IDW Publishing takes its Cartoon Network line of books to the next level this June for its first crossover event featuring its animated titles, “Super Secret Crisis War” by writer Louise Simonson and artist Derek Charm. “Super Secret Crisis War” is a six-issue miniseries bringing together the heroes and villains of “Powerpuff Girls,” “Ben 10,” “Samurai Jack,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Ed, Edd and Eddy.”
Simonson discussed bringing together the Cartoon Network characters with CBR News, revealing why it’s been so long since she’s done an event book, how she came to appear on the cover of Swamp Thing’s first appearance in “House of Secrets” #92, what she hopes director Bryan Singer gets right about her creation Apocalypse in the next “X-Men” film and more.
CBR News: Louise, what is “Super Secret Crisis War” about?
Louise Simonson: “Super Secret Crisis War” is a crossover between five of the major Cartoon Network characters. They are tracked by the villains and pulled into a dimensional pocket. The universe is threatened, so they have to escape and figure out where they are and how to get home. You get teamwork between “Powerpuff Girls,” “Samurai Jack,” “Ben 10,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Ed, Edd and Eddy.” The villains are Mandark, Gilgax and Aku, who is the main bad guy who pulls them all together. It was Aku’s idea originally. Oh and, of course, Mojo Jojo, who is actually one of my favorites. I love Mojo Jojo.
How did you decide who the head villain would be?
It seemed to me that Aku is the most powerful because he’s got magic as well as science stuff that he can do. Besides, I really like Aku. He cracks me up. He’ll talk like a supervillain for a while and then he throws in this little dollop of self-knowledge. He just seems to be having so much fun being a supervillain unlike someone like Gilgax who is so serious about it. Aku really loves it.
Is Samurai Jack the main hero then?
It’s not exactly a matter of leadership. Jack’s the oldest and certainly because of that they listen to him. But you’ve got a lot of pretty independent thinkers. Ben 10 is pretty much used to doing things on his own. The Powerpuff Girls are extremely powerful and have their own ideas on how to do things. They’re not always functioning as a team. We do split them up to go off on their own adventures.
How did you get involved with the Cartoon Network line?
I was in San Diego and Walter [Simonson] was doing work for the IDW guys. We went out to a dinner and got to talking and it just seemed like a good idea. I thought it was a great idea, honestly. I was surprised that Cartoon Network agreed to it. I was surprised they let me do it.
When was the last time you did an event book?
Since the dawn of time, I think. Does “Superman” count as an event book? [Laughs] It was a long, long, long time ago. I haven’t done a big crossover since I worked on the “Man of Steel” book back in the day. Mostly I don’t like the way crossovers are done now. I did my share back in the dawn of time with “Mutant Massacre,” “Inferno,” “Fall of the Mutants,” and “Death of Superman.” But those were more limited crossovers in which you didn’t have to buy every book in the line to follow the story. I don’t like it when it forces people to buy too many books. That just doesn’t seem fair. People don’t have that sort of money. I don’t like it when you read a single issue and you don’t get a complete story. Maybe not the entire story but at least a conflict and resolution within that issue. This was a chance to do a crossover that was limited and yet fun. There are five other one-shots which you aren’t forced to read but will enhance the experience if you do.
Speaking of the one-shots, you and Derek Charm are making back-up stories for each one, right?
We are. It’s the story of how Aku gets the villains together. We’ll find out at the very end what Aku’s agenda really was. Along the way we get the agendas of the villains he recruits. But that stuff you’ll know by the end of the regular series, anyways. But it enhances the story. Besides, it’s so much fun to focus on the villains.
Are you open to coming back to a Cartoon Network book?
This is all I’ve been asked to do now. I would be delighted to come back and do more if they asked me to but I think they have a few more Cartoon Network books they’re bringing into the publishing end of it. I don’t know what they’re bringing in and they might have writers for those already. There are so many talented people out there that I think it would be greedy of me to say I insist upon doing one. But I would love to if they asked me to do another one.
One of Andy Suriano’s variant covers for the series is an homage to “House of Secrets” #92 by Bernie Wrightson, which you were the cover model for. How did this variant cover come about?
I have not seen it. They asked me if they could do one and I said sure if they really thought something like that, silly as it is, will sell books then you go right ahead. Maybe they were keeping it as a surprise though and you shouldn’t have told me. Too bad for them! I’ll have to see it now. How is it?
It looks awesome. Really good.
Now I’ll have to go looking for it! Thanks for telling me.
Changing gears a bit, how did you get on the cover for “House of Secrets” #92?
Bernie [Wrightson] lived in the same apartment building I did. Back in the olden days everyone had to live in New York if they wanted to do comic books. The upper west side was a great place for comic artists to live. The village was another place but a lot of people lived on the upper west side. There were these old pre-war apartment buildings and you could get these nice, big apartments for cheap. The upper west side was not fashionable at this time. So I lived in Bernie’s apartment building and at the time everybody was going through a phase where they had to photograph people to be in their comics. Bernie asked me to pose for the heroine and I did. And of course I ended up looking much better in his cover than I actually look. But that was OK. I didn’t mind that! [Laughs]
Honestly, I just think it’s so funny. You do these things and you never know what’s going to come of it. A lot of people pose for a lot of things and nothing ever comes of it. That cover is going to be engraved on my gravestone! Yeah, yeah, she wrote some stuff, too, but look at this cover! It’s a riot to me.
