Inspiration come from all kinds of places. In the case of the upcoming BOOM! Studios miniseries “CLOAKS,” the basic idea came from David Henrie, best known as the star of the Disney Channel series “The Wizards of Waverly Place.” The actor took the concept of a Robin Hood-like street magician who gets recruited by a secret organization known as CLOAKS and brought it to BOOM! who recruited “Steed and Mrs. Peel” writer Caleb Monroe to pen the four-issue series and “Protocol: Orphans” artist Mariano Navarro to draw it.
From there, Monroe fleshed out the lead character of Adam, a young man adopted by a rich, Wall Street family who, knowing how corrupt such people can be, decides to use his skills as an illusionist to steal from the wealthy and give back to the poor. His plan gets put on hold when CLOAKS shows up and offers him a job only he can do.
With the first issue on sale September 3, CBR News conjured a discussion with Monroe about working with Henrie, developing the characters with Navarro and the ins and outs of the shady world Adam finds himself navigating.
CBR News: The lead in “CLOAKS,” Adam, is described as something of a modern day Robin Hood. Can you talk a little bit about his motives for stealing from Wall Street and giving to the poor?
Caleb Monroe: Adam’s lived on both sides of the coin, so to speak. He’s been both a disenfranchised orphan and completely on his own since age 18, but he was also legally adopted twice by the same wealthy Wall Street family. It’s given him a fairly nuanced view, and we try to introduce admirable characters with money and skeevy characters without it to reflect that. But, in general, he also knows there are people out there in need and people out there with more than enough who got what they have by crooked means. Having lived through the cosmic injustice of being a happy young boy with loving parents who suddenly disappeared, leaving him on his own, he has this deeply ingrained sense of justice. Some things should just never be. He’s also young and wants to see change now. I wouldn’t say he’s impulsive about it so much as compulsive. In fact, he’s the opposite of impulsive. He’s very methodical and clever about how he operates.
â€¨What can readers expect from Adam’s exploits with CLOAKS? Does he get teamed up with a partner, and who exactly will he target?
He does. He gets paired with three “partners,” the core of his CLOAKS team. Two of them are experienced government agents. They might come across as the proverbial “good cop/bad cop” at first blush, but the truth is they both believe in his potential and supported his recruitment, they just have their own ways of trying to draw it out of him. The third partner is a mystery.
As for who he goes after, CLOAKS has recruited him because he has a very unique skill set. The villain of our piece also has a set of unique skills. The idea is Adam has been brought in specifically to counter this one very worrisome threat. He might be the only one who can.
Without getting too spoilery, can you talk a little bit about this specific threat that only Adam can help defend against? What makes him the right person for this job?
There’s not really much I can say on the subject without being spoilery. Let’s just say it’s Adam’s natural gift for deception, which is what makes him such a great magician, that also makes him attractive to CLOAKS. Because it likely means he would have a penchant for seeing through deception.
â€¨Adam is described as an illusionist and a magician, but does magic exist as a supernatural force in the world of “CLOAKS?” What’s the worldbuilding process like for the book?
There’s no “real” magic in the story, just illusion and stagecraft and the skills they require. But the worldbuilding is remarkably similar anyway. Stage magic, if it’s done right, works primarily because you don’t see what’s actually being done, which can be a challenge to portray in such a visual medium as comics. So since a lot of the visual effects will happen between panels, or will not appear as what they actually are even on-panel, we have to treat our magic, in a sense, like it’s “real.” There’s this fun scene early on where I essentially lay out all the rules of stage magic, sort of a challenge to the reader to see if they can perceive when and how those rules are then being used throughout the rest of the story.
Magicians are a pretty secretive lot. Was it difficult doing research to get the behind-the-scenes aspects of the illusions?
It was actually much easier than I imagined. According to one of the books I read, there have been more books written about magic than any other branch of entertainment, and I believe it. The biggest difficulty was in refining my search to find the best research for my purposes. But for such a reputedly secretive field, there is a ton of information out there describing the nuts and bolts of how magic works, the history of the field and even the neuroscience of how magic fools the brain.
â€¨Was there a particular real life illusionist who helped inspire the character of Adam or inform the story?
I know Adam’s creator, David Henrie, was originally inspired to consider magic as a viable and interesting form of spycraft by reading the exploits of British magician Jasper Maskelyne during World War II. But Adam’s personality and those of the other magicians in the story are not based on anyone in particular, no.
What has the creative relationship been like with David? Has there been much back and forth about the details?
David has been very involved, but has also walked that fine line of giving me plenty of room to do my job. At the end of the day, it’s still me locked alone in a room with a computer dueling it out with the blank page. Once I emerge, David and my editors go over it and offer notes, then I lock myself back in that room and make revisions. We repeat that process several times, first for the series outline, then each issue’s outline, then each issue’s script. David is a very fine writer in his own right, so he both understands what I’m doing (the story) and how I’m doing it (the process) and he has great instincts and input on how to refine what we’re doing to get the best possible version. And, of course, I’ve been working from the very beginning with his characters, his world and his concept. There wouldn’t be a page of this comic without him. It’s very much an “iron sharpens iron” sort of thing: from our very first meeting I think we’ve both been on the same page about how to make “CLOAKS” a great experience for the reader.
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â€¨How did you hook up with artist Mariano Navarro? What has that collaborative relationship been like so far?
I give BOOM! all the credit. They’ve never failed to connect me with amazing artists, and Mariano is no exception. I knew he was a good artist from seeing his previous work on “Protocol: Orphans,” but I knew he was a great one by how much his skills had grown in the few short months between that book and ours. The collaboration has been smooth and fun. Even though I’m writing in full script, there are certain things I know Mariano’s great at, and when we get to those scenes, I basically say, “The layout or action here is up to Mariano.” For his part, he keeps sending in interpretations, even of pages I scripted in detail, that exceed what I had imagined for them. Win/win!
“CLOAKS” #1 by Caleb Monroe, David Henrie, Mariano Navarro and BOOM! Studios arrives September 3.