Andy Schmidt on Boom's Challenger Deep

A submarine sinking and trapping its crew on the bottom of the ocean is always a disaster. But in Challenger Deep, the four-issue mini-series from Boom! Studios beginning in September, saving the crew becomes a race to save the planet because the disabled submarine lands on a vast deposit of Methane Ice.

"My cast of characters has to jump into the deep and rescue the survivors," said writer Andy Schmidt, who's scripting the comic. "But just to kick it into high gear, if the sub explodes, it will ignite the Methane Ice, resulting in planet-wide devastation."

Challenger Deep is being written from a concept by Andrew Cosby, a founder of Boom! Studios and creator of Sci-Fi Channel's Eureka. Schmidt was brought on board to write the comic by Boom! Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid.

"I've known Mark Waid for several years now, and he and I were talking about something else entirely," explained Schmidt, who recently left an editorial position at Marvel Comics. "I wasn't planning on pushing my writing with him because I figured he's too busy and I don't like hassling my friends for work. But he asked to see samples and so I sent them. He called the next day and thought I'd be good for something called Challenger Deep.

"And it was about a submarine and deep sea diving, all of which really appealed to me as a Hunt For Red October, Abyss, and Crimson Tide fan. I've always been fascinated by the ocean and the secrets it holds, so this really grabbed my attention right away," he said.

Challenger Deep focuses on the expert divers that are called upon to rescue the submarine's crew. "Eric Chase is our main character," Schmidt said. "He's gone deeper than anyone else in the world. The only problem is, he doesn't go into the drink anymore after his last expedition resulted in the death of his wife. And, he's not as fit as he used to be after beating a severe illness recently, so this is twice the challenge it would have been just a few years prior.

"And he's surrounded by his two old friends Morgan and Omar. Morgan blames Eric for Elizabeth's death," he said. "See, it turns out Morgan was in love with Eric's wife too, so there's that whole issue, but they need each other to accomplish this mission. It's all good stuff."

Schmidt said writing about characters who work deep in the ocean presented a unique challenge, but he enjoyed researching the subject. "It helps that I'm interested in it. Very interested. I did a lot of research. The first script probably took me five weeks to write because I spent so much time researching the equipment and all of that," he said. "Most of that time probably won't be seen to your average reader, but that's okay. It makes me feel proud of the work and I think we're turning out a really great story."

The artist for Challenger Deep is Chee, the artist last seen on The Foundation, whose work on the Challenger Deep comic is what Schmidt calls "fabulous."

"Every time Mark sends me pages, I really get excited. I wrote some tough scenes to dramatize and was worried how they were going to play out, but Chee is turning in some riveting pages that really bring out the tension and mood I was hoping for. His work is incredible," he said. "And he's a storyteller. Not only is the art beautiful to look at, but he tells an impressive story. When Mark Waid told me he was getting his best storyteller to pencil and ink the book, I had no doubt Chee was going to be awesome. And he hasn't disappointed yet!"

As Newsarama readers may remember, Schmidt recently started Comics Experience, which offers classes and seminars aimed at breaking into the comics industry.

Schmidt also has a story in Creature Feature from Th3rd World Studios. "And I'm back in the editing mix in California this time. I'm the new Senior Editor at IDW where I'm relaunching the GI Joe franchise and at the helm of Star Trek comics and others that haven't yet been announced," he said. "I've also got a non-fiction book about comics coming out next year that I can't say much more about."

After working for Marvel as an editor, Schmidt said it was a "relief" to sink his teeth into a story like Challenger Deep that is such a departure from that spandex-laden world.

"I love my super heroes and I love Marvel Comics, but about six years of it was overload," he said. "I think you can see that in some of the work I did at Marvel that I wanted a little more variety to what I was doing. I'm thrilled to be branching out. I'll always love the spandex, but it's good to be able to do more."

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