Fighting City Hall: Vaughan talks "Ex Machina"

New York is both a beautiful and a brutal city. Nobody knows this better than Mitchell Hundred who was formerly known as the masked superhero the Great Machine, and is currently known to residents of the Big Apple as Mister Mayor. Hizzonor Mayor Hundred is the protagonist of "Ex Machina" an ongoing monthly series from Wildstorm by writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Tony Harris. CBR News spoke with Vaughan about the series.

Vaughan offered up a summary for new readers of "Ex Machina" who are looking to become acquainted with the Hundred administration. "Set in our modern-day real world, 'Ex Machina' is a sci-fi political thriller that tells the story of civil engineer and lifelong comics fan Mitchell Hundred, who becomes America's first living, breathing superhero after a strange accident gives him those proverbial 'amazing powers,'" Vaughan told CBR News. "Eventually tiring of risking his life merely to help maintain the status quo, Mitchell retires from masked crime fighting and runs for Mayor of New York City, winning shortly after he prevents one of the most horrific attacks on American soil."

The attack that Hundred prevented, as revealed in issue #1, was 9-11 and since then "Ex Machina" has not shied away from telling controversial stories, but reader's shouldn't make the mistake of thinking the series is Vaughan's personal soapbox for political issues. "I'm much more interested in good stories than I am in politics," Vaughan explained. "I have no interest in writing a boring, preachy polemic, and Hundred's beliefs very rarely reflect my own. I've always liked comics that are about something and relevant to readers' lives, but my first concern is always telling a dramatic, entertaining story, which is easy to do when your setting is City Hall in the capital of the world."

Mitchell Hundred's view point is different from what might be expected of someone whose office is located in City Hall. "Our protagonist is a true independent, so I hope we annoy liberals and conservatives equally," Vaughan said. "I'd rather let my work speak for itself than try to hard-sell it to readers on either side of the aisle, so why not read our first issue for free and make up your own mind."

Mayor Hundred had a lot on his mind when the most recent storyline "Smoke Smoke" began in June's issue #21. "Without spoiling things for new readers, Mayor Hundred is probably at the lowest point of his career at the beginning of this new story, though he's struggling to put on a good face for his administration and his constituents," Vaughan stated.

Vaughan stayed cryptic when asked what readers could expect from the remaining chapters of "Smoke Smoke." "Well, it's probably got the best artwork of Tony Harris' career," He said. "And a bunch of surprises, too."

"Smoke Smoke" concludes with issue #24 and in issue #25 of "Ex Machina" the spotlight falls on one of the book's supporting cast. "Issue #25 will be a special standalone story focusing on Bradbury, former sidekick to the super-heroic Great Machine, and now loyal chief of security to the most powerful man in New York City," Vaughan stated.

Bradbury won't be the only supporting character playing a prominent role in upcoming issues of "Ex Machina." "Mitchell's mother will be returning to the book soon, as well," Vaughan said. "And yes, some definite new faces are on the horizon, few of them friendly."

In the recently completed two-issue "Ex Machina Special," (featuring art by Chris Sprouse) which partially flashed back to Mitchell Hundred's days as the Great Machine, readers met one of the most unfriendly faces Hundred ever encountered, his arch enemy Jack Pherson. Vaughan had no comment on whether or not readers had seen the last of Pherson, but he didn't rule out the possibility of more "Ex Machina Specials." "No plans right now," he said, 'But I had an amazing time collaborating with Chris Sprouse, so never say never."

Vaughan may not have any immediate plans for more "Ex Machina Specials," but he has planned the ending of the series. " 'Ex Machina' is a finite series planned to last about fifty issues, covering Mayor Hundred's first - and possible last - term term in office," Vaughan explained. "We're about to pass the halfway mark of the series, and yes, I've known the ending of the series since day one. As a matter of fact, most of the seeds of our finale are hinted at in our first issue's opening two pages."

Fans of "Ex Machina" don't need to worry, though, by the time the comic series comes to a conclusion, "Ex Machina" the film might be on its way to theaters everywhere. "I'm afraid I'm not allowed to discuss the movie in too much detail at this early stage, but New Line did option the rights from Tony and me, and they've been cool enough to let me take a stab at the script," Vaughan said. "I just finished my draft of 'Y: The Last Man' for New Line, and that went surprisingly smoothly, so I'm really looking forward to 'Ex Machina.' More details when I'm allowed to share them . . ."

Writing "Ex Machina" is a joy for Vaughan, but he is surprised that the series has been successful enough to develop a fan base let alone result in a movie deal. "It's an idea-driven book about a guy who gave up his jetpack to have policy debates behind a desk," Vaughan stated. "Who the hell would read that? I just write the book for myself, and am constantly amazed when other people seem to dig it. All credit for whatever success we've enjoyed belongs to the unbeatable team of Tony Harris, Tom Feister and J.D. Mettler. There's a reason all three of their names are on the cover of every issue.

"I love working on this series, so I'm very grateful to every reader out there who's taken a chance on something new and added our book to their pull lists," Vaughan said. "Thanks again. Oh, and because I'm a whore, please allow me to plug my website and message board at www.bkv.tv, as well as my hipster MySpace page."

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