Mark Schultz has "Spirit"

Editor's note: Since the publication of this story, DC Comics has informed CBR that Mark Schultz will be on "The Spirit" for three issues instead of two.

Mark Schultz is no stranger to writing big picture, epic adventures. For the past five years, the creator of "Xenozoic Tales" has been writing the long-running comic strip, "Prince Valiant" for King Features Syndicate.

So when DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio announced that Schultz would be writing a new "The Spirit" series spinning out of Brian Azzarello's forthcoming "First Wave" universe, CBR News reached out to Schultz for comment on the new ongoing and the writer dropped the bomb that he was leaving the title after the first two three issues.

Disappointed that he had to make the tough decision to walk away from the dream gig, Schultz is still thrilled to be writing the character Will Eisner created more than 70 years ago.

Schultz confirmed his two-parter is set squarely in Azzarello's world but there will be faint evidence in the first two issues of "The Spirit" that Bruce Wayne and Clark Savage exist within it alongside Denny Colt.

Other classic characters from Eisner's "The Spirit" will also be appearing, including Commissioner Dolan and his daughter, Ellen, as well as the masked avenger's arch-nemesis The Octopus, though Schultz said his version of the villain may not be what readers are expecting.

Editor's note: Since the publication of this story, DC Comics has informed CBR that Mark Schultz will be on "The Spirit" for three issues instead of two.

CBR News: I understand you have an announcement to make.

Mark Schulz: As it turns out, I'm only going to write the first couple of issues.

Was that the plan all along?

No, it was pretty open-ended and basically, what it came down to was the commitment - the time I was going to need to put into this, in addition to other things that are on my plate right now. I had taken on too much.

Because DC wants to keep the "First Wave" Universe pretty tight?

It's all being pretty well defined, right now anyways, by Brian Azzarello and what he's creating for the miniseries. It's all working off of that.

So how many issues will you be writing?

Just the first two. I had written a two-issue story, which would have just been the beginning, but I just had to make a decision and back off the book.

The Spirit is obviously a character that you're familiar with.

Not only am I a long-time fan of "The Spirit," but I got to collaborate with Will Eisner a couple of times when his work was being published by Kitchen Sink Press, which was also my publisher for "Xenozoic Tales." So I got to do a combination cover with him, which he penciled and I inked.

And when Kitchen Sink was publishing what I think was called "The New Adventures of The Spirit," which featured various artists' and writers' takes on the character, I wrote a story for that. That was a dream come true.

I guess that makes it all the more difficult that you're only on the title for two issues.

The Spirit is one of the few established characters that I have a real interest in contributing to. One of the few properties that I would even consider doing. I have a number of my own projects that I feel - just because they're my own projects, and I have the opportunity to realize them - that I have to do them. They're my first priority. But it's tough to give up "The Spirit."

Can you share some details about your two-part story?

We're introducing a European assassin named Angel Smerti - which is Russian for "the angel of death." And other than that, we're using the first two issues to establish this new venue for The Spirit, which pulls in a great deal from what Will Eisner established for The Spirit but it is also reaching forward in that it's been modified a bit to take place in this great "First Wave" universe.

Are there major differences between how you're presenting The Spirit and how he would have been depicted by Will Eisner? I know Brian Azzarello's Batman uses guns.

I wouldn't say there is anything greatly different. There is nothing like that - the Spirit has never used guns, and he's not using them here, either. There is, I guess you would say, a different attitude towards The Spirit, where we're presenting him with more of an edge. There is more of a suspense, crime angle to this. Moving a bit away from the humorous side of The Spirit. So we're going for a darker guy and I know that is an overused term, but someone who is more a risk-taker - someone who works on the margin between the law and the underworld.

Sorry, I'm trying to put this into words with out spilling too much [laughs]. You know, Eisner wrote so many different types of Spirit stories, and a lot of them are really humorous. And personally, I love those. But in the context of this story, we're absolutely going for someone who is more of a suspense character, more of a crime fiction character.

Will we see Doc Savage and Batman in your issues?


Will there be an acknowledgment that Doc Savage and Batman share this universe?

Ah, again, I have to be careful with what I say here because at this point, while there will be some interconnections, I don't know the extent of it. I don't know if I'll be specifically mentioning Batman or Doc Savage or the Blackhawks. But there will absolutely be certain conceptual elements that link the books.

And I guess no matter how long your run is, it's pretty nice to have your name on "The Spirit" #1.

Yes. That's both exciting and terrifying, because on the one hand, you want to be associated with such a great character, but on the other hand, you don't want to set yourself up to be compared to stories that were done so brilliantly by Will Eisner - and also, in recent history, continued by Darwyn Cooke.

Have you seen any of Moritat 's finished pages yet?

Yes, I have. And I'm very happy. We really wanted to emphasize, again, the atmosphere. For lack of a better term, a noir-ish atmosphere. There's going to be a night-time feeling - a dark claustrophobia-- that pervades Central City. Looking at the interior pages by Justin [Norman], he's really risen to the task. He did great research on urban environments. One of our goals was to give our Central City personality - something that makes it one of the major characters in this world, not just a background. Justin is really pulling this off.

He's also developing the new human characters that we're introducing. He's really doing some creative work.

Do we see some of the other characters from the world of Denny Colt in this series?

Yeah, specifically Commissioner Dolan and Ellen Dolan will be appearing in the two-parter.

And there are some other new characters that we are developing. Again, I'm playing with this idea that The Spirit works best - and it's nothing new, Eisner did this too - when you play up the darker side, when he's between the police and his underworld connections. So we're having fun developing, for lack of a better term, people that have their ear to the streets and maybe more towards the shady side of the law. He's got working relationships that allow him to do stuff that the police couldn't do.

And do we see The Octopus?

Ah, hmm. Yes, you do, but I don't know if The Octopus is going to be what you expect. We've got an interesting new take on The Octopus.

I'm not sure how much Brian is going to get into The Octopus per se in his "First wave" book. But, he outlined the concept for this Octopus, and I'm playing off of that. I liked it a great deal. It makes a lot of sense and it makes for a really, really great take on The Octopus.

Can you share any details about the Golden Tree?

The Golden Tree does directly impact this Spirit story. They're both catalysts and benefactors.

And while your "Spirit" run is only two issues long, readers can still get their fill of Mark Schultz in the "Prince Valiant" serial comic strip.

Yes - every Sunday, with Gary Gianni doing the artwork. And I'm also in the process of finishing an illustrated book. It's a story I wrote called "Storms at Sea." I've been working on the illustrations for the last two years. And I've also got a couple of new "Xenozoic Tales" projects that I'm trying to get to. I've been poking around at them for a while - now I just have to carve out the time to finish them.

"The Spirit" #1, written by Mark Schultz featuring art by Moritat, is scheduled for release on April 21.

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