What happens to all the sidekicks when the superheroes disappear? That’s exactly the question the February-launching Image Comics book “Danger Club was created to explore. Brought to you by Landry Walker and Eric Jones, the team behind DC’s lauded “Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade,” “Danger Club” will shed the creative duo’s all-ages storytelling tendencies for a more adult take on teenage characters dealing with finding themselves the only heroes left on earth.
Announced during the Image Comics panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, “Danger Club” won’t simply feature epic superhero action starring characters loosely based on familiar ones. The title mixes in real drama as the reality of the new world order sets in on the now-unsupervised sidekicks. CBR News spoke with Walker and Jones about making the jump from kid-friendly comics to this title’s more adult fare, the cast of “Danger Club” and the difference between working on creator-owned and corporate-owned comics.
CBR News: Let’s start off broadly — what is the overall concept behind “Danger Club?”
Landry Walker: The easiest way to describe it would be as a combination of “Teen Titans” and “Lord of the Flies.” The story starts off in a world where all the adult superheroes left earth to fight in a great cosmic battle — and never returned.
Eric Jones: We wanted to examine the world of superhero teen sidekicks when they’re left without the guidance of their adult mentors. Things don’t go well.â€¨
What type of world are the “Danger Club” kids operating in?
Walker: It’s Earth, but it’s not quite the same as our world. There are some geographical differences and political differences that have grown out of the mere presence of superheroes and the technology they bring to the table.â€¨â€¨Jones: It’s definitely a “superhero” world, comparable to the worlds of Marvel or DC, but with a bit of “our world” reality thrown in as well. This book is solidly set in a world populated with costumed heroes and all that entails, but probably more on the politically-complex side than your classic superhero story.â€¨â€¨What can you tell us about your stars in so far as who they are, what they can do and how they react to suddenly finding themselves in a world without adult heroes?
Walker: Kid Vigilante is the leader a small group of the sidekicks that used to operate, in simpler times, as The Danger Club. He’s a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and is generally considered the smartest person on the planet. As the story begins, he’s trying to hold the world together against a tide of adversity, and he carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. That affects him personally, and it comes out in his demeanor.
â€¨Other characters include Jack Fearless — he was a teenage superhero during the Second World War, and spent decades caught half-dead in a time stasis device; The Magician — he’s more than a little bit of a contemporary nod to the classic magician characters from the Golden Age; Yoshimi Onomoto — she’s a five-inch-tall exile from the experimental city of Micro-Tokyo, and she pilots a stolen giant robot. The giant robot — Robot 9 — is actually around eight-feet-tall.â€¨â€¨Then there’s some opposing characters. Apollo is the last of the Olympians to walk the Earth. He’s also the most powerful being on the planet. He’s arrogant and entitled, and sees humanity as existing to serve his whims as a true god. Apollo’s servant Vesuvius is a mutant teenager who is, literally, a walking volcano. Ladybug is a former teenage supervillian.â€¨â€¨That’s some of them. There are dozens of other teenage heroes hanging around, most of them having lost their purpose and direction when their mentors failed to return. Some are trying to pretend as if nothing has changed, some are desperate for guidance and leadership. Some are just out of control.
You’re both known for your more kid-oriented books, like “Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade.” What made you want to work on a more teen/adult-centric book?
Walker: Personally, I don’t really see there being a big difference. We didn’t set out to make “Cosmic Adventures” anything other than a good book. I mean, sure, we didn’t go into excessive violence or sexual scenarios — that wasn’t the story, and if it had been, DC [Comics] probably wouldn’t have gone for it. But it wasn’t even a question, because it wasn’t the story. [With] “Danger Club,” the story is more visceral and more violent in nature. It’s just the story we want to tell, and framing it as a book for a younger audience wouldn’t make sense.
But there is an aspect of it that is more conscious. Despite our earliest work being decidedly adult, Eric and I have a reputation as solid all-ages comics people. And it’s true, we do solid all-ages comics — because we do solid comics. Many people I’ve encountered expected my Mad Hatter story for “Joker’s Asylum” to be “light” and “cartoony.” What they got instead was a very personal story about obsessive compulsive behavior. Publishing “Danger Club” as a more mature series serves to show people that we are not limited in creativity by arbitrary definitions.
Jones: I also think it was time for us to do something different, and to indulge in some creative desires that doing all-ages comics can’t necessarily satisfy. I love doing books for younger readers; I think all-ages comics are just as valid as any other sub-category of the medium, and I plan on doing lots more — but as a comic book artist, I want to explore everything there is to be explored, and some of that is definitely not for kids.
When creating new teen characters — or any characters, really — do you basically start off with a kind of archetype and move on from that?
Walker: In some cases, yeah. With the characters from “Danger Club,” we looked at some archetypes we liked, and then thought about why we liked them, removing aspects that didn’t work for us and adding or exaggerating traits we thought would make the character stronger. Some start off a very direct representation of a well-known character and become unrecognizable by the end.â€¨â€¨Jones: And it depends on the character, really. We definitely play with archetypes in this book, for sure, but we also have some characters that were born out of what the story needed more than trying to reflect existing archetypes.â€¨
Over the course of your careers, you’ve worked with both corporate owned characters and ones you created yourself. Do you prefer one over the other?
Walker: Well, the short version is that we like corporate checks.â€¨â€¨More seriously, characters with a vast legacy of material to cull from have the advantage of being incredibly easy to write. The phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” hardly does the process justice. However, working with your own characters gives more freedom to take the characters to extreme places.â€¨â€¨With “Danger Club,” we’re cheating a little bit. The characters play off of well-established archetypes that we have all seen before in many different comics published by many different companies, but they’re in our world, playing under our rules. Consequently, where we take them is a bit more exciting.â€¨â€¨So I’d say that the two are simply very different (yet related) creatures.â€¨â€¨Jones: I love doing both, and I hope to always jump back-and-forth. Working on Supergirl, Batman or any other pop-culture icon is always a thrill for me — it speaks to the six-year-old in me who just proudly finished a crayon drawing while sitting at the dining room table. But there’s something deeply satisfying about creating an entire world from the ground up. I’d have a hard time saying which one I prefer.
â€¨How closely do you work when developing with the look of the characters? Landry, do you tend to have a pretty clear mental image of what someone like Jack Fearless will look like, or do you sit down and hash it out?
Walker: Sometimes I’ll have a very specific idea — like with Superior Girl in “Cosmic Adventures,” or going back some years, “Little Gloomy.” But mostly we just start bouncing ideas back and forth.â€¨â€¨Jones: Often, if Landry has no specific plan for a character’s look at all, he’ll leave it up to me. Once in a while, those designs will influence the way we portray the character in the story, too. Other times, of course, I’ll come up with something that’s completely off the mark for whatever reason, and then we’ll work out where we want to go with things. It’s a pretty organic process for us most of the time. We do work pretty closely on most aspects of the book, which allows us to make sure we both know where everything’s going, both story-wise and visually.
When writing teenage characters, do you find it difficult to sound authentic or not too much like an adult?
â€¨Walker: To be honest, I don’t really think about it. The personality type of the character tends to shape the voice more than the age of the character. I think that’s the key to authenticity with writing different ages, different genders, different races. Focus on the individual person rather than generic category the character happens to fall into.
Looking at “Danger Club,” as an example, all the main characters are teenagers — but within that group, we have whimsical characters, serious characters, insecure characters. We have characters who are angry or controlling or suffering quietly. These personality traits are true no matter what age group you’re dealing with.
The Danger Club membership drive starts in February 2012