On Friday at the New York Comic Con, Boom! Studios Chief Creative Officer Mark Waid sat down with Boom! Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon to talk about “Irredeemable” and “Incorruptible,” the two superhero titles he created and writes for the publisher. He began by stating that there was no A/V presentation and it would just be the two of them. What followed was an hour of questions from the audience – as well as Waid asking questions of himself – and much discussion of sex bots, riffing on familiar characters and teasing the upcoming “Irredeemable” #19 where everything changes.
Mark opened the panel by asking the audience how they first discovered the books, which led to replies ranging from the Free Comic Book Day giveaway, which a fan described as “the best thing I ever got for free,” to another fan who said, “I heard you were evil, so I started reading ‘Irredeemable.'”
Another audience member said she discovered the book through Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a custom cologne and perfume company. The collaboration happened because the company approached Boom! to craft scents around major characters in “Irredeemable” and “Incorruptible.”
“This is awesome. I don’t have enough people making fun of me already,” Waid joked. “I love it because it draws in people who aren’t normally comics fans. They have this giant mailing list of people who aren’t comics fans and we’ve been very pleasantly surprised at people who have become fans through it.”
One audience member asked if the Plutonian scent smells like burning flesh, receiving a laugh from the crowd and Waid. “They asked, and it’s dangerous to ask me things like that, they said, let’s talk about the characters. I said he reminds me of dusk and dark and soot. So the scent is repulsive. You are not going to find the woman of your dreams wearing this. Or maybe you will.”
Waid then moved to the discussion to riffing on familiar, existing characters. “With the exception of Volt, which was unintentional, none were intended to be like that,” said Waid. “When I first started, I thought it would be more about the Plutonian. I said, ‘Here’s some names, Pete [Krause]. Design them.’ Only when I got into the characters and the story and the world, they started to build lives of their own. The guy who slipped through cracks was Volt – Oh black guy with electrical powers, just what comics needs. We made conscious decisions to quickly take characters away from analogues. I think it’s easy to keep writing stories over and over about thinly veiled Justice League or Avengers. Clearly with the Plutonian, the analogue is to sell readers on the idea, but as you get away from first couple issues, you see he’s not like Superman at all.”
“Matt calls me every month and asks what happens next and I say, ‘I don’t know,'” Waid said. “I know where character arcs are going and the bigger story, but it’s more fun as writer to discover as you go. Like these cliffhangers. Matt calls and says, ‘How does he get out?’ I don’t know. If I don’t know, you can’t guess.”
As an example of this, Waid cited the characters Scylla and Charybdis. “I put twins in the book. I don’t know why. There was something about it [that was] interesting to me,” Waid said. “Then I realized I needed one of them to die. This is an example of being spontaneous. It didn’t matter which one died, because they hadn’t had much screen time. I was tired of typing both names, Charybdis and Scylla. Now Charybdis could be nicknamed Cary. There was no good nickname for Scylla,” Waid said laughing.
One fan asked which of his two superhero titles is easier to write, offering a guess that it felt like “Incorruptible” would be since it’s closer to a standard superhero tale. “With ‘Irredeemable,’ I have to turn over some ugly dark rocks in my own psyche,” Waid said. “I can’t just write it while I have a few free hours. But it’s much easier to write about a good man that’s been corrupted. All of us who have run a stop sign or done something [wrong] can relate to that feeling. It’s much harder to write about someone like Max Damage, who wants to claw his way up from the pit of darkness and evil and villainy. On the other hand, Jailbait,” Waid said laughing, referring to one of the supporting characters. “[Incorruptible] is much more fun to write. There’s not much humor in ‘Irredeemable.'”
Waid was asked about his recent trip to Singapore, a nation which, in the world of “Irredeemable,” the Plutonian sunk to the bottom of the ocean. “I thought, this is like Roman Polanski flying in to be taken to a dungeon,” Waid joked about his flight to the National Writers Conference there.
“One of the most frequently asked questions was, ‘Why did you sink it to the bottom of ocean?’ I danced like a monkey. ‘We needed a country we care about and one whose absence would be felt in the world.’ That got me through most of the trip. On the last day I was invited to the American embassy to meet with the Minister of Culture. It was like going to the Pentagon, all the armed guards and metal detectors. We sit down and talk about comics and what can we do to grow the culture of comics. Everything is fine. The meeting is winding down and then Bernard, who owns a comic shop and sponsored my trip and is just a great guy, says, ‘You know, Mark wrote a comic that had Singapore and sunk it to the bottom of ocean. And all the air went out of the room. He wasn’t angry, but you could tell he was freaked out by this. In an alternate universe, I am in jail there forever.”
One fan brought up the Plutonian’s relationship to Superman. “The only Superman touchstone is the commonality of being lonely,” Waid said. “My vision [of Superman] is of a man who is very, very, very lonely. He covers it well and copes well, but he’s the only one like him in world. Now with Ma and Pa Kent still alive and he’s married to Lois, anything that takes away from that loneliness doesn’t work. What is it like to be afraid of touching someone because you can’t feel it and you’re terrified that you might break them and live constantly like this. It must take a massive toll of you.”
“I can’t say anything without giving away the end of ‘Irredeemable’ #19 where Max and the Plutonian have to go toe-to-toe with each other for the first time since everything happened. That will be a big blowout.”
One fan asked about the character of Survivor, the new codename Charybdis took on, and Waid credited writer Tom Peyer with coming up with the name. “Once he threw that name out, I thought of the movie ‘Amadeus.’ I wanted him to be Salieri. The ‘I should have had love and respect guy.’ And he doesn’t understand. He’s angry because he doesn’t understand why do people not embrace me like they embraced the Plutonian before. Not getting that they won’t be embracing anybody.”
One person asked if there will be a third title. “Not in the short term,” Waid said. “I’ve got to get these books under deadline control first. Peter Krause came to me and wants to write. He has an idea for a Paradigm one shot from back in the day. We’d like to get that on next year’s schedule. Nothing big yet. I want to get these right.”
Will we ever learn more of Plutonian’s origin and race? “Yes,” Waid said. “I have that in my back pocket, but I don’t know when and where do it best. In the third year we’ll find more about where he comes from. A lot of it is a secret to him. Some of it is a secret to me.”
As to the question of an ending, Waid admits that he’s unsure how Max’s story will end, but as far as the Plutonian, “Yes.”
“Is there going to be a story where Plutonian walks across country?” one fan asked to laughter from Waid and a stone-faced reply from Matt Gagnon. “How did you get the issue #20 script?” Waid joked, then admitted that the fan’s suggestions of the Plutonian walking in a straight line and destroying everything in his path was actually pretty cool.
The book’s colorist, Andrew Dalhouse, was sitting in the audience and threw out two questions. “Are there any heroes in deep space who are as yet unaware of what’s happening? And why not just teleport Plutonian to another dimension?”
“Well, the first question,” Waid said, “you haven’t asked that.” As far as teleporting the Plutonian? “Not a bad plan, but if you’d been writing it would have been over by issue eight,” and repeated that the challenge of conspiring against the Plutonian is that people are afraid he’s overhearing their plans even if they whisper.”
One fan asked the inevitable question about whether Waid was open to a movie adaptation of the project and if he had anyone in mind for the characters. “Jon Hamm as lead,” Waid said. “We told Pete [Krause], think Jon Hamm.”