Earlier this year, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker made their comic book debut with a pair of graphic novels, “Wolverine: Season One” for Marvel Comics and a “Thrilling Adventure Hour” anthology published by Archaia Entertainment, based on the popular stage show/podcast they created in 2005 as a humorous homage to old-school radio dramas.
Acker and Blacker close out their comic book-heavy 2013 with a pair of Marvel annuals, a “Deadpool Annual #1,” on sale now, and the “Thunderbolts Annual #1,” out in December. In the “Deadpool Annual,” illustrated by Evan “Doc” Shaner, the duo investigate the mystery of what happened to Deadpool’s “white caption boxes,” a narrative device that’s gone missing in Wade Wilson’s recent appearances. In the Matteo Lolli-illustrated “Thunderbolts Annual,” the team — Red Hulk, Red Leader, Punisher, Elektra, Venom and, yup, Deadpool — confront the usually heroic Doctor Strange for yet-to-be-revealed reasons.
CBR News talked to Acker and Blacker — whose next sold-out “Thrilling Adventure Hour” live recordings are set for Dec. 7 at Largo in Los Angeles — to learn more about both of their upcoming annuals, and what might be next in their burgeoning comic book careers.
CBR News: Ben & Ben — you’ve written two Marvel annuals, for “Deadpool” and “Thunderbolts.” As lifelong comic book fans, how much of an appreciation do you have for the annual format? Are there any past annuals that you fondly remember — or maybe helped serve as inspiration for these two comics?
Ben Acker: Big fan of annuals! Annuals are when Avengers would play baseball or Impossible Man would have a shapeshifting duel with Warlock or X-Men would turn into babies or go to Asgard. They existed just outside of the main narrative, and were bigger and bonkers sometimes and self-contained. It was a pleasure to deliver two of that kind of annual.
First out is the “Deadpool Annual,” which promised to answer the rather meta question of what happened to his “white caption boxes.” That’s a truly different type of hook for a story — how did you arrive at the concept? Was it your idea or something Marvel came to you with (or somewhere in between)?
Ben Blacker: Our editor Jordan D. White came to us with the notion of explaining the disappearance of the white caption boxes, so he gets credit for that. We accept blame for the how of it.
The story also heavily features Madcap, as seen in the preview pages released. What motivated his inclusion? (Certainly seems like a natural character to pair with Deadpool, though I don’t think it’s happened before.)
Acker: Madcap is a longtime favorite character. He showed up in Power Pack and Captain America comics I read as a kid. That was the motivation. Fortunately, as you said, he’s a natural guy to pit against Deadpool.
Let’s attempt a transition and talk about both of the artists on these annuals–
Blacker: You nailed that transition.
Acker: Nailed it.
Evan Shaner is on “Deadpool,” and Matteo Lolli on “Thunderbolts.” Both artists feel like an apt choice for more lighthearted stories, which certainly seems to be appropriate in these two instances. As writers still relatively new to working in the comic book medium, how has the writer/artist collaboration process been for these two annuals?
Acker: We’re new to the medium, but we got a crash course in collaborating with artists on “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” graphic novel, available wherever fine books and comic books are sold. We worked with 10 different artists, and one of them was Evan Shaner. He is a pleasure to work with 100 percent of the time. Granted, that’s only two times, so far, but we will always jump at the chance to work with him. He draws in this classic way, but there’s a real sense of humor to his style. His rhythms suit ours so well. Or ours fit him, maybe.
Blacker: Matteo Lolli was amazing. New to us, but man, so good! He brought this contemporary action feel to the book. It’s a whole different tone from ours in a great way. It grounds the book entirely in mainstream Marvel aesthetics that makes the events within feel a little subversive in that they’re being enacted with a straight face.
The “Thunderbolts” annual means that you’re some of the only writers outside of Daniel Way and Charles Soule to write a story starring this current version of the team (which also happens to feature Deadpool). What do you like about this current Thunderbolts lineup?
Blacker: It’s a great mix of badasses, isn’t it? They’d be fun to write fixing sandwiches or attempting to murder a sorcerer supreme. We chose the latter.
On that note, the story heavily features Doctor Strange. From your perspectives, what makes him an intriguing counter to the T-Bolts? On one hand, the Thunderbolts seem a lot more “grounded” than Doctor Strange, but on the other hand, the Thunderbolts include an alien symbiotic and a giant red monster.
Blacker: You gotta figure the less magic-based and the more tough a character is, the more he or she would look at Doctor Strange the way Indiana Jones looks at snakes. It was a lot of fun figuring out how muggles would take on Dark Harry Potter.
The solicitation promises something rather enticing: “a whirlwhilnd tour of the Marvel Magicverse.” How much fun did you have exploring this part of the Marvel Universe? And any teases on what familiar elements/characters/settings/etc. readers might see?
Acker: The most fun.
Blacker: You’ll see Asgard, Bloodstone Manor and a new facet of the Marvel Magicverse. One we invented. It’s called W.A.N.D. A division of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Acker: If you like W.A.N.D. as much as we do, demand more W.A.N.D. as much as we have.
Blacker: Tweet Marvel about it. Tweet your congressman!
These annuals follow your first published comic book works, the “Thrilling Adventure Hour” graphic novel and “Wolverine: Season One.” Any more comic book work from the two of you on the horizon?
Blacker: Too soon to say anything yet, but the answer is yes. Follow us on twitter and you’ll know as soon as we’re able to say anything: @bnacker and @benblacker.
Acker: Yes! Also tweet us, when you’re done tweeting Marvel and your congressman.
“Deadpool Annual” #1 is on sale now. “Thunderbolts Annual” #1 is on sale December 18.