After winning the "Best New Series" Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for his Black Bolt series at Marvel, writer Saladin Ahmed is dipping his toes into the DC Universe for this week’s romance-themed Mysteries of Love in Space #1, the latest in DC’s fifth-week anthology one-shots.
Working with artist Max Dunbar, Ahmed is focusing his short story on Bizarro, who’s sitting at a bar and sharing a sob story about a woman he met during his travels. Her name is Grotesqua, a new character that Ahmed and Dunbar created for the story, which is titled “Backward Heart.”
Although Ahmed hasn’t been officially announced as the writer on any other DC projects, the writer hinted to Newsarama that there might be more creations coming from him at the publisher.
Newsarama talked to Ahmed to find out more about his thoughts on romance comics, on Bizarro’s new love interest, and what readers might expect from him next.
Newsarama: Saladin, this Mysteries of Love in Space #1 anthology features tales of romance, a genre that was one really important to comic books but isn’t seen too often these days. What do you think of DC getting back to romance for this one-shot?
Saladin Ahmed: I think it’s fantastic. It’s a neglected aspect in superhero comics and often done in a kind of perfunctory way, even though it’s a huge part of human life obviously, right?
So it was fantastic to do it. There’s been more of that coming out lately, and I hope there will be yet more happening.
Nrama: You’re using Bizarro for your story “Backward Heart.” Were you a fan of Bizarro before you dove into this story?
Ahmed: Yeah, he’s a character I’ve known since, I think, before I could read, from like, Super Friends cartoons, I think, back in 1980 or something like that.
He’s this super-intriguing character because he’s sort of Superman but a version that’s not quite able to do anything right.
I think especially when we’re talking about love, there are a lot of us who feel that way a lot of the time.
Nrama: Is that the gist of the story, that everything’s backward for Bizarro in his love life? Or is there something more here?
Ahmed: The gist of the story is that even if you feel backwards, there is connection out there.
Nrama: Are there other Bizarro characters? Or is there someone with whom Bizarro is interacting in this story?
Ahmed: There’s a character who’s an invention of mine and Max Dunbar’s named Grotesqua. We learn a lot about her in this very, very short story. I have thoughts about her story that are not necessarily there on the page.
She’s a kind of odd duck because she looks and has a vocal quality (as represented by the balloons) like Bizarro, but she actually speaks in a more normal fashion.
And whatever world she’s adopted as her own, she’s a noble hero on that world, so she’s had a very different path than Bizarro has.
Nrama: So what’s the setting for this story?
Ahmed: It takes place on a little, backwater planet with guinea-pig-ish people being threatened by a lava monster.
It was a lot of fun to play with.
Nrama: What was it like for you to write the Bizarro-speak?
Ahmed: Yeah, it was quite a challenge to write it, even in a short space like this. So I have to give props to Alex Antone, the editor, for keeping an eye on that.
Once you get into the rhythm of it, after a few pages, you sort of write that way naturally, like any sort of weird voice. But it took some getting used to.
Nrama: After a while, were you walking around your house talking that way?
Ahmed: There was some of that, yeah.
Nrama: You mentioned Max Dunbar. Can you talk about what he brings to this story?
Ahmed: The biggest compliment I can give is that it really left me hungry to work with the guy again. It’s a story about superheroes in space, so it’s big and bombastic, and he conveyed that aspect really well.
But it’s also Bizarro sad, in a bar, telling a story. And he got that human emotion, or humanoid emotion, down-pat as well. He just did an amazing job.
And our colorist, Paul Mounts, actually also took this story to the next level in a way that was just stunning.
Nrama: Now that DC fans are getting to see some of your work, where else are we going to see your work? What else are you working on? Anything else at DC?
Ahmed: I’m working on two ongoings at Marvel — Miles Morales: Spider-Man and The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, which is coming out come March.
But there are some other projects in the works, and I’ve certainly enjoyed this work at DC and leave the door open to some possibilities there.