Eisner Award-winning “Daredevil” writer and digital comics pundit Mark Waid made his triumphant return to CBR TV during last month’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. The industry legend began by telling CBR’s Jonah Weiland about his love for The CW’s “The Flash” pilot, why the filmmakers got it right and how he feels about so many comic books making the leap to film and TV. Next he talks about how he listened to 100 pitches — 15 seconds at a time — during the Thrillbent panel, how he selected the winning pitch and what everyone in attendance learned about storytelling in the process. He then discusses his two big Comic-Con announcements, a new “S.H.I.E.L.D.” series that brings characters from Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show into the 616 Universe alongside fan-favorite super heroes and why “Princess Leia” is the “Star Wars” book he was born to write.
On why “The Flash” TV pilot got it right and whether he still gets excited about comic adaptations the way he did growing up: I love it because it wasn’t cynical. Because they found that beautiful eye of the needle to thread where it is serious when it needs to be serious but the character is having fun. That to me has always been what Flash is about. Flash is about freedom; Flash is about expression. Flash is about just the joy of exuberant running and of freedom and the moment you weight him down with too much Batman-like baggage… that’s not the Flash anymore.
We now live in a world — and I did not realize this until the other day — we now live in a world where I let an entire Spider-Man movie go through the theaters and leave without me getting a chance to see it. The 12-year-old in me is like, “What have you done?!? What is wrong with you?” It takes a lot to get me excited about them anymore, not that I don’t like them, but I also have that healthy attitude of I don’t think it ruins comics for a bad adaptation. There’s so much of it out there now at this point it’s like nothing, no one bad movie or one bad TV show is gonna screw up the comics. You still have the comics. But it’s so exciting to see somebody grab onto that sense of they don’t all have to be Batman. They don’t all have to be dark and cynical and brutal and grim.
On inviting 100 up-and-coming writers to pitch him ideas for a new Thrillbent story: The rules were this: The best pitch in the room we would do a one-off story. We’ll take your story, we’ll link you up with an artist, we’ll pay for production costs (it’s not that much), we’ll put it up later this year, we’ll develop it with you. You own the story. But the rules were it has to be a short story. Don’t give me your 52-part epic, don’t give me your series — and you’ve got 15 seconds to pitch.
Not only did I find one — this is the most mind-blowing thing about the experience. We had 100 people. There was not one really horrible pitch in the entire batch. I fully expected it to be like twenty guys getting up there and they would all be like, “Monkey punch robot.” “A man goes up in a balloon,” and I would have to explain to them what a story was. No. There were some that were tired, there were some that were derivative. The contest to find the one was hard because we had it narrowed down to like five or six that I loved and any of those — I told that guy, like, “Don’t get hit by a bus. The rest of you, make sure we have your contact info because if this guy get’s hit by a bus, you’re up.”
Everybody had a good time, as near as I could tell. My big fear, as you could imagine, 99 people live that room and on twitter they talk about what a jerk Mark Waid is. “I hate him!” No, everybody got it. There was no malice in it, and when I didn’t like your pitch, or it wasn’t right for it, I was very quick to say what didn’t work for me. And also, just because I didn’t like your story doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. It means that’s the reality of publishing. Some days you’re gonna hit an editor who is not in the same vibe as you that day.
On what he’s looking forward to most about the recently announced “S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic series for Marvel featuring standalone stories: I really wanted to do this because I love the structure of one story and out. I love the idea of [Agent Phil] Coulson is — what I like about Coulson in the Marvel Universe, and this is our to really develop him — I know we’ve seen bits and pieces of him in the 616 Marvel Universe, but this is our chance to really flesh him out. And the same with the other “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV characters, this is our chance to put them in the main Marvel Universe and really do things with them that they don’t have the time or budget to do on the TV show.
One thing about Coulson is, for all of his gruffness, all of his very cool exterior, he’s like the world’s coolest comic fan because he knows everybody. He’s knows how their powers work; he knows how they do their things. That doesn’t mean he worships them — he worships Captain America, obviously — but that doesn’t mean he loves the other ones as much. But you know that, like you and me, he sits around all the time thinking, “Okay, if Hulk and Thor fought, who would win?” And he knows. So he’s the perfect guy to go, ‘Okay, here’s the situation: Magical terrorists have taken over Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum and he’s not there. Who’s your team? Who do you put together to go in?’ So it’s all one-act plays. That’s really kind of what it is. The action has already started by the time you jump in on page 1, we know what the mission is and it’s a strike force and you’ve picked from throughout the Marvel Universe. You’ve got your main S.H.I.E.L.D. characters but you also have guest-stars every issue. That’s what appeals to me is being able to hit the notes of those characters in a way that, you know, you don’t often see Dormamu and Quicksilver together. What’s the dynamic like?
On why he wanted to write Marvel’s new “Star Wars: Princess Leia” book: She’s one of my favorite female leads of all-time. Because she is — again, I’m old enough to say I was a teenager when I saw the first movie, and I immediately thought, “This is not like any other female lead I’ve seen for a while.” She’s a badass. But she’s not bitchy, she’s just easily exasperated with people who are not on the same [wavelength]. She’s not mean, she’s just abrupt. She’s not bossy — okay, she’s bossy. She’s a princess, so…
The idea of getting in there and saying, here’s a story that takes place just a day or two after the end of “Episode IV.” The medals are all given out, the Death Star is done, now the adrenaline wears off and it really sinks in. “I’ve lost my planet. I’ve lost my people. I’ve lost my heritage. I’ve lost absolutely everything. What do I choose to do now? Do I want to be the princess of nothing, or is it my responsibility as the last of my people — and also the last of the House of Organa — to try to rebuild something?” That becomes the thread. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, obviously, she was inculcated with a sense of responsibility. I’m sure she strikes you, as me, as one of those people who’s born 25-years-old.