of the stuff as I go along as not to embarass myself further to Jordan.
The thing about most successful superheroes is that they’re very simple so you can get the basic story very quickly and that's all you need to know. So I tried to do a lot of simplifying, and focusing on the best parts of Shatterstar in my pitch. After my pitch, I did go back and reread all that stuff to refamiliarize myself a little bit with the deeper continuity.
Nrama: What did you read?
Seeley: I went back and read X-Factor and all of X-Force. From Fabian Nicieza’s stuff to all the way to Jeph Loeb’s stories to Peter David’s.
Nrama: With Shatterstar having his own series now, do you feel like the X-verse has been picked clean for new material or have we just gotten started the more the deeper cut of characters?
Seeley: Oh no, never! We need new characters all of the time .We need refreshed older characters. We can’t rely on the old standbys. That’s one of the best things about comics really. New ideas can get a chance to stand next to legends.
Nrama: Speaking of new ideas, there's a new character in Shatterstar called Gringrave. What can you say about her?
Seeley: She's brand new, and we'll see how she fits into the Shatterstar's history. Her design is based on the original idea that Mojoworld is influenced by the pop culture of Earth. So, while Shatterstar (and Longshot) come from Western pop culture, Gringrave comes from Eastern...s he's part anime school girl warrior, part Bollywood. And she is mean as hell.
Nrama: You just showed off Shatterstar's new design on social media, tell us about what you wanted out of this and if you got that.
Seeley: We wanted to play up the gladiator aspects, while also keeping the really recognizable, iconic elements of all of his incarnations. Shatterstar's look will change as he travels, and so you're seeing his "Man With No Name" stranger-comes-to town style.
Nrama: Will Shatterstar be more space fantasy or address more similar tones as other X-books?
Seeley: I think Mojoworld is very much a sci-fi fantasy idea, so when we touch on that location, we'll see more of those elements. But, in general, this is a hardboiled revenge story set firmly in the Marvel U!
Nrama: After Shatterstar, are there more characters you’d love to play with at Marvel that people might be aware about or at least some characters not as popular?
Seeley: Of course! I’ve always got ideas for favorites new and old. I’d love to get back to Blade. And I think I have it in me to write and draw another series at some point. It’s such a big toy box, I think I’d get tired out long before I ran out of characters.