It's an Irredeemable world -- and you've got only Mark Waid to thank for that.
With the superman-gone-bad premise of BOOM! Studios' flagship series, it's been nearly a year of the superpowered Plutonian going wild. In April, series writer Waid will be teaming up with artists Howard Chaykin, Paul Azaceta, and Emma Rios to print Irredeemable Special #1. Newsarama chatted it up with Waid about the book being both a primer for the Irredeemable universe and a tie-in with its new sister series Incorruptible, as well as what horrors might be coming up for Irredeemable in its second year.
Newsarama: So Mark, we hear you're doing something special with Irredeemable coming up. Could you tell us a little bit about what that is?
Mark Waid: Yeah, actually, we've got an Irredeemable Special #1 plotted in the month after Issue 12 ships. It comes between Issue 12 and 13, and basically it serves two focuses -- it's a primer for the Irredeemable book and the Irredeemable continuity if you're new to it, you haven't picked up the books yet, but at the same time, if you are familiar with what we've been doing and you've been reading all along, it's required reading because there's a lot in there in terms of backstory in terms of a lot of the certain characters.
Nrama: Last we saw the Plutonian, he had gotten his clock cleaned pretty good. Where's he at right now, mentally? Every time we see him, he seems to get another horrible chapter to his backstory.
Waid: Well, yeah, that's pretty much the theme of the book -- and it's only going to get worse. So as a matter of fact, Issue 12 has a moment with him which is, without a doubt, the darkest thing I've ever written. Without a doubt. Even I felt skeevy and like I really needed to go take a shower afterwards. So he's still basically Irredeemable, but the special itself concerns itself with characters like Kaiden or [Incorruptible leads] Max Damage and Jailbait, and some of the other Irredeemable universe characters, if you will. The framing sequence takes place in the present day, but the individual short stories are more background information on these characters.
Nrama: You're teaming up a murderer's row of artists here, with Howard Chaykin, Paul Azaceta, and Emma Rios. Who's working with what in this, and what strengths do you feel each of them bring to a project like this?
Waid: We've got Emma, it looks like she's going to be doing the Kaiden story, which is appropriate because it's all about magic and it's all about sorcery and that's Emma seems to excel at. We loved her doing Hexed and I loved doing Hexed so much from BOOM! that, y'know, I jumped at the chance to have her do Strange over at Marvel. So by far the strengths she brings to that. Paul Azaceta is going to do one of the short stories, and honestly, at this late date, I'm not sure if it's going to be a Qubit story or if its going to be a story about the Hornet, who was the first guy we saw the Plutonian kill in the first issue of Irredeemable. I'm still sort of on the fence on that one -- that depends a lot on what Paul feels like drawing, because I could tell stories about any of those. Howard Chaykin, having him draw Max Danger and Jailbait is pretty much a no-brainer. Having him draw Jailbait is a no-brainer.
Nrama: You're really digging in deep, going back to the Hornet from Issue #1 like that. We should ask, based on all the characters of the Paradigm you've worked with, is there a particular favorite you have in mind?
Waid: Actually, to be honest, I think it's pretty obvious that Qubit is my favorite character, so I'm trying to stay away from him, only because it's so easy for me to gravitate toward the sarcastic genius characters. That's the one I love writing the most, and I'm trying to challenge myself and stay away from Qubit for a little while, because I think he's gotten a lot of stage time. It's time to shake it up a little bit.
Nrama: For you, what's been the appeal of telling a story like Irredeemable? What do you like most about working on this series?
Waid: Wow, that's a good question. What I like to get into the psychology, this weird confluence of superhero culture and celebrity culture, at a time in our society when, because of the Internet, because of 24-hour news stations and 24-hour entertainment stations, our heroes, whether they be sports heroes or celebrities or whatever, they're under such constant scrutiny, they're under the gun 24/7, and the pressures that must bring to boil. If you take that reality that we live in, in our world, and just extrapolate it one more step in that it would be that way for superheroes, too, and seeing how they react to that, that's what intrigues me the most.
