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Waid Talks “Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer”

by  in Comic News Comment
Waid Talks “Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer”
“Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer” #2 on sale September 9

Mark Waid always keeps an eye toward the future, and with his five-issue miniseries “Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer,” which unites two of the Top Cow Universe’s biggest superhero teams for a crossover event primed to re-launch both of the popular franchises, the prolific writer is giving readers a lingering look at his view.

The crossover joins Waid with breakout artist Kenneth Rocafort and picks up three years after the end of Waid’s original “Hunter-Killer” run, with the book’s main protagonist, Ellis, missing in action ever since the title’s conclusion. As hunters of rogue Ultra Sapiens-living super-weapons created by the government and branded with a tattoo-the titular and aptly named Hunter-Killer squad went after the underground Cyberforce in the first issue, thinking the group fit the aforementioned Ultra Sapien bill. This lead to the two teams encountering and subsequently beating the super-powered crap out of each other.

CBR News spoke with Mark Waid about working on the book and the pleasing and problematic aspects of writing speculative future fiction.

In order to prepare for Top Cow’s crossover event, Waid admitted he first needed to look back before moving forward. “It was a big challenge because I wasn’t as familiar with the Cyberforce characters as I was Hunter-Killer, obviously, because I co-created ‘Hunter-Killer’ with Marc Silvestri,” Waid told CBR. “Even then, I hadn’t gone back and revisited the Hunter-Killer characters for a couple years. So I had to go back and immerse myself in both worlds.”

After reading through the old “Cyberforce” volumes, Waid instantly connected to the team, especially enjoying Ron Marz’s latest run on the title, which Waid said made the cybernetically enhanced mutants into characters with real personalities. Waid compared the group to a family, bonding together after their escape from the manipulative Cyberdata corporation, and attributed that dynamic as the team’s key feature.

“Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer” #2 (variant) and #3

“That’s part of what makes them interesting and part of what separates them from the Hunter-Killer team because the Hunter-Killer team has no familiar relationships like that,” explained Waid. “The edge to the Hunter-Killer team is that while there are some relationships-like with Wolf and Samantha-as a whole, you get a sense that if anyone goes off the reservation that they’ll get a bullet in the head. As opposed to Cyberforce, where there seems to be a little more cuddling and caring. The Hunter-Killer characters really don’t have much of an emotional connection with each other. They’re more of an ad hoc group of strangers that were brought together.”

Researching the Cyberforce team even led to a few new favorites for Waid. “My heart tends to lean toward a character like Velocity because I have a thing about writing super speedsters. I don’t know if you know this,” joked the former “Flash” writer. “I’ve also found that I really like Ballistic. Something about her take-no-nonsense attitude that I really like that contrasts with Samantha from Hunter-Killer. That strong female character is something I really enjoy writing.”

With the first issue of “Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer” already on shelves, the meeting between these two powerhouses proved more explosive than a pack of dynamite over an open flame. However, while the crisis lies averted for now, expect some reoccurring aftershocks moving forward. “The big, traditional meet-and-fight of a superhero crossover is over, but the tension will still be boiling over the entire time,” Waid said. “They’re forced to work together throughout the rest of the series, but each team is keeping a wary eye on the other because the fight that spills out of issue #1 and into issue #2 was a bloody fight. This is not just a schoolyard roughhousing. These guys have to work together, but they don’t have to like each other.”

The crossover also allows Waid to indulge in another area he loves as much as the comic realm: technology. Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik described Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer as the tech side of the Top Cow Universe, and as such technology plays a major role in not only both teams visually but in the crossover as a whole as well. “To be completely honest about it, one of the purposes [tech] serves is that it keeps the comic visually interesting,” Waid admitted. “There’s a million comics out there about guys walking around with .45’s, and if you’re going to have characters with a science fiction bend to them, I think it’s your obligation as a writer and as an artist to keep up with the next technological advances so they look cool and they look interesting.”

“Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer” art by Kenneth Rocafort

The writer referenced “District 9” as an example of film that highlights literally out-of-this-world technology. “That’s what we’re competing with for your entertainment dollars-those kinds of visuals and those kinds of interesting gadgets,” Waid said. “Also it just breeds better stories. The real attraction of speculative fiction is that it puts you in a world where you’re thinking about tomorrow. The technology just seems a little bit out of grasp-almost at your fingertips. That’s very much like our world today. With every passing year, I can’t believe the technology advances we make as a civilization.”

However, the problem with writing speculative fiction becomes finding the right balance between real world tech and the sometimes far-fetched fcitional tech. Although Waid said he knows where he wanted this particular story grounded in terms of technology, finding that ground sometimes proves harder than locating a microchip on a motherboard. “In this project I’m trying to keep it right around the corner rather than super future. It’s not like you’re going to see a time machine pop up in issue #4. That seems like a bit of a reach,” Waid explained. “But it is hard to say. I don’t have a hard, fast set of rules about what constitutes acceptable technology, and what constitutes absurd technology. It’s really just that you don’t want to take the reader out of the story. That’s the most important thing. You don’t want to have something in there that’s so insanely implausible and seem to come completely out of left field.”

Unfortunately, with technology advancing faster than Velocity on a caffeine high, the line between insanely implausible and highly likely erodes dramatically. A year ago, Waid came up with the idea for the Jett-a small device introduced in issue #1 that allows for multiple forms of communication, storage and Internet browsing-the concept seemed more farfetched then than now. “I’m a huge early adopter and techno-buff,” Waid said. “I’m constantly reading articles and constantly assimilating information on the technology to come. Even I was surprised at how only a year later the Jett seems to be a little more of reality than I expected.

“Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer” art by Kenneth Rocafort

“The best example that I can think of in comics is when we re-launched ‘Legion’ in 1989 and Richard Bruning came up with the idea of doing something called the Omnicom, which was a device that would be able to communicate and be able to bring news to you and bring video and stuff,” continued Waid. “This was 1989 and we’re looking at this like, ‘Wow. That’s crazy! It feels like it is the 31st Century. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there.’ Now I’m looking at an iPhone, which is the size of a pack of cigarettes, and it can do 10 times the number of things the Omnicom can do.”

In the end, Waid sees these leaps in technology as part of the next step in evolution. Waid referenced a study that showed the advancements in technology today have completely rewired the workings of the human brain. “When you think about it, the space you used to allocate when you were a kid to naming the state capitals or naming the presidents, you don’t have to allocate that space anymore because you can go on the iPhone and get that information in less time than it takes to mutter a mnemonic that gets you there,” explained Waid. “That is physically changing the way that our brains work. It’s a little frightening, but I choose to go with the flow and be eager to see where that takes us. I don’t want to stoke up a bunch of fear of the future, but at the same time I want that gritty, blurry line between technology and humanity because that’s where we’re headed anyway. And I’m really enjoying playing off that in the series.”

As for what the future holds in terms of “Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer,” Waid kept quiet on whether Ripclaw and Wolf will go cybernetic claw to energy enhanced claw, but teased fans with a look at the major villains for the epic crossover event. “With issue #2, the teams make their very, very tense pact to work together, but they’re constantly watching each other for signs of betrayal as they go against the new Cyberdata and Morningstar,” the writer teased. “Ellis is convinced that Morningstar has a whole new agenda that jeopardizes the Hunter-Killer team deliberately. Whether that is true or not is a running theme throughout the series.”

Top Cow’s “Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer” #2 goes on sale September 9. Issue #1 is on sale now.

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