Ahead of "Weirdworld's" big debut issue next week, Marvel is conducting one of their semi-regular "Next Big Thing" conference calls for the weird and wild series. Introduced as a realm in "Secret Wars," Weirdworld was quickly pegged as one new story element that would be sticking around for "All-New, All-Different Marvel." Writer Sam Humphries has been chosen to tell the continuing tales of Weirdworld, which will focus on the quest of a teenager named Becca, with artist Mike Del Mundo back for a repeat trip to the barbaric locale
Talking "Weirdworld" with the comic press today are Humphries as well as assistant editor Alanna Smith and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. CBR will be updating this article live with a full report of the discussion. Up first, take a peek at some of Mike Del Mundo's pages from "Weirdworld" #1.
Chris D'Lando of Marvel PR got things off by introducing Sam Humphries ("the weirdest man in comics") and the "fabulous" editors Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith. D'Lando talked about Weirdworld's transference from "Secret Wars" to the Marvel Universe, saying that it is "here to stay." He teased that a number of books will be visiting the series, with the main exploration happening in "Weirdworld."
Humphries talked about the difference between his series and the "Secret Wars" series that preceded it, namely that it features two new leads -- Becca and Goleta -- as opposed to Arkon. "Jason [Aaron] and Mike [Del Mundo] did such a great job putting weird elements on the table, of what it is, and one of the big things they put down is that it's a place where anything can happen. They assembled a bunch of disparate properties and placed them in the world of Weirdworld and I thought that a great way to explore that world is through the eyes of two new characters," said Humphries. Humphries talked about Becca, who is a regular Earth teenager whose life gets interrupted by being thrown into Weirdworld. And then there's Goleta, a wizard-slayer who is "lost in her own way as she tries to figure out her mission in life. Together they come together; they argue but have parallel paths and are kindred spirits."
Becca's personal journey and why she's there will be revealed in the first issue, and she'll eventually cross paths with the giant Goleta. "In terms of having this new world to explore in the Marvel Universe, it's helpful to put characters on a quest," said Humphries. "The important thing to know about Weirdworld is that it's just as real as Avengers Mansion. This takes place on Earth; I use the Savage Land as an example. It's removed from, say, Central Park through magic and that magic is beginning to break down. As walls become more porous, things start to happen. On the last page of Jason's series, we see a plane crash in Weirdworld and in our first page, you see that Becca was on that flight." Humphries says that Becca has a complication on top of her quest, which is that she has to figure out a way home. Weirdworld will be a hostile place for her, as she's a teen and has no idea how to deal with "giant goblins grabbing her out of the sky."
Goleta on the other hand is big and brash and set on slaying every wizard she can find. They're different, but Humphries says they end up needing each other. "As they travel, they get to know each other and trust each other. There's also a new creature called Catbeast who we meet in issue #1, who sets the whole thing in motion," said Humphries. Aside from being cute and deadly, the writer refrained from saying anything else about the mysterious Catbeast.
The editors talked about the benefits of having Weirdworld in the Marvel Universe. "In the '70s, Marvel and the other companies weren't just superheroes," said Brevoort. "Sci-fi, fantasy, western, war, all these colors that have fallen by the wayside a little bit and this is personalized by the fact that Marvel doesn't have Conan [the Barbarian] anymore. He was such a big thing. Going into and out of 'Secret Wars,' we said it would be nice if we had a place where we could scratch that itch a little bit. Not just one of them. Weirdworld isn't just a Conan land we dropped down, it's a little bit of all of these things depending on where you go. There's a lot of fun in terms of dropping disparate genre elements on top of each other... Bringing Weirdworld into the Marvel Universe was like building another place like the Savage Land. You can't go six months without having a book go to the Savage Land because it's cool and has dinosaurs. Weirdworld will kind of be that. A bunch of our creators picked up on this and clicked with it real early. There's already 'Black Knight' which takes place partly in Weirdworld. Jeff Lemire's X-Men book is going to go there, 'Squadron Supreme' will go there."
"Most of the time when we use locations we have to send reference, but I don't send reference for 'Weirdworld,'" said Smith. She said that she encourages all artists to come up with whatever they want for the realm because it's "infinitely weird."
D'Lando called series artist Mike Del Mundo the perfect artist for the series. Humphries talked about working with the artist, saying that their collaboration has been "amazing because he's so dialed in to Weirdworld. We brainstorm all these crazy ideas and I write them as fast as I can and throw them in the script and he comes back with something amazing. I keep comparing Mike to some of Bill Sienkiewicz's work in how wide-ranging he is and the energy he brings to the page. The weirdest thing I did was that I asked him to draw something enchanting and pretty, a village I kept referring to as Candy Land. Mike drew it and it looked like a typical Euro candy village, but it still looks sinister in a way I can't identify. He always has this crazy manic energy behind it."
"In 'Weirdworld' #5, there's four or five butteflies carrying a nuclear bomb across the battlefield," said Smith of Del Mundo's work in the "Secret Wars" mini-series.
Humphries said Del Mundo's energy doesn't wear out, which works because he wants to explore as much of the realm as possible. "My mission in the first few issues is to throw as much crazy stuff as possible at our characters. You can throw new characters and creatures at him and he'll always deliver." Humphries added that he's influenced by the old Conan comics as well as "Power Masters," an "indie book." But the thing he comes back to often is that it's really a "personal story about the main characters and the triumphs they achieve while you have dogs flying World War II fighting planes." He cited "Wizard of Oz," "Labyrinth" and "Spirited Away" as other influences.
