There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to superheroes. They are either grim and gritty, or idealistic and noble. The Authority would definitely fall into former category, while Captain America fits nicely into the latter. But what if you combined these two types of heroes by inserting a character from the silver age of comics into the modern/dark age? This is the question that will be explored - with hilarious results - this December in "The Intimidators," an ongoing series from Jim Valentino's Shadowline imprint that's published by Image Comics.
"The Intimidators" was created by Jim Valentino ("Shadowhawk," "normalman"), who co-plots the story with the book's writer, Neil Kleid ("Ninety Candles," "Hero Happy Hour Super Special"). As this premise offers so many fun story possibilities, CBR news contacted Valentino and Kleid to find out what readers can expect.
Valentino began with an explanation of the book's origin. The idea came "from the internet postings of guys my age (think Methuselah here) about the Authority and the Ultimates and characters like that - the 'widescreen' superheroes," Valentino told CBR News. "I thought it would be a hoot to take a straight-laced early 1960s superhero, toss him in the middle of a group like that and see what happens.
"All of these books (from Shadowline) start off as my concepts. I write up a synopsis, outlining the milieu, the characters, etc. Then we bring in a writer and brainstorm a bit, tossing in ideas, tweaking and stuff."
And in the case of this book, that writer was Neil Kleid.
"Neil met Shadowline editor, Kris Simon, at Wizard World Chicago two years ago," Valentino continued. "He gave her his Xeric winning graphic novel, 'Ninety Candles.' She read it, loved it, and sent it to me to read. I thought it was great. When she and I were discussing the Intimidators, she brought Neil's name up. We showed him the synopsis and he totally got it."
When a writer is brought in to work on another writer's ideas, conflicts are definitely a possibility. Thankfully, this isn't the case with "The Intimidators." When asked about the process they use for working together, Kleid responded, "I couldn't ask for a better process. Jim is amazing to work with in that he's given me plenty of elbow room to develop the story, nurturing it from the ground up, allowing it light, water, love and jokes.
"Basically, I submit a plot and then Jim and valkryie-editrix Kris Simon suggests changes or greenlights it for script stage. After that, I deliver the script in three bite-size, yet filling pieces. Kris and Jim review each section, make changes or offer advice on what might help the story, and then I do a round of rewriting. After that, we move to the art stage, which all three of us are involved in every step of the way. The whole team, in fact, is fairly involved in the creation of this book. Everyone at Team Intimidators feels strongly about offering our readers a quality comic filled with plenty of hooker jokes, so we try to work fairly closely."
Kleid then added, "...you know what? I'm totally lying. Our plotting process is pretty much some Maker's Mark and a dartboard. Just like the way they write in Hollywood!"
"Yeah, that's actually closer to it," Valentino said. "We discuss the story via email, Neil sends in a plot synopsis, I yell, scream and break stuff, Kris comes in and mediates - and somehow or another it gets done. We figure it's because of Kris."
While Kleid has written superhero stories before in About Comics' "Comics Prose" anthology and Geekpunk's "Hero Happy Hour Super Special," this is his first ongoing superhero series and he couldn't be more excited. "For a kid who dreamed of writing 'Green Lantern' growing up, it's a lot like coming home," said Kleid. "Well...with more cussing, though. Actually, no - it's exactly like home."
Joining Valentino and Kleid on the book is artist Miguel Montenegro. As for how Montenegro got the job, Valentino replied, "What can I say? He had these photos....
"No, Miguel was brought to (Shadowline's) attention by ace writer-letterer Jim Keplinger. We saw his work and knew he'd be a perfect fit. That, plus he works cheap...but he won't do windows, so don't ask."
Regarding the story that goes along with this art, Kleid was happy to share details about the book and its intriguing cast. "'The Intimidators' explores how a woefully outdated superhero fits into the new millennium, surrounded by new millennium people and technology," explained Kleid. "It compares and contrasts two different styles of 'heroing' and what it takes for a man with certain ideals to work alongside heroes who might as well be villains. In 1962, Astroman lent a hand during the Cuban Missile Crisis and while attempting to disarm a missile, accidentally set one loose - the resultant explosion catapulted him 44 years into the future to the site of another blast - generated during one of the Intimidators' battles. Unable to return to his own time, he's guilted by a government that created him to ally with a team he does not understand, respect or condone - the stereotypical 1960s super-hero transplanted into present.
"The team in question is the Intimidators - a government-funded, though officially non-sanctioned organization created to handle next level threats and super-villains so deadly other super-heroes can't deal with them. A political and public relations nightmare, the Intimidators fight global terrorism wherever it appears - often destroying half a city block in the process. The team consists of:
"CRASH - think the Flash…if he was the Hulk! Crash is extremely fast and extremely big - which means that after a battle, he is VERY tired and often passes out quickly, leaving him vulnerable. Mostly to fat jokes. If the team had a leader, it would be Crash.
