Jesus Christ returns to Earth with AHOY Comics' Second Coming - and his first superhero team-up.
Originally slated for DC's Vertigo imprint before even that vaunted 'mature readers' imprint found Mark Russell and Richard Pace's story too mature, Second Coming is now coming out through AHOY beginning on July 10.
In this six-issue series, the son of God is teaming up with Sunstar - Earth's mightiest heroes. And they're not just partners on the battlefield, but also when it comes to dishes - that's right, they're roommates. But as Jesus settles in, he finds something wrong with the world - namely, how his followers have interpreted his words.
Newsarama had a chance to talk to writer Mark Russell and AHOY Comics’ Editor-In-Chief Tom Peyer (and coincidentally, a former Vertigo editor) about Second Coming. The duo discussed the book's segue from Vertigo to AHOY, what fans can expect from the series, and how the title fits alongside AHOY’s other comic books.
Newsarama: Mark, why do you think DC Comics wasn’t a good fit for Second Coming?
Mark Russell: I think it was more a matter of Second Coming not being a good fit for DC. I had, and still have, a good working relationship with DC where I can pitch things to DC that would sound like terrible ideas to just about anyone else - The Flintstones as a manifesto about civilization, Snagglepuss as a gay playwright who gets caught up in the Lavender Scare in the 1950s, Jesus returning to Earth during the age of superheroes... and they got what I was doing and trusted me to pull it off.
But I think right now DC is trying to figure out its brand and there's been so much movement at the top that it was just a particularly bad time to be a title that stuck out in their catalog and made people wonder, "Wait. Why are we doing this?!"
Nrama: Now, why do you think AHOY Comics was the best place to publish the series following the Vertigo exit?
Tom Peyer: We believe in Second Coming, and we want to publish it the way Mark and Richard see it, pure and unadulterated. I think we've been able to do that so far.
Russell: AHOY is made up of experienced editors who, like myself, are refugees from Vertigo. They tend to be more humor-oriented than Vertigo, too, so they just felt like a natural fit for this project.
Nrama: How did this collaboration come about? Mark did you pitch to AHOY Comics or Tom did you approach Mark?
Peyer: Boy, is it ever a blur at this point. I think we heard that it might become available and we worked some spy-movie backchannels to make it known we were interested.
Russell: I don't remember exactly. But I made the decision to part ways with Vertigo knowing that AHOY would probably be the first door I knocked on.
Nrama: Tom, you have two religious satires, Second Coming and High Heaven, on your upcoming slate for AHOY Comics. Would you like to do more of these type of stories? What attracts you to religious satire?
Peyer: We didn't really set out to do two religion-themed books so close together, but Second Coming is so perfect, so good and funny and well-thought-out, that we couldn't not publish it.
And looking back, I think High Heaven makes more points about inequality, austerity, and self-involvement than it does about religion. The heaven you see in High Heaven is based on the secular, Hollywood idea of heaven. St. Peter, a cloud, that's it really. We wouldn't shy away from doing more satires with religious associations. The main thing is, satire should be funny and it should make good points. Which specific subject it's dealing with is not as important - to me, anyway.
Nrama: What do you think fans of AHOY Comics will enjoy from both titles.
Peyer: I think they're both funny stories with characters you can get to know. Mark's characters are more likable than mine, so he has that advantage. But I'm pretty sure mine has more swearing, so if you're keeping score, that point goes to High Heaven.
Nrama: Mark, what was the spark behind Second Coming?
Russell: It's actually the combination of two ideas I had, both of which just somehow felt incomplete on their own. I wanted to do a comic about a superhero becoming disillusioned with their powers, with the assumption that they had super-strength and could fly, that this somehow made them a more moral and trustworthy person than people who didn't. I also wanted to do a comic anout Jesus Christ returning to Earth and being appalled by what had been done with the Christian religion in his absence.
It occurred to me that these stories were actually the collision point of the same question... how are we seduced by power?
Nrama: Why do you think Jesus Christ fits perfectly into a superhero comic?
Russell: Embedded in every superhero comic is the tacit assumption that you can solve the world's problems with violence. That a happy ending is just the good guys being better at violence than the bad guys. This seems like a dangerous assumption in a world where violence itself is the problem, or at the very best, a distraction from what we really need to solve the problems of the 21st century. Jesus provides a counterpoint to that base assumption.
Nrama: And Jesus' partner in this is the superhero Sunstar. What type of hero is Sunstar?
Russell: He has super-strength, flight, invulnerability, speed... the powers that a traditional superhero has, but the mind of a normal person. Which I always thought would be one of the most terrifying combinations imaginable.
Nrama: Is he religious?
Russell: We all are in the sense that we need to find things that make us feel like our existence wasn't a mistake. He doesn't adhere to an organized religion, though. I think his religion is starting a family with his girlfriend, Sheila. That, and bowling.
Nrama: Not to get too far ahead of everything, but do you think Second Coming should have a sequel or is it better as a stand-alone story?
Russell: Ideally, I would like this to be a maxi series, running 18-24 issues. I have a lot to say in this title that I couldn't squeeze into six issues.
Nrama: What is the biggest takeaway you’ll like fans to have with the series?
Peyer: That this creative team is extremely good and well worth following. And I hope they feel that way about AHOY, too.
Russell: I hope they take away the same affection for the characters that I have. I think when this title was announced, everyone just sort of assumed that it would be a hundred and thirty pages of me making fun of Jesus Christ. But I don't commit to spending that much time with a character unless there's something about them I really love. I hope they come away from this series feeling a real connection to Jesus and wondering why modern Christianity isn't more like the guy in the book.
Nrama: Any plans for more creator-owned titles with AHOY Comics?
Russell: Yes. I am doing a series of "Monster Serials" in the Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror anthology. They are basically horror stories starring off-brand versions of Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and the other cereal mascots. I also have a dystopian miniseries with them that hasn't been announced yet.