Days before his surprise birthday party, young Mikey Rhodes goes missing. No one is sure what happened — his father is accused of murder, his mother breaks down at the realization of her deepest fears and his older brother watches as his family falls to pieces. All seems to be lost for the Rhodes until Mikey’s miraculous return. But something is different; Mikey is back, but he’s not the same boy they once knew. Filled with an extraordinary purpose, Mikey is now on a path to fulfilling a destiny larger, darker and more dangerous than his family can imagine. How can Mikey return to normal life after touching the extraordinary? And what will the rest of his life hold once he’s met his destiny? This October, writer Joshua Williamson and artist Andrei Bressan explore how a parent’s worst nightmare and a child’s greatest adventure can become a “Birthright.”
Williamson gave CBR News an early opportunity to pick his brain about his new series from Skybound Entertainment — Robert Kirkman‘s Image Comics imprint — sharing more about how he put together the book’s creative team, the challenges the Rhodes family will face in the wake of Mikey’s disappearance and return, his own beliefs about destiny and how all of this — and more — make up a story which is, at its core, about family.
CBR News: Let’s start with some basics — “Birthright” is a story about a kid who is taken from his parents and returns a different child than the one they knew. Tell me more about the kid. What was he like before? How does he return?
Joshua Wiliamson: Mikey Rhodes is a pretty normal fun loving kid with a destiny. His life is awesome, with loving parents and a good brother. Mikey’s a bit on the competitive side, and any task before him is “EASY!” But he’ll learn the hard way that life isn’t easy. We’ll see that being taken from his parents and what happened to him while he was gone had a major effect on him.
When he comes back, he finds that his absence didn’t just change his life but his whole family’s lives. It ruined them. His return is a major part of the story, and not something I want to reveal here. But —
Can you imagine losing a child? That is the scariest thing in the world to me. The Unknown. The life lost. But then it brings the question of, what would you do to get that child back? How far would you go to get the kid back, and to keep the kid.
The idea of the life of a chosen one after they’ve fulfilled their purpose is interesting — I’ve often wondered about what Harry Potter did the day after he defeated Voldemort. Like, did he just wake up and have breakfast and hang out? What kind of life do you think is left after destiny has been met? What was compelling about this idea for you?
I think it’s after a few conversations I’ve had with other comic creators. I’ve known some writers and artists who had very particular goals in comics, like, “I want to write/draw this big name franchise character!” And that was their one goal, the only thing they worked toward, so when they did that, they didn’t know what to do next and found themselves lost with their own careers. That has been on my mind — I have a lot of life goals, and those goals build into new goals.
But man if I was told, “Your entire life is, was, and always be about this one moment.” And then I accomplished that destiny — what the hell do I do next? Where do you go from there?
I’ve looked at a lot of movies, books, TV shows and comics — what do you do next? You ever go on an awesome vacation? Maybe to another country? And then you go home and normal life is just — weird? It takes time adjusting to your old life. Imagine if you returned from Narnia or Neverland or Fantasia or Oz! Life wouldn’t be the same. It just wouldn’t.
That’s the key to what “Birthright” is really about — what happens when you come back? What happens next?
Do you believe in destiny? What kinds of fates are at work in “Birthright?”
That’s a tough question. Sort of? I believe people can make their own path, their own story, but life sometimes takes on these weird journeys that seem almost planned. You have those days where too many coincidences happen in a row, and it does seem as if your life has entered into a short film.Â Is that destiny?
Mikey’s fate has been accomplished, but does he find a new one? And then, there is another character there that over time we will see his fate revealed as the story goes.
Is there a character that you identify with the most so far?
Probably Aaron, Mikey’s dad. I feel for the guy. It’s his fault that Mikey was lost. It’s his fault that his son went missing. And a lot of people believe he killed Mikey. That’s incredibly difficult. Very early on, Aaron was someone I connected with because he was taking on the biggest burden and I believe reacts the most realistic to the situation. Could you imagine losing your son and then being accused of killing him?
As I said, this story is about family, and that’s because we deal with a lot of the relationships within. Father and Son. Mother and Father. Brother and Brother. How something so tragic affects that world.
The image that we’re debuting here shows a huge cast — can you tell me about some of the other characters? You’ve done a great job managing a large, revolving cast in “Ghosted” — how do you manage so many faces?
Notes! Lots and lots of notes. And I look at past issues. I want to make sure that everyone has something to do. If you can remove a character from a story and it doesn’t change the story, then they probably shouldn’t be in there to begin with.
For this, we have most of the story revolve around Mikey and his family — Aaron, the dad who is blamed when Mikey goes missing; the Mom, Wendy, who is heart broken over the loss of her son; and then Brennan, the older brother, who is watching his family fall apart.
The rest of the characters — sorry, I can’t really talk about them yet, because we don’t want to give away too much. But if you look at the teaser art, you’ll see we have a lot of crazy stuff going on.
How did you connect with the art team?
We searched high and low for a long time for the right art team. We had a few close calls, but we found Andrei Bressan, and he has been knocking it out of the park. My Skybound editor, Sean Mackiewicz, and I made this huge list of artists, and Andrei’s name kept coming back up, and then he did a few samples pages and really shined. He nailed that tone of fantasy, reality with a hint of horror, that I was going for. And his character designs have been insane! Andrei is a monster. We can hardly keep up with his imagination and love for this book and it’s characters.
Then, once we got Adriano Lucas on colors — he really brings it all together. So much of this book is tone, and both those guys get it.
Do you feel like your experience writing in the horror genre are helping to build that tension and express those fears (losing a child)?
For sure. I really wanted the gut wrenching feelings to be there, to pull on the reader’s heartstrings, the same way we’ve been building the feelings of fear in “Nailbiter” and “Ghosted.” But I do still keep the tone of all three books separate. There are certain comic medium techniques I will only do in “Nailbiter” and “Ghosted.” But with “Birthright” — I hate using the word “epic” but that’s how it feels. It’s easily been the most challenging book I’ve ever written. And with the success of “Ghosted” and “Nailbiter,” the pressure I’ve put on myself has been great.
But I learned a lot about myself as a writer in the last year since “Ghosted” came out, technique, work ethic, and jut something as simple as my schedule — and I’ve applied that all here.
As much as this book is about the drama, and fantasy aspects, it’s really about family and loss. The way I’ve been pacing “Ghosted” and “Nailbiter” has been pretty deliberate, and that is the same here. Just ramped up a bit actually. The stakes here feel bigger.
“Birthright” #1 will magically appear in stores October 8 and can be pre-ordered with Diamond Code AUG140536.