Who <I>Is</I> "Madame Mirage?" Paul Dini Speaks

By now you've seen her - how could you miss her? Those smoky eyes, those blood red lips, those killer curves. The images of Madame Mirage released thus far have caught attention and suggested a sense of the character, but audiences aren't even close to seeing the whole thing yet. Who or what is "Madame Mirage?" It takes a certain kind of creator to ask those questions of a completely new character and dare readers to find out in a completely new series, but with a track record like Paul Dini's, fans are likely to take him up on the challenge. With "Madame Mirage" #1 in stores next month and a "first look" special hitting stores next week from Top Cow Productions and Image Comics, CBR News put the big questions to series creator Paul Dini, who told us all about this stylish and eye-grabbing femme fatale and her fascinating origins.

The story of Madame Mirage is one of murder, intrigue and revenge. It is also, some readers may be surprised to know, a story about superpowers. "'Madame Mirage' takes place in a world where superheroes have come in gone, explained Paul Dini. "These were people who took it upon themselves either through advances in technology or bio-engineering to make themselves into meta-humans. Unfortunately the villains soon vastly outnumbered the heroes as most of people who took advantage of this new mega-tech used it for personal gain. As a result, superheroes as we know them where outlawed, and the real outlaws went underground."

Comfortable in their false cloak (or suits, if you like) of corporate fidelity, a cabal of villains groups together under the name Aggressive Solutions, Inc., or ASI. "All anyone suspects is that ASI is some kind of Los Angeles-based public relations firm or trouble-shooting agency," Dini said. "Few people on the outside realize it is actually a front for a gang of still-powerful but now plain clothed villains." ASI's criminal enterprise takes a tremendous blow when it finds itself the target of a relentless and violent vendetta by the mysterious Madame Mirage, who cuts a swath through their devious ranks.

"Mirage is like a female version of The Shadow, who will always be one of my favorite radio and pulp heroes," said Dini. "I loved that he had the power to cloud people's minds so they could not see him. Mirage takes that a step farther. She employs various degrees of mind control, magic and shape shifting in order to confound and destroy her enemies. Once you come up against her, there's no telling what she will ultimately do to you."

Madame Mirage's fictional powers are informed by those of Dini's own real life wife Misty, who is herself a magician and illusionist, as well as the visual basis for Mirage's striking visual dazzle, put to page by series artist Kenneth Rocafort. "Misty became my muse and mentor on the project," Dini explained. "To me, there's something very timeless about Mirage's look. I think that a sense of casual elegance in every day fashion is something that has been dormant since the late sixties, and yet it is one that I see referenced constantly in contemporary popular art. There seems to be a longing among younger artists to capture a bit of the "cocktail culture" that was a part of their parents lives -- the times when they dressed up to go out to dinner or a night club, or even on a plane trip. You don't see much of that anymore, well, except at our house. A couple of years ago Misty and I spent a weekend in San Francisco. One day she wore a white dress, black hat and matching gloves, sort of a post-modern Audrey Hepburn look. Misty couldn't walk ten feet without young women running up and complementing her on her outfit or guys wanting to take her picture. It's such a rarity to see people take that attention to detail any more, yet I get the idea that more people would like to try it if it were more the norm. Unfortunately, for the last 30 years or so, Americans have been conditioned since birth toward wearing pretty much only jeans and sweats, so making a personal statement in daily attire becomes a risky thing for people fearing they will be out of step with the herd. Mirage is definitely not a jeans and sweats type of girl. The white dress, black hat and gloves (inspired by Misty) are a signature look of hers, but hardly her only one. She's got a million of them."

Who exactly Madame Mirage is or why she's embarked upon this campaign of exquisite revenge are the central questions at the heart of the series. Dini promises that the question of "who" will be answered in a timely fashion in "Madame Mirage's" first storyline, but explained that the question of "why" is of more importance. "Revealing Mirage's identity is just the tip of the iceberg," the venerable writer said. "There will be clues and the more astute readers will be able to fit them together pretty quickly, I think." One clue comes in the form of Harper, Mirage's younger sister. "Mirage and Harper have a relationship not unlike Batman and Robin. Mirage is the one out dispensing justice while Harper is her backup. They both have a personal stake against ASI and have devoted their lives and abilities to bringing down the evil corporation."

The saga of "Madame Mirage" truly begins seven years ago, when Dini pitched an early version of the concept to an internet animation studio. "They liked the idea of an action-driven femme fatale series and asked me to come up with a more detailed pitch. I went home, worked on it over the weekend and called them on Monday to set up a time to come in that week. Unfortunately I was too late as they had already gone out of business. Remember that 'Simpsons' episode where Bart gets his cartoon 'Angry Dad' on the web for about five minutes? It was just like that. I put Mirage back where she had started, in my sketchbook, and forgot about her for a while. When Jim McLauchlin came on board at Top Cow as an editor, he was interested in me creating a new series about a tough new heroine. I pulled out Mirage, updated her a bit, and before I knew it, I was scripting her adventures for real this time."

Indeed, Top Cow turned out to be an ideal home for Dini's brutal bombshell. "You look at Witchblade, Lara Croft and Magdalena, and you realize Top Cow really understands smart, beautiful female heroines," Dini remarked. "Though Mirage has a markedly different look from those other characters, she shares a lot in common with them in spirit. The Cow always seemed like the logical place for her to be."

"Madame Mirage" will follow a "TV season" type schedule and be released in story arcs with breaks in between. Dini's fans might imagine that the downtime would be much needed, given his commitment to DC Comics' new weekly series "Countdown,"

But Dini isn't bothered by the considerable workload. "I love the process of creation, working with new characters and ideas and seeing them come to life. It's not really work for me when it's something I love doing. I can always make time for that."

"Madame Mirage" #1 ships in May from Top Cow Productions and Image Comics, but readers can pick up a special "First Look" preview at comic stores next week. For more Madame Mirage, check out her official MySpace profile.

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this article.

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