With Comic-Con International 2010 now only 358 days away, we’re going to need a few good comic books to read to pass the time. One standout of 2009 is DC Comics’ new series “Wednesday Comics.” Presented in a broadsheet format (14 inches by 20 inches), the 12-week series features 15 strips written and illustrated by Eisner Award winners like Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred and Kurt Busiek. And with DC icons Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman standing tall beside lesser-known characters like Adam Strange, Metamorpho and Deadman, there is truly something for everybody.
Every Wednesday, CBR presents a new interview with the creators bringing this unique title to life, along with remarks from series editor and DC Art Director Mark Chiarello. And he wants to hear from you too! So keep emailing us your comments and queries for Mark because he loves the feedback.
This week we turn our attention to rising star Karl Kerschl, who is not only co-writing a Flash story with his long-time pal Brenden Fletcher, he’s also illustrating the project. Kerschl, who writes and draws the popular web comic “The Abominable Charles Christopher,” also shared details on his forthcoming WildStorm project he’s co-creating with Peter Milligan.
Q&A WITH “WEDNESDAY COMICS” WRITER/ARTIST KARL KERSCHL
CBR: We understand that while you were very gung-ho about this project from the get-go, you weren’t all that eager to contribute a Flash story to “Wednesday Comics.” Is that correct?
Karl Kerschl: [laughs] What happened was, I think it was sometime in November, I got a phone call from Mark [Chiarello] saying that he was putting together this project and he was making a list of creators that he’d like to work with and that he had specific characters in mind for each of these artists or writers. He explained the format to me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing a Flash story.
First of all, when Mark Chiarello phones you up and asks you to be a part of his special project, it’s pretty tough to say no [laughs]. I was very busy then and I’m still very busy and I’m actually putting aside another project that I’ve had in production for some time to accommodate this one but it’s really difficult to say no to someone like Mark, who does so few of these projects. He does these projects so rarely and they’re such high quality that it’s a very appealing thing to tackle. And beyond that, it’s extremely flattering to be asked by an artist of his calibre.
Anyway, he phoned me up and asked me if I wanted to draw The Flash, I assume based on the work I’d done on “All-Flash” #1 and the third issue of “The Flash: Fastest Man Alive,” which I drew. I was excited about the project but my first reaction was, “I’m not really that interested in The Flash.” I’ve drawn him a couple of times and the character always felt a bit limiting to me. You just had to come up with interesting ways of drawing the guy running page after page. But Mark eventually talked me into it.
Beyond Mark Chiarello, was the fact the project boasts a virtual who’s who of comics creators also a factor in making your decision to participate?
That was a big draw too. When he mentioned the list of people who already signed on, I mean, I would have done it anyway but I think more than anything that just sort of terrified me because the list is extremely impressive. And for a guy like me who is co-writing the thing, it’s quite a roster of names to be compared to.
Now that you’ve been working on the story for some time, have you grown to love The Flash?
I have, absolutely. And I’m not just saying that. It’s one thing to draw a character and you can grow to love a character through just visual storytelling but when you’re spending the time to craft a story around this person and trying to understand them you really grow to love the character and learn to see him in different ways. Or at least learn to see different facets of him.
We got to talking about the character and I said, “Yeah, I get it. I like the character.” And I love the design of The Flash. I think he’s got one of the best costumes in the DC Universe. I love the way he looks but I said, “You know the only thing that really interests me about The Flash is the potential to do interesting stories about physics and science.” Because you’re dealing with a guy who has incredible speed and that affects the way he experiences the world and everything around him. It would be interesting to play with reality a bit because someone living at the speed experiences reality in a much different way. I thought it would be cool to play with quantum physics elements, like remove him from space and time, or he shows up unexpectedly in different places, try to surprise The Flash himself with the situations that you put him in.
And we just started chatting about this and we both got kind of jazzed about it because I know Mark does a lot of reading, at least at a novice level, in the area of quantum physics. And it’s something that’s always fascinated me too.
Through this process I’ve come to really love The Flash. In fact, we have more ideas on each page that I would love to expand into whole issues because you only have so much room and you really have to just suggest a lot of these cool facets and they deserve a lot more space than we can really give them.
How did you land on using Barry Allen as The Flash? Did DC ask that you use him what with his recent return to DCU proper?
We could have done whatever we wanted, Barry or Wally. I asked Mark, “Which Flash are we supposed to use? Does it matter?” And he said, “Whatever you want.” That’s been his attitude for most of this project and it’s another reason that it’s such a joy to work on because very little editing goes on. I think Mark just lets all the people involved in this project do whatever makes them happy and then he just shepherds it. We’ve tossed around a few ideas together but for the most part, we’re just running with it. And he’s been extremely supportive.
