The original back breaker is making a comeback.
Spiraling out of the pages of the currently unreleased “Image United” #5, Jim Valentino is bringing the long deceased Paul Johnstone back into the Image Universe by way of an all-new ongoing “ShadowHawk” series written by Dan Wickline and illustrated by Tone Rodriguez. Having previously succumbed to AIDS-related illness several years ago, Johnstone will return to find that much has changed in the time since his passing – some things for the better, and many for the worse. But exactly how will Johnstone come back to life? Should readers be worried about the fate of Eddie Collins, the man currently holding ShadowHawk’s mantle? What does the resurrected Johnstone mean for the Image Universe going forward?
CBR News spoke with Valentino to discuss the new series, his own involvement as an “overseer” and illustrator of a Steve Niles-penned back-up feature, the upcoming “ShadowHawk Chronicles” collection and much more.
CBR News: Jim, if there was an overall mission statement or high concept for the new “ShadowHawk” series, what would it be?
Jim Valentino: The high concept for the series would be a Rip Van Wrinkle paradigm, I guess. The story is about how quickly things change and why we can never really go back to the way things were, because they usually weren’t. Paul left a violent world, but since then things have gotten even worse. Technology has taken leaps ahead-everything from cell phones and the Internet becoming ubiquitous to HDTV, and we won’t even mention “reality” shows.
Where did the idea for the new “ShadowHawk” series come from? Was this something you were developing for a while, or did the idea come to you from the book’s creative team?
Like almost all stories, it has many fathers. It actually started with a conversation I was having with Robert Kirkman in San Diego a couple of years ago. He opined that I should bring the back-breaker back. The problem was, how? The guy died of AIDS-related illnesses. When “Image United” looked to become a reality, I realized that it would be the perfect time to do it – but again, how? I cast a line out to a couple of writers I know and Dan Wickline came up with an idea that was not only original, but also worked within the parameters of our pre-established continuity. Once we had the how, everything else just fell into place.
I know you can’t reveal how he comes back, but can you discuss how Johnstone’s death and rebirth weigh on the new series?
I think it has more to do with his displacement in time, his alienation from the new world he now inhabits. I don’t think it’s something any of us would think about because we’ve lived through it, but the changes in the world and in society have been profound in the last 15 years. He was dealing with lingering prejudice, now there’s an African-American President. I think there’s a lot to explore there. Also, as established during Eddie’s run, the past ShadowHawks all exist in some kind of limbo dimension. Whether it’s Purgatory, Heaven or Hell, I don’t know – but it may be something for us to explore down the road.
Eddie Collins is the man currently running around the Image Universe as ShadowHawk. What role will he have to play in the new “ShadowHawk” series?
Here’s what I can tell you – Eddie is not and will not be forgotten. More than that I cannot say without giving away a bunch of plot points.
So, should fans be worried about Eddie’s fate?
Well, um, can I say, “See above?” No? Okay, how’s this – Eddie does not die.
What do you enjoy about Eddie, the fresh-faced ShadowHawk, versus Paul in the role?
For me, it was always the dichotomy between Eddie and Paul. Where Paul was grim and gritty, Eddie was light-hearted. Where Paul was wizened and cynical, Eddie was optimistic and naive. I also liked Eddie’s relationship with his father, which mirrored my relationship with my sons. Eddie was a fun character to write and to draw, Paul – well, while there are a lot of words that could describe him, “fun” wouldn’t be on the list!
Johnstone is able to more easily explore more serious issues. Paul is a well educated, articulate man of serious conviction. That’s an interesting character study in and of itself. I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other – they both have their strengths and their challenges, they’re just on opposite ends of the personality spectrum.
Looking at the creative team, what makes Dan Wickline and Tone Rodriguez the right guys to spearhead the new “ShadowHawk” series?
I’ve had the honor of working with both of them before, and not only are they extremely gifted at their respective jobs, but they’re very easy to get along with. They both have ideas that they bring to the table and they’re just good. Dan won the writing job because he came up with the means of resurrection. It was just a no-brainer for me to include his frequent collaborator and good friend, Tone. It was just the right fit.
The first issue contains a back up feature written by Steve Niles and illustrated by you. What can you tell us about the feature, and what did it feel like for you as the ShadowHawk creator to get back into the interiors of an ongoing title?
Weird. I don’t draw much these days, so it’s kind of strange to hit the boards again. But when Steve came up to us in San Diego last year and said he wanted to write a ShadowHawk story, I just had to draw it! I’ve admired Steve’s work for a little shy of forever and just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Did you ever consider tackling the new “ShadowHawk” series yourself in either a writer or artist role? What convinced you that going with a team like Dan and Tone was the better option?
Well, as noted, I’m a bit rusty these days and, honestly, I prefer the role of “overseer” at this point in my career. Also, when I draw, I prefer drawing in a more cartoon/big foot fashion than superheroes – I just get more enjoyment out of it. So, finding collaborators I felt I could trust made it easy to turn over the reins.
How hands-on of a role are you taking in the series? Are you mostly leaving it to Dan and Tone or are you participating on the creative level?
I read the plots and I’ll send them back for revision when necessary. Dan has gotten a few notes back with mostly questions – “Why did they do this? Isn’t that a little too convenient?” – stuff like that, mostly. I try to keep in mind that his approach, his pacing, is going to be different than mine. So, I want to oversee, but not interfere. But it’s a delicate balance. Hopefully, someday I’ll get it just right.
There’s a massive collection on the way in the form of “ShadowHawk Chronicles.” How satisfying is it to hold all of these “ShadowHawk” stories in your hands?
Yeah, it’s another one of those weird things. I’ve done these big collections with “Normal Man” and with my autobiographical work, and mostly all I can see are my mistakes and shortcomings. Every now and again I go, “Oh, that was pretty good,” but then I still know I fell short of what I was reaching for. So, it’s really kind of a love/hate thing.
What are you including in the “ShadowHawk” collection in terms of content and bonus material?
No new stories – that would be cheating. It has all of the stories that I wrote and was responsible for, except the “Silver-Age ShadowHawk” and the “ShadowHawk/Vampirella” team-up, plus lots of my favorite pin-ups from artists I admire like Dale Keown, Jae Lee, Chance Wolf, Dave Gibbons, Keith Giffen and others.
Do you think that “ShadowHawk Chronicles” is required reading for the upcoming “ShadowHawk” series, or is the relaunch going to stand on its own for new readers?
No, [the collection] will add more to the overall story, but we’ll give you everything you need in the context of the new series. No one will be lost, even if you’ve never read the earlier series. I liken it to meeting someone new: as you get to know them and they you, you learn more about one another and grow closer, or further apart if they turn out to be a whack job. So it is with this. You can come in fresh and hit the ground running with “ShadowHawk” #1, or you can choose to see the larger tapestry in “ShadowHawk Chronicles.” Or not. Totally up to you.
For those new readers who aren’t familiar with “ShadowHawk,” why do you think they should hop on board here? And for longtime fans of the character, what can they expect from the new series?
For both, I think that they’ll find this to be an exciting series that has a lot of hidden depth to it. There’s more than just the ultra-violence, although we have plenty of that for the bloodthirsty members of the audience. For me, all stories are about people and Paul Johnstone is an extremely complex and driven individual. He’s a man with a mission [that] he takes very seriously, probably too seriously, and it is in that we see his greatest strength.
Jim Valentino’s “ShadowHawk Chronicles, Vol. 1” hits stores on March 24, 2010. “ShadowHawk” #1, written by Dan Wickline and illustrated by Tone Rodriguez with a back-up feature from Steve Niles and Valentino, premieres on May 5th, 2010.