AfterShock Comics is about to explore what happens to a middle-aged comics fan who transforms into a much younger superhero. It sounds like a winning combination for Chris Vargas, but is the change everything it’s cracked up to be? Would it be hard to go back to a more mundane life?
In addition to getting an exclusive look at art from the series, CBR News caught up with Waid to discuss the appeal and wish fulfillment aspects of the story, the challenges Chris will face, the science of the world and more.
CBR News: Before we discuss “Captain Kid,” tell me how you started working with AfterShock.
Mark Waid: It had come well recommended. Jimmy Palmiotti is a good friend of mine and I hooked up with them through Jimmy, but of course I also knew [Editor-in-Chief] Mike Marts. I’ve known Mike for awhile and when I looked at the lineup of people they were putting together for that company, I was really impressed. Tom and I got together, and we talked about what we might want to do for them and we both approached Mike. We were very pleasantly surprised with the speed at which Mike got back to us and before we knew it, we were in business.
You’ve collaborated with Tom frequently, but it’s been a bit since your last project, correct?
It’s been a bit. I don’t think we’ve worked together for awhile, but we talk every day. We’re best friends, and we’re always weighing in on each other’s scripts anyway. Tom’s always the guy I call at three o’clock in the morning when I can’t figure out how to get the Avengers out of a jam. I’m the one he calls when he’s stuck on a story point. It’s just a natural way for us to be able to work on something that’s been a project for a long time.
The premise behind “Captain Kid” is something I think many fans can relate to. How has the story developed or evolved over the years?
It’s been in gestation for ten years maybe. It was Tom’s idea. We were on the phone talking, and it wasn’t just the idea that sold me back in the day, it was the name that went with it. When he called it “Captain Kid,” I knew that was a home run. Makes perfect sense for that idea, that a middle-aged man says a magic word and becomes a teenage superhero. But, a joke is not a series. That’s something I learned early on with things like “Insufferable” or “Irredeemable.” You can have a cool clever twist on it like middle-aged man becomes a teenage superhero, but unless there’s more to it, that’s a one note joke.
When we start talking about it, what fascinated the two of us is the eternal question you have with superheroes who take magic potions, or say magic words, or otherwise transform: Why would you ever change back? What on earth would ever make you want to change back? I can’t get too much into here without getting into spoiler territory, but Tom and I both had different answers and they’re compatible answers. That sort of gave the whole setup a lot more layering to it. It’s not just as simple as he has to change back because he has a doctor’s appointment. To some degree, it’s about wish fulfillment and about living that life. Because again, who in their middle-aged years wouldn’t want to say a magic word suddenly be 20 years younger. It’s beyond that. It’s an exploration of what a life fully realized really means and what you might end up having to give up if you were able to turn the clock back 20 years.
Does Chris know what he’s getting into when gains powers?
He’s not a superhero fan. He’s a pop culture maven. He works for a music magazine doing reviews and working for one of those free city papers that most cities have. Which is very telling about his relationship with the future. He becomes very aware of how cyclical everything is and how certain media are starting to die out and he’s worried for his own future. With that said, he’s not like a hardcore comic book fan, so just having super powers doesn’t magically mean that you know exactly the best way to use them or have any active role models.
And what sort of powers will he have?
We can tease it a little bit, because it’s interesting for reasons that will become apparent as you read the book. I’m trying not to stray too much into spoiler territory, but his powers are electromagnetic in nature. But they would have been the perfect powers to have in 1986. It’s hard to explain, but it’s the way his powers were set up to read electromagnetic media like remotely read videocassettes or floppy disks. He certainly can fly and he has great strength, but that’s a part of his power that was specifically engineered by the people that gave it to him, to be very helpful. The problem is, it’s 30 years later.
Nowadays when he tries to look for electromagnetic signals in the air, it’s just a cacophony of noise because everybody has a cell phone. He also has to figure out a way to use these sort of old-fashioned powers and try to figure out new ways to apply the in the 21st century.
What sort of rules did you and Tom have to establish then to make the science of it work?
The good news is that I minored in physics in college, and while that was awhile ago, it’s not like all of that stuff ages. I’m a big science nerd and that’s how I start every single morning, is I start reading web pages for Wired and Popular Science and Popular Mechanics and some of the more cutting edge science sites. I pull a lot of research there. I can get lost down that rabbit hole pretty easily. The fun of it is trying to find new applications.
Given that power, what’s it like working with Wilfredo to show the electromagnetic aspects in action?
He’s really bringing his imagination to it. One of the things that we managed to do well when I was working with Paolo Rivera and then Chris Samnee with “Daredevil” was finding new ways to illustrate radar sense and illustrate some of Daredevil’s powers. That’s the mindset we come to “Captain Kid” with, is trying to stay away from point and click powers — heroes that just stand there and gesture and then things happen. That’s not terribly interesting characters who just point. Finding your way to illustrate using coloring techniques, using Photoshop techniques, and using Wilfredo’s imagination. You’re going to be seeing some things you’ve never seen before.
We’ve talked a little about Chris/Captain Kid, but what’s the supporting cast going to be like?
The supporting cast is divided in that his civilian supporting cast is the staff of the community paper he works for, so there’s old friends, there’s new friends, there’s people who want his job and there’s people who wouldn’t take his job for a million dollars. There’s family, but I can’t get into that just yet. That has a lot to do with why he doesn’t stay Captain Kid all the time. Then on the superhero level, he has a mentor who pops up out of nowhere named Helia who is, if you will, sort of a Doctor to his companion in a way. She’s the mentor who’s known all about his powers and how all this stuff works for years and years. It’s all a mystery to him and so she’s taking him under her wing, but she’s a very Peter Capaldi Doctor. She’s not fairly patient, but he learns.
“Captain Kid” #1 debuts from AfterShock Comics in July.