While many of the Marvel Universe’s costumed criminals struggle to make crime pay, one villain has turned super villainy into a lucrative business. That villain of course is the Hobgoblin (AKA Rodrick Kingsley) who has created a criminal empire based on the idea of franchising costumes and identities to wannabe super criminals.
This October the moral “Inversions” in the second act of the “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” event will leave Kingsley with a sudden desire to apply his business plan to the world of super heroics. Writer Kevin Shinick and artist Javier Rodriguez chronicle Kingsley’s quest to break into the hero business in their three-issue miniseries “AXIS: Hobgoblin.” We spoke Shinick about the project, his love of writing villains, and the traits the Hobgoblin shares with his father.
CBR News: Kevin, you balance your career as a writer, actor, and director with comic writing, which means you might not be able to tackle as many comic projects as you’d like, but looking over your body of work I’ve noticed that a lot of it involves villains or villainous characters standing front and center. For DC, you did an issue for both “Joker’s Asylum” series. For Marvel, you’ve done “Superior Carnage,” “Superior Spider-Man Team-Up,” and now you have “AXIS: Hobgoblin.” Coincidence? Or do you especially enjoy writing villainous and anti-hero style characters in lead roles?
Kevin Shinick: Dave, there aren’t enough hours in the day! If there were, I’d be writing comics all the time. I need to move to Venus where one day is like 243 Earth days. But then again, comics haven’t sold well on Venus since the late eighties, so maybe I’m better off here. But yes, when I do write comics, they tend to focus mostly on villains. Partly because I find the villains really interesting.
They’re obviously flawed, their egos always seem to get in the way of their goals and like of all of us, they’re human. (In most cases.) I think a lot of times, we go too far down the rabbit hole of villainy in trying to portray how evil these characters can be, forgetting that all of them are coming from the same place we’ve come from. I like trying to figure out where they went wrong or what happened that made them different from us.
But the shorter answer is that most of the heroes are already being written, and I take what I can get.
With “AXIS: Hobgoblin,” you’re tackling one of the most successful villains in the Marvel Universe, the original and current Hobgoblin, Rodrick Kingsley. What do you find most intriguing about Kingsley and his current status quo?
What I love about Kingsley is that he’s one of the few villains who hasn’t been driven crazy by a potion or a botched surgery. Yes, he’s taken the Goblin Formula, but that was only after he tested it and had it changed so that it didn’t have the added side effect of, oh — let’s say, insanity. What sets him apart from other villains is that he’s a true businessman, maybe even more so than Norman Osborn, and that’s how he attacks most of his problems. It’s not enough that he’s got a plan to rule the underworld; he’s also got a side business where he leases under-used villain personas. Now come on! Is that a model business plan or what? This man isn’t taking chances.
In fact, my Dad is like that. It drives me crazy. He’s a businessman. He’s very practical — almost too practical. He makes sure something is going to work out on paper before he takes any risks, and he’s always looking to create new businesses to increase his portfolio. That’s also the key to Kingsley’s success. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know why my father doesn’t also have a secret lair and a goblin glider. Although, maybe he does. Maybe he keeps it in a nearby storage facility, although I doubt it because that would cost money and that’s not a good business decision. What is a good business decision, however, is Kingsley using his super powered assets to make even more money.
In many ways, Kingsley has a Richard Branson quality about him. He’s a businessman and a person who likes to challenge himself. Only, instead of breaking records with sailboats, he’s flying around on a glider wearing a goblin outfit. Okay, maybe he is a little crazy.
When “AXIS: Hobgoblin” begins, Kingsley’s moral compass will have been affected by the alignment “Inversions” of “AXIS.” Can you talk about how this has affected the Hobgoblin and his methods at the beginning of your series? Is Kingsley now an altruistic businessman in command of a criminal empire?
Yes, after the big “Inversion” Hobgoblin is now working for the good guys. But the way I see it, it’s not like he’s had a big change of heart and his moral compass is completely different. It’s just that, again, like any good businessman, he sees an opportunity to branch out into a new market. It’s like Belloq says to Indiana Jones, “You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. It would take only a nudge to make you like me.” Replace the word “archeology” with the word “business” and I think that’s a conversation Kingsley could’ve had with himself to justify making a go at being a good guy. Especially if it’s profitable.
What else can you tell us about Kingsley’s venture into this new and risky market?
The feeling of renewal is something that keeps coming up when I’m writing this. Obviously, Kingsley is having a renewed sense of purpose, but it also goes beyond that and affects a lot of people in his orbit. Now that Kingsley’s a good guy, he’s going to be using the same business plan he used to revitalize old villains, only this time he’s making a go at revitalizing old superheroes as well. And why not? At one point, someone even points out that the market for people wanting to be superheroes is a lot larger than those willing to risk being a villain.
Huge rivalries can develop in both the worlds of business and super heroics. So who are some of the antagonists that will be opposing Kingsley’s new venture in “AXIS: Hobgoblin?”
Well, let’s just say that Kingsley is not the first “good” Goblin we’ve ever encountered, so it stands to reason that Phil Urich might have a problem with this scenario. Especially if Kingsley is making a profit off the deal.
Did “AXIS: Hobgoblin” give you the opportunity to use any of Kingsley’s established Goblin franchises or come up with new versions of established Marvel villains?
It’s a mix, because now that he’s taken to leasing out superhero personas as well, we’ll get to see some obscure hero characters we haven’t seen in a while as well as some new ones.
Javier Rodriguez, who’s drawn both Spider-Man books and “Daredevil,” seems like a great fit for this series.
Javier is fantastic. Not only does he have a great noir feel to his work, but he also gets the humor. And the blend of the two is exactly what’s needed for this book. I came up with the slogan “Got a Problem? Call Hobgoblin!” and Javier incorporated it beautifully into his awesome cover for “AXIS: Hobgoblin” #2. As a result, that T-shirt really sums up the whole series for me. In fact, I think I’ll be wearing it at NYCC.
This book has been a lot of fun to write. It basically starts with what would happen if a super villain became a hero and took on a sort of Tony Robbins-type persona as a way to broaden his brand. Then we throw in all the action and suspense you’d expect from a Hobgoblin series and finally we share with you the best kept secrets on how to run your own successful superhero franchise, because hey, that’s what Kingsley is all about.
By the time I finish this book, we will be witnessing the birth of a Hobgoblin that we’ve never seen before. And I might possibly understand my father just a little bit better.