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Mister Miracle's Gerads on Violence, Punchlines and Nine-Panel Grids

CBR sat down with the artist from the Mister Miracle dream team, Mitch Gerads, at this year's Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Gerads spoke to some of the more technical aspects of the fan-favorite book, and took a deep-dive into the personality of Scott Free.

CBR: So I've spoken to [series writer] Tom [King] about this book a few times but this is my first time talking to you about it! Let's hear your side of the creative process here -- can you talk about how you get the, for lack of a better word, "cadence" of the story as you and Tom collaborate? I want to hear your side of those nine-panel grid pages.

Mitch Gerads: Yeah! I don't know if that's something I learned or something that's just been programmed in me or what, but I absolutely love the nine-panel grid, and I think I instantly get what Tom is trying to do with the nine-panel grid. I remember turning in my first grid page on Sheriff of Babylon and [King] wrote me, "Dude, this is exactly what I've been looking for that no other artist has pulled off," so of course I was like, "Awesome!" [Laughs]

But yeah, the nine-panel grid is awesome because people think it's so restricting, but because it's so restricting, it allows you to be almost more creative. You don't have to fight the reader. When a reader looks at a normal page that's laid out however, psychologically there's a little bit of strain in their brain. The reader has to figure out where to go and what to read. But with a nine-panel grid, you know it goes right to left, boom-boom-boom, that's how your eye is always going to read it. So you don't have to worry about the reader having a problem with that, so you can start doing things like playing with time, playing with jokes -- it's like a newspaper strip, there's the set up, the middle, then the punchline.

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So speaking about punchlines, one of the parts of Mister Miracle I don't see talked about all that frequently is just how funny the book is. How do you balance those gags with the rest of the story that is ostensibly about an extreme level of trauma, in a way that doesn't make it seem frivolous or corny?

The thing is, nobody is humorless -- and the people who are are just boring, and you don't really want want to talk to them, you don't really care to hear their story. For Scott, the humor is a coping mechanism -- he's always been portrayed as this happy-go-lucky guy. So in true King/Gerads fashion, we look at him and are like, "...so what's wrong with him?"

So you look at his childhood and realize how messed up it is -- so he's portrayed as this happy-go-lucky guy because he's compensating for this torture he's endured for his whole life. But in our book, all that stress he's been tamping down is all starting to boil to the top.

Like all people, Scott's complex. He's not just one sided, and he's going through some stuff but he's trying not to let it break him. It hasn't broken him yet, even though he's definitely cracking. That's just how we keep it interesting -- if you're always humorless, if you're doing a Dark Book and all you focus on is doing a Dark Book... nobody cares about that. There has to be something in it. Tom and I don't care to tell stories about "characters," we care to tell stories about people, and people are unique and complex and that's all stuff we want to talk about.

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