With Humanoids’ new imprint, H1 Ignition, coming up that will introduce comic book readers to an all new shared universe, I was keen to speak with one of its leading lights, Mark Waid, who was recently announced as one of the brains behind the inception, creation and publication of these new books. My wish was granted, and in the interview below we spoke about his new gig, the comics themselves (of course!) and the stellar line-up of creators he’s brought together for this brave new world.
Olly MacNamee: Mark, firstly let me congratulate you on your new gig as Director of Creative Development at Humanoid and on your new line of books that are about to come out. I believe this forthcoming FCBD offering will give readers their first real glimpse at this shared universe, but what can we expect?
Mark Waid: I can tell you the same things that everyone always says–great stories, dynamic art–all of which is true, but to me the most important thing in this FCBD offering and in the new line is the new, contemporary voices. Mags Visaggio, Darcie Little-Badger, and Kwanza Osajyefo are only a few of the diverse movers and shakers contributing to the line and really making the books theirs. New voices are exciting to everyone.
OM: From what I’ve seen of the preview, these new characters seem to be more grounded than other super folk. I mean, the FCBD primer opens up with “an exceptional surgeon” who we first meet staring down a kid in the middle of a hold up that’s gone horribly wrong. There’s not a maniacal super villain in sight. Was this intentional? Have other superheroes become too far removed from reality of late, do you think?
MW: A lot of superhero comics, as good as they can be, fall into the same trap–they’re so focused on hero versus villain that we don’t see ordinary folks very much outside of supporting cast, or the effect the heroes have on the world. Too often, we don’t get a sense that they’re protecting people so much as punching bad guys. Our books are the opposite of that. They’re designed to touch upon real-life relationships and real-life issues.
OM: But it’s not all about super heroics, is it? You seem to be offering up a little something for everyone with comics and graphic novels including such titles such as The Big Country which is billed as “Texas Noir” or even Meyer which is compared to Breaking Bad, which gives us a fictionalised account of infamous mob boss Meyer Lansky trying to organise one last con. How important was it to develop a line that was as diverse in the type of stories it was telling as it is in the creators you’ve assembled?
MW: What was important was getting out good work, full stop. Unless you’re a big superhero publisher, you can’t always predict what the readers will want (and even then). If the audience knew what it wanted, it wouldn’t be an audience. Readers don’t know what they want to read until they see it, and there’s never been a better time to experiment with genres and formats than there is today as our audience is gradually accumulating more and more newcomers to the medium.
OM: Talking about the creators, you’ve made it your mission to include younger, newer creative voices in this whole process haven’t you? I think a great example of this is your own book, Ignited, which sees you co-writing with relatively new voice on the comic book scene, Kwanza Osajyefo (and one of your H1 Architects). Will this Padawan/Jedi Master team-up be replicated across other books?
MW: Not immediately, but it’s not a bad model. Youthful energy plus experience makes for a powerful platform.
OM: I must say, looking at the stellar line-up of diverse creators you’ve got onboard certainly suggest we’re in for a lot of fun. As our ‘global village’ seems to be even more interconnected than ever before, how important is it, do you think, for publishers, and for that matter the wider media, to offer up these distinctive, but often marginalised, voices?
MW: It’s probably the most important thing we can be doing right now. We need to keep demonstrating that comics aren’t all for one specific audience. Comics for too many years were mostly by white men for white boys, and others didn’t really have much opportunity to see themselves in superheroes. Change this broad is like trying to steer a battleship, unfortunately, but that’s absolutely no excuse not to help new fan bases grow as quickly as possible. In the end, everyone wins–nothing’s being taken away from the traditional fan base, but more readers are invited in.
OM: It’s not all about the young creators though, is it? Yanick Paquette has done some character designs for you as one of your H1 Architects, for instance. I assume this is important to create a sense of continuity across the various titles? But, what else does a creator of Paquette’s standing bring to the table?
MW: As you say, great design sense, as well as good storytelling chops. Between Yanick and John Cassaday, we’re lucky to have two of comics’ best artists guiding the illustration side of things.
OM: With stories spanning the globe (Nicnevin And The Bloody Queen is set in my part of the world, the north of England) as well as real-life character such as Meyer Lansky, how does one go about planning and sustaining cohesion in a shared universes of this magnitude?
MW: Remember, right now, while these are all under the H1 imprint, only Ignited, Strangelands, and Omni are part of that shared universe, as much as I’d honestly love to have Meyer Lansky running about. But the planning and cohesion is first and foremost about communication. The universe was designed by Yanick, Kwanza, and Carla Speed McNeil under the guidance of editor Fabrice Sapolsky, and all the creative people have been given their bible and encouraged to push it to the limits.
OM: Finally, Mark, with the rise of new publishers like Ahoy Comics and Vault Comics, and now your own line of new titles, are we possibly entering a new golden age of comic book storytelling?
MW: That may be too broad and sweeping a statement, but we’re definitely in an age of stretching the medium to its fullest in terms of story, art, and inclusivity.