Smith drew a parallel between the lead female character Becca and coming of age stories like "Wizard of Oz," saying it's "great that we have two female leads in a barbarian comic, and one of them is a girl trying to figure her life out. I'm really enchanted by that aspect of it. We're carrying over the two warring factions from the 'Secret Wars' series, led by Jennifer Kale and Morgan Le Fay. It's a book filled with complicated relationships between women."
"There's almost a third lead character in this book that we haven't talked about, which is Morgan Le Fay," said Humphries. "Depending on how you count, either she's 4,000 or 20,000 years old, and it struck me that you don't get to be that old in the Marvel Universe without being smart and strategic on top of whatever mystical powers you have. This is a Morgan that, like Becca is from Earth and trapped on Weirdworld. We see what Morgan has made out of herself in a place like Weirdworld and the more we bring her and Becca together, we see they're on parallel paths."
The floor was opened to press questions, with Humphries saying that more Crystar characters will be on the way. Brevoort added that we might see other characters from other weird corners of the Marvel Universe. "Pretty much everything anyone put to paper in Marvel's publishing history, you could find in Weirdworld," said Brevoort.
Humphries said that it feels amazing to be able to have this free reign. "It's a new realm and we're defining it as we go, and we have made up rules for this place, but it's also peppered with MU history whether it's the Crystar Warriors or Morgan or Jennifer Kale, and these are all elements of the Marvel Universe that Becca will be stumbling across as they go through Weirdworld."
The freedom poses a challenge, as well, with Humphries pointing out that the previous work he's done in the Marvel Universe has volumes of history to explore. "Weirdworld is steeped in Marvel history but it's coming together in such a way that, aside from the Jason and Mike series, there's no precedent for this. You stare at a blank white page, because you have freedom in a way that many Marvel stories do not. So much of it is in how the world works and what do they think about Earth and where do they see their place in the world -- all that has to be invented while you're doing cool things like rhinos driving tanks."
On the topic of genre mash-ups, Smith said that there are fantasy elements, as well as "chunks of sci-fi. It's the place where lost things go, so tanks and planes fall through." Brevoort said that relating to the characters and conflicts matter, though, and that you have to relate to them or else no one will care. "Sam has created situations and conflicts for the leads in this series that give it some true heart, not just with the two leads but the antagonists as well. That's the crux of doing something like this. It's fun to have rhinos drive tanks, but it's better if it's in service of an emotionally true moment."
Brevoort said that he thinks Jason Aaron has some Weirdworld stuff planned for his new book, "Doctor Strange," at some point down the line. "It's pretty obvious when you stop and think about it," he said.
Humphries said that while Becca seems normal to us, she will seem "unfathomable" to Goleta. "There are situations where Becca's like, 'I've never seen a wizard let alone killed one,' and that's unbelievable to Goleta. We're working on the relationship between Weirdworld and Earth and how people on Weirdworld think about Earth. There's a creation myth on Weirdworld about how the place came together and Earth plays into that myth and the war between Morgan and Jennifer Kale."
Humphries said that his collaboration with Mike Del Mundo is one of the closest ones he's had at Marvel, saying they will talk on the phone and that he involves the artist in the outline stage. "With an artist like Mike, it would be a crime to not employ his imagination at every stage. There are things that Mike can do on the page that I could never script." He mentioned a conflict resolution scene between Becca and Goleta that was "so much more exciting" than what he had planned, and it was easy for him to script because he let Del Mundo cut loose.
Goleta's hatred of wizards is so deep that Humprhies said it's going to take more than one person to question it, and that she will meet Jennifer Kale and be forced to reckon with her beliefs almost immediately.
When asked about the entrance to Weirdworld, Brevoort said that it's around the Bermuda Triangle and is entered when you go through the area at a "certain trajectory. Theoretically you could get back the same way, if you can chart a course along that vector. But that's only one of the ways that things get here because things come in all sorts of places. Where the world tangibly exists? I don't know if that matters, it's like Asgard."
"It's fun to write someone who's obsessed with slaying wizards all the time, but it's also fun to write the reader identification character that can say things are beautiful or scary," added Humphries when asked about what he enjoys about writing the series. "Someone like Becca, who is a teenager, can't figure out how to navigate life on Earth and now she has to do so on Weirdworld. It's fun telling a story about characters who are strong in ways they don't realize."
Tank Girl influenced the creation of Goleta, Humphries revealed, who said she's very single-minded and brash and has a good time "no matter the chaos around her." He also said that their interactions, bouncing opposites off of each other, is influenced by "The Odd Couple."
Brevoort says he has a personal connection with the series because he came up with the idea to dust off the "Weirdworld" title and was involved with getting the "Secret Wars" concept off the ground. "I have a grandfatherly or godfatherly feeling for it, it all exists because I came up with the nugget of the idea," he said.
"Tom is the Gandalf of this project," interjected Humphries.
Smith said that this type of story is one she loved when she was growing up, when a young girl was thrown in to extreme circumstances and rose above. "I'm always giving the notes to have more Becca and Goleta and have them bond more. There is definitely a connection there that is building over time, that's why I'm invested."
In closing, Humphries warned everyone to "keep an eye on Catbeast" because he is "a very important character in the story and, like I said, he's adorable and breathes fire. He'll be the breakout hit character of 2016."
"Weirdworld" #1 hits stores on Wednesday, December 16th.