"LIMIT is essentially me: the wiseass ladies man of the team. Of course, the women on HIS team never let him get anywhere. He's a limited teleporter who can transport himself (and members of the team) short distances like a one-man people mover. Limit is the character through which my 'real voice' comes through in this book.
"FETISH is an internet sex queen who got into the hero business to relieve boredom. Fetish is a limited out-of-sight teleporter - she can make objects appear out of thin air, calling into her hands any item she chooses by naming it ('sword' - 'gun' - 'club') and focusing on what it looks like. The catch is that she can only teleport three times a day - once that limit is reached, she has to let a 24-hour cycle go by before she can do it again (an internal recharge, if you will). This forces her to be extremely choosy and VERY creative on the battlefield.
"FIREPOWER - If Punisher and Iron Man had a child that stopped growing at age eight, that child would be former Marine Lloyd Chambers, a bitter Irishman who sees the world one way - over and around the tip of his middle finger. One night, drunk and cursing no doubt, Lloyd built the Firepower Mobile Assault Unit - a miniature tank that makes him a one man walking wrecking machine.
"BYRN - Nineteen years old, pyromaniac and misanthrope, she lives in the forest and wooded area near the Dome, away from other people and close to the nature. She can control and emit fire, heat, radiance, microwaves and is easily the most dangerous and hardest to control member of the team. Byrn's grandmother was CometWoman, one of the members of Astroman's team in the '60s. Byrn simply wants to be left alone - and uses her powers to keep it that way."
With such a large cast, readers may wonder whose tale is being told in this book - Astroman or The Intimidators? Kleid responded, "Well, I think both stories are intertwined. At its core, the story is about a man out of time. Culture shock to the nth degree. Words like 'patriot' and 'hero' mean something to Astroman, and confronting the Intimidators - a take-no-prisoners superhero team that routinely uses large nuclear-powered cannons to equally scare off the robot mafia, Jehovah's Witnesses and Girl Scouts - sends his entire worldview ass over elbows. But the book is also about learning to be a hero, and that's what the Intimidators need to do - figure out how to stop being several warring elements operating as a unit and start being a team."
"That or kill one another, whichever comes first," added Valentino.
Over at the MillarWorld forum, Kleid made the following guarantee regarding "The Intimidators": "I promise you action, comedy, cussin' Irish midgets, decapitated mobsters and plenty more." CBR News wanted some clarification on this statement, and asked Kleid if all of these elements can be found in the book's first issue. Kleid said, "Action? Check. Comedy? You bet yer ass. Decapitated mobsters? Damn skippy, Chester. Cussin' Irish midgets? He's there in issue one, but you won't know he's a midget 'til issue 3."
As you can tell from this description, this comic is definitely not for the meek. However, Valentino and Kleid offered a clarification as to the tone of the book - "It's not a humor book; let's get that clear. The humor in this book is situational and irreverent. It isn't a parody book. It comes from how outrageous these characters are. On a ten-dial, we're at about a 15."
"Right, we tried to take the tone of books like 'The Authority' and 'The Ultimates' and then crank the dial a few notches," Kleid continued. "I don't know if 'gritty' is the word I'd use. It's definitely R-rated - lots of cursing, lots of violence, some nudity here and there (tasteful Playboy-esque nudity, of course). If you're not easily offended by all that, this is really a fun book."
If you find that you enjoy "The Intimidators," Kleid and Valentino both have plenty of other projects for you to enjoy as well. Of his upcoming schedule, Kleid said, "In February, NBM Publishing debuts 'Brownsville,' an original graphic novel I created with artist Jake Allen. It's the story of Murder, Inc. and the Jewish contract killers working out of Brooklyn in the early thirties. The story follows the intertwined lives of Albert 'Tick Tock' Tanennbaum, Abe 'Kid Twist' Reles and a cast of hooligans, as Louis Lepke Buchalter organized them into the deadliest hit operation in Mafia history.
"In June, Slave Labor Graphics releases 'Ursa Minors!,' a four issue comedy/pop culture piss-take from Paul Cote, Fernando Pinto and myself. 'Ursa Minors!' asks the question - 'What would the average pop-culture raised, internet age, twenty-something do if granted a high-tech, fully armed robotic bear suit?' Should be fun."
Valentino fans who enjoy his art (in addition to his writing) have something to look forward to this winter. "Well, there's a short story I wrote and drew in the upcoming 'Image Holiday Special,' so you'll all want to avoid that like the plague," said Valentino. "I mean, buy the book, by all means, just ignore those pages...my mom will.
"And we have several new books coming from Shadowline in the months ahead, but if I tell you anything about them, Kris will kill me. So, mostly, I'm just doing what I usually do, drinking to excess, creating a public nuisance and hiding from errant husbands. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!"