In America and across the world, millions of kids grow up with their own image of who they want to be when they grow up. These ideas may coalesce around a certain job or skill, or a certain person. For a little boy named Billy, he wants to be Captain Wonder. In the upcoming Image one-shot Captain Wonder 3D, Brian Haberlin and Philip Tan show how Billy is transformed from a fan to the man himself, and giving the comic an innovative polish with a eye-opening 3D finish. The story is described by Tan as Captain Marvel through the eyes of Roald Dahl, and Haberlin calls it Big meets Superman – but no matter how you look at it, the comic book is bound to be cool from the 3D alone.
In the Captain Wonder 3D one-shot, Tan handles the bulk of the artwork with Haberlin providing the story and also coming in to format Tan’s finished pages for the 3D format. Publishers have tried in the past to do 3D comics with mixed results, but Haberlin’s new process is the most streamlined comics have seen – with it all being done in Adobe Photoshop. Haberlin debuted an early version of this technique years ago at the MoCCA for a show about Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, but Captain Wonder 3D shows the format fully-realized and available for readers to see when it hits shelves February 16th. Newsarama recently sat down to talk with the creators...
Newsarama: I’ve read a lot of comics, but I’ve never heard of Captain Wonder – who is he?
Brian Haberlin: Captain Wonder is the “Superman” of this world. Often voted People magazine’s sexiest man alive. He’s been our protector from evil, natural and unnatural disasters for the last 25 years.
Philip Tan: I remember being very excited about how it's a superhero whose real secret behind it perfectly escapes everyone's eye and that it's actually a "machine" piloted by a kid. The magic for me was that it will always look classic and superhero-ish in every angle and last thing in our mind is to think that's it robotic/mechanical. We really want to give it a look where we bring a new take, if you may, like our version, of Shazam/Captain Marvel, but in more of Roald Dahl/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory way. As Brian said to me once, “it’s the movie Big meets Superman”…and with that I was hooked. Brian and I keep going back and forth, back then, on how we want to incorporate a lot of the things that a kid would just go ".. Man, I wish that's me .. "! Plain and simple. The Tony Stark / Bruce Wayne in it where it's funded by someone very rich and going up against even greater danger, the Clark Kent / Peter Parker in him where he weights a lot of responsibility and real life issues and the of course the main draw of him being our Billy Batson where we hope to make kids think that they wish it was them who gets to be Captain Wonder!
Nrama: What kind of look were you going for with Captain Wonder 3D, Philip?
Tan: I think when Brian and I wanted to establish a mood for the art, the first thing in mind was to bring the brightness of its world. And how everything looks like it's full of hope!
Nrama: This book isn’t told from Captain Wonder’s point of view, but that of a ten-year old Captain Wonder super0fan named Billy. Take us on a tour of Billy’s life.
Haberlin: Billy is a good kid. He’s got some real heart. He maybe a little small for his age but he’s not a quitter. He lives with his mom and dad. He loves them but he thinks they are a bit boring. He really lives for all the documentaries about Captain Wonder—has a full collection of his battles that have been reported on the news. If he closes his eyes he can almost be Captain Wonder.
Nrama: But somehow he does?
Haberlin: SPOILERS HERE: You see the truth about Captain Wonder is he’s really just a super high tech exoskeleton. His designer (25 years ago) believed this technology was too dangerous to be given to any government or company so he built it so only a child could run the suit…and it’s quite an experience, it’s not like he’s pulling and pushing levers in there, there are synaptic couplings that directly link the user with the exoskeleton…so the user basically tastes, touches, feels Captain Wonder—in a very real sense they are Captain Wonder.Now each child who has been Captain Wonder can only do so while they fit the suit…and kids tend to grow. There have been 24 previous “Captain Wonders” and it is the duty of each to find his or her replacement (yes there have been a few little girl Captain Wonders…that accounts for that time he dyed his hair pink…but that’s another story).
So Captain Wonder 24 had an unexpected growth spurt….one day she fit the suit, the next no go. She had to rush to find a replacement…after all the world can’t be left without a protector for long. And that’s where Billy comes in.
Nrama: How does someone even get in the running to be Captain Wonder? I don’t know what it is, but it’d make a really cool contest here at Newsarama *hint hint*
Haberlin: [laughs] Maybe next time! It’s actually a rather long process and the candidate is covertly observed and tested to see if they have all the qualities need in a Wonder all without their knowledge; that is if it’s all done right. And if they pass they are invited to join this very special club and spend months training in the “suit” before having to really become Captain Wonder. But for Billy there is no time for training and Earth needs his help to avert disaster RIGHT NOW. So he has his training…ON THE JOB for the very first time…oh, and with the lives of thousands of people in the balance. No real pressure for a ten year old! [Laughs]
Nrama: And how tough was it to not only finish a book, but then turn it into 3D?
Haberlin: The book was not overly hard to do one way or the other. The 3D was a series of refinements.
Nrama: Philip, did you draw your pages different knowing it would be turned into 3D?
Tan: No, that was all Brian's genius digital skills! He can create magic like that!
Nrama: Why’d you decide to do this in 3D, and will there be more?
Haberlin: We’ll since this story is a one-shot I wanted to make the package special…there will be more Captain Wonders but probably more like a quarterly thing. And come on a full color 3D superhero comic with cutout action figures, crossword, clever “fake” ads….what could be more fun!
Tan: As of now, I am still exclusive with DC and will continue to do DC stuff in the near future. But if DC allows me, I would love to do more stuff for Captain Wonder!
Nrama: Jimmy told me that you developed this 3D process from the ground up – and can do it all in Photoshop. Can you tell us how you figured out the technology and your application of it?
Haberlin: Well I’ve been doing comic graphics since you could pretty much and I teach it as well with my site Digitalarttutorials.com. Basically I’m a technique hound and ideas just come to me…hey what if I…and a new technique is born. I started researching print 3D when I was Editor-in-Chief for Todd McFarlane Productions and there was going to be a retrospective at MOCCA. They wanted to just reprint an issue of Spawn but I thought we had to jazz it up a bit…make it a bit special. I knew how old school print 3D was done through a mechanical/paste-up process, cutting film layers. I figured I could improve on that digitally. It was very good back then and it’s even better now; the amount of control over the process is amazing.
Nrama: In addition to creating comics, you’ve also helped shepherd many other people’s titles; could you see yourself offering your 3D services to other creators and companies?
Haberlin: We would…the eyestrain however when working with the 3D glasses is pretty high…you have to take breaks!
Nrama: Philip, since you’re in the middle of a big exclusive at DC, so with how this project has gone, are you going to be pitching the Big Two to turn some of your work for them into 3D?
Tan: I have no idea if that's something in the plans for DC but I am sure that Brian will have lots of fun playing more books of the same format! [laughs]