And it’s all because of Bernie. He turned out to be such a genius, which I knew he was at the time. Bernie was one of the most talented kids I’ve ever seen. I saw his work when he was just 17 years-old. I think I was probably 19 or 20. I was completely amazed that somebody as young as he was exhibited such talent. And he only got better and better and better as time went by. I knew the minute I saw his work he was going to be a huge success. So I was very flattered that he asked me to pose for his cover a few years later.
Getting back to “Super Secret Crisis War,” how familiar were you with the different Cartoon Network properties beforehand and what sorts of research did you do in order to bring them all together?
I was familiar with some of them, but only in a peripheral of way. I was most familiar with “Powerpuff Girls.” I mean, who isn’t? I was semi-familiar with “Samurai Jack.” A little familiar with “Ben 10.” I was not quite the generation to have grown up watching these Cartoon Network characters. It was one of the reasons I was kind of surprised and flattered they’d ask me to do a project like this because some people have grown up with these characters in a way that I hadn’t and understood the characters completely and thoroughly already. I had to go back and listen to the voices and watch the stories of everything I could get ahold of. I couldn’t get ahold of everything, unfortunately. Every once in a while I get one of the voices of a character wrong but my editors Sarah Gaydos and Carlos Guzman will set me straight. Usually I get it right the second time.
What were some of your favorite cartoons growing up?
You’re talking a hundred million years ago back in the day when there was “Bugs Bunny” and “Popeye” and the Warner Bros. cartoons. “Road Runner.” I loved “Road Runner.” And the Disney cartoons, of course. But when I was growing up there was a lot fewer cartoons then there are now. As far as cartoon comics I loved the “Donald Duck” and “Uncle Scrooge” comics. And I actually loved the “Archie” comics, too. Way, way, way back in the day. Cartoon Network came along a long time after. I think it was even after my daughter was beyond it by the time it came out.
Seeing as how you created its titular character, what are your thoughts on the upcoming sequel to this past weekend’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “X-Men: Apocalypse?”
I don’t even have any thoughts at this point. I hope they give him the right motivation. That’s my real concern. Everybody seems to have kind of missed that his motive actually is to try and make stronger, better, smarter people with powers because he feels like that’s what has to happen if humanity is to survive. His heart’s in the right place, bless his little heart. He just went about it a little wrong. His ideal is to put stressors on humanity to force humanity to evolve, essentially. I hope that they get that right. I would love to see a script. If I saw a script I think that physically they could do a great job with him. I’m sure it will be partly CGI. It would have to be. I’m curious to see what they’re gonna do. Are they gonna do the Horsemen of the Apocalypse? With the big ol’ ship and all that? I just don’t know. All I’ve heard is that theoretically they’re going to use Apocalypse. I haven’t even gotten any official word, I’ve only read it in the paper.
You say his original motivations were to build a better, stronger humanity. Do you feel that message has been watered down over the years?
Well I haven’t read it in a long time but it got lost in some of his appearances after I left. But I don’t know if anything is being done with him now. I haven’t followed the Marvel mutants in so long that I don’t really know what’s been done with him. So I could be paranoid for no reason at all. [Laughs]
Honestly, you just want the best for your characters. You make them up and then you send them out and you hope that they have a good life after you leave them. It’s always a surprise when they’re a success. You make up the best character you can possibly think of at the time and some of them really do go on to have a great life of their own and some of them just fade away. It’s always interesting to me to see who survives and who doesn’t. Who captures imaginations and who doesn’t.
It’s been more than 20 years since you created Apocalypse. Have you thought in that time who you would want to either play or voice him in a film?
James Earl Jones’ voice would be great but he’s kinda old now. [Laughs] Apocalypse should have a big, rumbly voice. A lower register. Other than that, I don’t know. There’s so many talented people out there that could do such a great job. I’m sure the people who cast characters have a wider knowledge of who would produce a good effect than I do. I hope they choose somebody with a nice dramatic voice. But who knows? Apocalypse could speak in any accent or any language he wanted to because he’s been around so long. Even dead ones. So he could have any voice they want. As long as it’s not high and squeaky, which I know they won’t do. I’m not worried about that.
Well, did you see the first “Fantastic Four” movie? They gave Doctor Doom this weird, calm, non-threatening voice.
Surely they won’t do that again. But honestly you can’t trust them. I created Steel as part of the “Death of Superman” stuff and they did a “Steel” move. I have to say the villain in that was so minor and lame. He was a disappointment. You never know what they’re gonna do. He just wasn’t big enough to go up against a guy named Steel. Oh well. There are a lot of grumbles with that movie. But I guess people do the best they can with what they have.
I know Shaq still loves it. He’s said he wants to make a sequel.
Honestly, Shaq took a lot of flak but I think he did a fine job. My problems were with the script and the costume. The costume was terrible on that one. Oh god it was awful! [Laughs] Today they could do a better job. I could do a better job with the character myself.
“Super Secret Crisis War” by Louise Simonson and Derek Charm begins this June from IDW Publishing.