Who are the Split-Second Men?
That's just one of many questions Mark Waid knows the answer to -- and you will too, after BOOM! Studios released the second of its Stan Lee superhero books last week with The Traveler, written by Waid and illustrated by Chad Hardin.
With the book out in stores now, we caught up with Waid to fill us in on just why we should check out this time-manipulating new character. Just in the nick of time for his debut, Waid spoke about the human element behind the time-travel, what his favorite use of the Traveler's powers were, and why this character isn't just important for the people he saves -- but the universe as a whole.
Newsarama: Mark, just to start off with -- you've got a wide range as far as your superhero resume. With your two BOOM! superhero books in mind -- what can readers expect as far as The Traveler goes?
Mark Waid: A romance story that spans the length of time itself. High adventure and mind-bending, cutting-edge science. Wild rides across the breadth and depth of the human spirit. And maybe a monkey, but we’re not 100% promising that yet.
Seriously, though, it’s a chance for me to team up with Stan Lee, the man who pretty much defined and perfected superheroes as we know them today. Reader can expect a sweeping epic that melds our sensibilities, Stan’s and mine, into a story that answers the question, “what does it take to be a hero in the 21st century? What is there still to fight for?”
Nrama: Now, can you tell us a little bit about the lead character? What's going on with the Traveler, just as far as his head-space goes?
Waid: He’s got a plan. He’s on a mission. But he can’t tell anyone--including us--what that mission is, and until issue two, you won’t really get enough of the jigsaw pieces before you to form a picture. Still, sharp-eyed readers can pick out clues and hints as they go--there’s a huge one on page one of #2--and over the course of the next two issues, Traveler’s bizarre actions will begin to make sense. (Bonus hint: go Google the name “Rube Goldberg.”)
Nrama: I don't know if it's too early to tell but -- what would you say is the more compelling conflict to you out of this character, particularly as far as this first arc goes?
Waid: Easy. It’s the emotional toll it clearly takes on Traveler to stay distant and aloof as much as possible when, in fact, he’s as emotionally invested as anyone in what’s happening and is about to happen. But in order to do his job, he has to stay above it all and not let his feelings cloud his calculations. Honestly, the most compelling drama in this series, to me, is what’s always the most compelling drama in fiction and in life: the human heart in conflict with itself.
Nrama: Just as far as fleshing out the science of time-travel and the like, are there any cool twists with the Traveler's power set that you can mention?
Waid: Not only can he speed up and slow down time in a localized area, but he can, if he squints and concentrates, get little glimpses of might-have-been pasts or might-be futures. The trick is in sorting out the most likely events--and figuring out what pieces have to be in place to make them occur.
Nrama: You can't have a hero without a villain -- and I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the bad guys here. Particularly since they have such a slick name as a group...
Waid: There are three Split-Second Men, the time-traveling assassins he’s up against, and each of them has a power that maps to one of the fundamental forces of the universe. You’ve heard of the Unified Field Theory? Scientists have been working on this for decades. Basically, they theorize that there are four forces at work in the universe: electromagnetism, strong interaction (which holds matter together), weak interaction (the basis of radioactivity), and gravity. But the reason this is still a theory is that electromagnetism is physically represented by photons, strong force by gluons, weak force by bosons, and gravity by...nothin’. Gravity is the odd force out. The quest of quantum physics is to try to discover the mythic “graviton,” the subatomic particle that connects gravity to all the rest--the missing jigsaw-puzzle piece to the entire universe. And here’s the beauty of it:
Physicists have NO IDEA what the graviton IS or what it DOES.
But Traveler knows.
Nrama: As far as supporting characters and the like, will the Traveler be saddling up with any of the people he saves? Are any of those people something more important for his own lineage?
Waid: Yes, but you’ll be very surprised which ones, I think. All credit to Stan on this one: he’s the one who kept simplifying my incredibly overcomplex theories and ideas and plots down into one great twist on the classic “Boy meets girl/boy loses girl” paradigm. But which girl? And who loses who? And what are they willing to do to get them back?
Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren't sold on The Traveler, is there anything you could tease that you think would get them on board? Any moments you're excited to see moving forward?
Waid: First off, if the art of Chad Hardin can’t get you aboard, there’s no hope for you. You have no appreciation for the visual, and you should go listen to a radio or something. Chad’s work is stunning, and his storytelling and his character designs are terrific. Chad’s art’ll get your heart pounding. And seeing him interpret the big reveal in issue two, the death that glues everything in this series together, that’s remarkable and worth the price of admission right there--but I’ll say no more because Stan’s always yelling at me for giving too much away! (But if you like romance, adventure and mystery, this is the place to find it!)Did you pick up the first issue? What did you think?