Welcome to the first installment of CBR's weekly look at DC Comics' new series "Wednesday Comics." Presented in a broadsheet format (14 inches by 20 inches), the 12-week series features 15 strips written and illustrated by Eisner Award winners like Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred and Kurt Busiek. And with DC icons Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman standing tall beside lesser-known characters like Adam Strange, Metamorpho and Deadman, there is truly something for everybody.
Every Wednesday, CBR will present a new interview with the creators bringing this unique title to life, including series editor and DC Art Director Mark Chiarello, who wants to hear from you! So email us your queries for Chiarello and we'll pass them on to the editor for next week's feature.
Everything kicks off today with the release of "Wednesday Comics" #1, featuring the work of Mike Allred, the man behind indie legend "Madman." Teaming with best-selling author and multiple Eisner-winner Neil Gaiman, Allred brings his singular vision to the classic superhero Metamorpho.
Q&A WITH "WEDNESDAY COMICS" ARTIST MIKE ALLRED
CBR: Mike, what was it about "Wednesday Comics" that led you to sign on for the project?
MIKE ALLRED: First off, Mark Chiarello. I've only ever had purely joyful creative experiences working with that gent. [Chiarello's last series] "Solo," with the exception of my "Batusi" cover getting snuffed, was probably the single most satisfying experience I've had in my career. So when Mark calls, I'm all ears. And then when Neil [Gaiman] jumped on board... Shazam!
Were you a fan of Metamorpho before coming on board?
Yes, very - especially Ramon Fradon's definitive take which was one of those ever-present energies in my childhood.
And what about Metamorpho's creator, Bob Haney?
Don't get me started...
What is it about Metamorpho that makes him a fantastic character to explore?
He's ugly like my Frank "Madman" Einstein character, but it doesn't deprive him of his adventurous spirit. In fact, I never realized it before, but he was probably a big subconscious influence on the creation of Madman.
Was it your idea to create a Metamorpho story or Neil Gaiman's? One would assume a dream team like you two could have had your pick of the DC stable.
It was Mark. I think I wanted to do the New Gods or something in Jack Kirby's Fourth World, but Mark was intent on me doing Metamorpho, and it lit up Neil too. It didn't take too much convincing. Me made the right choice. It's a very special and unique story that Neil has crafted. Absolutely inspired.
How did you and Gaiman join forces for this project?
Again, Mark. I was almost completely on board when he first laid out the project for me. But I've been crazy busy with a new album form my band, The Gear, my latest Madman series, and starting up a new creator-owned gig with Vertigo. So, I was looking for some way to have to not do it. So I told him I'd do it if Neil would write it. I'd worked with Neil a couple times before resulting in career highlights, so I knew it would be killer. But I also knew Neil was and is always busy, so I figured that would be my out. But Neil leapt at it. No loophole. Straight to the launch pad.
In terms of process, have you had to pace yourself differently to draw this story as you have only 12 oversized pages with which to tell it?
Oh, man! You don't wanna know. At the end of every page I feel like I just finished an entire issue. My first mistake was insisting on drawing the pages on gigantic sheets of Rives paper.
That said, have you enjoyed the format or do you find it difficult to work within?
I have to roll the sheets across my drafting table as I go from top to bottom. It's exhausting. But I'm super jazzed about the end results.
And I love the weekly pop each page offers. I'm talking about what I'm seeing from everyone else too. Amazing stuff.
I'm also a huge fan of a handful of old school Sunday Funnies strips. Particularly the Giant Roy Crane "Captain Easy" strips, Frank King's "Gasoline Alley," Hal Foster's "Prince Valiant," "Krazy Kat," and Windsor McKay's "Little Nemo" - all so inventive and epic. I'm seeing work on this project that rivals and even surpasses much of that classic work. I'm just trying to hold my end up while having a blast doing it.
Can you share any details about the Metamorpho story you and Gaiman are telling?
Staggsy, our wealthy treasure hunter, throws our hero Rex "Metamorpho" Mason into a quest to find a treasure in a paradisiacal oasis in Antarctica. It's reminiscent of the opening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in regards to death traps and double crosses, but Neil has found some very inventive ways to play with a comic strip page that I guarantee will get tongues wagging.
You're ending your current Madman series "Madman Atomic Comics" with August's issue #17. And you mentioned a new Vertigo project. Any chance this work on "Wednesday Comics" will lead you to drawing or writing a comic for DC in the near future? Maybe a "Metamorpho" ongoing? Or maybe drawing some more "Fables?"
I've been sworn to secrecy until Comi-Con. But something very, very creepy-cool is on the horizon.
Q&A WITH "WEDNESDAY COMICS" EDITOR MARK CHIARELLO
CBR: It's not like this project was going to sneak up on anybody, but are you still surprised by the pre-release buzz?
MARK CHIARELLO: Man, it's really cool. I tend not to go online too much to look at reviews and things like that but for "Wednesday Comics" I have because I'd heard the buzz was so positive. It's been really neat to see that.
What do you think it is about "Wednesday Comics" that has people talking? The concept? The creators?
I don't know. What do you think? Maybe it's the combination of everything. When you get a Neil Gaiman and a Joe Kubert together on a project that's a format that hasn't been done in mainstream comics - ever. It's kind of cool. I think it all adds up and the end result creates the buzz.
Who was the first creator or creative team that you reached out to when you started building the lineup?
Good question. I think it was the Batman story with [Brian] Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. I just love their work on "100 Bullets."
Did you reach out to creators with stories in mind or were creators free to pick which superhero they wanted?
The option definitely went to writers and artists. I knew people would grab Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman and The Flash. But I got a chuckle when Kyle Baker said Hawkman because it was such weird casting. And when Gaiman and Alldred said Metamorpho, because he's not a first-tier character.
I don't know if Metamorpho's second-tier.
Well, maybe we'll make him second-tier.
What makes Mike Allred a perfect fit for Metamorpho?
I'm an incredibly big Mike Allred fan. There's something about his artwork that I just love. I think he really taps into what comic books are all about - just the fun nature of the medium. And I think his worldwide legion of fans get the same joy from his stuff. His style and approach have been lost a little in today's comics. It should be a reading experience. And Mike really, really taps into that.
"Wednesday Comics" #1 is on sale now from DC Comics. Be sure to check back next when we discuss Supergirl with Jimmy Palmiotti, and don't forget to email us your questions for Mark Chiarello.