Nrama: With all the characters that you've been working with, have there been any that have surprised you, in terms of where they turned out?
Waid: Yeah. By far, Cary, Charybdis, the one is who is now calling himself Survivor, the one that I never expected his journey to take that direction. The idea of him essentially setting himself up as the next Plutonian, with half the charisma and none of the likeability. That surprised me. The things that Bette Noir has up her sleeve and the secrets that she has to be revealed are not ones I had planned from the beginning. They came to be about halfway through the first year, in one giant surprising moment that just galvanized me and made me really love that character and embrace that character, because now I know the secrets she's been keeping. And as she said in Issue #10, her secret is not that she slept with the Plutonian. That is the least of her secrets. And yet the secrets that she does have are really all really about the Plutonian, but they're going to tear the team apart.
Nrama: So you've hit your tenth issue of Irredeemable this week. How do you think the series has gone since issue #1? What have your goals been for this first year, and do you feel you've hit them?
Waid: I think I have. What surprised me more than anything, I went into it thinking I could hold some of the secrets about where Plutonian's rage comes from and what sort of things brought him to the edge, I thought I would keep those secrets a lot longer. And I got into the telling of the story, I realized that, the other characters, because they're taking on a life of their own, individually, I had made it a much broader tapestry upon which we can weave our stories. So it surprised me that a lot of Plutonian's secrets, although by far not all of them, but a lot of them -- more than I had figured -- are already out of the bag by now, but it hasn't seemed to slow down the momentum of the book. Now, the nice thing about spending ideas as currency is if you do it right, you sort of end up creating new ideas.
Nrama: Touching upon that, since you were saying how more of his secrets are out than you expected, I can't help but think about what you said at Long Beach -- that this book is called "Irredeemable," not "The Plutonian."
Waid: Right, exactly, very much with that idea in mind, yeah.
Nrama: So with that in mind, does this mean that we'll still be seeing the Plutonian in the near future? Or might his days be numbered?
Waid: ...No comment. But don't quote me. Eh, you can quote me. (Laughs) Let's just say, that remains to be seen, at this point. Don't want to give anything away.
Nrama: Fair enough. Going back to the back-and-forth between your artists, what's the back-and-forth been like working with your art team in this Irredeemable world?
Waid: Actually I don't have a very good answer there. With Peter, what I love about working with Pete Krause is that, he's sort of the barometer that keeps me a little bit, keeps the darkness a little bit in check. Pete, one of the things I love about working with Pete is, Pete's the first one to call me up and go, 'this thing that you wrote here, this scene or this incident, it might be just a little bit too graphic or gruesome and dark to win the audience over -- and he's almost always right. So I love that about him being the barometer.
Nrama: Since you guys are still going back-and-forth and still constructing the story, could you talk about some of the process you go through to put together a multi-chapter book like this?
Waid: Well, the tough part -- and yet the fun, challenging part is finding out a way in which it is, it sort of has to serve two masters, it has to be something where each of the individual short stories in there has a beginning a middle and an end, but at the same time I don't want it to read like 'these are three things we didn't have room for in the regular book.' I didn't want it to read like three leftovers. The three stories had to fit in a more organic hole, that places these stories in context with the Irredeemable world right now. I guess that's poorly phrased -- a better way to phrase it would say is the challenge would be to tell these three stories, but also in the context of the special, to say why it's these three stories and why these three stories had to be told now, and what that has to do with the regular book.
Nrama: Now, for people who are still on the fence about this book, with you and Peter Krause returning to Irredeemable the following month, is there anything you can tease for us coming up?
Waid: Well, we've certainly got the stage set pretty fully in year one now. I think everybody kind of knows who the players are, we know a lot about what the conflicts are, but now in year two what we get to see what happens when the Plutonian's dreams start to come true. We get a real sense in year two, what it is he really wants, what it is that really motivates him, and what happens when that stuff comes to fruition, and the horror that rises up from that.