Living in a world of superheroes is a life constantly under pressure. Sure, there are the known threats such as – I don’t know --- a superhuman fight into your neighborhood or aliens invading, but there’re also the threats inside your home and your family. In the upcoming graphic novel Forty-Five, an expectant father finds out his upcoming child might be born with superpowers, he puts his journalistic background to work to find out what to expect. He sets out to interview forty-five super-powered individuals in the hopes that by talking with them he can learn how to deal with the possibility that he may be the father of a superhuman.
Forty-Five comes from UK publisher Com.X and a new writer to comics, Andi Ewington. There’s many books out there from newcomer writers so it’s hard to tell what’s worth the risk or not, but when you see the line-up of forty-five artists who signed on to illustrate a page of this graphic novel-come-interview book, you’ll be bowled over. Names include Jock, Sean Phillips, Randy Green, Gary Erskine and more…
But for more information on the story itself, we wanted to get it straight from the creator, so we talked to writer Andi Ewington about this innovative graphic novel that came out at the end of January.
Newsarama: Set-up the world for us here, Andi – how do superhumans factor into this world?
Andi Ewington: The world is set on a similar stage to our own, with one difference; mankind has discovered the existence of an additional gene; the Super-S gene. If present in a person, this gene gifts that person greatness in the form of a super-power. We find ourselves in a universe where Superheroes can be born to normal run-of-the-mill parents, not just super-powered ones. In Forty-Five we get to see a whole cross-section of Super-S's, all with their own ideals and faults, all trying to fit into society. It's an exploration of super-individuals, struggling to find their own identities, and how their decision-making impacts on normal society and in turn, how society reacts to this, be it for the good of the many, or exploitation for the few.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the writer doing these interviews, James Stanley?
Ewington: From the outset, James is just an ordinary guy in as much as he has no super-powers or a burning desire to save the world. He's a dedicated journalist who has followed Super-S's for most of his working life. He discovers that his wife is pregnant and, rather than have a test to determine whether his child carries the Super-S gene that would see it born with potentially amazing super-powers, he decides to interview as many Super-S as possible in the hope that his enquiries will better prepare him for life with a gifted child. He wants to dispel the stereotypical myth of the Super-S, and get to the truth of what lies in store for both him and his wife and their unborn child. However, he uncovers a whole lot more than he bargained for.
Nrama: Why the number Forty-Five?
Ewington: On the surface, when Com.x and I broke the story down, we decided it would be a 90-page graphic novel made up of one page of art and another being the transcript. Mathematically this gave us forty-five interviews, hence Forty-Five. Beyond than this, there is a deeper reasoning as to why it's called Forty-Five - but I don't want to give too much away at this stage. It will reveal itself in time.
Nrama: And what is XoDOS?
Ewington: XoDOS are something of an unknown quantity in the Forty-Five universe. What we do know is they are a government-funded agency who's area of expertise is the education and integration in society of super-powered individuals. Secretly, they are training and recruiting Super-S to their cause. They have dubious links to foreign political incidents and are rumoured to have co-ordinated numerous Black-Ops missions over the years. However, current public opinion doesn't reflect their shadier dealings. With a remarkable PR machine behind them, they are seen as a welcomed support initiative for parents unable to emotionally or financially cope with a super imbued newborn, and help those who have nowhere else to turn. Are they bad? Are they good? It depends how you see their role, and more importantly, their ulterior motive.
Nrama: How did this project come to be?
Ewington: It was at a time when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We had just returned from our 12-week ultrasound and emotions were running high. Coincidentally, I had been searching for subject matter to develop and pitch to Com.x. I was also reading some influential pieces of work at the time: Marvels and World War Z. From these significant works Forty-Five was born (pun intended). I outlined my pitch and presented the concept to both Eddie Deighton and Ben Shahrabani of Com.x. I'm pleased to say they loved it, which brings us to where we are now.
Nrama: And these artists – how’d you wrangle them all into doing the book?
Ewington: I think initially it had a lot to do with the reputation of Com.x – there's a soft-spot for the indie publisher with many of the artists and creators out there, and the desire to participate with a Com.x project was just too strong for them to ignore. After that, I'd like to think the uniqueness and strength of the concept shone through. Add the almost-free-reign nature of the brief and I like to think it was almost impossible to turn down. Other guys (and gals) were recommended to me by already involved artists, and several of the newer guys we found either via online art sites like deviantart.com or by looking through portfolios at the comic-cons I've attended with Com.x. I found myself with a pretty strong nucleus of talent right at the beginning of Forty-Five; people like Jock, Charlie Adlard, Trevor Hairsine, John Higgins, Liam Sharp – those names alone added a certain weight to the project. Considering I am an unknown writer, I feel very fortunate and humbled that so many talented people dedicated their time to my book.