"Hope you're enjoying it. I'm having a great time with the books," said Mark Waid to fans of "Irredeemable" and "Incorruptible," two of his BOOM! Studios series. Those in attendance at the Baltimore Comic-Con discussion panel greeted Waid's remarks with applause.
Waid revealed that "Irredeemable" artist Pete Krause is back for the foreseeable future. Additionally, with issue #17, which is part two of a four-part story, things move quickly from that point, when readers will find why Qubit has not killed Plutonian. That issue and #18 will provide the secret history of the Hornet and the secret history of the Hornet-Plutonian team.
Waid mentioned that the cliffhanger ending in "Irredeemable" #17 is his favorite cliffhanger so far. That issue also reveals why Modeus hates the Plutonian so much. Waid said, "I was glad to have Pete Krause back on board with that."
The writer was asked about the status of the third "I" book. Waid knows what it's called, but he wants to get the other two where they "really need to be" before he starts working on that title.
When asked if "Irredeemable" and "Incorruptible" represented Waid's chance to let loose on heroes with a changeable destiny, Waid said he was really eager to get away from "classic" heroes that didn't have much room to really grow or change. "The benefit that Superman, Captain America, Spider-Man... that all those heroes share is that they didn't become famous in the Internet era," Waid said, prompting him to then discuss his upcoming Captain America miniseries for Marvel Comics.
"Man Out of Time" is a deeper telling of what is was like for Cap to wake up from his deep freeze. Waid explained that the celebrity that superheroes have is tremendous and "it can't help but screw up your brain." In riffing on this, Waid convinced himself that there might be a good story focusing on how being a child sidekick could potentially mess up a character.
A fan asked how much Waid's vision of "Irredeemable" has changed from the initial concept. "HA!" Waid burst out. "It's important to know kind of where you want to go, but my feeling is that I know where I want to go, but I don't have everything mapped out. I get bored. I'm terrified that if I'm bored, it will show up on page."
Pulling back the curtain a bit, Waid revealed that the first ten minutes of "Citizen Kane" map the structure for "Irredeemable." "I knew kind of why he snapped, but I didn't have all the pieces down," Waid explained. The characters adapt as Waid continues to write the story. For example, Scylla and Charybdis. "I probably would have been better with superhero names back in 1965, before they were all taken." Waid needed to kill one of the twins, because in his mind he could abbreviate Charybdis, but couldn't find a nickname for Scylla. "So, you die."
Asked what's been the biggest surprise of these stories for Waid, the writer answered, "Why Modeus hates Plutonian. You'll find out in #17." Waid shuddered and said he had to take a long, long hot shower and scrub with a wire brush after he wrote that secret.
Another fan wanted to know how Waid can continue to make the Plutonian evil. "Once you sink the island of Singapore with your bare hands, it's hard to top that act of evil," the writer agreed. Around the time he was writing that particular scene, Waid got a call from Singapore to be an American representative at a large book festival on the island. He went to Singapore, fearful, that it was a trap -- a direct result of his sinking Singapore. Waid said he rehearsed the answer, "We needed to affect a country we truly cared about" as his canned response should anyone ask him why he chose Singapore as the island for the Plutonian to sink. "Really, I needed to sink an island."
As his trip was drawing to a close, the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore sent message that he wanted to meet Waid. The writer said they had a nice conversation, buoyant and easy, but as the conversation was winding down, Waid's Singaporean guide remarked, "Mark actually put Singapore in a comic a month ago." That was when Waid employed his canned answer: "We needed to affect a country we truly cared about."
With an exasperated sigh, Waid realized he didn't truly answer the question about how to keep upping the Plutonian's evilness. He confirmed he's been looking for violent acts to show "what a badass Plutonian is." "There is a difference between violence and evil," Waid said. "Anybody can blow up a supertanker."
With Alana Patel crossing over from "Incorruptible," fans wondered if there'll be more of the books brushing up against each other? They will, Waid said, but that he wants to align the books more chronologically.
