Talking With Mark Russell About Second Coming From Ahoy Comics

by Oliver MacNamee

Good news comic book fans and fundamental Christians everywhere. Well, not good news for the latter unless they’re planning a good old fashioned book burning for Mark RussellRichard Pace and (newly announced) Leonard Kirk’s Second Coming now come from Ahoy Comics. Well, I for one won’t be burning this book, having waited longer for its resurrection than his disciples ever did. Hey, they waited three days, I’ve waited over three months! And in that time, I thought I’d reach out for an interview ahead of its publication this Wednesday, July 10th. Speaking to Mark about the FOX controversy and more, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with Mark, and here’s the results of that back-and-forth.

Olly MacNamee: Mark, congratulations on finally seeing Second Coming come out. With one false start, it really does feel like a second coming, of sorts.

Mark Russell: Yes, this is by far the longest I’ve ever had a comic go between writing and publication, so it’s nice to finally have it come out. And it’s lucky, in a sense, because it allowed us to go back and change and improve some things from the original version.

OM: At a very simple level, what’s the set-up for this new series? 

MR: It’s about Christ returning to Earth during the age of superheroes and finding that it hasn’t changed that much since the last time he was here. It’s still the threat of violence that keeps people in line. Although, Christ would be the first to admit, the food has definitely gotten better.

OM: And, how did your working partnership with artist Richard Pace come about? Furthermore, how much of an input did he have on the final book? Or, was your vision pretty much fully formed before this partnership?

MR: We were paired by Vertigo in the early days, so the theme and the story were already largely in place, but he designed the look and physical details of all the characters.

OM: It’s no secret that you brought this book over to Ahoy Comics. But, having been a keen fan of Ahoy, it certainly seems like a great fit for the type of title and this type of story.

MR: I thought so. Ahoy was first explained to me as a “funny Vertigo”, and it really fits that bill, so it seemed like a natural fit for such a weird title.

OM: It’s not the first time you’ve worked with Ahoy Comics, so was that factor when it came to finding a new publisher?

MR: Yes, the fact that I had already done some horror stories for them starring breakfast cereal mascots was a big factor in the decision to take this comic to them. Not only because I had a good working relationship with them, but because I knew they could handle a title that seems goofy on the surface, but is actually being taken very seriously.

OM: In regard to Second Coming, how does I feel to be seducing innocent people’s vulnerable minds? Is it a full-time job, or something you just enjoy as a happy coincidence? It would seem this book only became ‘controversial’ when FOX labelled it as such and decided to pick this announcement up.

MR: I’ve noticed that when the big news of the day is embarrassing to President Trump or their other pet causes (which is often), they tend to look for small culture war stories with which to change the subject. It just happened to be my turn in the distraction chair. Their big “story” was actually an interview I did with Bleeding Cool six months earlier when the comic was announced. Strangely, they didn’t find it to be newsworthy until they needed it to be.

OM: Besides which, surely from the ‘Odd Couple’ set-up, even the most die-hard zealot could sense this wasn’t just a series focused on Christ’s actual second coming, right? The inclusion of superhero Sun-Man would imply this too. This seems a wider discussion than just religious philosophizing.

MR: Yes. In a lot of ways, it’s a meditation on power. Sun-Man represents the ideology that’s been embedded in civilization, and thus also superhero comics, from the beginning. Namely, that the only way to solve problems is by force. Jesus comes in with a completely different understanding of the world and what it needs and while his penchant for forgiveness and healing villains understandably throws some salt in Sun-Man’s game, Sun-Man begins to realize just how limited his abilities to save the world are. Only a small percentage of the world’s problems can be solved by throwing someone through a plate-glass window. The rest require empathy and cooperation, which Christ represents.

OM: From the solicitations I’ve read, however, it would seem a perfect vehicle to explore religion, and in particular, our own (mis) interpretations of these texts, as well. This isn’t the first time you’ve tackled this subject, is it? 

MR: No, I wrote a book where I condensed and re-told the Bible in modern language. It’s called God Is Disappointed in You. It also features cartoons by the great Shannon Wheeler. I’ve found that the big difference between writing a book and a comic is that people will wait until they’ve read a book to decide that they hate it.

OM: I wonder if the belated reaction to Second Coming would be as amplified if not for the divisions in America you’re experiencing at this moment in time. We do seem to live in very strange, and amplified times.

MR: I don’t think people are any more outraged by this sort of thing than they’ve ever been. The difference is that social media and the Internet has made it exponentially easier to express whatever rage they are feeling. It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to tweet or retweet something about your work, so even though they may not feel very strongly about it themselves, by taking a second or two to jump on the dogpile they can make it look like there’s an angry mob of villagers coming for you with their torches, when in reality, it’s just one lonely guy sitting at home tweeting while he waits for his pop-tarts to come up.

OM: Well, I for one am looking forward to this series as it comes out. Thanks for your time, as always, Mark.

MR: Thanks for talking to me. I’ve put a lot of work into Second Coming . I hope people get what I’m doing with the comic and enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing them.

Look out for Second Coming #1 from Ahoy Comics on Wednesday, July 10th.

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