You’re using Gorilla Grodd as the story’s villain. Are you like me and your first exposure to Grodd was Saturday mornings on “Challenge of the Superfriends?”
Yeah. That’s totally it. I didn’t really plan it that way but because we’re doing a science story it made sense to deal with a villain who is super intelligent and could be manipulating things at the level we needed him to be. And Grodd is such a great visual, it was tough to resist. For whatever reason, I just had him in my head as the antagonist. Partly because I’ve been drawing a lot of animals lately, I wanted to do something like that in this story too.
What else are you working on these days?
I do a web comic every week that comes out every Wednesday that’s called “The Abominable Charles Christopher.” It’s a weekly web comic about a sasquatch and a bunch of forest animals. It’s part of the Transmission X comics collective that I’m a part of along with Cameron Stewart, RamÃ³n Perez, Andy Belanger and a host of other talented Canadians. I put that up every week and I just finished the first major chapter. I have over 100 strips in the can, so it’s probably a good time, if you haven’t read it, to check it out.
And I’m also, concurrently, working on a five-issue miniseries for WildStorm called “Zombiesta.” It’s a zombie story that takes place on the U.S.-Mexico border. And it’s written by Peter Milligan. That’s a lot of fun to do. I’m in the middle of that.
When will we see that?
It probably won’t be out until 2010. It’s very slow because I’ve drawing and coloring all of this [“Wednesday Comics”] by myself and I’m experimenting with a different art style.
Q&A WITH “WEDNESDAY COMICS” EDITOR MARK CHIARELLO
CBR: We’ve already discussed the feedback you’ve received from industry colleagues and readers in past instalments of this feature, but what was the response like to “Wednesday Comics” at Comic-Con over the weekend?
Mark Chiarello: Man, I’ll tell you, it was really awesome. It made me feel great. I’ve been going to that convention for about 25 years in a row, and they sort of blend together in your memory but this one, definitely, will stand out as the one big one for me.
Was there a consistent message you were receiving?
You know, everyone from professionals to semi-professionals to publishers to a million fans came up to me, sought me out, to just thank me for doing “Wednesday Comics.” And I have to bring that back to thanking DC and thanking Paul Levitz for letting us do it.
You’re a day behind this week because of Comic-Con but what does a regular week look like in terms of the production of an issue of “Wednesday Comics?”
Everyday it’s nine in morning ’til six at night just non-stop juggling, really.
So you don’t have 15 new pages sitting in your inbox every Monday morning?
I wish [laughs]. Some guys have been good about sending me something every Monday, but other guys are like, “I’ll try to get it to you by Wednesday.” So it’s really juggling. We’re talking about 15 artists, 15 writers, 15 colorists, 15 letterers. I’m usually not a real big phone guy but I’m on the phone and on email non-stop asking people where their stuff is. And I tend to do a lot of my own production myself so that’s a big part of my week also.
Not to jinx you, but how confident are you that you can meet the weekly deadline for the full 12 weeks?
There’s a cushion but it was a very small cushion and Comic Con kind of ate it. We’re just putting the eighth issue to bed today [Tuesday] and the ninth is due next week. We’re right on the edge but fortunately it’s only 12 issues. If we can get through #9 and #10, I think we’ll see the runway.
I don’t want you to out anybody so who has been delivering their pages consistently?
Kyle Baker finished all 12 in two weeks. It was outstanding. I’ve had them for months and months and months. And of course, Joe Kubert is a real pro. He had his stuff done in a very timely manner. But there are some guys that I really want to take in the back alley and shoot. [laughs] But they’re finally coming to life, I think. The press and the fan response have been so phenomenal that even the slower guys are getting really juiced.
They don’t want to be the one who drops the ball.
Well, here’s a real secret that not many people know. This is a weekly comic. It absolutely has to go to press. There are no ifs, and, buts about it. So I had a couple of single-page stories created just in case. I have a Plastic Man ready to go and I have a Creeper page ready to go. Hopefully, I’ll never have to use them. It’s the insurance policy.
Can you share who worked on those pages?
You know, I’d rather not just because if we don’t publish them, I don’t want fans to go, “Ah, man. You got so-and-so to do this and we’re never going to see it.” I’m sure they’ll be in the collection.
“Wednesday Comics” #4 is on sale now from DC Comics. Be sure to check back next week when we discuss Green Lantern with Kurt Busiek, and don’t forget to email us your questions for Mark Chiarello.