It’s rare that a new ongoing comic book series launches and successfully sells out the first issue, but that’s exactly what Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors (Image) accomplished last month. This Wednesday, June 15, Gladstone’s will release the second issue. In anticipation of the next issue, I caught up with the series writer/co-creator Mark Andrew Smith to discuss the educational institution “for the children of the world’s greatest super villains to learn the trade“. Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to visit fellow Robot 6’s (and very busy multi-site pundit) Brigid Alverson’s preview of issue 2 at School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids. My thanks to Smith for the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Everyone hopes to sell out the first issue of a project, but you all actually did. How great did that feel?
Mark Andrew Smith: I felt fortunate, and happy for both [artist] Armand [Villavert] and myself. . There are so many factors that have to come together for a book to sell out. Yes, we put an enormous amount of work into it. But without the support of Image, the retailers, media, and most importantly, everyone who bought the book, it never would have happened.
O’Shea: This book was initially slated to be a graphic novel, but Image thought enough of it to make it a series. How much did the project need to be adjusted to facilitate this change?
Smith: You’ve done your homework. It was more difficult than you might imagine. We adjusted the content and created breaks in the story that weren’t originally written for the graphic novel. The first issue of Gladstone’s was oversized at 40 pages but hit the right story points. Issues two and three are also very full issues.
There’s an entire graphic novel’s worth of material in just the first three issues. We’ve given readers a bit more than they might normally expect. It gave us a great opportunity to realize one of our goals, which was to lock in the foundation of the Gladstone’s back story, which has a lot of history to it.
O’Shea: Issue 2 features a cameo from El Campeon (of the Amazing Joy Buzzards)–any plans for him to appear again, or was this a one-time deal?
Smith: I love El Campeon, but it was a one-time deal. Hopefully next year we’ll have some more Amazing Joy Buzzards for everyone.
O’Shea: There are elements of humor in this story, when you know you want to do a funny scene, how challenging is it to go about it in a manner that allows the chuckle without derailing the story’s pacing?
Smith: We hit a wide range of moods and tones throughout Gladstone’s. Story comes first. Humor a close second. I think in life humor is to be found in even its darkest moments.
O’Shea: In terms of the collaboration, what do you enjoy most about Villavert’s talents. What attracted you to working with him?
Smith: Armand is great at conveying the state of characters through his art and really bringing life to them. You feel the characters, not just flatly observe them on the page. It’s one of Armand’s gifts. He can hit a range of moods and tones through the book. If I write it, he can do it. Even the characters just walking around in the background, those guys are so well thought out that they’ll probably get written into the story at some point.
O’Shea: In a story with such a potentially large cast how much did you struggle on who should garner “camera” time in the story. Are there certain other characters that have not stepped into the narrative limelight that we will be seeing in upcoming issues?
Smith: There’s a really big cast to Gladstone’s. We’re going to focus on the main six characters, Kid Nefarious, Martian Jones, Mummy Girl, Ghost Girl, and the Skull Brothers as a team. You’re going to see more of the parent’s in issues 2 and 3. We have more character arcs to explore within the Gladstone’s student body, and then the world of their parent’s that’s not yet known to them.