These days, some of the most popular American heroes are the larger than life fictional ones who battle crime with super powers while clad in colorful costumes. But in the late 19th and early 20th Century, a different type of hero captured the imagination of the American people, the lawmen and gunslingers of the Old West.
Now, writer Joe Caramagna is examining some of the legends of both eras. In the four-issue digital-first "Avengers Vs.," Caramagna pits Earth's Mightiest Heroes against a variety of villains who have absconded with mystical artifacts. Then, in his creator-owned, five-part digital series from Square Head Entertainment, "The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp," he and artist Scott Koblish chronicle the fact-inspired adventures from later in the titular character's life, when the legendary lawmen was trying to leave his reputation behind.
CBR News spoke with Caramagna about the fun of penning his first Avengers story for Marvel, working with four different artists to bring it to life, his discovery of Wyatt Earp's fascinating post Gunfight at the OK Corral life, the adventures he has planned for Earp, and using Kickstarter to fund the creator-owned project.
CBR News: The title "Avengers Vs." suggests that this is a series that will be heavy on titanic clashes, but is this a pure fight book in the vein of the "AvX: Vs" book from a few years back? Or are there some fun character and soap opera moments as well?
Joe Caramagna: There aren't many rooftop conversations in this book, let's put it that way. But it isn't all punches, either. Like I said, this team has a dynamic, with mini friendships and rivalries within it, and that lends itself to some fun moments.
"Avengers Vs.," like my Spider-Man specials, is a continuing series of standalone stories. You can read just one and get a complete story, or you can read them all and see how they connect. When read all together, the Avengers are on a quest to retrieve magical artifacts that have been stolen from Odin's trophy room in Asgard. But each chapter features a different villain. Each story is the "Avengers Vs." someone else.
Each chapter teams you with a different artist: Ron Lim, Andrea Di Vito, Wellinton Alves, and Dario Brizuela. Each of them have different styles, but all have done and have styles perfect for big tales of superheroics. What's it like working with these guys? How did you decide on which story to task them with?
I had no idea which was drawing which when I wrote these stories, so I didn't tailor them to each artist, but you'll see that each one brings a different style that really dictates the tone of the issue. You would almost think there are four different writers, too!
April also sees the debut of another comic series written by you and starring a world famous hero, "The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp." I imagine your interest in the Avengers sprang from a lifelong love of comics, but where did your interest in Earp spring from? Were you a fan of Westerns or the Old West time period the legendary law man hails from?
Westerns always seemed boring to me, but I knew a little bit about Wyatt Earp, so I decided to give the movie "Tombstone" a try since it was based on a true story. I was blown away! I loved it! After watching it a bunch of times, it hit me that Wyatt died in Los Angeles at the age of 80. That means that he lived for another almost fifty years after the Gunfight at the OK Corral, and in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood! I knew there had to be an interesting story there, so I did some digging.
Countless films and books have explored how Wyatt Earp became an icon of the Old West, but you're telling a story that deals with what happened to Earp later on in life. What kind of shape is Earp in physically and emotionally when readers meet him in issue #1? At what point in his history does the series begin?
When I did research on his later years, I found them to be as interesting if not more interesting than anything that happens in the movies. Our story starts in Idaho, a few years after the OK Corral, where Wyatt is trying to redefine himself. After all of the killing he's seen, he vows that when he dies, it won't be by gunshot. So he travels from place to place in search of that next chapter in his life. But wherever he goes, his reputation has already preceded him, and when trouble arises, he's the one they turn to for help.
How do Earp's wanderings translate to the stories of "Further Travels?"Does each issue cover a different incident in his life? Are the five issues all one continuing story? Or several interlinked tales?
Each issue of "Further Travels" takes place in a different time and place in Wyatt's life, after he's moved on from Tombstone. And each one is a glimpse into what his life might have been like at that particular time -- what he was doing, who he was doing it with. And there's a through line that connects them all much in the way the stories in "Avengers Vs." are connected -- he meets a girl named Grace who gives him a chance to be something other than the Wyatt Earp.
Now, one of the stories you're covering in Earp's life is an infamous sports scandal. What can you tell us about the real life incident and the way you'll approach it?
In 1896, Wyatt Earp got roped into officiating a heavyweight championship boxing match in San Francisco. The outcome was so controversial that at the time of his death, he was more well-known for that than the OK Corral! To this day, people aren't exactly sure which version of the story is the truth, but Scott [Koblish] and I put forth our own theory.
What other exploits, real or fictional, will you'll be covering in "Further Travels?" Does Earp's peripatetic nature mean you'll be able to tell stories with different tones and genres?
Wyatt is an icon of the Old West in a changing world. Even though he goes to different places to try different things, he's famous for one thing -- those few years when he enforced the law in Dodge City, then Tombstone. And that's the box they put him in wherever he goes. So when he's in Idaho mining for gold, it's a Western. When he's a boxing referee, it's a Western. When he's a saloon owner in Alaska, it's a Western. Even when he's in Hollywood rubbing elbows with actors and directors. He's a man stuck in place because of his reputation. That's the box people put him in.
Bringing to life "The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp" is Scott Koblish, who you worked with on your Spider-Man specials. What can readers expect from Scott on "Further Travels?"
Scott is a master storyteller, and very versatile. He has over twenty years of experience in comics, but for a few years there, I think he was pigeonholed as an all-ages artist because of the classical nature of his work. But the truth is, he can draw anything. I knew he would draw the heck out of this book, so I begged him and begged him until he finally said yes.
I met our colorist Andrew Edge at the Kubert School, where we were both in the Class of 2000. He's a great painter who does interesting things with color, and I couldn't wait to see how he'd handle this book. And our logo was created by a close friend of mine since I was twelve years old, Melissa Horvath-Plyman. We were voted co-Class Artists in our high school yearbook!
The reason you and your collaborators are able to put out "Further Travels" is because the project was successfully backed via Kickstarter. How did it feel when you got fully funded? How has it been, getting rewards to your backers?
I'm still in the process of getting the rewards out, over two years later. Kickstarter is a great way to fund your project and get it into people's hands, and it was such a great feeling to know that my artists would get paid and it would get made, but oh, man, has it been stressful. Particularly since I didn't have any issues in the can when I Kickstarted. That's something I would do differently in the future, but as a hockey fan, I believe in jinxes. If the work were finished before I Kickstarted, I never would have gotten funded, as per the hockey gods. [Laughs]
Finally, if readers take to the series do you see yourself doing "More Further Travel of Wyatt Earp?" Or perhaps another creator-owned project?
I do. Each issue of "Further Travels" takes place in a different location with different supporting characters. I could easily see each of these locations as a "season" of the series. I have even been toying with the idea of a series of middle grade novels about this time in Wyatt's life told from Grace's perspective. And I do have more creator-owned projects in the works, so stay tuned!
Be sure to pick up "The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp" #1 on comiXology and the Amazon Kindle Store for 99Â¢!