Asked which of the two books is more fun to write, Waid said "Incorruptible." "Max is just funnier. There's just no humor in 'Irredeemable.' To make 'Irredeemable' work well, I have got to look into ugly, ugly parts of my soul."
Waid then discussed "Traveler," part of a new line of BOOM! books produced in collaboration with Stan Lee. BOOM! has avoided superhero books for the most part, but the exception is made for the legendary Marvel creator. "I had the same worry that I think some others would have had. What does Stan have to say to a 21st century audience?" Waid confessed. "Stan was on the same train. His attitude was, 'What is a hero in the 21st century?'"
BOOM! founder Ross Richie and Waid had a conversation with Lee, and came up with three concepts:
"Soldier Zero" - Stan Lee's concepts and ideas. BOOM! has brought in Paul Cornell to script. Waid gushed about Cornell, saying the British writer is "a real favorite around the office." The tale of "Soldier Zero" is about what happens when an ex-soldier hurt in Afghanistan is bonded with an alien weapon. This is a begrudging, "I'm either in a wheelchair or I'm using this weapon of war" story.
"Traveler" -"I've been itching to do a time travel series for a while," Waid said. The origin will spill out over the first few issues. "If I do it right, you'll see his origin before you realize it." Eventually the protagonist will find himself up against other time-traveling super-villains.
"Star Born" - The story of a guy who wants to be a writer. He works in I.T., but he has four or five novels in his own head and has spent time just world-building and expanding things in his mind. The new universe he is creating is second nature to him, and finds out this is because he is the heir apparent of an alien race. Written by Chris Roberson, who is also writing "I, Zombie" for Vertigo, "Star Born" will have art by Khary Randolph.
"I'm really, genuinely pleased and excited about the line," Waid said. "I was trepidatious. I didn't want them to feel like throwback books."
Will the new Stan Lee titles be occurring in the same world? "They are actually taking place in the same world, universe, continuity," Waid confirmed, adding that reference and world-building needs to happen before any integrated universe stories can happen. After the first four to five issues is when the appearances and tie-ins can be expected to possibly begin. Waid said it is much more important to have customers wanting to buy these books rather than forcing them to.
It wasn't easy to select artists for the Stan Lee line, said Waid. He explained that editor Matt Gagnon has a good sense of artists and checks DeviantArt and related sites very regularly, looking for new talent.
Waid was asked what has been the biggest or happiest BOOM! Studios surprise. Waid wanted to start with the most colossal failure first: "High Rollers," written by acclaimed crime novelist, Gary Phillips. The concept was "an urban take on organized crime." To Waid's shock and awe, an astonishing amount of retailers claimed they had no audience due to the color of the characters.
The biggest uplift is "The Muppet Show." When "Muppets" was being bandied about, Waid said he looked Ross Richie in the eye and told him, "This will never sell." Waid thought the book would die a horrible death. "Never happier to be proven wrong," he said, adding that the BOOM! kids line as a whole is really successful and profitable. The line "hit at exactly the right time," with parents wanting to find appropriate books for their kids. The industry truism has been that you can't sell comics to kids, and Waid couldn't be happier to prove that wrong.
A fan asked about the length of the Pixar/BOOM! contract, given Pixar parent Disney's new ownership of Marvel Comics. Waid said they are in absolutely no danger of losing the licenses to the Pixar properties. He said that on the day of the Disney-Marvel announcement, everyone at BOOM! woke up and collectively exclaimed, "Oh, God!" BOOM! could not receive any advance warning of the business development, as that would have been a severe anti-trust violation. Waid said that Disney has told BOOM! flat out that there is no intent to cancel the contracts. The general consensus at Marvel, according to Waid, is that BOOM! is doing a good thing and they should keep doing it.
The final question of the panel was about the moment where it all clicked for Waid and he realized that working in comics was what he truly wanted to do. The day was January 26, 1979, he said, when he went to see the Superman movie. "Here is someone who genuinely cares about everybody," said Waid, who continues to point to Superman as an inspiration.