Future Sports and Super Powers Collide in Brian Wood's "Mara"

Inspiration can come from a great many places. For Brian Wood's upcoming six-issue Image Comics miniseries "Mara," it came from both the perceived connections between sports and superheroes and a general call for more comics starring women. The two elements came together, resulting in the tale of a young woman named Mara in a future ruled by sports and war who just so happens to be one of of the most beloved athletes around. That is, until she sprouts mysterious superpowers that call her achievements into question.

With a current workload including "The Massive" and "Conan the Barbarian" at Dark Horse as well as "Ultimate Comics: X-Men" for Marvel, the concept behind "Mara" might seem a departure, but longtime Wood fans will note that it shares some thematic roots with his and artist Becky Cloonan's creator-owned series "Demo" which featured a different person getting powers in each issue and using them in real world settings rather than superheroic ones.

CBR News spoke with Wood about his and artist Ming Doyle's ("Fantastic Four," "Girl Comics") December-launching series, how the aforementioned elements came together during the genesis of the book, the culture of the world Mara inhabits, writing female characters and what powers mean to a person who already has so much in life.

CBR News: Let's start by talking about Mara, the character. What kind of person is she before she gains her powers and how do they change her?

Brian Wood: Mara is one of the most famous people on the planet, a superstar athlete with widespread name recognition, celebrity endorsements, her own broadcast network -- not so shabby for a girl in her late teens. She is a member of a society that places their ultimate emphasis on physical achievement, whether it be in sports or the waging of war. So when she does start to manifest powers, this is pretty significant. Everything she's accomplished up to this point is immediately suspect. It looks like she cheated. It's hard to overestimate the implications of that in the world she lives in.

What are her specific powers and how do they fit in with the larger world of the series?

I can't get into details without ruining things in advance, but put broadly her powers are "superhuman"-like. Omnipotent powers, godlike powers.
Are superpowers commonplace in Mara's world?

She's the only one, ever, so this is unprecedented and people have to figure out how to deal with it. This culture is built upon competition and a level playing field. She doesn't mean to, but Mara changes all of that. Her existence throws it all into chaos. Earlier I mentioned war, as a culture equal to sports. This becomes a major element in this story, via Mara's soldier brother and what a superhuman brings to the table in terms of strategic value.

How long has "Mara" been floating around in your head? Is it something you've been kicking around for a while or is it a more recent idea?

A bit of both. A lot of what you find in "Mara" you could find in "Demo," this idea of a young person grappling with a sudden emergence of superpowers. But "Mara" is bigger and louder and more overt, more "superhero" than "Demo" ever was. The core ideas are similar, though. I've had notes written down for years about sports and comics and overlaps I saw with superheroes, this sort of exaggerated futuristic world, but only recently did I sit down and decide to work it up into something useable. Maybe a year ago I was seeing a lot of commentary online, primarily in response to DC's New 52 but not limited to that, about the lack of female superheroes that weren't derogatory or offensive, and I thought that I could do a small part to balance that imbalance by creating "Mara."

Are there certain challenges that come with writing a main character of the opposite sex?

I've done it the majority of the time, going all the way back to the first book I ever had published. There aren't really any challenges in writing the book; the challenge comes afterwards, in fighting an uphill battle to get the orders and the sales, and, in some cases, dealing with some serious fanboy sexism. But, you know, that's part of the reason I keep doing it.

How did you and Ming Doyle get to know one another and what made her the right choice for "Mara?"

I've been following Ming's work online for a few years now. When "Mara" felt ready to go, I just emailed her and asked her. Sometimes its just that simple and easy. I tend to go with gut instinct when it comes to finding collaborators, and its worked out very well.

Was there something specific about Ming's style that made her the right choice for "Mara," or was it more a matter of wanting to work with her in general?

Well, I certainly wanted to work with her, that's the biggest reason. I like her work; its very stylish and very much her own look, but still very professional and polished. I write the scripts her to strengths -- the story conforms to her style, not the other way around. Which is how all writers should work, in my opinion.

To see the synthesis of Brian Wood's words and Ming Doyle's pencils on "Mara" check out the first issue from Image Comics on December 26.

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