Superhero stories are pretty familiar. Guy has powers, guy fights crime. But what if the world suddenly had no crime? What would a hero with superpowers do then?
Marc Guggenheim and his wife, screenwriter Tara Butters, explore that idea in Halcyon, the new Image series debuting this November. The five-issue comic is the first title being released through Guggenheim's new imprint, Collider Entertainment.
Most comic book fans know Guggenheim for his work on titles like Amazing Spider-Man and Resurrection, as well as his screenwriting gig on the upcoming Green Lantern film and consulting producer on No Ordinary Family. But his wife is also an experienced screenwriter, with credits on TV shows like Dollhouse and Reaper, which she created.
Now the two unit for Halcyon, creating a whole world of superheroes who are struggling with how to occupy themselves when there's no crime left in the world to fight.
Newsarama spoke with Guggenheim to find out more about the series and his new Collider Entertainment imprint.
Newsarama: So Marc, you're writing this comic book series with your wife?
Marc Guggenheim: Yes. This is our first collaboration together that hasn't produced a kid.
Nrama: Are you getting along?
Guggenheim: Yeah! You know, it's funny, I've been joking that we announced the title in San Diego this year; we're announcing the divorce next year. But no, the truth of the matter is that it's been a real pleasant surprise how much fun it's been to break story with her. We really have had a blast.
Nrama: How did you guys come up with the idea of Halcyon?
Guggenheim: My wife, who has read some comics but had never read the Watchmen graphic novel, went to see the Watchmen movie with me. We walked out of the theater, and I was very curious to see what she thought of the movie, in light of the fact that she'd never read the comic. She liked it. She thought it was really interesting. But she said, "Where I was really intrigued was at the end. I wanted to find out what was going to happen to all these superheroes once Ozymandias has essentially fixed the world."
That got us talking about, what would a comic book look like if suddenly the world was perfect? What would all the superheroes do?
Try to imagine a character like Batman whose whole life has been about fighting crime, whose whole existence and identity is his war against criminals, and he wakes up one morning to discover there are no criminals. What happens to him?
What happens to characters like Superman and Spider-Man who are burdened with this incredible responsibility, but are suddenly free to live their lives like normal people.
These were the questions that were real intriguing to us. The more we talked about it, the more questions came up, and the more we realized that, even though there's no crime and no war and there's nothing for superheroes to fight, it doesn't mean the end of the superhero story. It actually suggests a new beginning to a superhero story -- one that wasn't boring, but one that was fraught with a lot of drama and a lot of interesting questions.
So as we talked about it, what it basically evolved into was, what happens when the never-ending battle for truth and justice ends? And that's what Halcyon became.
Nrama: So who are these characters that will be in the center of this story? They're obviously superpowered, but what are they like?
Guggenheim: We created a whole universe of characters. There are actually several characters you meet throughout the series. It's a whole world.
In the image, we have a character called Sabre who is, basically, our Punisher/vigilante/Batman character. His whole life has been centered around having a war on crime. We explore the question of, what happens to a guy like that once he has nothing left to fight?
He is carrying on an affair with a character named Zenith, who is the world's mightiest woman. For her, the question is, how do I live my life once I don't have as many responsibilities?
There's another character named Transom, who's a speedster. And what's cool about him is the fact that, once you remove war and crime and any sort of man-made aggression, the only thing left for superheroes to deal with are natural disasters, like plane crashes and earthquakes. The problem is that Transom is the only superhero on the planet who is fast enough to get to these disasters as they're happening. So he's the one superhero who's being run completely ragged, because he's the only one who's able to still be a hero.
We've got a few other characters who are just a lot of fun. There's a character named Null, who is completely featureless. He doesn't speak. He only talks in sign language. And he's very much like the ultimate mystery character.
There's a character names Enos who is inspired by the real life Enos. Enos was a monkey that was sent up into space by the Russians. In Halcyon, we imagine that the monkey, because of all the scientific experimentation done on him, has now grown into a full-sized primate, and he has super-human level intelligence. He's a lot of fun. He's the character who will be exploring the scientific consequences and potential causes of this worldwide utopia effect.
The other one in the image is Triumph. She's the redhead.
Nrama: You've got quite a universe built here!
Guggenheim: Oh, there are more. One of the fun aspects of the series is that, with each issue, we get to delve into more and more characters. So by the end of the five issues, you'll have a very populated, rich universe.
Nrama: This is the first title from Collider Entertainment, your new imprint through Image Comics. Can you describe a little about what you're hoping to publish through the imprint?
Guggenheim: Collider is a company that I formed with a movie producer, Alisa Tager, and we just wanted to create a place where writers could come and develop their ideas without a regard to limitations of form. Between Alisa and myself, we've worked across just about every entertainment platform there is, from features to TV to video games to comics to mobile phones to musical theater to the recording industry. And we just wanted to create a place where writers, particularly screenwriters, could develop original ideas.
In Hollywood, one of the things that is really in vogue these days is taking existing intellectual properties and adapting them into movies and TV shows, which is all well and good. I have no problem with it. It's actually bee particularly good to me personally.
But if Hollywood is going to keep going, the writers need to be creatively fulfilled by creating their own things. We need to generate new ideas, so we're not always cannibalizing old ones.
When Tara and I started talking about Halcyon, I clearly realized that this fit perfectly into the model that Alisa and I were envisioning, because we're trying to foster ideas that really lend themselves to expression and translation and continuation across various platforms. So we're talking about, like, genre-based properties that can be told in a lot of different ways. With sort of long-reaching concepts that are broad enough to support a variety of different formats and stories.
Like I said, this story required us, in order to tell it, we had to create a whole world. So what's fun is to kind of look past these five issues and say, OK, which of the characters would we like to spend more time with? Who would we like to write a novel about? Who would we like to do a TV show about? Who would we like to see in a video game? It's fun to be able to free yourself up from the constraints of, OK, I'm only writing this for television, and to be able to think in a broader scope.
Nrama: After Halcyon, you have a few other titles planned?
Guggenheim: Yeah, this is just the first one. The next one we announced is a title called The Mission, which is written by Jon and Erich Hoeber. They're actually a great example of what Collider is all about. Jon and Erich are very talented, very accomplished screenwriters. They wrote the Battleship movie that's filming right now. They adapted the Warren Ellis comic Red into the Bruce Willis film that's coming out. And they came to us with this really, really cool idea.
It's about as far away from Halcyon that you can get, but it's just a really interesting notion on its own. It's about a man who is receiving messages from God to kill people. As we know from reading the newspapers, a lot of serial killers get messages from God to kill people. So the book constantly asks the question, is this guy crazy or is he really receiving divine guidance. That really spoke to me and Alisa, so we thought it would be a perfect second project for us.
We have several projects in the pipeline, but one of the rules we set for ourselves is, we don't want to solicit or announce any projects that aren't ready for publication. I'm personally really tired of reading about titles that never come out. So I want to put my money where my mouth is, and only announce when the book is being drawn.